Glass Onion is freaking great. There is no question in my mind that, were it getting a typical theatrical release like Knives Out did in 2019, it would also make the kind of money Knives Out did ($311 million worldwide). But Glass Onion is not getting a typical theatrical release, since it is being released by Netflix as part of Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig’s blockbuster deal with the streamer to turn Knives Out into a franchise. However, Glass Onion IS going to theaters—for one week. Glass Onion will play in theaters one month before the film drops on Netflix, from November 23-29. In a landmark deal with exhibitors, it will play on 600 screens across all three major North American theater chains, AMC, Regal (currently in bankruptcy), and Cinemark.
This is the first time a Netflix movie has been in all of these theater chains, which is a very big deal, itâ€™s one week only, and tickets go on saleâ€¦â€¦ MONDAY! Letâ€™s GOOOOOOOO— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) October 6, 2022
Technically, this qualifies as a wide release, as the threshold is 600 theaters. But it’s a far cry from the 3,400+ theaters into which Knives Out was released in 2019. However, two things can be true. One, Netflix is not and never will be in the theatrical business and running the film in 600 theaters for even a week is a big concession from them to exhibitors. And two, they are leaving a LOT of money on the table. Not only by running the film theatrically for just one week, which is less about making money than it is using word of mouth to pump up the December streaming release, but also by putting the film out on November 23. You know what else is out on November 23? Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It will be in its third week by then, and undoubtedly still crushing box office.
December is not much better, a theatrical release then puts it up against Avatar: The Way of Water, but Glass Onion is solid counterprogramming for these films. While many families will happily see a superhero or Avatar movie during the holidays—a high season for film-going—mine is not among them. Glass Onion would be our crowd-pleasing go-to. At least this way, we have the option of seeing it in theaters over the Thanksgiving weekend in the US, but again, it feels like leaving a lot of money on the table by only screening it for one week. Why not let it run the whole month, then drop it on streaming on December 23, as planned?
I get it, I get it, Netflix isn’t in the theater business. But they’ve had a rough year, they need to show some flexibility in finding new ways to goose their business model. During the height of COVID, I said theaters needed to be flexible, to let movies go to streaming when they’re not doing so well and keep them in theaters longer when they are. This is the other side of that coin, Netflix, the most staunchly anti-theater of the streamers, should let the movies they know are crowd pleasers play to crowds. I’m not saying they need to do a ninety-day window, or even the new standard forty-five-day exclusive theatrical release but a week is just marketing, it’s not about letting audiences find their film.
A film like Glass Onion is meant to be seen with a crowd, let it find those crowds! Knives Out was a big enough hit to be reasonably certain people will turn up for the sequel. Yes, there are other big movies to compete with in November and December, but Glass Onion isn’t chasing the same audience as Black Panther and Avatar. Knives Out made all that money in 2019 up against films like Frozen II and The Rise of Skywalker. We have evidence Benoit Blanc can show up against blockbusters. He is a blockbuster! But now Benoit Blanc is a Netflix bargaining chip. It doesn’t change how good Glass Onion is, but it does change how you experience the film. If it is at all possible, prioritize seeing Glass Onion during the one week it’s in theaters. It’s worth it to experience the film with an audience. It’s a BLAST with a crowd.
Live long and gossip,