Already a member? Log In

Assessing Netflix’s Less-Is-More Film Strategy

dan lin
Netflix will still gladly shell out money for movie production, sure, but the Lin era promises to focus on quality over quantity. Photo: Lia Toby/Getty Images
Julia Alexander
March 5, 2024

Netflix has the best problem in Hollywood: It’s almost too easy to get people to watch its movies. The leading streamer is an algorithm-fueled, super-scale attention machine, with the highest-value real estate in the industry. If Netflix puts a new movie on its homepage, chances are that the film will almost certainly find an audience—at least by the new standards of success for streaming. The Mother, a tepidly reviewed Jennifer Lopez action-thriller, logged a quarter-billion hours viewed in the first six months of 2023, according to Netflix’s first engagement report. And yet, you’d be forgiven for never having heard of the movie. The same goes for Extraction 2, with Chris Hemsworth: Millions watched it, even if nobody is talking about it. 

But there are plenty of Netflix original films that don’t rise to that level—more than plenty, actually. Scott Stuber, the outgoing film chief, made something like 80 movies last year, and many of them weren’t cheap. At that level of output, not every film can rack up hours viewed simply by being at the top of the carousel on the Netflix homepage. For example, Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon, which reportedly cost $166 million, was a flop. Others, like 2021’s Don’t Look Up, have been critical and commercial hits. But Don’t Look Up feels like the exception that proves the rule: As much as Netflix films are watched, few are loved let alone remembered.