Netflix Postpones ‘Uncharted’ Streaming Debut, What Does That Mean for ‘Morbius,’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ Other Sony Films?
Don’t blink, because if you do, chances are good that you will miss something when it comes to the world’s largest streaming service. Last week, the popular narrative was that Netflix was in a death spiral sunk by falling subscriber totals and waning interest in the streamer’s offerings. However, after reporting on Tuesday that the service had shed less than half of the subscribers in the second quarter that it had previously projected, the streaming giant appears to be back in the media (and Wall Street)’s good graces.
However, it’s not just news about the upcoming launch of it ad-supported tier and efforts to curb password sharing that have raised collective eyebrows, but an unceremonious scheduling change has also gotten people wondering as of late as well.
Almost exactly one month ago, the official Netflix Twitter account announced that the Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg-led big-screen video game adaptation “Uncharted” would be coming to the service on July 15. However, that day came and went and the Sony film did not land on the streaming giant as originally planned.
Instead, it was announced that “Uncharted” would be coming to Netflix — at least as of now — on Aug. 19. The action caper originally debuted in movie theaters on Feb. 18, 2022 and went on to do a respectable $401.75 million at the international box office — including $148.65 domestically. While those numbers likely would have been disappointing when the film was originally greenlit, given its release on the heels of the first surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, it was a somewhat impressive total for Sony.
Unlike some studios who are now viewing 45 days as the default window to bring movies from the cinema to streaming, since Sony does not own Netflix — and in turn, making it more financially advantageous to hasten the move to subscription streaming — the studio has been allowing its movies to fully wind down in theaters then have an extensive window exclusively on video-on-demand rental and purchase platforms before coming to Netflix as part of a deal struck last year.
If “Uncharted” had dropped on Netflix on July 15 as originally announced, it would have been 147 days after premiering on the big screen. However, now that the date has been bumped by more than a month, it will be 182 days — more than 4x the length of the now familiar 45-day window.
What also might have thrown a kink into Netflix’s original “Uncharted” plan is that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — of course also starring Holland — set its streaming premiere date for July 15 as well. That news came just a day before Sony dropped the film on STARZ’s on-demand streaming service, so perhaps Netflix didn’t want its Tom Holland-led blockbuster to go up against THE Tom Holland-led blockbuster, especially since “No Way Home” will eventually move to Netflix, most likely in early 2023.
What we don’t exactly know right now is whether this delay was a decision by Sony or Netflix. And while neither side has provided an official rationale, the answer could help us predict what it means for the release dates of future films.
The next “highly anticipated” Sony film expected to come to Netflix is the Marvel (but not MCU) doctor-vampire-antihero, Spider-Man-adjacent movie “Morbius.” After a half dozen delays, the movie finally debuted in cinemas — I kid you not — on April Fool’s Day 2022. Though it only grossed $73.87 million domestically and $163.87 worldwide, “Morbius” became something of a curiosity thanks to online meme culture.
So, the original 147-day “Uncharted” announcement led fans to get excited for a potential “Morbius” premiere on Netflix on Aug. 26. But, with the new delay, if Jared Leto’s blood-sucking doctor falls more in line with the 182 days, that would make the streaming premiere on or around Sept. 30, just in time for Spooky Season.
If Sony delayed the “Uncharted” release, it most likely had to do with some sort of financial reason. Either to avoid the conflict with “No Way Home,” or perhaps it saw a recent uptick in VOD rentals and purchases for “Uncharted” and wanted to ride that wave as long as possible. If that’s the situation, you would imagine that the studio would view each film on a case-by-case basis, and what happened with one movie would have little effect on what happens in the future with others.
However, if it was instead the streamer that pumped the breaks on the release for any non-Spidey-related reason, then it might have more to do with scheduling, which could start a domino effect impacting many more films to come. “Uncharted’s” original July 15 streaming date seemed to make sense in the context of the Netflix calendar. That Friday was two weeks after the final volume of super-sized “Stranger Things” Season 4 episodes dropped and one week before Netflix Original action thriller “The Gray Man” premiered.
If nothing else, targeting users who watched “Uncharted” during its first week with an algorithmic dose of “The Gray Man” suggestions would seem to have been a perfect opportunity for the streamer. Now, however, the movie will debut a week after the Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, and Dave Franco vampire movie “Day Shift” and one week before the Kevin Hart, Wahlberg, and Regina Hall comedy “Me Time.” So, I suppose there is a bit of Wahlberg synergy at play now.
However, in terms of cross-promotion, the August release doesn’t seem to have nearly as much impact, but the prospect of premiering a film adaptation of a beloved video game starring two Hollywood A-listers would certainly be a positive when it comes to an otherwise thin period on the Netflix schedule.
Whether it was Sony or Netflix who called the audible, we know that “Morbius” will not be debuting in August, so a push to late September or the first week in October would certainly allow the vampire/superhero movie to capitalize on the Halloween season. But what does that mean for other Sony films slated for upcoming Netflix releases?
Based on the original “Uncharted” release date and the 120-day window for Sony’s “Umma,” we estimated that the big screen adaptation of best-selling Delia Owens novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” would arrive on Netflix sometime around Thanksgiving, potentially as early as Nov. 13, 2022.
This beloved, but heartbreaking story would seem like a perfect film to have available for streaming during the holidays, so perhaps the “Uncharted” change will have no impact on it. However, Netflix might want to focus on traditional holiday fare — including its own original Hallmark Channel style films — during the season, pushing the multi-decade drama into the new year.
With other expected Sony blockbusters like “Bullet Train,” “The Woman King,” “Devotion,” and “A Man Called Otto” slated to premiere in theaters in the remaining months of 2022, paying attention to how Netflix stacks the studio’s releases should go a long way to telling us what is and isn’t a priority in terms of windowing for the world’s largest streamer.