Netflix: A new, major disruptor of the movie industry

Alana Raper | Contributing Writer

Super Bowl trailers are nothing out of the ordinary. This year’s Feb. 4 game saw a host of trailers for highly-anticipated films such as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

However, one Super Bowl trailer differed from the rest: Netflix’s 30-second promo for “The Cloverfield Paradox,” a science fiction horror film. The ad, which cost $5 million, differed from other trailers that night as the movie was being released on Netflix as soon as the Super Bowl ended. Users on Twitter and other social media networks quickly reacted, as production for the film had been kept under tight wraps. The marketing strategy for “The Cloverfield Paradox” followed a history in the franchise of unique releases, but the bigger question posed with Netflix’s drop was where the future of movie releases is headed.

The Cloverfield ParadoxThe Cloverfield Paradox

Typically, movies have a long, drawn-out release process. With a highly-anticipated movie, trailers are carefully released over a period of a few months before the official release date. In the case of “Avengers: Infinity War,” the first trailer was released on Nov. 29, with the movie itself not airing until later this year on May 4, roughly a five-month period.

This “hype-building” strategy has worked especially well for well-known franchises and artists, so Netflix’s strategy of promotion and release all in a few hours is a stark difference from the industry standard. Although the movie received mostly negative views, it raises questions about the future of the movie industry and the marketing of mass media.

The biggest question yet to be answered about the release of “The Cloverfield Paradox” is what would’ve happened if it had been a well-received movie or a well-known movie. Would the movie have gained acclaim, movie-watchers applauding Netflix for making movies more accessible? Or would the movie have still just been relevant for about a week, then buried by more new content released by Netflix? This all stems on the movie having a game-changer ad during the Super Bowl. Although I doubt we will have this exact scenario ever again, the variables in question are still very new and have yet to be explored; so, I have a feeling we may see some iterations soon.

Overall, Netflix’s strategy has centered around keeping subscribers satisfied by always introducing new content and making people come back for more. It doesn’t look like much will change for now, but Netflix is changing how they market their shows, recently increasing their marketing budget to $2 billion for 2018 compared to roughly $1 billion in 2017. This could signal more efforts similar to that of “The Cloverfield Paradox,” enticing viewers to Netflix. It may be hyped up trailers for releases of sought content, as we saw with “Black Mirror” in November and December. Or, it could be something completely new.

No matter what, because of the growing influence and presence of Netflix and other streaming services, the movie industry is changing. Although people still are going to movies, as the Motion Picture Association of American reported in a 2016 report when the combined U.S.-Canadian box office grew 2 percent, with the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other streaming services, there is a lot unknown about how the movie industry will continue to operate.

Recently Netflix has begun to acquire studio “flops” for release direct to their streaming service, rather than a theatrical release. For studios such as Paramount, from whom Netflix acquired “The Cloverfield Paradox” for just over $50 million, it’s an easy way to offload a movie that they aren’t sure about. It doesn’t seem, however, that studios will be itching to do “Direct to Netflix” soon for larger movies, as a theatrical release for a successful movie provides much more revenue. It does set up the beginning of a new age of partnerships between production studios and streaming services that could be the start of a new pattern in the industry.