Netflix is going to release a whopping 30 original films this year, and it just hired superstar producer and former Universal executive Scott Stuber to run its movie business.
Stuber has produced movies like "Ted," "The Breakup," and "Identity Thief," and his eye for commercial appeal is no doubt a plus for Netflix, which wants movies to resonate with its worldwide audience of nearly 100 million subscribers.
“Scott is well known and respected in the film industry. His innovative work and strong talent relationships should help accelerate the Netflix original film initiative as we enter into a new phase of big global productions with some of the greatest directors, actors and writers in the film business,” Netflix head Ted Sarandos said in a statement.
The 'Flix' in Netflix
Netflix's experience with movies has been a mixed bag of late.
In December, Sarandos was asked about the perceived sparseness of Netflix's movie offerings. "No matter what, we end up with about 1/3 of our watching being movies," he said.
If you take a film that does well at the box office, and get it 7-10 months later on your streaming service, that's not going to create a ton of value, he explained. "If you were passionate [about the movie], you've already seen it," he said. Netflix is "happy to have" some of those movies, but the audience isn't particularly passionate (hence the "1/3 no matter" what pattern).
He said he wanted Netflix to put out original movies people would go to see in theaters, and pointed to the new Will Smith vehicle "Bright," which Netflix paid a reported $90 million for, as a big test. The movie is a cop thriller set in a world that's similar to ours in time period but contains fantasy creatures like orcs and elves.
"Bright" is Netflix's biggest push yet into blockbuster films. This purchase would significantly outstrip the $60 million Netflix paid for Brad Pitt's "War Machine," which has not yet been released.
With Stuber at the helm, expect Netflix's movie ambitions to spread way beyond scooping up a roster of indies at Sundance.
But what remains to be seen is whether Netflix will resolve its ongoing standoff with the movie theater industry, or whether that will matter to its longterm success.
Netflix's commitment to "day-and-date releases," meaning movies are available to stream on Netflix the same day they arrive in theaters, will likely limit how many big screens show "Bright." Theater giants like Regal have publicly denounced this release policy, and Netflix's previous films have seen very limited theatrical releases.
In October, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that movie theaters were "strangling the movie business."
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