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Netflix Movies Are the New Made-for-TV Movies — but Don’t Call Them Schlock

Producers of made-for-TV movies are heading to Netflix and preparing to fuel the streaming war.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

“A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding.”

Netflix

At the inaugural AFM Television Conference, Motion Picture Corporation of America chairman and CEO Brad Krevoy had good news for the audience attending the November 11 panel Made-for-TV Movies: Expanding Opportunities for Independent Filmmakers. “The next five years are going to be boom times,” said the producer of more than 150 films ranging from “Dumb and Dumber” to Netflix’s “The Knight Before Christmas.”

It’s a hopeful message, if an unfamiliar one: The American Film Market has long faced decline in the face of a disintegrating DVD market. However, Krevoy is now an integral part of Netflix’s romcom frenzy with titles like like “A Christmas Prince.” The third installment of the franchise drops on the platform next month.

Tony Vassiliadis, COO of MarVista Entertainment, said he is eyeing the moment when Netflix’s Disney and Fox licenses expire. By his estimate, that accounts for 10 percent of the Netflix library, and will serve as a major opportunity to fill the gap.

For AFM producers, the transition to streaming is attractive: budgets are still tight, but there’s consistency in the steady paydays, targeted demographics, and formulas that work. “All of them are just digital distribution of the same content we’ve been pushing,” said Vassiliadis, who saw Netflix release his Christina Milian-starrer “Falling Inn Love” over the summer.

But Krevoy makes a distinction between his films and titles like “Sharknado,” the sub-$1 million fare churned out at brisk pace for linear networks like Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, or Syfy ⁠— for him, it’s quality over quantity. They’re handled by Netflix’s independent film division, which greenlights movies in the sub-$10 million range.

“Their desire is to up the quality level because they own it and it’s going to be there for a long time,” he said. “They’re not TV movies if they’re for streamers ⁠— they’re motion pictures,” he said.

Unlike individual TV networks, Netflix is “everything to all people,” Krevoy said, where Oscar contenders like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” lives alongside more generic warm-and-fuzzy fare. However, that still means targeting specific demographics in a just-for-you algorithmic fashion, and Krevoy said that process begins when his team deeply researches and develops ideas for specific streaming platforms.

He said the MPCA-Netflix sweet spot lies in what he described as an elevated version of Disney Channel movies and one actress in particular ⁠— former Disney Channel mainstay Vanessa Hudgens — speaks to that audience. So, Krevoy’s team develops projects with her in mind including “The Knight Before Christmas,” “The Princess Switch,” and its forthcoming sequel “The Princess Switch: Switched Again.”

Meanwhile, American Cinema International found a niche producing African American-led films for Netflix in the vein of “Her Only Choice. “What they want is black people in high-level positions and easy stories that we’re already told before white, but the black version of it,” said ACI president, Chevonne O’Shaughnessy.

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