Can Net­flix conquer ci­ne­ma?

Le géant qui bous­cule Hol­ly­wood.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire - GRAEME VIRTUE

De­puis leur ar­ri­vée, les ser­vices de vi­déo en ligne ont chan­gé la fa­çon dont nous « consom­mons » les films et les sé­ries. Lan­cée en 2007, la pla­te­forme Net­flix compte plus de 100 mil­lions d’abon­nés dans le monde et in­ves­tit de plus en plus dans ses propres conte­nus. Le géant du strea­ming vient de sor­tir son pre­mier block­bus­ter et a an­non­cé qu’il pro­dui­rait 80 films en 2018. Comment vit-on cette ré­vo­lu­tion à Hol­ly­wood ?

Mo­vies have al­ways been part of Net­flix’s cor­po­rate DNA. Be­fore rein­ven­ting it­self as a strea­ming po­we­rhouse, it was pri­ma­ri­ly a pos­tal DVD ren­tal com­pa­ny: not so long ago you might have ad­ded Men in Black to your Net­flix wish list and wai­ted a few days for the Blu-ray to plop through your let­ter­box.

2.To­day, the com­pa­ny isn’t post­ing Will Smith mo­vies, it is ma­king them. The gen­re­ma­shing ur­ban fan­ta­sy Bright – a $90m ac­tion th­riller di­rec­ted by Sui­cide Squad’s Da­vid Ayer and star­ring Smith as a crot­che­ty LA cop part­ne­red with an orc – laun­ched world­wide on 22 De­cem­ber.

3.With its ve­te­ran A-list star, spla­shy mar­ke­ting cam­pai­gn and sy­ner­gis­tic tie-in sound­track fea­tu­ring Mi­gos, Bas­tille and Snoop Dogg, Bright is per­haps the clo­sest Net­flix has come to de­li­ve­ring a mo­vie that has the swag­ge­ring im­pri­ma­tur of a ge­nuine Hol­ly­wood block­bus­ter. But it is just the most high-pro­file ad­di­tion to a bu­sy-bee content pi­pe­line that this year has de­li­ve­red more than 60 mo­vies – Net­flix Ori­gi­nals, in its catch-all cor­po­rate par­lance – that the com­pa­ny has ei­ther ac­qui­red or com­mis­sio­ned. In 2018, the plan is to in­crease that num­ber to 80.


4. Even if you are a well-fun­ded media ups­tart ag­gres­si­ve­ly playing catch-up to exis­ting conglo­me­rates per­ched on plump mo­vie back ca­ta­logues, ai­ming to re­lease 80 films in one year seems al­most de­cadent. In 2018, Dis­ney will launch 12 films, in­clu­ding la­vish new Mar­vel and Star Wars ins­tal­ments. War­ner Bros will re­lease around 20. Even Blum­house, the ce­le­bra­ted pro­duc­tion house prai­sed for chur­ning out well-craf­ted genre hits on fru­gal bud­gets, has been ave­ra­ging on­ly about 10 films a year.

5.So why the head­long rush in­to re­lea­sing prac­ti­cal­ly two new films a week? As media com­pa­nies be­gin to rea­lise there may be more va­lue in ring-fen­cing their crea­tive pro­per­ty ra­ther than li­cen­sing it to third par­ties, even the world’s pre-eminent strea­ming ser­vice can­not re­ly long-term on lea­sing li­bra­ries of content from el­sew­here. Per­haps it shouldn’t be sur­pri­sing that Net­flix execs have gras­ped the im­por­tance of being a ver­ti­cal­ly in­te­gra­ted com­pa­ny control­ling eve­ry as­pect of ma­nu­fac­tu­ring, re­fin- ing and dis­tri­bu­ting their pro­duct. They did bring us grip­ping drug car­tel dra­ma Nar­cos, af­ter all.


6. When the com­pa­ny mo­ved in­to ma­king ori­gi­nal TV pro­gram­ming in 2012, it could claim to be a ge­nuine dis­rup­tor. The dou­blew­ham­my of House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black es­ta­bli­shed a buz­zy new mo­del of bin­geable TV consump­tion where en­tire sea­sons drop on launch day – a stra­te­gy that has since been adop­ted, for cer­tain pro­jects, by the BBC and Sky. Net­flix al­so el­bo­wed its way in­to se­rious TV awards conten­tion in a re­mar­ka­bly short time: in 2017, it won 20 Em­mys out of 92 no­mi­na­tions, se­cond on­ly to HBO.

7.Yet Hol­ly­wood has been more re­sis­tant to re­ward Net­flix, es­sen­tial­ly be­cause the com­pa­ny has ze­ro in­ter­est in the tra­di­tio­nal mo­del of thea­tri­cal distribution. While it may

Ai­ming to re­lease 80 films in one year seems al­most de­cadent.

be su­pre­me­ly conve­nient for end users, by­pas­sing the big screen en­ti­re­ly and going straight to vi­deo-on-de­mand along­side new epi­sodes of Ful­ler House has an­noyed old hands such as James Ca­me­ron and Ch­ris­to­pher No­lan, who said that the prac­tice “di­mi­nishes mo­vies”.

8.By contrast, Ama­zon’s ra­ther less in­dus­trious film di­vi­sion seems to have ta­ken an ap­proach si­mi­lar to the pres­tige arm of a ma­jor stu­dio: films re­ceive a mo­dest thea­tri­cal re­lease fol­lo­wed by a res­pect­ful win­dow be­fore being avai­lable to stream. So far it has seen them edge the awards wars: Ken­neth Lo­ner­gan’s Man­ches­ter By the Sea, which Ama­zon ac­qui­red at Sun­dance in 2016, was no­mi­na­ted for six Os­cars this year and won two, in­clu­ding best ac­tor.


9. Other po­ten­tial ri­vals are be­gin­ning to stir. Dis­ney, the fran­chise-hoar­der cur­rent­ly squat­ting Smaug-like on Pixar, Mar­vel, Star Wars and more, will launch their own strea­ming ser­vice in 2019. Net­flix will re­quire a heal­thy stock­pile and tur­no­ver of ori­gi­nal content if it wants to en­cou­rage its 110 mil­lion sub­scri­bers in 190 coun­tries to re­tain their month­ly sub­scrip­tion.

10.The ava­lanche of Net­flix Ori­gi­nals, and the my­riad ways in which they have been ini­tia­ted or ac­qui­red, means that there is no such thing as a ty­pi­cal Net­flix mo­vie. Last year, the com­pa­ny brought us eve­ry­thing from Sun­dance hit I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Any­more to Na­ked, the broa­dest of co­me­dy ve­hicles for Mar­lon Wayans. It cour­ted ci­neastes with Ok­ja and The Meye­ro­witz Sto­ries (New and Se­lec­ted) while put­ting noses out of joint at Cannes. It whif­fed with man­ga adap­ta­tion Death Note but de­li­ve­red dis­re­pu­table thril­ls with taut lit­tle Frank Grillo th­riller Wheel­man. It has al­so, God help us, ex­ten­ded its ex­clu­sive contract with Adam Sand­ler for ano­ther four pro­jects.

11.So what is a Net­flix mo­vie? It’s wha­te­ver is next on a ne­ve­ren­ding sche­dule. Last month, it was Bright. So­me­time in 2019, it will be The Irish­man, di­rec­ted by Mar­tin Scor­sese and star­ring Ro­bert De Ni­ro. In the self-my­tho­lo­gi­sing and self-ce­le­bra­to­ry world of Hol­ly­wood, pu­shing a but­ton to top up a Net­flix content grid might lack a lit­tle ro­mance. But for eve­ryone else, it may be en­ough.


In Net­flix’s new block­bus­ter

Bright, Will Smith por­trays an LAPD of­fi­cer part­ne­red with an orc. Some cri­tics dub­bed it "the worst film of the year."


Cri­ti­cal­ly ac­clai­med Ok­ja, star­ring An Seo Hyun.

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