Update, July 8: Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos has issued the following statement, “We’re incredibly proud of Triple Frontier, one of our most popular original films. 63 million member households have now watched the movie since it launched in March, and we look forward to working on more projects with this talented cast, producers and writer/director J.C. Chandor.”
Earlier: Netflix has a notorious reputation in the industry for spending big money on a seemingly infinite amount of original film and television projects, but a new report from The Information (via Engadget) suggests that will no longer be the case moving forward. Ted Sarandos reportedly held a meeting in early June with high-ranking TV and film executives where he discussed a new plan for being more picky with spending on original productions. Future Netflix originals will be greenlit based on their ability to bring in large number of viewers and not strictly for critical appraisal or earning Netflix industry or awards credibility.
One project The Information points out as leading Sarandos to somewhat change direction is “Triple Frontier,” the action drama from director J.C. Candor starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal. The film opened in select theaters March 6 before becoming available to stream March 16 on Netflix. The streaming giant spent a massive $115 million on the thriller.
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Netflix reported in April that 52 million households streamed “Triple Frontier,” which suggested the film was shaping up to be a big hit for the company. The film earned a tepid response from film critics (read IndieWire’s mixed B- review here). The film’s $115 million price tag is far above what other Hollywood studios would pay for an R-rated adult drama.
A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on specifics about its internal metrics, but said the company uses viewing relative to cost as one measure of success and is always looking for ways to get better. “There’s been no change to our content budgets, nor any big shifts in the sorts of projects we’re investing in, or the way we greenlight them,” the spokesperson said.
Netflix has seen misses in the past with shows like Baz Luhrmann’s hip-hop series “The Get Down,” the first and only season of which cost $120 million. The adventure series “Marco Polo” cost $200 million and barely registered with critics or viewers. Sometimes it pays off for Netflix to spend big (“The Crown” costs at or above $10 million an episode, while popular original films like “Bright” had a $90 million budget), and many in the industry are watching closely to see what happens with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” later this year, as that film’s budget skyrocketed into the $150 million range.