If it feels like I’ve been writing a bit about Netflix lately, you’re not alone. I’m feeling like that, too, but when the streaming giant keeps making news and doing things that are worth examination, then I’m sort of not doing my job if I don’t at least talk about it. The latest has to do with something that happened last week, when the news started leaking that Paramount was going to sell its latest Cloverfield sequel, God Particle, to Netflix for an undisclosed sum. The reasoning behind this was guarded. Was it because the movie wasn’t any good and Paramount was trying to dump it? Was it about money? The mind reels… But for whatever reason, the move was made. Suddenly, just like that, Netflix was in possession of a big ticket item.
You might scoff at this notion, that a movie discarded by a studio could be considered as such, but let’s remember that God Particle is the third part of an ongoing franchise that already has a fourth installment shot (called Overlord, and we’ll come back to that in a bit), and that said studio is woefully short of such properties these days. Paramount isn’t exactly Disney right now, or even Warner Bros. Star Trek is on life support, World War Z may or may not ever have a sequel see the light of day, and Transformers is quickly running out of gas. The only really strong property it still has is the indefatigable Mission: Impossible, so getting rid of a Cloverfield has more than a little relevance.
God Particle was originally scheduled to hit theaters on April 20th, though it soon became rumored that Netflix would drop it sooner that, perhaps even after this year’s Super Bowl ended. There was also speculation that Netflix might do some rare marketing for the project during the game, as it did a year ago with the second season of Stranger Things.
Sure enough, about two minutes into the second quarter, a 30-second commercial dropped for a new Netflix movie called THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, which I would assume is the same picture. The announcement said that the movie would be available “very soon,” which did in fact mean immediately after the game, so it’s entirely possible that you’ve already seen it. It also was that rare moment when Netflix actually spent some serious money to push one of its movies, which might just suggest a change in thinking for the streaming service. That being the spending of money to do any marketing at all.
So if we take all of these things together, they start to add up to something interesting. On the one hand, Paramount still has Overlord on its release schedule for October, and there was nothing in the announcement about the entire franchise shifting owners, just the one movie. Thus, we come back to why it unloaded God Particle, er, The Cloverfield Paradox, on Netflix. Let’s say that the movie is not one that the studio believes is going to make money, and so it sold off the $26 million budgeted flick to Netflix for what I would imagine is something close to that number. Thus, without having to spend added millions on P&A costs, it can focus on other projects like, for instance, the much cheaper Overlord. Netflix, meanwhile, gets into the franchise game and once again garners a high profile piece of entertainment that will get it much-needed eyes, because, for a fraction of the cost of a Bright, it certainly got a lot of them last night. At least, judging by the number of people who announced they’d be watching it on my social media feeds it did.
This latter part goes hand in hand with the green lighting of that Bright sequel a few weeks ago, which I discussed in this space. My point then was that this new movie changed everything for Netflix, because it was the first time the service had entered the franchise business. None of its other movies had ever produced a sequel, so this was big news. With a shiny object like the latest Cloverfield joint, this new operating philosophy continues, even if it’s not as shiny as some of the other items in the Paramount vault.
This now raises a couple other questions in regard to how Netflix is going to proceed. For one thing, does it decide to resurrect some of the faltering or outright dead franchises that haven’t moved any further in their studio homes? Like an Ender’s Game, or a John Carter of Mars? Or even the Chronicles of Narnia? Does it decide to take The Dark Tower off Sony’s hands for a not insubstantial fee, then finally put together that TV series-movie hybrid that had been so long discussed? I mean, if ever there was an operation that could put something like that together, Netflix is certainly it, right?
There’s also the idea of taking over the unwanted fare cluttering the various studios’ slates. Take the Sony Screen Gems film, Cadaver, which was supposed to come out last year, but now has been removed from the release schedule entirely. Something like that feels like a perfect opportunity for Netflix to step in and take a clunker off Sony’s hands. Sony gets a little cash out of the bargain, while Netflix gets what becomes a straight to video release that will surely draw the attention of the host of horror fans who line up to see such B- and C-level fare. On top of that, Netflix could spawn a new low budget horror franchise, entering into yet another space that the studios seem to have vacated, along with romantic comedies and mid-budget dramas.
While I still firmly believe that Netflix needs to introduce cinematic releases to its strategy if it wants to survive, getting into the franchise game in one form or another is certainly going to help. The fact that it dropped that Cloverfield Paradox trailer in front of a hundred million people or so and then immediately made the film available suggests just that. If it’s actually willing to spend a few million to pump one of its movies, it must be willing to do plenty of other things, too.
This might seem like I’m reading a lot into the acquisition of a movie by one distributor from another and a Super Bowl commercial, but it does add up. What began as an odd deal between two companies might have turned into an entire sea change for one of entertainment’s biggest companies. I imagine we’ll be finding out more “very soon.”