At tonight’s Chapman University panel on “The New Era of Television,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos took a beat during the first few minutes of the symposium to get a good word in about the Wachowskis’ upcoming new Netflix series Sense8 — a quite-needed gesture in the wake of the siblings’ $200M-plus box office bomb this weekend Jupiter Ascending.
“It’s the best four hours of anything we’ve done,” asserted Sarandos about the series. “Their film reviews have been brutal, and everything after The Matrix didn’t go well, but if you look at the earlier cuts of their films before they had to jam them down to 120 minutes, it’s amazing. There’s a four-hour cut of Cloud Atlas that will blow you away.”
Jupiter Ascending deep-sixed at the domestic B.O. this weekend with $18.37M, but it took the No. 1 spot at the foreign B.O. with $33.8M. Still, distrib sources say that’s not enough to eventually break even. The film marks the third straight directing misfire by the siblings after their $1.6B franchise The Matrix.
However, hope resides for the VFX visionaries with their 10-episode Netflix Sense8. A source close to the production told Deadline last week that the Wachowskis “aren’t overspending, they’re coming in on time, and they’re wonderful to work with. This is the first time that they’ve created a longform series, and it may well work to their creative sensibilities more than film recently.” Another source close to the siblings said: “Who knows if they’ll ever direct a film again? They might have found their niche with episodic drama.”
Sense8, which sounds a lot like the Wachowskis’ karma drama misfire Cloud Atlas ($27.1M domestic B.O., $100M-plus cost), follows eight people around the world who, following a tragic death, are connected mentally and emotionally. As they connect to one another to discover what happened, they are hunted by an evil organization. The series takes place on four continents spanning Chicago, San Francisco, London, Iceland, Seoul, Mumbai, Berlin, Mexico City and Nairobi. The Wachowskis finished shooting in Iceland three weeks ago.
“From a budget standpoint and a running time, it’s every bit as big, if not bigger, than their feature films,” Sarandos said about Sense8.
Later, when the conversation segued to diversity in TV, Sarandos not only pointed out how the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black broke down barriers for women of color and the LGBT community, but that there’s also “a transgender in Sense8. The goal wasn’t to be diverse but to be great and different and diversity would follow.”