As Dust Settles from Netflix Executive Shake-Ups, Will More Films Head to Theaters Before Streaming?
When Netflix announced its fourth quarter 2022 earnings earlier this month, the results were a big surprise to many in the business world. The world’s largest streamer exceeded expectations by adding more than 7.5 million new subscribers across the globe, bringing its total to 230.75 million overall.
What was even more surprising to many observers was the fact that co-founder and long-time co-CEO Reed Hastings stepped down from his post to become the company’s executive chairman. Hastings was the key driver of the service’s transition from a DVD rental-by-mail service to a streaming platform, and many credit his passion and drive for making Netflix the world’s largest streaming service.
Hastings’ departure led to a handful of significant shufflings amongst the company’s higher-ups. Among those changes was a new title for former Head of Global Film Scott Stuber, who has become the company’s Chairman of Netflix Film. Having been a producer for decades, Stuber has been one of the company’s loudest voices in favor of extending the theatrical release windows for Netflix’s films.
It’s unclear what exactly Stuber’s new position will entail in terms of added responsibilities, but in a recent interview with Bloomber's Lucas Shaw, current Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Stuber had a “total green light on film. He runs that film group autonomously.”
If Stuber has as much freedom to work as his boss claims, does that mean that he’ll be steering more Netflix movies to theaters? He’d certainly have an argument, considering how well Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” did in its week-long limited theatrical run last November. Netflix released “Glass Onion” across 600 theaters in the United States for one week, and pulled in $15 million. According to a consultant who spoke with Variety, the movie could have made $300 million or more worldwide if it had been given a standard theatrical release of at least 45 days.
Stuber said in December that Netflix originally planned for eight to 12 movies per year to be released in theaters, but those plans turned out to be a bit too enthusiastic. Judging from comments made by Sarandos in October, the real number could be closer to zero or one movie per year for the foreseeable future.
“We are in the business of entertaining our members with Netflix movies on Netflix,” Sarandos said. “There are all kinds of debates all the time, back and forth. But there is no question internally that we make our movies for our members, and we really want them to watch them on Netflix. And, of course, with one week of release in theaters, most people will see them on Netflix. Just like they see all movies. Most people watch most movies at home.”
The departure of Hastings may give Stuber more elbow room to work with, but he still has to answer to Sarandos when it comes to increasing the number of theatrical releases at Netflix. The company has been known to change its mind recently (and in some very big ways), but for now it would be unwise to expect any major philosophical shifts from Netflix regarding theatrically releasing its original films.