One prominent film agent says Netflix, which for years provided an outlet for independent films that otherwise might have struggled to find distribution at movie theaters, is gravitating to splashier cinematic fare as it ramps its movie production.
“The problem is, now they’re not buying those movies,” said Jessica Lacy, Head of International & Independent Film for ICM Partners. “So, they’ve really hurt my business.”
To be sure, Netflix secured the rights earlier this year to the next four films from the Duplass Brothers, the veteran independent American filmmakers behind The One I Love, Creep and The Overnight. But these days, Lacy says, Netflix is focused on producing originals in-house or acquiring films that will make a huge splash, like the $100 million fantasy movie Bright starring Will Smith, which attracted 11 million views in the first three days.
Participants in the film financing panel at today’s Produced By Conference were divided over Netflix’s role in Hollywood. Indeed, Disney sees the fast-growing service as a threat, citing it as one reason behind its $52.4 billion bid to acquire most of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets.
Ashok Amritraj, chairman and chief executive of Hyde Park Entertainment Group (99 Homes, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), said it’s great to have a deep-pocketed buyer like Netflix committed to making 80 movies a year and supporting diversity and gender equality.
That sentiment was shared by Charles D. King, founder and chief executive of MACRO, which distributed Oscar-nominated film Mudbound through Netflix and is working on another project for the streaming service, a project he declined to name.
King said MACRO made the film independently and took it to the Sundance Film Festival, where it received a lot of attention from distributors. But Netflix presented an offer that far exceeded the others, including a commitment for an Academy Award campaign that ultimately yielded four nominations.
“To be honest, they were an incredible partner,” King said, noting that MACRO made a “nice return” on its investment along with the awards buzz.
Veteran filmmaker Bill Mechanic, chairman and chief executive of Pandemonium Films, scoffed at the mere suggestion of taking one of his cinematic projects, like the Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge or his current project, inspired by the building of the transcontinental railroad, to a streaming service.
“I don’t think they’re waiting in line to make my movies,” Mechanic said.