Netflix to Focus on Quality Over Quantity with New Movie Mandate

After speaking to multiple sources within Netflix, ranging from executives to producers to agents with ties to the company, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that there is a new refrain inside the streaming site. “Bigger, better, fewer.” Those are the words that feature film executives, led by division chief Scott Stuber, are grappling with, given certain hard truths.

Two problems currently plaguing the company are rising competition from other apps of a similar nature and lagging subscriber growth. Netflix has lost 200,000 subs in its latest quarter and has lost 44% of its stock value since April 19. “Morale is stuck at stock level,” one executive said semi-jokingly. Another describes the mood within Netflix as “distracted” given the changes.

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Netflix has axed more than 150 employees, or 2% of workers, as part of a cost-cutting measure in response to Wall Street. While TV and other parts of the company have taken their hits, a sharp focus is on the features division. A good portion of the family live-action film division and the original independent features division, which made movies in the under-$30 million budget range, have been wiped out.

What does “bigger, better, fewer” really mean?

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“Just a few years ago, we were struggling to out-monetize the market on little art films. Today, we’re releasing some of the most popular and most-watched movies in the world. Just over the last few months, things like Don’t Look Up and Red Notice and Adam Project, as examples of that,” said Netflix co-chief Ted Sarandos told analysts on the company’s April earnings call.

According to Sarandos, “big event films” will be a way of driving sub growth. Such as The Gray Man, a $200 million-plus budgeted film directed by Avengers: Endgame duo Anthony and Joe Russo and starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Or Knives Out 2, directed by Rian Johnson and starring Daniel Craig, which Netflix acquired as part of a $469 million deal in March 2021.

These business moves were undoubtedly a far cry from a few years ago at Netflix, when movies with budgets over $100 million or $150 million were rare. The streamer was cited as the savior of mid-budget movies and once-theatrical staples of romantic comedies and thrillers. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, Always Be My Maybe. All of which became hits, made social media stars out of its actors and launched franchises.

According to one insider, small movies will not go away, though there might be more niche films that career to a passionate audience. THR also notes that animation is currently under scrutiny, with the frequency of release having been diminished. Though a “new movie every week,” whether live-action or animation, is still being aimed for.

“The goal will be to make the best version of something instead of cheapening out for the sake of quantity,” says one insider. So instead of making two movies for $10 million, they’ll instead make one movie for $20 million. Another insider says that the change in output will also lead to fewer execs, which they were previously stuffed with.

Netflix isn’t giving much specific direction right now, though one producer says that “conversations will be happening with producers and directors in the coming weeks about size and genres.” One thing that many agree is going away is giving carte blanche to attract talent, resulting in “expensive vanity projects” like Martin Scorsese’s $175 million The Irishman. Though reportedly, there will be exceptions.