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Why Is Paramount About to Give Its Next Cloverfield Movie to Netflix?

Netflix has been quiet on the acquisitions front at Netflix, and Deadline thinks it knows why – the streaming giant is working on a deal to acquire a franchise sequel from a major studio. The God Particle, the third in the loosely connected series of Cloverfield movies that have racked up $281m worldwide, might end up on Netflix in every country around the world other than China because Paramount’s new chief, Jim Gianopulos, doesn’t think it qualifies as a theatrical movie in 2018.

The God Particle stars David Oyelowo, Ziyi Zhang, Daniel Bruhl, Elizabeth Debicki, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and has been described as “The Thing in deep space.” More on that in a minute; first, what does this potential move tell us about Netflix and Paramount right now?

Well, with Netflix this tell us, damn, Bright was a game-changer for them, and with Paramount it means either Gianopulos has taken complete leave of his sense and his studio might as well not even exist anymore if they’re not even going to try or that he knows way more than all of us and this movie might really suck.

This feels like one of those important historical moments which will still be quickly forgotten because everything is changing so fast these days. It’s one thing for Netflix to workaround Hollywood and produce its own big-budget franchise, as it has done, regrettably, with Bright; it’s another for Hollywood to just give up and sell-off a proven (albeit low-budget) franchise installment to Netflix.

Moreover, if this means Netflix won’t have quite as much capital to spend on the film festival side of things it could also signal a slight, Amazon-like move toward more mainstream fare. Netflix has traditionally operated more like a 1970s film studio that puts its trust in filmmakers and hopes that will pay off, but they broke the bank to acquire I No Longer Feel at Home in this World at Sundance last year only to have it generate zero social media and awards buzz. Then they go and make a dumb Will Smith movie on their own and it causes their subscription numbers and stock price to soar, as even those people who didn’t like Bright still watched it to mock it with friends and on social media/podcasts/YouTube/whatever.

I’m not saying this means the end of Netflix’s run of quirky programming, although they have canceled quite a few quirky shows lately- RIP, Lady Dynamite. No, with the Disney-Fox competitor looming on the horizon Netflix is still in the volume business and can’t just abandon its identity as the home to everything the film studios and TV networks should be doing but won’t. However, the longer Netflix operates the more beholden it will be to its corporate need for constant growth which will cause it to start acting a bit more like a traditional studio or network. The days of flushing money down the toilet just to say they have a Baz Lurhman TV series are probably over. Ditto for the years where they vacuum up just about half of everything at every major film festival. To get those global subscriptions up Netflix is going to have to broaden its appeal and the programming will reflect that.

Of course, Netflix traditionally doesn’t give a damn if we watch something; they want us to want to watch something, so much so that we never cancel our subscription even if we never get around to that thing we signed up to see. Bright and Stranger Things, however, have shown Netflix what happens to their bottom line when millions of people actually watch one of their movies or shows. Bright drew an audience of 11 million in its first three days, according to Nielsen estimates. After Reed Hastings and Chief Financial Officer David Well touted these numbers in the company’s most recent letter to shareholders, the company’s shares jumped 7.5% on Wall Street.

On Paramount’s end, the studio should have absolutely nothing to do with this, but Gianopolus quietly did something similar weeks ago. Director Alex Garland, the visionary behind Ex Machina, has Annihilation, has a big monster movie starring Natalie Portman due out late next month. Paramount is distributing here in the States, but Gianopolus already sold off international rights to Netflix. Now he might punt completely on The God Particle.

Why? This is a franchise-poor studio which ranked 7th in market share last year. Only 2 of its 18 releases even made more than $60m – Transformers 5 ($132m) and Daddy’s Home 2 ($101m). 10 Cloverfield Lane grossed $72m domestic in 2016. Now they’re just going to leave that kind of money on the table?

Yes. See, much of what I have discussed to this point assumes The God Particle will be of a similar quality to the original Cloverfield and its superior (in my humble opinion) sister-sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane. However, the industry spin has Paramount dumping God Particle, which has already had its release date delayed multiple times, simply because it already cost too much to make ($40m, over twice as much the prior Cloverfields) and still needs more work. Rather than engage in pricey reshoots, they’ll just cut their losses and hand it off to Netflix, which has become the island for Hollywood’s misfit toys, recently landing abandoned studio horror movies like Before I Wake. J.J. Abrams is said to have been too busy with Star Wars to properly see to his role as producer on God Particle, and his efforts to help in post-production came too little, too late.

Maybe. Or maybe that’s just the spin Paramount is putting out there through the press’s “anonymous sources.” Paramount is, after all, still pissed at Abrams for mostly reneging on the multi-picture deal he signed with them only to twice leave for years at a time to make a Star Wars movie. So, why not blame this on him?

However, Netflix doesn’t care. As The White Stripes once sang, what Hollywood sees as rags and bones, well, they’ll find a home for it, and if the success of Bright is any indication quality won’t necessarily be an issue. If God Particle turns out to actually be a pretty good movie, then all the better for Netflix and sadder for Paramount.

As of right now, Paramount has The God Particle slated for an April 20th release. We’ll see if that still happens. These rumors don’t always pan out. Remember, at one point Disney was supposedly going to buy Netflix; now, Disney’s just trying to run Netflix out of business. However, if The God Particle does end up on Netflix it’ll be because Paramount is cutting its losses and the streaming giant is in the market for another Bright-sized hit.

UPDATED: Well, holy shit. Netflix didn’t just buy this off of Paramount and debut a 30-second teaser during the Super Bowl. No, they also dropped it immediately after the game, flipping a giant middle finger at NBC’s This Is Us post-Super Bowl episode in the process.

Too bad the movie’s kinda shite, though. You can read my review elsewhere on the site, but basically Paramount had a crappy movie that was sure to be ravaged by RottenTomatoes and die a quick death. Netflix had money to spend and the opportunity to use a high profile acquisition to test out the viability of debuting projects immediately after the Super Bowl. Everyone won. Even us since, after all, this saved us from having to buy a movie ticket to see this colossal dud.

Sources: Deadline, THR


  1. I am kind of wondering about the future of Paramount…there seems to be a certain expectation that Sony will be bought sooner or later. But nobody really talks about Paramount, the last of the “smaller big studios”.

    Netflix has to be careful, though. It gets more and more the reputation of being good for TV shows but also a dumbing ground for movies.

    1. My understanding is that Paramount would have been sold years ago if not for the Redstones putting the kibosh on such talks. Once Summer Redstone inevitably dies, which could literally be any day now, that might change, but his daughter seems pretty insistent about turning Viacom around and using Paramount as a content farm to feed into its cable offerings (thus the rebranding of Spike TV into The Paramount Network) as well as a potential outlet for Viacom properties to be turned into Paramount movies.

      But, man, it really, really doesn’t look good for them right now. They’re technically one of the big 6 studios, yet Lionsgate leapfrogged them in market share last year. Plus, if they dump God Particle they’ll only have 8 releases this year, down 10 from last year, and among them only MI 6 and Bumblebee seem like safe or at least okay bets (Sherlock Gnomes has sleeper potential, I guess). Annihilation they already sold off to Netflix everywhere except in the US so I’m not sure how much it’s going to help them.

      That big wave of studio and network consolidation everyone expects to happen largely due to streaming and changing viewer habits was supposed to first claim Paramount. Instead, it got Fox, the one no one had predicted. I think the Redstones are trying to give the new Paramount boss more time to turn things around. He’s really only been there a year. But yeah, at this point Paramount probably should just merge with someone else. If the Redstones new strategy doesn’t pay off it almost certainly will spell the end of the studio as we know it, but merging now right as they’ve launched the Paramount Network would make for bad (pause to cue up buzz word) optics.

      As for Netflix, they aren’t operating under new marching orders ala Amazon’s Jeff Bezos yelling “Give me my own Game of Thrones, dammit”. So, I don’t see a wholesale shift in strategy in place. Not yet. However, with the way they’ve been bragging about Bright and telling critics to, essentially, fuck off we are entering a weird new stage where their film production and acquisition strategy might not lean quite so idiosyncratic. I agree that, as you said, they have to be careful here.

      1. I think in all the studio consolation process, people are forgetting something: Netflix and Amazon, both of which need trusty sources for content. I don’t think that we will end up with three studios in the end, instead there will still be five or six, but they will be restructured in a way that each of them belong to some streaming service (or the other way around).

      2. We also can’t forget that although we haven’t quite seen them emerge as a major player in original content yet Apple is sinking over a billion into that this year. So, we have Silicon Valley meeting Hollywood, and the end result is probably going to be, as you said, one or two of the tech companies simply buying up one of the studios.

        We’ve already seen a similar progression with MoviePass which is, like so many startups, operating at a loss and preparing to continue doing so for years in exchange for access to valuable data, and at Sundance they announced they’re now going to start buying minority interests in select films to test out if that’ll be a profitable avenue for them. A traditional distribution company or ticket agency would never do that, but MoviePass doesn’t think like a traditional company and neither will Amazon, Netflix and Apple. Their metrics for success are just so different.

        Point being: the old and new way of doing things are on a collision course, and not everyone’s going to make it.

        Also, China would be a major player here, but their government put the clamps down hard on Wanda and won’t let them buy all these foreign companies anymore, forcing them to instead leave their money at home and invest locally. If not for that, Wanda might have already picked up LionsGate or one of the smaller studios by now. The failure of The Great Wall set them back in their American relations pretty big, though.

      3. China wold be better off to focus on capturing the European market with their movies first. It’s considerably smaller than the US market, but also more open-minded towards foreign productions.

        Good thing in all this is that nowadays it has become way easier to create your own content and put it out there. It kind of breaks the grip of the big studios in terms of the smaller projects. But the big blockbusters, there might soon only be three of four studios doing them.

      4. And now Shari Redstone is trying to merge Viacom with CBS. It sounds like stability is (no pun intended) paramount to her right now as she tries to push Les Moonves aside and engineer a complete takeover of CBS. So, Paramount might be safe for now not because of its own health but simply because of its place in a larger corporate strategy to remerge Viacom and CBS.

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