Jane Campion, Jay-Z, Lin-Manuel Miranda: Netflix reveals 2021 film slate

Last month, Disney revealed an enormous trove of new content for its streaming service, Disney+. That followed WarnerMedia’s announcement that in the US all 17 of its films this year would be available on HBO Max the same day they debuted in theatres.

And on Wednesday, Netflix — the biggest streaming service of them all, with 195 million subscribers worldwide — announced its 2021 film slate: some 70 movies featuring Academy Award winners, box office stars and a reminder of its power in a Hollywood that has been irrevocably changed during the pandemic.

The normally secretive company made the announcement with the help of a fast-paced trailer. Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson, the high-profile stars of Red Notice, Netflix's $US160 million entry into the PG-13 action world, kicked off the video, which highlighted comedies, dramas, horror, family films and foreign-language movies. (The company did not disclose most of the release dates.) It concluded with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, the leads of Adam McKay's Don't Look Up, walking out of an aircraft carrier, a not-so-subtle reminder that the company, once an also-ran when it came to luring prestige filmmakers and big stars, is now an industry behemoth.

Lin-Manuel Miranda will direct his first movie, the adaptation of the stage musical tick, tick… Boom.Credit:Netflix

The breadth of Netflix's content tells the story of the tumult in the movie business during the pandemic. Once seen as the ultimate Hollywood disrupter — the biggest threat to the very existence of the movie business — Netflix has now become something of a saviour with its broad reach and little dependence on theatrical distribution.

When other studios were scaling back, Netflix went big in acquiring a slew of titles from the year's film festivals, including Concrete Cowboy, with Elba; the Rosamund Pike-led I Care a Lot; and Halle Berry's directorial debut, Bruised. Netflix was also able to acquire finished films from other studios, which chose to offload them in an effort to repair balance sheets decimated by the widespread closing of theaters. For instance, Disney sold Netflix its adaptation of the bestselling novel Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams and directed by Joe Wright (Atonement). It will become available this year, as will the buddy comedy Bad Trip, which MGM produced, and Sony's animated film Wish Dragon. (Last year the company took The Trial of the Chicago 7 off Paramount's hands and is now promoting it for Oscar consideration.)

Jane Campion will make her Netflix debut with The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst.Credit:AP

Netflix is also recommitting to the genres that have made it successful. The final instalments of the teen romances To All the Boys and The Kissing Booth are coming in 2021, as are teenage horror movies like the adaptation of the Adam Nevill novel No One Gets Out Alive and the Fear Street trilogy from filmmaker Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon).

Stuber said he was encouraged that "the quality of the filmmaking continues to grow" on Netflix but would like to increase the company's focus on big-budget action films. He sees Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead as one example of that this year but is also looking beyond 2021 to movies like The Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, from Joe and Anthony Russo (The Avengers), and a new adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia.

In 2019, Stuber tried to reach a deal with the major exhibitors for the release of The Irishman in the US but was stymied by the theatres' insistence that they get to show films exclusively for close to three months before they moved to Netflix. That calculation has now changed with WarnerMedia collapsing the theatrical window completely and Universal Pictures negotiating deals with exhibitors like AMC and Cinemark that involve revenue-sharing on premium video-on-demand sales. Stuber is still interested in negotiating with the theatre chains but will not do so until the pandemic ends.

Disney sold Netflix its adaptation of the bestselling novel Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams.

"I do believe we all needed a bit of an evolution to give movies that were not made from intellectual property an opportunity," he said. "Now we are waiting to see what the theatre business becomes. When that tectonic plate stops, we will be able to have those conversations. We are open to those conversations."

The New York Times

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