Glass Onion had a successful one-week theatrical run, but Netflix isn't planning on sticking to theatrical releases.
After its one-week run in 696 theaters, Netflix’s Glass Onion is floating in that strange liminal space before hitting the streaming service on Dec. 23. The company did not disclose how much Glass Onion made during its limited release.
Still, IndieWire assumes that the film will end up with about $15 million in domestic gross, placing it firmly in the number-two spot below Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
With this Thanksgiving being the worst box office in history, Glass Onion still had a big theatrical take. It was Netflix’s most comprehensive theatrical release and made double the expected box office. So the question remains—why isn’t Netflix releasing its films in theaters and making money hand over fist?
Fifteen million dollars is a fraction of what Glass Onion might earn in a conventional theatrical run. When compared to Knives Out, which played in nearly 3,500 theaters with a total domestic gross of $165 million, Glass Onion could have brought in just enough in the next two weeks to keep adults coming to the theaters before Avatar: The Way of Water dominates the box office.
Yet, Netflix isn’t concerned with the theater business.
The Glass Onion Strategy
It’s a streaming service first, and the key to its strategy is a very specific word that is used when announcing the plan—preview.
“It’s a promotional tactic for the streaming service,” Netflix’s founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings told the New York Times DealBook conference in NYC. “We are not trying to build a theatrical business.”
Multiple reports suggested Netflix executives were divided about any theatrical plan. Still, a compromise was met in which the company and several top-tier theaters that included AMC and Regal played the film for seven days.
The Glass Onion strategy initially looked like a joke, but Netflix achieved quite a bit in a week. By spending only $4 million on TV ads for marketing, Netflix got over 1 million people to see the film. Assuming that those 1 million people spread the word about how they felt about Glass Onion and the absence of the movie for three weeks, Glass Onion will be one of the most highly anticipated releases to hit the streaming service this year.
Netflix Orignals’ theatrical runs are simply a marketing tool used to drive subscriptions and to meet the qualifications for the Academy Awards. By using exhibitors to drive interest in Glass Onion up, Netflix hopes to reap the rewards of piquing interest and attracting eyes to their service rather than find success at the box office.
Hastings said the streamer’s “two religions” are “customer satisfaction” and “operating income.”
Theatrical plays have proven to elevate streaming, so why would Netflix, a bona fide streaming service, switch to theatrical releases only?
IndieWire reports that Netflix might add theaters over Christmas, but no exhibitors have been informed of this decision yet. As of now, theaters are unhappy that the run of a successful film was so brief.
Other streamers might follow Netflix’s strategy, helping spark an interest in their films while helping out theaters. Amazon might be the first streaming service to do so, reportedly planning to release 10 films in theaters next year.
What do you think of streamers releasing their films in theaters? Let us know in the comments!