Netflix has developed a reputation in Hollywood for its cavalier, sometimes extravagant spending on a seemingly endless stream of original movies and TV series — but recent disappointments like the pricey, Ben Affleck-led action-drama “Triple Frontier” may spell an end to the company’s sometimes profligate habits.
According to a report by deep-dive tech news site The Information, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos met with dozens of high-ranking film and TV executives early last month to stress the importance of being more selective with which big-budget projects it gives the go-ahead. Over the past few years, the service sought to boost its credibility with critics and awards voters, sometimes approving riskier projects from acclaimed directors in hopes of scoring Oscar nominations and strong reviews; that apparently won’t be the case going forward, with Netflix focusing squarely on titles that will connect with the highest number of subscribers.
“Triple Frontier” — a J.C. Chandor-directed heist thriller about ex-soldiers (played by the likes of Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal) who plot to rob a South American crime lord — is reportedly one clear-cut example of a no-go for Netflix in the future.
The film, rescued from Paramount after that studio had nixed it a month before shooting was set to begin, ended up costing Netflix an exorbitant $115 million. (For context, it had been initially green-lit by Paramount at $60 million, only for that budget to inflate dramatically as location scouting dragged on and various actors dropped in and out.)
The streaming service reported in April, a month after the film premiered, that 52 million households had watched it, suggesting the movie was shaping up into a hit for Netflix. That said, Netflix has never followed standard TV ratings metrics, and is notoriously stingy with what viewership data it chooses to release, making it difficult for those in the industry to accurately evaluate the overall scale of Netflix’s successes and failures.
Notably, at least one massively budgeted project is still to come at Netflix: Martin Scorsese’s crime biopic “The Irishman,” which focuses on hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he reflects on his possible involvement in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Set to arrive this fall, its budget has reportedly ballooned past the $150 million mark.Isaac Feldberg can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.