The Netflix paradox: Why the future of flops will be digital

The Netflix Paradox Image 1
By Brian Harris, Staff Writer

The Cloverfield Paradox quite simply would have been a flop.

You may remember the Cloverfield Paradox as the film that dropped during the Super Bowl, complete with its own mysterious ad during the big game.

Originally slated as a theater release under the name God Particle, this third installment in the Cloverfield franchise is almost certainly the most high-profile franchise straight to Netflix release in the company’s history. And, noticeably, this marketing stunt is all anyone talks about regarding the film, because make no mistake, it is a stunt, and a genius one at that.

The Cloverfield Paradox is currently sitting at a dreadful 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, by far the lowest rating for any Cloverfield film. Other things that set it apart from its predecessors? Its budget of a reported 40 to 55 million dollars, for perspective, the last two entire Cloverfield films combined only equate to about $35 million budget spread between them.

So, the situation here is that Paramount had a movie that they most likely knew was a stinker with a strikingly high budget. If you’re a film producer, that is a grim situation, an almost for sure loss of money, and even worse than that, the tanking of a potentially successful moneymaking film franchise. So, the question becomes, what do you do?

If you release the film to theaters, you will at best break even after you pay for all that lead up marketing, and probably destroy the public’s perception of the franchise.

On the other hand, if you simply don’t release it, you’re taking a hit of 40 to upwards of 60 million dollars on a completed film that you could at least make some money on. But, then, magically, an unheard of out comes your way, a strategy that will make headlines, be almost risk free, and potentially save the franchise. Direct to Netflix.

The Hollywood Reporter has claimed that Netflix paid Paramount “north of 50 million” dollars for the film. If you’ve been paying attention, that means that Paramount got out relatively even, recouping most, if not all, of the budget lost on Paradox, while still wiping their hands clean of it.

What was once a mediocre to bad horror film with a bloated budget was now a Super Bowl stunt, and that very fact has dominated its conversation. No one cares that it’s a piece of schlock in what was a good to great horror franchise, the public just enjoyed the gimmick and moved on. What would have been a disaster comes off almost scot-free.

There’s a couple reasons for this. First of all is its timing and marketing, having one ad during the Super Bowl and then dropping it is brilliantly cryptic and got millions to flick to Netflix in the days after its release. The second, I believe, is the disposable nature of Netflix.

If you pay to go see a bad movie, you’re generally rightly upset, but if you watch a bad one on Netflix, you shrug and flick to the next one. That is a factor that would have killed Paradox, but that it completely avoids entirely through its release strategy, which is absolutely brilliant.

I can guarantee you, other studios are watching this move. How many times has a terrible horror film come to theaters only to lose millions upon millions once word of mouth sets in?

Or horrible action movies come and gone, taking entire franchises to the dustbin with them. This strategy changes all of that. Netflix could, and maybe should, become a dumping ground for studios’ misfit toys, the films that they don’t believe will make back their budgets, the films they don’t believe in, and the films that suck. If Netflix is willing to pay (and they seem all the happier for more exclusives under their belt), then I don’t see the negatives.

Lower risks, guaranteed recoups of millions and a happy fanbase. Makes sense to me.

Photo Courtesy: IMDB

Leave a Reply