Early on in its life, David Ayer's Bright was meant to be a theatrical feature, as the film had set up shop at Warner Bros as a traditional production. But then something fortuitous happened, as the project was shifted from the Hollywood staple over to the young buck known as Netflix. Now being produced with the intention to debut on people's TV screens rather than the silver screen, the film went on to become the first blockbuster that could call itself a Netflix Original. And this fact has caused one of its stars, Will Smith, to ask the following question about its debut:
There's an emotional overwhelming [thing] that happens when you watch something in a movie theater with 400 people, right? Does it penetrate in the same way?
Now that's not to say that Smith isn't excited to take part in the tentpole experiment that Bright has now become. But the star of such big ticket hits as Independence Day, Men in Black and Suicide Squad certainly has asked a question that gets to the root of why some may have their reservations about the streaming giant becoming a platform for debuting original film content. Not to mention, that first question leads to others that branch off from that initial line of thinking.
With a budget of $90 million built into Bright's final product, how does a company like Netflix measure the success of its first blockbuster, when all anyone has to do is have a subscription to watch it? Well, one would figure word of mouth and viewing metrics would be the easy way to answer that question, but that just forces us to circle back to Will Smith's inquiry once again. Would Bright have been a bigger, more effective hit if Warner Bros programmed it this weekend, in the doldrums between Star Wars: The Last Jedi's fading hype and the prestige players that are only in limited release?
Also, just what makes Bright's idea to become one of Netflix's originals a potentially wiser gamble than shipping it to millions of theaters? Well, according to Reuters' coverage of Smith's remarks at the movie's red carpet premiere, as well as the film's production, the targeted marketing apparatus that has been active for months to talk up the film is a good start. Rather than spending money on trying to win the world over with a shotgun approach of print and TV ads, a more conservative campaign within the subscriber base, mixed with some traditional broadcast ads during events like the Oscars, or random trailers on YouTube, is at work. So while Bright may be more unconventional in its production and release strategies, it's not totally ignoring the more tried and true methods.
Still, even those who agree with this new sort of ballgame won't be able to avoid Will Smith and his questioning whether Bright will affect an audience of a handful of viewers per venue, rather than a potentially packed theater. Could David Ayer's latest collaboration with Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace hit like a theatrical release of its same size and stature? The answer isn't clear, but we won't have to wait too long to see how audiences feel about it, as Bright debuts on Netflix this Friday at 12 AM PST/3 AM EST. If you're interested to see how the critics have responded to the film, you can head here to find out the results.