Exhibitors have their knives out for Netflix after the streamer reportedly refused to expand the limited theatrical release of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. In October, Netflix cut a deal with theater chains Cinemark, Regal Cinemas, and AMC Theaters to make Rian Johnson's Knives Out sequel the first Netflix-distributed film to screen across all three major US exhibitors. Billed as a Sneak Preview Event, Glass Onion would play in 600 theaters for just one week between November 23rd and November 29th, at which point there would be a blackout until the film's global streaming premiere on Netflix on December 23rd.
Despite calls from exhibitors to expand the theater count and theatrical window, Netflix restricted Glass Onion to its limited, one-week exclusive theatrical run in 600 of the most popular theaters in North America, Variety reports. This intentionally strict exclusivity was to generate word of mouth and build anticipation ahead of Glass Onion's streaming release this Christmas on Netflix.
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said as much during a recent investors call, explaining the streamer is "in the business of entertaining our members, with Netflix movies on Netflix. So that's where we focus all of our energy and most of our spends."
Comparing the Glass Onion sneak peek release strategy to a film festival, Sarandos said, "For all those folks who can't get to a city where a festival is, this one-week release on 600 screens is a way of creating access to the film and building buzz – the same thing we're doing at festivals. So I would look at this as another way to build anticipation for the film and build buzz and reputation for the film, ahead of its Netflix release."
As theaters await James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water on December 16th, the extended Thanksgiving weekend saw Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever pull in $65 million over five days while Disney's animated Strange World flopped with $18.5 million from 4,174 theaters. Had Netflix distributed Glass Onion into the same amount of theaters for a lengthier amount of time, the murder mystery would have overtaken Strange World for second place and might have dethroned Black Panther in its third weekend.
"Wide releases make most of their money from their top 1,000 screens," David A. Gross, of movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, told Variety. "With a strong marketing campaign and a big, wide release, the sequel would have opened in the low $30 million domestically and made $300 million worldwide."
Instead, the whodunnit placed third with an estimated $15 million earned during its first — and only — week in theaters. (In October, it was reported that Netflix would not publicly report Glass Onion box office figures.) The streamer's next move is potentially re-releasing Glass Onion back into theaters — after the film hits Netflix in late December.
The Glass Onion cast includes Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, with Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is streaming December 23rd on Netflix.