Tom Brueggemann, IndieWire’s lead box office columnist, published a polarizing opinion article this week advocating for Netflix to veer away from releasing its upcoming KNIVES OUT sequel for an extended, exclusive run in theatres.
Brueggemann argues that the potential upside for Netflix would be far outweighed by its risks. While Netflix would see some revenue from playing GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY in cinemas, the company does not have the internal expertise and culture of working with exhibitors.
A less-than-impressive box office – which exhibitors are obligated to report publicly – could wind up tarnishing the reputation of the film, and diminishing interest in watching it online. Distribution of the original KNIVES OUT in 2019 was handled by Lionsgate, which had decades of experience in theatrical releasing.
For its online releases, Netflix has the luxury of choosing which metrics to report. For example, the streamer is heralding THE GRAY MAN as the “#1 viewed title” on its platform, despite having received lukewarm critical reviews and meager grosses from the 450 theatres that showed it for an exclusive one-week run before its online debut. Brueggemann argues that Netflix’s attention should be entirely focused on making it a success online and that experimenting with a theatrical release would be a distraction from that objective.
There are many competing voices from the industry arguing that success in theatres would enhance GLASS ONION’s reputation, and fuel its success online. This buzz could attract new subscribers to sign up for Netflix, during a time when growth is challenging, and the profit on every project is being scrutinized. Netflix invested a whopping $469M to buy the existing KNIVES OUT franchise and the rights for two sequels.
Studio rivals Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are following a strategy to build interest in their streaming services by showcasing films that are fresh off a successful run in theatres.