Netflix is reportedly cutting back on movie spending after its expensive investment in J.C. Chandor's Triple Frontier failed to pan out. The company has famously spent billions producing original movies and TV shows in recent years, as part of its efforts to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive field of entertainment streaming. And while they've released more than their fair share of hits during that time (ranging from films like Bright to TV shows like Stranger Things), they're naturally developed a few costly flops along the way.
For the most part, though, Netflix's biggest under-performers to date have come in the forms of expensive TV shows that failed to gain traction with viewers (with Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down and John Fusco's Marco Polo being the better-known examples). That's partly because the streamer has invested far more in low-to-mid-range budgeted fare like Beasts of No Nation, Gerald's Game, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before so far, rather than films in the vicinity of $100 million or more. There have been exceptions, of course, and it turns out that Triple Frontier was one of them.
According to The Information (h/t IndieWire), Netflix spent $115 million on Triple Frontier and initially reported that 52 million households had streamed the movie in early April. However, the action-drama ultimately performed below expectations and was dubbed a failure from a financial perspective. As such, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos reportedly held a meeting with other executives last month where it was decided that Netflix Original features will now be green-lit based more on their ability to bring in a sizable viewership, and less so to earn Netflix greater industry credibility.
UPDATE: Netflix has issued a statement from Sarandos in response to this report:
"We're incredibly proud of Triple Frontier, one of our most popular original films. 63 million member households have now watched the movie since it launched in March, and we look forward to working on more projects with this talented cast, producers and writer/director J.C. Chandor".
Admittedly, spending $115 million on an R-rated thriller by Chandor (whose previous three films only grossed $45 million at the box office combined, to put things in perspective) sounds like a bad idea on paper, so it's no surprise that the film didn't perform the way that Netflix hoped it would. Even so, it seems as though the company is going to a little more careful about what it green-lights from hereon out, especially when it comes to movies that are both pricey and "risky". No doubt, that trend will only pick up speed if The Irishman - the costly mobster biopic that Martin Scorsese is currently working on for Netflix - fails to meet expectations when it arrives this fall.
Overall, it sounds like Netflix is primarily planning to be more cautious about what it spends the big bucks on and invest it more in commercially-viable films (like Zack Snyder's upcoming zombie action-thriller, Army of the Dead), rather than movies that are far less likely to cover their nine-figure budgets a la Triple Frontier. It's a perfectly valid idea, of course, and will hopefully allow them to continue funding lower-budgeted projects that would otherwise struggle to find a home and/or are comparatively niche in their appeal. After all, it would be a real shame if Netflix started cutting back on making films like Roma in an effort to tighten their belt.