When Netflix doubled the bidding for the Max Landis-scripted Bright with David Ayer attached to direct and Will Smith and Joel Edgerton to star, it committed over $90 million — twice what the picture cost to make — for what it expected would be its first franchise with feature-caliber talent. Smith and Ayer had just wrapped Suicide Squad, a film that went on to gross $746 million worldwide for Warner Bros.
Netflix announced on social media that it will in fact make a sequel, with Smith and Edgerton back along with Ayer, who’s writing the script this time. Eric Newman and Bryan Unkeless again are producing.
While Netflix doesn’t release viewing numbers, the service declared that Bright was the most-viewed Netflix film ever for its first week, in every one of the 190-plus countries it services. Nielsen reported that 11 million watched in the U.S. over the first three days. This despite a dismal Rotten Tomatoes aggregated critical ranking of only 28%. Netflix commitment was high because it paid the stars and director their quotes and then bought out the estimated backend they would have received had a performer like Smith made his usual cash break gross deal.
The film followed LA-based cop procedurals that Ayer has made including End of Watch, Street Kings and Harsh Times, only this world melded an Alien Nation element: Smith’s cop partners with an Orc (Edgerton), and the world was populated by other mythic creatures.
It was a big swing but an important move for Netflix as it tries to create the kind of zeitgeist moments in movies that it has managed to do with series like House of Cards, Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why.