In just a few years Netflix has risen from a simple DVD lending company to a behemoth of entertainment streaming. Netflix didn’t just acquire streaming rights to lots of great shows and films, and a fair few bad ones, but they started to make their own Netflix original programming television shows (just without the television). But you know this, right? House of Cards being the best political drama since The West Wing and having creative input by David Fincher. Orange is the New Black becoming the funniest drama out there while proactively showing us diversity at all its different levels. Just this year has seen Netflix premiere Bloodline, Narcos and a daring take on the ever-expanding Marvel cinematic universe with Daredevil. It truly is a renaissance in television and Netflix is one of the frontrunners. But TV isn’t enough. Netflix is moving into the realm of original cinema without, yep you guessed it, the actual cinema.
So, does this mark a new era of film viewing and making? Will this venture see the company come to the forefront of an increasingly stagnant film industry? Will the cinema become less popular with audiences when great films are released at the same time world wide and can be viewed when or how the viewer wants? Or will it just become the latest fad that won’t last very long?
Last year I asked the IGN UK guys these questions. This is what they had to say:
Big questions, right? Now it’s time for my answers that dwindle in comparison.
Just like with Netflix’s TV shows, the quality of the films isn’t a concern. Most of them are going to be good, if not great. A few of them won’t be very good and we can spot those ones already. They’re the four films Netflix has commissioned Adam Sandler to star in. Sandler hasn’t made a good film since Happy Gilmore and his latest laugh-free ‘comedy’ Pixels was a box office bomb. Netflix should be regretting their decision to have Sandler sign that four movie contract already but even so Sandler is still disgustingly rich. That’s Hollywood for you. But as I was saying before my digression, quality, for the most part, shouldn’t be a problem. Just as Netflix shows like House of Cards have great talent both in front of and behind the camera (Kevin Spacey and David Fincher), so will the Netflix films. Coming in October on Netflix is an original film which is already being well received and has great talent behind it. Beasts of No Nation stars Idris Elba (the next James Bond, fingers crossed) and is directed by Cary Fukunaga (director of the first season of True Detective, you know the good one).
Going to the cinema to see a newly released film is both a blessing and a curse. Unlike watching a film at home, the cinema is an experience. Whether that experience is a good one or not depends on many different things. The cinema can be a good experience, you watch the film with a room full of film fans just like you and witnessing the film’s events unfold on a huge screen with a great sound system is truly unbeatable. But the cinema experience can easily be negative. The audience can be full of noisy and disrespectful people and it is expensive. A month long Netflix subscription is cheaper than one average cinema ticket. I think that in the future, streaming services will make more and more films and other film companies will make deals with them to show their films at the same time as the cinema. Films that have been notoriously difficult to bring to the big screen such as documentaries and indies will debut on Netflix instead of on the big screen and cinemas will start to only show big budget and visually exciting films which you need to see at the cinema for the full big screen experience. To increase the marketability of the cinema experience and counter the streaming services there will be many more IMAX screens, especially now that audiences are starting to see 3D as a gimmick for most films. Netflix has a several advantages over the cinema. A major one is convenience. You wouldn’t have to find free time to drive over to the cinema and spend money on petrol. The film would be right there in your home and you can watch in on any device you want. You can pause it too and come back to it later.
Netflix attracting filmmakers to make films for them wouldn’t be problem either. The Hollywood system is hard to break in to and, unless you are a member of a select few, can be hard to actually get anything made. Even if you manage it, producers can butcher the films and the director can only watch on helpless. Just look at what happened with Josh Tranks’ Fantastic Four and the Weinstein brothers are infamous for how much of a film they leave on the cutting room floor. So far in television Netflix has a hands off approach. The showrunners can decide on running time because there are no allotted times and advert breaks, episodes of Orange is the New Black range from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on how much story there is to tell. This hands-off approach and creative freedom in the hands of the filmmakers will attract lots of talent fed up of the state of the current film industry.
So will Netflix dominate the film industry? No, probably not, but it will bring about change within it and offer healthy competition with pioneers of the industry and create benefits that we can hopefully one day reap. Cinemas may take notice of multiple new films being available on Netflix each month for a relatively low subscription price and bring ticket prices down in accordance. The big screen will still rule for some considerable time yet but the streaming services will offer an alternative that audiences will no doubt devour. Other companies will have to monitor Netflix closely over the next few years and alter the way they work if they want to keep their prized filmmakers from going over to the streaming service.
So what do you guys think? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, subscribe and check out the other great blogs and podcasts on site. Join me next week for some more First Time Writing.