Netflix’s Rise to Success

Paper by Meredith Seyler.

Throughout the past decade, streaming services have gained immense popularity among people throughout the world. One streaming service in particular, Netflix, has become America’s largest film studio with its rise to the top of Hollywood occurring in a remarkably short period of time; by constantly releasing new films. The idea of streaming your favorite films from your couch at home is extremely appealing to people, but Netflix now has competition coming from other studios; such as Amazon Studios. With all of the competition between streaming services and other major production companies, many may wonder if film theaters can survive in the long-run. In my paper, I plan to talk about several topics relating to the issues that Netflix has faced with its feud between the Cannes Film Festival, the competition between Amazon, and whether or not Netflix is negatively impacting the classic film theater experience. I will also be analyzing the Netflix Original film ​Bandersnatch​ ​(David Slade 2018) and how its unusual genre could open up doors for Netflix to create more films that go deeper in meaning.

The creation of Netflix began in 1999, giving people the ability to have DVD rentals delivered straight to their front door. But it wasn’t until 2007 that Netflix launched its streaming feature, from which its popularity took off (BBC 2018). The creation of Netflix and its rise has since caused an extreme turning point in the film industry. With its continuing increase in content to rent and stream, it quickly brought the largest video store chain, Blockbuster, to bankruptcy in 2010 (Rodriguez). After 2010, Netflix’s
popularity increased even more by created its own films called “Netflix Originals”, but is now faced with extreme competition. Over the past 20 years, Netflix’s popularity has grown a substantial amount; from a DVD rental service to its own production studio. By launching their streaming service in 2007 and beginning its own production of content in 2013, Netflix reinvented the entertainment business (Product Habits 2018). The main competitor of this streaming service is Amazon, which began producing its own content in 2008. Amazon has about 100 million members while Netflix has about 140 million members (McIntyre 2018). Both streaming services allow users to access countless amounts of films; but in 2008, Amazon Studios expanded its company and began not only producing its own films, but showing them in theaters as well. Both production companies are now producing content at rapid rates, but it seems as though Netflix’s focus began leaning towards distribution of content rather than the art of cinema. Amazon Studios recruits top directors for their films giving them a large theatrical window and plays their films in theaters, whereas some Netflix films are often filled with lower-quality editing and focus more on the profitable aspects rather than the actual art of filmmaking (McIntyre 2018). With that being said, Netflix was attempting to maintain its status and continue increasing its income by focusing on quantity over quality with the lack of creativity in their films, but is now reaching to create films with more diverse genres and creativity. Amazon and Netflix will continue to compete, but both streaming services each have their own separate aspects that will allow them to both continue to succeed. With Netflix’s incredible success, there is no need for it to worry about serious streaming service competitors in the long run (Product Habits 2018). By the time 2016 hit, Netflix’s success began rising more than ever, and production companies were not pleased with it. The company built its own empire and planned to put $6 billion on programming that year (Shaw 2016). Competing companies were in such distress that 21st Century Fox filed a lawsuit against Netflix for apparently encouraging film marketing executives to break their contracts. With such successful marketing strategies, Netflix was only going to keep improving (Shaw 2016).

In addition to Netflix’s “quantity over quality” production technique, non-Netflix films are slowly being filtered out as they are constantly pushing in their own original content. Every production company is going to release films that do not appeal to everyone, but content quality is extremely important in order for long-term success. Netflix’s attempt at becoming a major film studio by not featuring any films other than their own will eventually cause their popularity to increase or decline, but it’s difficult to determine as of now. The Cannes Film Festival; the most prestigious festival, made the decision in 2018 to ban Netflix from participating because of their refusal to show films in cinemas, which meant that any Netflix Original films were prohibited from receiving the awards. Steven Spielberg, one of the most popular filmmakers in the industry, even commented on the decision stating that “Netflix movies are not really movies but TV movies instead, and should not be able to compete for Academy Awards” (Singer 2018). It is easy to understand why Spielberg has that opinion on Netflix films because of the fact that many of them have poor scripting, create no suspense or emotional attachment to characters, and will often lack a climax or obvious plot. But since the Cannes Film Festival verdict, Netflix made a decision to feature a few films in select theaters under the circumstance that they are available for streaming shortly after, resulting in the film ​Roma​ ​(Alfonso Cuaron 2018) winning an Academy Award in 2019 (Richwine 2018). Considering the immediate success from its first time showing a feature film in theaters, Netflix could have great success if the creators decide that they want to show some of their quality films in theaters. In the future if they end up deciding to not feature their films in theaters, it will be difficult for the films to be taken seriously (Shephard 2018). The award winning film ​Roma​ (​ Cuaron 2018) is a semi-autobiographical drama that received immense amounts of praise for its cinematography, direction, and screenplay. The use of deep-focus wide shots are utilized perfectly throughout the film to show details of the main subject and the background, which highlights all the elements in important scenes. If Netflix begins releasing more artistic films like ​Roma,​ it will increase their popularity even more and give them greater chances at winning more Academy Awards in the future. But in order to do that, they must focus more on quality over quantity.

As of today, Netflix’s success is still on the rise; providing business to directors because of the major production studios decrease in films being produced. Many people will argue that Netflix and other streaming services will eventually bring an end to the classic film theater experience, but many are opposed to that argument saying that it won’t. Both forms of film watching are completely different and each bring their own unique aspects to audiences, but movie theater ticket sales have declined drastically over the years, with the overall profits of the Big 5 studios; Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Disney falling by 40 percent between 2007-2011 (Bolton 2017). But an article written for ​Variety b​ y Brett Lang states that these two films of entertainment; Netflix and film theaters, are actually more complementary than competitive towards one another. A study conducted in 2018 determined that those who attend movie theaters most oftenly are also consuming more streaming content (Lang 2018). If Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services are not negatively impacting film theaters, it’s the quality of films being produced and the time delay for consumers that is having a drastic effect. The thing about Netflix is that despite some of its lower-quality films, their ability to produce films of unique genres and intense stories is improving immensely, while the major production companies are lacking production of good films. Considering all of the facts, it is unlikely that actual film theaters will ever be “brought out of business” because people will never stop attending theaters. But Hollywood is declining, and it has a lot to do with the countless other options of viewing movies (Bolton 2017). If streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon continue to produce original films and release them to theaters, they will gradually be able to help film theater businesses with increased ticket sales.

In spite of the never ending competition that Netflix faces, it will continue to hold its spot on the top of the streaming services because of constant content being released. Even with major filmmakers like Spielberg referring to them as “TV movies”, Netflix will continue to succeed in the film industry because it differentiates itself from major production companies as well as other streaming services by making the majority of its productions limited to its subscribers only. While many of the Netflix Original films are considered to be low-quality and lack consistent plot, they released a film in 2018 that gives them an advantage of being solely a streaming service.

The film ​Black Mirror: Bandersnatch​ ​(David Slade 2018) is an interactive sci-fi/mystery film that is based off of the TV series ​Black Mirror. T​ he film allows the audience to interact throughout it, being able to choose the decisions that the main character, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), makes. The release of this film is a major turning point for streaming services because it is new, original, and opens up a new genre for streaming services to “choose your own ending”. It gives these services an advantage by bringing audiences something that they can not experience in theaters. What is intriguing about this film is that it’s completely different from anything you’ll be able to see in theaters, making it as if you are playing a video game at the same time.

The time is set to 1984 in the film, but all of the aspects are futuristic which is what makes the film so unique from anything ever made. Stefan Butler looks up while asking what choice he should make, and different options appear on the screen that will each lead the watcher to a different outcome. Typically in films when the main character is talking to the audience they will look directly at the camera, but him looking up as if he is speaking to a higher power demonstrates him feeling that he is losing his mind. The film also includes psychological twists; one being that Stefan is creating his own video game titled “Bandersnatch” within the film. The interaction between Stefan and the audience continues throughout the film as Stefan thinks he is being controlled by people; which technically he is. Many films have interacted with the audience by having a character break the fourth wall, but never to the point where the audience is constantly being engaged in the characters actions to the point where they are making the decisions for them.

The major goal of the film is to entertain and make the audience think deeply, while still attempting to figure it out after they have finished the film. Each viewer has a different experience while viewing the film, which makes this unique genre so fascinating. One thing that I noticed while watching the film was the closeness that I felt to Stefan Butler, being that the interactions make it feel like you are actually communicating with him. Stefan begins to lose his sanity, and the shots are changed to many close-ups that show the emotions he is feeling. In the scene where he is attempting to break into his father’s safe, the close up on his face shows the fear in his eyes and the beads of sweat on his face. He then wakes up and realizes it was just a dream, but still hold a look of terror in his eyes. The color schemes used within the film are of warm tones as well as blue tones. The warm tones are used in few scenes only which make them feel happier, but the blue tones are used most commonly making it more of a dark and sad theme. This is important because it creates a sense of emotion towards the character, rather than feeling detached like many other Netflix Original films. If Netflix is able to create a film that is similar to a video game while also giving an emotional response to the audience, then it also holds the ability to continue creating films of such original ideas and genres.

The complexity of ​Bandersnatch​ ​is what makes this film difficult to compare to other films, and Netflix could improve its content immensely if it decides to continue releasing films of completely original genres. It is clear that Netflix would like to remain its status as strictly a streaming service for now, but if it does ever decide to start releasing more of its films into theaters it could be very beneficial to not only itself, but the Hollywood film industry as well. Knowing that they have the ability to create more complex films like ​Bandersnatch​ and receive an award for ​Roma,​ N​ etflix could succeed tremendously if they entered themself further into the industry.

In conclusion, it is highly unlikely that Netflix will cause film theaters to go out of business, and is not necessarily negatively impacting them either. As years go on and more technologies are created, things are bound to lose popularity among people. When it comes to the competition between Netflix and Amazon, neither company will harm the other too much because of the different attributes each one brings to audiences. Netflix has some clever marketing strategies, but if they ever do decide to put their focus on films of better quality like ​Roma,​ they could thrive tremendously in the Hollywood film industry and possibly bring more business to movie theaters. Overall, Netflix has changed the world of film forever and will continue to flourish for many years to come.

Works Cited
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www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/why-hollywood-as-we-know-it-is-already-over. “How Netflix Became a $100 Billion Company in 20 Years.” ​Product Habits,​ 30 Apr.
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Richwine, Lisa. “Netflix to Release Three Films in Theaters Ahead of Online Debut.” Reuters​, Thomson Reuters, 2 Nov. 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-netflix-movies/netflix-to-release-three-films-in-theater s-ahead-of-online-debut-idUSKCN1N63AO​.
Rodriguez, Ashley. “Twenty Years Ago, Netflix.com Launched. The Movie Business Has
Never Been the Same.” ​Quartz,​ Quartz, 14 Apr. 2018, qz.com/1245933/twenty-years-ago-netflix-com-launched-the-movie-business-has -never-been-the-same/.
Shaw, Lucas. “Netflix Is Taking over Hollywood, and Hollywood Isn’t Thrilled.” Chicagotribune.com,​ 19 Oct. 2016, www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-netflix-is-taking-over-hollywood-20161019- story.html.
Shephard, Alex. “Netflix Won’t Save Prestige Cinema.” ​The New Republic​, 5 Dec. 2018, newrepublic.com/article/152530/netflix-wont-save-prestige-cinema.
Statt, Nick. “Netflix Banned from Competing at Cannes Film Festival.” ​The Verge,​ The Verge, 25 Mar. 2018,
www.theverge.com/2018/3/25/17162158/netflix-banned-from-competing-cannes-film-festival.

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