“Glass Onion,” a sizzling crime thriller, grossed an estimated $13.3 million over Thanksgiving long weekend, an achievement considering it was only released in about 700 theaters.
But some industry analysts are scratching their heads over what they say was a missed opportunity for Netflix to rake in more box office dollars if it could have done with a wider theatrical release.
The Daniel Craig sequel to Knives Out ends November 29 exclusively in cinemas. After that, viewers will have to wait until December 23 to see them on Netflix, which bought the rights to two Knives Out sequels, including Glass Onion, in a $450 million deal.
Netflix has long had an ambivalent relationship with the big screen. It has viewed big-budget movies as a key element of its content strategy to entice customers to flock to its streaming platform. But his practice of releasing films at home at the same time as or shortly after their theatrical debut has angered cinema operators, who claim the practice has weakened their business and discouraged moviegoers from leaving their homes.
Lionsgate’s 2019 predecessor, “Knives Out,” grossed more than $300 million worldwide and premiered in more than 3,000 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo.
If “Glass Onion” had received a traditional film release in today’s depressed market, it could have grossed even more money worldwide than the original “Knives Out” film, said Jeff Bock, senior media analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co.
“This is probably one of the biggest gaffes in modern film release history when it comes to botching what could have been done with ‘glass onion’ at the box office,” said Bock. “In my opinion they left hundreds of millions of dollars at the table. If they can afford it, that’s great, Netflix – but every other studio in town is just shaking their heads at that decision because every other studio in town would have loved to have this movie out now.”
Some analysts say that if “Glass Onion” had been in more theaters for a longer period of time, it would have helped generate even more excitement and helped meet audience demands for more films — where production schedules are being hit by a pandemic became. About 37 fewer movies will be released this year compared to 2019, said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst.
“The film had a solid five days, but it didn’t get that many theatres,” said Dergarabedian. “If it had been in more theaters, I think it would certainly have made a lot more sales.”
Netflix declined to comment.
But its top executives have defended the strategy.
The thinking behind the week-long theatrical run was to cater for Glass Onion before its release on Netflix, said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-CEO and chief content officer, in an earnings discussion last month. Running the film during this period also helps it qualify for awards, he added.
“There are constant discussions of all kinds, but internally there is no question that we make our films for our members and we really want them to watch them on Netflix,” Sarandos said.
Unlike many other Hollywood studios, Netflix’s core business is its streaming service, which offers its 223 million global subscribers a large library of content including TV shows, movies, and mobile games.
“We’re committed to entertaining our members with Netflix movies on Netflix. So that’s where we focus all our energy and most of our spending,” Sarandos said.
Still, some industry observers say the film strategy behind Glass Onion shows how theaters and streaming services can work together to promote films in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Playing films in a theater can be attractive to talent who want to see their projects on the big screen. It can also help generate more critical acclaim and buzz, which in turn will help drive viewers to the streaming service.
The National Assn. of theater owners said they were happy to see Glass Onion return to theaters.
“This successful limited release is another step forward in how cinema and streaming can benefit from each other,” the group said in a statement. “Looking forward, we believe that wider releases with longer runs can generate even more business, both in cinemas and in home entertainment.”
Netflix and other streaming services are in intense competition for subscribers and content. The company laid off hundreds of employees earlier this year after losing subscribers in the first half of the year.
Other streaming services take a different approach to releasing movies. For example, Warner Bros. Discovery chose not to release movies like “Batgirl” that were made for its streaming service. Instead, the CEO believes that big-budget movies do better on streaming services if they’re shown exclusively in theaters first.
The collaboration between theaters and Netflix on Glass Onion is an example of the disruption the pandemic is creating new business models that everyone is currently learning from, Dergarabedian said.
“We’re in a checkout lab,” he added.
Staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-11-29/netflix-glass-onion-movie-theaters Should Netflix’s ‘Glass Onion’ stay in theaters longer?