On Tuesday, GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY wrapped up a special one-week run at 683 North American theatres with an estimated $15M in ticket sales over the seven-day period. Netflix opted for the novel strategy of introducing its expensive sequel to Lionsgate’s 2019 hit KNIVES OUT with a time-limited “sneak preview” in theatres in an attempt to spark interest in advance of its streaming debut on Netflix one month later on December 23rd.
This makes GLASS ONION the highest-grossing Netflix theatrical release ever and the first one of its movies to play at all three of the U.S.’s largest exhibitors AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. With success, some question why the streamer limited its theatrical scope to under 700 locations and one week only. Even Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has acknowledged that his company left hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by not providing theatres with a traditional, wide release with a 30- or 45-day exclusive window.
In an interview at Andrew Ross Sorkin’s annual Dealbook investor event, Hastings explained that Netflix is not trying to “get in the theatrical business” and that the special release for GLASS ONION was used as a promotional tool for its eventual streaming release. Both Hastings and co-CEO Ted Sarandos appear united in this strategy, despite pleas from some within Netflix’s ranks that it should establish a broader partnership with exhibitors.
Wall Street is also questioning the company’s decision to turn down box office revenue, especially since it is struggling to regain its growth profile and has limited options for new revenue outside its core subscription business. After Amazon’s recent announcement that it intends to invest $1 billion annually to create a slate of new movies for theatrical release, it may only be a matter of time until Netflix and other “streaming-first” studios arrive at a similar conclusion.