One of the highlights of the Oscar telecast this past Sunday was a 30-second teaser for the new Will Smith movie BRIGHT. It looked like the kind of big-budget blockbuster that Warner Bros. or Universal would release in the middle of the summer… except for the fact that it will be released in December… by Netflix.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Netflix is determined to beat the studios at their own game. The company shelled out $90 million for Bright, and even bought out Smith’s back-end. The deal made a statement to Hollywood, with Netflix signaling to all the major studios that there was a new player in town, one with deeper pockets and a willingness to pay for top talent.
Dropping the first-look at Bright in the middle of the Academy Awards was clearly a calculated move on Netflix’s part. It almost seemed like a warning shot. After all, Bright will likely lure more eyeballs this December than Best Picture winner Moonlight does all year. Not that Moonlight represents the Hollywood status quo — far from it, actually — but you get my point. In the middle of the Oscars, the industry’s biggest night, Netflix nearly stole the show with a 30-second ad were it not for Envelopegate.
Just 24 hours later, Netflix dropped a minute-long teaser director Bong Joon-ho’s OKJA, a monster movie that surrounds a young Korean girl with a star-studded ensemble including Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick and Steven Yeun.
The coming-of-age dramedy follows Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend — a massive animal named Okja. Mija’s horizons expand as she journeys across continents, coming up against the harsh realities of genetically modified food experimentation, globalization, eco-terrorism, and humanity’s obsession with image, brands and self-promotion.
Both Bright and Okja are examples of the kinds of world-building movies that studios typically make themselves. Now they’re fodder for a streaming service intent on changing the way the game is played in Hollywood. Rather than simply serve as a home for storytellers who don’t necessarily fit into the studio system, like The OA‘s Brit Marling, Netflix has begun hiring directly from the A-list talent pool that only the studios could previously afford to swim in.
Bright, for example, finds David Ayer (Suicide Squad) directing from a script by Max Landis (Chronicle). Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies have been co-existing since the beginning of time, the film is billed as a genre-bending action movie that follows two cops from very different backgrounds — Ward (Smith) and Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) — as they embark on a routine patrol night and encounter a darkness that will ultimately alter the future and their world as they know it.
The film co-stars Edgar Ramirez, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Margaret Cho and Ike Barinholtz.
Netflix will release Bright, like Okja on June 28, to its nearly 95 million subscribers around the world. The average ticket price in 2016 was $8.65, so multiply that figure by 95 million and you get $821.7 million, which would be Smith’s highest-grossing movie ever, just edging out Independence Day. If only half of Netflix’s (growing) user base watches it, it’d be the equivalent of grossing $410.8 million — still incredibly impressive for an R-rated movie that isn’t based on pre-existing IP.
The point is that while we were all watching all of this year’s Oscar nominees on the big screen, Netflix has been plotting the future of entertainment, and the revolution will be televised inside your living room.
Watch the trailers above and let us know which Netflix movie you’re most excited for in the comments section below.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief