Box office blues: can Netflix save the movie star?

While A-listers are struggling on the big screen, the streaming platform is providing a splashy solution to ailing stardom

Its proving to be an unusually cold summer in Hollywood, a sun-drenched town suddenly facing a rather worrying frost. Ever since the 70s, its a time of year that has brought with it huge profitability, with studios unveiling their splashiest and starriest offerings but this year, toasting success has been replaced with analysing failure, a string of underperformers raising a number of uncomfortable questions. Aside from a legitimate discussion over franchise fatigue, theres another debate that rages on: what is a movie star in 2019?

Last weekend resulted in a rather nasty box office bloodbath that left a pricey reboot and a glossy sequel battered and bruised. Men in Black: International, a $110m attempt to resurrect a franchise that had lain dormant since 2012, scored the lowest opening of the series to date with just $30m stateside despite a hefty $120m spend on promotions and advertising and the pairing of Avengers: Endgame stars Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth. Further down the chart, an attempt to revive Shaft, last seen in 2000, was an unmitigated disaster, making less then $9m (less than half of what the last outing could muster on its first weekend) despite boasting another Marvel stalwart, Samuel L Jackson, to hand over the torch to his on-screen son.

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Chris
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in Men in Black: International. Photograph: Giles Keyte/Sony

The same weekend also saw Emma Thompson and Mindy Kalings comedy Late Night crash and burn weeks after an underwhelming result for Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilsons Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake The Hustle and middling returns for Seth Rogen and Charlize Therons romcom Long Shot. The summer has also seen other bigger failures (including big-budget bombs Godzilla: King of Monsters and Dark Phoenix) but what ties all of these together is that they relied heavily on star power to sell tickets. Even though Men in Black is an established property, its not really lingered in the pop culture lexicon since its third outing and while Thompson has the bigger role, it was the shoulders of the more established Hemsworth that the films success was resting on. But despite being known as the god of thunder, Hemsworth has struggled to make much work outside of the Marvel universe with Blackhat, Rush, 12 Strong and In the Heart of the Sea all doing bad to adequate business. And even a more tested draw like Jackson couldnt sell the latest Shaft film, a failure that was at least somewhat predicted by backers New Line who sold the non-US rights to the film to Netflix, where it will premiere at the end of the month.

It has become a far safer home for stars, a development confirmed once again this past weekend. Because while audiences shunned big stars on the big screen, they chose to stream them at home instead with the Friday release of Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Murder Mystery breaking a major Netflix record. The film, an engaging Agatha Christie homage, was reportedly consumed by 30m households worldwide in its first few days, with more than 13m accounts residing in the US. If were using the average US movie ticket price of $9.11, this would mean the equivalent box office would be around $121m, although if each household represented at least two tickets then it would be double or more. Now when talking about Netflix viewership, especially when statistics are coming from Netflix themselves without independent verification, a handful of salt is always recommended. But theres no denying that however its spun, more people saw Murder Mystery than anything at the cinema over the weekend.

Obviously, the investment is far easier, with the consumption of Murder Mystery not requiring anything more than a click, but whats interesting is how its success proves that movie stars do continue to wield power just not in the way were traditionally used to seeing.

The last 12 months have seen a number of major stars stumble. Keanu Reeves couldnt push sci-fi thriller Replicas over a miserable $4m total, Matthew McConaughey failed to make The Beach Bum, White Boy Rick or Serenity appealing to audiences, Will Ferrells Holmes and Watson (a film Sony allegedly regretted so much they tried to unsuccessfully sell it to Netflix) couldnt make back its $40m globally, Steve Carell wasnt enough to save Welcome to Marwen from a $60m loss, Mark Wahlberg didnt prove a draw for action flick Mile 22, Charlize Therons Tully was a disappointment, but not quite as bad as her Gringo, while pretty much no one wanted to see Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix as The Sisters Brothers.

Sandra
Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. Photograph: Merrick Morton/AP

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Yet on Netflix, stars who havent had the most consistent track record have excelled. Action thriller Triple Frontier was seen by a reported 52m accounts in its first four weeks meaning an unqualified success for star Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullocks meme-friendly horror Bird Box had 45m streams in its first week while back in 2016 Sandlers first Netflix original The Ridiculous 6 became their most watched film within less than a month. His old-fashioned eight-movie deal was seen as a particularly important game-changer, and its one that I believe will continue to have a profound impact on how stars find security within the industry.

While he became known as one of the most bankable comedy stars in Hollywood with hits like The Waterboy and 50 First Dates, Sandlers magic faded over time and he made the smart decision to transport his brand to the small screen, to a less discerning audience far more willing to spend an evening with him. His Netflix output has been largely rubbished by critics but that has made zero impact on reach. He has become part of their stable in the kind of deal that movie stars might have found easier to secure in the golden age but one thathas become harder to nab in riskier times. While not locked down in the same way, Bullock has also decided to reteam with Netflix to produce sci-fi adventure Reborn while Gyllenhaal, who has starred in both Okja and Velvet Buzzsaw for the platform, will see his next film, the video game adaptation The Division, also head straight to stream.

Jennifer
Jennifer Aniston arrives to attend the Los Angeles premiere screening of Murder Mystery. Photograph: Valrie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

The success of Murder Mystery also owes a great deal to Aniston, a star who maintains a foothold in the industry and within public consciousness without really finding projects that seem to attract the requisite audience. Given the incredible second life that Friends has found on Netflix, who recently paid a whopping $100m to keep showing it for an extra year, and her role in their fauxspirational comedy Dumplin, she has become a tried and tested draw for them and her role in Apples glossy new comedy show implies a major strategic change on her part, a second life that shes struggled to find on the big screen. The mass exodus of stars from cinema to TV has meant that we dont need to rush out to see the latest films from Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Colin Farrell, Emma Stone, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman or even Meryl Streep, as theyre all easily accessible at home.

While Netflix original movies started out with relatively smaller stars, over time they have managed to lure bigger names and their forthcoming slate, including films starring Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, is as high wattage as that of any studio. This year has brought some theatrical success stories, but they have rarely relied on big names to attract crowds, instead sold on either the horror genre (films such as Ma, Us, Pet Sematary and The Curse of La Llorona continue to make big bucks from small budgets) or property pre-awareness (Marvel hits such as Avengers: Endgame or Captain Marvel or remakes like Aladdin). This weekend is set to show both of these learnings to be true once again, with tracking suggesting big numbers for both horror remake Childs Play and Disney sequel Toy Story 4 (its no coincidence Disney is having a record year given that its a studio whose successes arent star-led). And in forthcoming weeks, hits are predicted in the shape of the horror sequel Annabelle Comes Home, Marvel adventure Spider-Man: Far From Home and Disney remake The Lion King.

Sandlers Netflix deal, initially scoffed at by many, may well become a much-desired solution for stars who want to keep making mainstream movies for an audience that will actually sit down and watch them. Its a direct route to the fans without critics or box office numbers getting in the way and helps to extend stardom without sacrificing salary. As mentioned, theres something curiously old-fashioned about such a deal, harking back to the contractually led studio system, and there does remain a certain irony that in order to push forward, Netflix is having to look back.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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