"Mowgli's" Lackluster Release Prove's Netflix's Distribution Model is Broken


Dear readers, I have to admit to a mistake a made in a recent blog post: "Mowgli" WAS, in fact, given a limited 3D theatrical release by Netflix that ended last Thursday!  I'm not proud of the fact that I missed this fact.  I probably missed it because I was off in Las Vegas getting engaged, and searching for a 3D release of a film Netflix sprung on me at pretty much the last minute was not something I was keen to keep an eye out for.  I noticed it in time that I could have seen it, but it would have coincided with a birthday get together to see "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" in IMAX 3D.  Although I certainly had more time to watch the latter in theaters and missed on my one opportunity to see the former, I think I made the better choice in the long run.

"Mowgli" has been getting unkind reviews by critics and audiences alike, with some even using it as a poster child for why we need to get away from remaking classic stories into gritty modern films.  Despite wanting to see it for myself, I suppose I will have to resign myself to the fact that I may just have to wait for a BluRay 3D release from Warner Bros. (which, if such a release happens, I will buy on principle).  Still, even if the movie wasn't worth seeing in any format, it still annoys me that Netflix thought so little of it that they basically dumped it without any fanfare.  If you saw this thing in theaters, you were paying attention more than most, as it was extremely difficult to pin this film down (and this is from someone who managed to track down "Billionaire Boys Club" and see it in theaters).

While this could be seen as a disappointment for 3D fans who are likely not going to be seeing one of the years best 3D experiences on the big screen (if at all), it is also a symptom of what is wrong with Netflix's distribution model overall.  Yes, they made a splash when they premiered shows and movies onto Netflix without first going through the traditional TV or theater channels.  Yes, it was a novel idea at one point that a major motion picture like "Death Note" and "The Cloverfield Paradox" would be available to view without having to pay for a movie ticket.  Dropping a whole season of "Daredevil" at once was really cool.  I remember marking my calendar to watch those things on day one.  Now, streaming has become this disposable thing.  Whether it is a great movie like "Roma" or an average movie like "The Christmas Chronicles," they all have the same value to audiences: $0.00

What's more, these movies are no longer 'events' the way they used to be; they come, they go, they get lost in a sea of movies that only have a postage sized stamp to advertise they are there.  For that matter, what is the difference between a big budget spectacle like "Bright" and the new Coen Brothers film?  Yeah, one of those movies is SIGNIFICANTLY better in terms of overall quality, but how do audiences know that when the price of admission (and the amount Netflix is willing to push it) is the same?!  Heck, what does Netflix even have to gain from promoting their original movies when they don't bring in any money?  Do these convince people to keep their Netflix subscriptions?  I don't know a single person who felt that an original movie like "Mowgli" was something to factor in when deciding to keep their Netflix accounts, but you can sure bet "Friends" leaving the service got people upset.

So much so, that Netflix was quick to shell out $100 million to keep the series for a couple more years.  That show is still popular because it spent years getting people attached to it, and thus people get upset when it almost went away.  If it does go, you can still get the series on DVD and BluRay, which makes that show powerful.  I can't think of a single Netflix show or movie that has this kind of pull.  Not "Mudbound."  Not "Orange is the New Black.'  Not "House of Cards."  Maybe "Daredevil," but they got into a pissing match with Disney and cancelled all their Marvel shows, so so much for that helping at this point.  The point is, Netflix needs movies like "Mowgli" to be in theaters.  They need them to be on disc.  They need Netflix to be a brand that is known for making quality movies, not just delivering content in a cheap and convenient way.

That means embracing movie theaters.  That means physical media.  Even Amazon and YouTube realized this.  Amazon releases all their stuff in theaters because they want it to be taken seriously.  For that matter, YouTube Red was itching for a hit, and decided to hold a theatrical premier for the first two episodes of "Cobra Kai," the one show on their platform that can be pointed to as a genuine success.  Thankfully, Netflix does have the chance to get out of their bubble as they prepare for a small theatrical release of Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," which is set to premier next year.  Hopefully it will be an experience that shows that making people pay for something and getting attached to it BEFORE giving it away for free yields as many rewards as disrupting the industry!


  1. Unknown said...:

    Please post an article about Ralph Breaks the Internet not coming to Blu-ray 3D, thanks.

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