If film critics were hoping Netflix would reconsider its approach to films as a result of the drubbing they administered to the Will Smith sci-fi extravaganza “Bright,” think again.
The streaming service’s top execs professed to not only be unconcerned by the bad reviews, but claimed it as a success that will embolden more bigger-budgeted projects.
“The critics are pretty disconnected from the mass appeal,” said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Monday in a pre-taped video presentation the company released after its successful fourth-quarter earnings were reported.
Netflix brass noted the movie performed very well across the globe in the hundreds of markets where the streaming service was available, though declined per usual to share specific audience metrics. “Most of the critical reviews you read are English language, just U.S.,” Hastings added.
Released in December, “Bright” received a low 27% score on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, which aggregates sentiment from hundreds of critics. “Suicide Squad” director David Ayer helmed the movie, which reportedly cost over $90 million to produce–much higher than any movie Netflix has ever produced. A sequel to the film has also been greenlighted.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos confirmed plans to release as many as 80 movies, both acquisitions and its own productions, in 2018 that will range from “tentpole”-sized movies like “Bright” to much smaller titles including “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore,” which was well received at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
He indicated their satisfaction with “Bright” would usher the way for more expensive movies. “We’ve seen successes at every one of these budget profiles and we’re really excited we could continue to push that out and please more and more people if we’re not constrained to small budget films,” said Sarandos.
Sarandos also dismissed the notion critical response was a factor in the viability of a release, noting that Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score for “Bright” was quite high (86%).
“Critics are an important part of the artistic process but are pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film,” he said. “If people are watching this movie and loving it, that’s the measurement of success. And if the critics get behind it or don’t, that’s a select group of social media influencers talking to a specific audience.”
Netflix has pledged to spend $8 billion on original and licensed content in 2018, though Sarandos declined to specify how much of that was set aside for films.