The past few years haven’t offered much in the way of good news for movie theaters, but Thanksgiving weekend offered at least a ray of hope: Glass Onion , the sequel to Rian Johnson’s murder mystery Kitchen knives Out , was a bona fide hit. My Twitter feed filled up with reports of capacity screenings across the country, including a theater in Berkeley that advised patrons the movie was “ hella sold out … please don’t even ask . ” The movie seemed well on its way in order to being a word-of-mouth strike every bit as big because the first, which grossed over $300 million worldwide on a $40 million budget.
Now for the bad news: After this Tuesday, you won’t be able to see Glass Red onion for almost the month.
As a twist upon its usual strategy, Netflix, which will debut Cup Onion on its streaming service upon Dec. 23, put the movie on nearly 700 screens worldwide, earning something on the order of $13 million . As along with past theatrical releases, Netflix did not report box-office figures, but experts told the particular Hollywood Reporter the movie could easily have equaled the very first movie’s $41 mil opening weekend break if it had opened upon the same 3, 000-plus screens.
For a company that has seen precipitous drops in its stock price over the past year, the decision seems like a head-scratcher. Why kneecap a near-certain hit by underbooking it, and why pull a movie that’s selling out screenings through theaters and keep it on ice for three and the half weeks?
The answer, of course , is that Netflix is in the business associated with adding subscribers and not selling tickets. After a decade of unchecked growth, a modest loss of subscribers has sent the stock price plummeting simply by more than 60 percent in 2022. On the one hand, the particular decline within the company’s fortunes offers resulted in a wave of show cancellations, yet it’s also increased the urgency of exploiting its most valuable properties, which includes the particular two Cutlery Out sequels it paid a reported $469 million for. And that means both keeping Johnson, who wants audiences to at minimum have the chance to see his movies in theaters, happy and making as much noise as possible prior in order to Glass Onion ’s release.
That’s why Glass Onion will be doing film production company equivalent associated with what the music industry calls an “ underplay . ” In music, that will means booking an act into smaller-than-usual venues—putting a good artist that usually plays arenas into clubs, for example—to generate a sense of excitement plus manufactured scarcity, usually as prelude to an album release or a larger tour. The people who get in feel like they scored, and the ones who get shut out are disappointed but vow not to miss out next time. It’s an easy way of building anticipation—and, perhaps since importantly for a company in a financial downturn that furthermore happens to not be used to spending a ton on theatrical advertising, the cheap one.
Anecdotally, the particular strategy seems to have worked. Audiences are flocking to the movie in order to the extent they’re able, and they’re learning what I did during its premiere to a packed house at the Toronto Film Festival in September: This is an extremely fun film to see with a crowd. The trouble is that most moviegoers don’t know it’s a strategy. The posters for Cup Onion clearly state that the Nov. 23 opening was with regard to an one-week “theatrical sneak preview, ” but that will text is usually significantly smaller than the line reading “On Netflix December 23. ” A scientific survey of my Slate co-workers that don’t cover popular culture for a living found one who experienced bought tickets but got no idea the film’s release was so limited, and another who saw the burst of attention to the movie and assumed it has been already available to stream. Unless Netflix extends the particular run, a significant number associated with people are going to be either confused or angry or each that the movie that was a sellout hit last weekend is nowhere to be found this week.
Given that this has been the worst Thanksgiving weekend box-office in nearly 30 years —and yes, that includes the two Thanksgivings in the height of the pandemic—one has to imagine that at least some of the multiplex chains that sold out there screenings this week are usually asking Netflix for an extension. While exhibitors have been adamant about shortening the “window” between theatrical and streaming releases, the pandemic shaved the gap down to a standard 45 days, and in April the head of the National Association associated with Theater Owners said the particular trade group would consider a window as short as 17 days regarding smaller films. (He also singled out Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos for praise, saying he “knows films and TV better than anyone in Hollywood. ”) Whilst there’s the kicking-and-screaming quality to their insistence on exclusivity, exhibitors may be coming to terms with the fact that will the pandemic was a sea change rather than a blip, plus while studios like Warner Bros. and Disney have abandoned their streaming-first strategies in favor of making money the old-fashioned way, a lot of movies are getting lost in the jumble. Part of the dismal Thanksgiving box-office was the dismal performance of Disney’s Strange World , a family animated film the studio practically buried alive along with wan advance publicity, while keeping the surefire strike Disenchanted (a sequel in order to Enchanted , which grossed $340 million) on Disney+. How are you supposed to watch a movie when you do not even know where to find it?
There’s no doubt that Netflix is leaving money on the table by taking Glass Onion away of movies building, and by releasing this on so few displays in the first place. The particular question is definitely whether the people who are dying to see it now will still feel as strongly in the few several weeks, or if they’ll become too busy wrapping presents and trying to figure out what to wear for their own annual visit to church—or even picking one of the dozen new movies that open around the particular same time. ( Avatar 2 , I see you. ) No one knows better compared to Netflix how short modern audiences’ memory is. But with Cup Onion , Netflix can be asking the subscribers to do something it is spent years training them not in order to do: wait.