Netflix has been making their own films for quite some time, but nothing they're released so far looks quite like Bright. Will Smith and the director of Suicide Squad have made something that looks a lot like your standard Hollywood blockbuster. During a press conference at San Diego Comic-Con to promote Bright, which arrives on the streaming service December 22, Will Smith and other members of the cast and crew discussed what made making Bright different from a traditional theatrical release. First and foremost, Will Smith didn't want to give the impression that Netflix is going to put movie theaters out of business. He does believe there's still a place for that experience. According to Smith...
There's definitely something about that big screen that penetrates people in a very different kind of way. It's a different medium.
However, for Will Smith's director David Ayer, the experience of working with Netflix was quite different. He told those of us in the press conference that working with the streaming service gave him a freedom that he likely would not have had if he'd been producing the film for a major studio, even though the process of making the film was essentially the same.
For me it's pretty simple, this movie, I got to make it in a way and at a level that otherwise I might not be able to make. ..Everything technological about this is as if we had done a major feature. For me, the only real difference is there's a lot more freedom and creativity.
Will Smith went on to discuss at length how the Netflix strategy is something unique compared to the way a normal studio works. Netflix's subscription service gives them a financial base that allows them to be confident. Essentially, Netflix subscribers aren't likely to cancel their subscription if they watch Bright and decide they didn't like it, which means the movie can't really lose money for Netflix. What's more, the customer data that Netflix has gives them a strong impression of how popular a movie like Bright will be with their viewers. They know how popular Will Smith is on the service, they know how popular fantasy action movies are, by looking at the numbers they can get a good idea of who is likely to watch the movie before they even start to film it.
In a follow-up question, David Ayer was asked how Bright might have become a different movie if it had been produced through the traditional studio system. While Ayer didn't point to any specifics himself, producer Eric Newman did make a comment about one thing that everybody agreed would have been different if the movie hadn't been made at Netflix, the rating:
Rating probably would have been different. This is a rated-R movie and it wouldn't have been at a studio.
The PG-13 rating is the studio sweet spot because it allows the largest group of people to attend the film while still allowing the theater to put as much in the movie as possible. Limiting the audience only increases the difficulty in making the money back. However, again, since Netflix isn't risking money in the same way, the film's ultimate rating matter less. Thus giving David Ayer that creative freedom that he spoke about.