The Netflix Juggernaut (Film Business)
Netflix has come out with a lot of announcements so far in the infancy of 2021. One of them was the plan to release an original movie once a week for the whole year. It was just another idea coming out of the streaming giant to stay ahead and set the tone for all the other media giants. But what's good for streaming is not so good for theater owners.
This was discussed on The Drew Barrymore Show with special guest entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. The news was another threat to the livelihood of movie theater owners. Mr. Vaynerchuk believes, as I do, that movie theaters are in trouble but they're not going to die. As he states, we're human beings and need that human connection. I believe that humans also need the arts to help them spiritually and they will go to movie theaters to experience a visual story in all its glory.
Mr. Vaynerchuk's solution for movie theaters is to reinvent themselves. I wholeheartedly agree. A lot of these theaters need to keep pace with the new independent ones sprouting up. They offer dinners and drinks in the theater and, somewhat, private seating to make it more like watching at home.
That would be on the theater owner's side of this equation but as I have argued in a past blog, "The Business of Movie Theaters" the movie studios would do well to reinvent themselves as well.
But the talk soon turned to the quantity of films being turned out by Netflix. Mr. Vaynerchuk agreed with Netflix's strategy arguing that the more films they put out the better their chances of coming up with that home run, like "The Queen's Gambit," that consumers will talk about sending more business Netflix's way. His reasoning is that quality is subjective when quantity is not. The more films you put out the more of the masses you get to reach.
Technically Mr. Vaynerchuk is correct. But as a media giant putting out films quality shouldn't be seen as subjective. It certainly shouldn't be for the artists who are hired by the movie studios to create these stories. When a company mass produces films with a CEO who cannot recognize quality then the films turn that company into a scrolling studio. There have been many times where I've looked for a film to watch on Netflix in the evening and kept scrolling through titles until I noticed I'd been at it for forty-five minutes. No longer having the time to watch a movie I'd call it a night without watching anything.
Now, this idea that quality is subjective. Yes, it is. I have a cousin who loves going to the movies as much as I do but we argue over them, rarely finding movies we can agree on that are good. But a leader of a studio cannot have that disability in their thinking. They must understand what qualifies a film or television series for being a great story and a great work of art. Their tastes must cover a wide range of genres to produce good quality films within those genres. Mel Brooke's "Blazing Saddles" and "Old School" couldn't be more different and both may appeal to different types of audiences but they were crafted by comedians and story tellers who knew how to blend the two making these films stand the test of time. Even though their jokes may play on the crude or infantile side their stories hold up. A studio's job is to spot those among the straight comedies that can even blend in with drama such as "The Big Sick." On the other hand, a movie such as "What Happens in Vegas" is a studio head's, usually a guy who went from being a business major or a lawyer to finding their way into the movie business, idea of a comedy. A by the numbers puzzle of putting together what he thinks people want to laugh at and throwing two bankable stars in it. The movie doesn't work then nor does it work today. Sitting on the couch on a lazy rainy afternoon and flipping on the streaming service more times then not a viewer would pick "The Big Sick" to watch over "What Stays in Vegas." A CEO's job is not to make it that easy so it will be that streaming service's property that the viewers will turn back to.
Populating a streaming site over the years with titles like "What Happens in Vegas" will wear the brand down. Having too many titles that don't stick in the viewer's consciousness turns the studio into something else. There should be an aim at the studios to make all their titles garner plenty of enthusiastic "attention" able to grab a consumer's anticipation through the week. The first moment of a consumer's free time should be devoted to turning that movie on. And the goal of the head of a movie studio should be to make it difficult for the consumer to decide which movie to pick after scrolling through the first three. This will enhance the brand and make it more valuable in the long run. That will be enough to hold off and compete with whatever company overtakes Netflix.