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Netflix has been in the proprietary content game for a little while now; however, the subscription streaming service's early forays into new stuff were in the TV game. It's only recently that Netflix has pushed harder to disrupt the way its subscribers view movies, but Netflix certainly seems to be making up for lost time by shelling out quite a bit for some of its films. In order to put out the surprise release of The Cloverfield Paradox, Netflix shelled out a pretty penny to Paramount for the rights to show the movie. Reportedly, the movie cost Netflix $50 million.
This might actually seem to be a somewhat low number for a movie set in a franchise that really resonates with audiences. The first movie in the franchise, Cloverfield, actually made $80 million domestically (and an additional $90 million worldwide) and the other movie in the universe 10 Cloverfield Lane made $72 million domestically (and an additional $38 million worldwide). Still, both movies were reportedly made on fairly small budgets, and were able to make plenty of money after recouping costs.
On the other hand, THR reports that Paramount may have been worried about reception to The Cloverfield Paradox if it had hit theaters. The movie currently hasn't earned super high critical reviews, although the audience reception for the flick seems to be a bit higher. Movies don't live or die by critical reviews, but they do (with a few exceptions) live or die by the first weekend's box office intake. Reportedly, The Cloverfield Paradox also cost more to make than other entries in the franchise, so if it had made less money at the box office and cost more to make, it could have been a lethal combination. Compared to that, the Netflix deal might have seemed like a great deal.
Netflix has shelled out $50 million or more on other movies at the streaming service, and the service has bought up other types of projects as well, including awards contenders like Mudbound. Brad Pitt's War Machine reportedly cost the service $60 million. Bright, which was released earlier this year, cost $90 million. In fact, the streaming service has a lot of money to play with precisely because the company borrowed a lot of money in order to produce content that other providers would not have. Which is why you'll see more originals and proprietary content in the coming months, and less from like Disney or Marvel, for example.
Because Netflix relies on subscriptions and not people buying tickets for its movies, and because we have no idea how many subscribers are actually tuning in for these movies, it's difficult to tell if $50 million is a reasonable budget for Netflix. However, I'd assume the service wouldn't keep doing it if it wasn't helping to build buzz, and if there's one thing The Cloverfield Paradox did, it was build anticipation through its quick viral marketing campaign that dropped a trailer during the Super Bowl. The movie was released immediately after, instead of in April in theaters, which was the earlier plan. Not only did the flick not get the traditional theatrical release, it also proved to be competition for This Is Us, which also aired after the football game. Not a bad way for streaming to kick off the week.