News ID: 279474
Published: 0333 GMT January 13, 2021

Netflix's staggering slate of new films escalates streaming wars

Netflix's staggering slate of new films escalates streaming wars
Indian actors Adarsh Gourav (L) and Rajkummar Rao are seen in Netflix’s ‘The White Tiger’.

In the latest skirmish of the streaming wars, Netflix has come out fighting.

In a star-studded promotional video, the studio announced a staggering slate of original releases in 2021, with a promise to release a new film every week this year, reported.

The studio’s level of productivity blows its competitors clean out of the water. In pre-COVID times, Warner Bros. released 21 films in 2019, with Disney posting 19. True, the streamer doesn’t always have to contend with the additional costs associated with a theatrical release — or indeed the headache of cinemas not being open at all — but beneath the beaming smiles of its actors was a clear statement of intent.

The past year has highlighted the fragility of a cinematic ecosystem which relies on blockbusters regularly making more than $400 million to strike a profit and keep cinemas afloat.

Netflix can’t yet claim to be the savior of the cinematic experience, but it is undeniably giving the industry a major shot in the arm — and something approaching stability in profoundly unstable times — through a commitment to producing original content of all sizes.

This year’s slate has its fair share of tent-pole releases. We will see the big-budget ‘Red Notice’, featuring Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, released alongside ‘Don’t Look Up’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But these are joined by films that lean much more into the company’s desire to increase the size of its awards cabinet. An adaptation of Booker prize winner ‘The White Tiger’ stands out.

As ever with Netflix, the note of caution is whether this generous model is as inherently fragile as the distribution pattern it is disrupting. A house of glass to rival the House of Mouse. Clearly, it depends on huge growth, but up to now, the studio has consistently provided it.

In the third quarter of 2020, the studio recorded $6.44 billion in revenue, with the number of worldwide subscribers growing rapidly, yet this is all offset by a content bill which has been reported to be as high as $17.3 billion in 2020. Combine this with the difficulty in ascertaining what each new release is worth in terms of attracting new subscribers and engaging others, and it may mean that Hollywood accounting has a new meaning.

Netflix is evidently throwing a huge amount of money at original content creation, much like its rivals at Disney. Yet the streaming giant’s move in many ways runs counter to that of its competitor, which used its recent Investor Day to expand existing properties.

Yes, Disney+’s slate for 2021 is full of new series and films, but they often exist within established cinematic universes. From ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ and ‘Star Wars’ through to ‘WandaVision’ and Marvel, the studio is using its platform to appeal to a loyal and devoted fan base.

This is unsurprising given the two streamers are coming from opposite starting points. Disney was a filmmaking colossus long before it switched to streaming, while Netflix traditionally hinged on a competitive curation of others’ productions.

As the two slide closer together, it makes logical sense that they are cleaving to their traditional strengths, with Netflix enlisting outside creatives and Disney bolstering existing IP (not to mention making the most of its big-money purchases).

While the paths ahead for both Disney and Netflix are taking shape, the direction of competitors such as Warner Bros.’ HBO Max is still buffering. The studio’s decision to move its 2021 slate on to their own streaming platform — alongside limited theater runs — caused ire among creatives including Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins.

Wracked by the fear of another year of closed cinemas, the kneejerk reaction has seemingly also jeopardized the future of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ as a franchise. Away from this turmoil, those who collaborate with Netflix know exactly what to expect, even if it isn’t the fanfare of a theatrical run.

There will no doubt be concern that Netflix’s crowded slate will only reinforce TV and film’s saturated landscape.

What’s more, Netflix’s increasing willingness to release some titles for short theatrical runs won’t be enough to single-handedly save cinema chains. But after a desperate year, their gargantuan support for the sector shouldn’t be undervalued.


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