Enola Holmes 2, Extraction 2 and more – Netflix movie sequels show it is eager to develop more franchises like Stranger Things
- Netflix has poured money into making movies, and now has enough proprietary films and characters to invest in sequels and potentially franchises
- Daniel Craig will soon be back as Benoit Blanc, and in 2023 look forward to Murder Mystery 2, with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, The Old Guard 2, and more
It’s easy to forget that the Netflix original film department is still rather young. Five years ago, the streaming service didn’t even really have one. But things move quickly in the competitive streaming world, especially when starting from scratch.
Now, with a robust library of proprietary and commercially minded films and characters, Netflix is leaning into another important pillar of the movie business: sequels.
“Our goal was always to build stories and films and characters that we can return to,” says Netflix executive Kira Goldberg. “We’re finally at that moment, we’re feeling really good about it.”
“We loved the idea that we could come to a studio that was starting from scratch,” Marmur says. “That just doesn’t happen, especially not at this scale.”
In the years they’ve been at Netflix, they’ve been able to draw on relationships they’ve made over the years and also forged new ones with directors, writers and talent they wanted to work with. They also knew they had to play catch-up with the legacy studios that had a century of intellectual property at their disposal.
“It’s pretty impressive that sequels are a conversation and a reality,” says Mary Parent, who produced both Enola Holmes movies.
“We mobilised really quickly,” Parent says. “You try not to take it for granted. And you try to raise the bar on yourself, to up the storytelling, up the stakes with everything that you loved about the first but also something new.”
There may not be a set formula or mandate around what gets another film, but most are among Netflix’s most-watched originals. In their first four weeks, The Old Guard was seen by 78 million households and Extraction drew in 99 million households, according to data provided by Netflix.
“[Extraction] obviously benefited from the timing of its release, which was at the early days of the pandemic,” says Mike Larocca, the co-founder and vice-chairman of AGBO Productions, the company that produced the movie. “But they were very supportive of the sequel script before that. We were prepared to move quickly and they didn’t wait for the performance.”
Part of the Netflix equation is looking at genres that either aren’t getting made at the big studio level any more or aren’t getting enough audiences at the cinema to make them worth investing in frequently, like teen romcoms.
As a classic stunt-driven action movie, Extraction, Larocca says, was in that “dreaded middle that was getting killed theatrically”.
“People still want to see big, practical stunts and exotic locations and a really cool hero at the centre,” Larocca says. “I think given their model, they’re able to make it at a higher budget than theatrical would have supported because their numbers look different.”
The notable exception is Glass Onion, as Knives Out did not originate at Netflix. But the streaming giant saw an opportunity in Rian Johnson’s fun murder mystery, which was a hit at the box office, and potential in spinning out more stories anchored by Craig’s shrewd detective.
It shelled out US$450 million (HK$3.5 billion) for two sequels. There is also a Luther film in the works, based on the hit crime series, with Cynthia Erivo, and a reimagining of Spy Kids, with Robert Rodriguez on board to write and direct.
“They’ve really succeeded in creating an environment where I think people can do their best work,” Parent says. “They’re there to offer support but don’t create unnecessary obstacles. They don’t overly micromanage, which can sometimes kill creativity. They understand the balance … And the power of their platform is undeniable.”
At Netflix, Goldberg and Marmur have also found opportunities in working cross-functionally with other departments.
“When I worked at other traditional studios, I didn’t know who was in the series team. I didn’t know who worked in consumer products. There was never any communication,” Goldberg says. “Here, we get in a room together all the time. We strategise collectively.”
Case in point: When developing the graphic novel Brzrkr as a live-action film with Keanu Reeves, they also committed to an anime series so he could “have the best of both worlds” since the artwork was so important to him.
“We’re constantly trying to figure out how we can do things in different, innovative and cool ways,” Marmur says. “It’s not rare to have a conversation with a filmmaker about how their film can branch into other things.”