Netflix’s quest to crash the awards conversation with their original films has always been about creating a domino effect, and dominating the Golden Globes nominations proves they are major players in the film industry.
Hollywood should have seen this coming. At the 76th annual Golden Globes earlier this year, just one Netflix series was nominated in the top television categories.
While Netflix did pop the champagne for The Kominsky Method’s victory that night, a larger change was already in motion. After years of churning out great TV, their relative underperformance at that point hardly mattered.
Several Netflix original films were in production, with legendary names like Martin Scorsese and Eddie Murphy attached and exorbitant budgets. It only took a year. In 2019, movies changed for many reasons, but most of all as a result of so many of the year’s top projects being released by Netflix.
A look at this year’s Globes nominees proves Netflix’s expansion has been effective. The Kominsky Method is there again vying for best comedy series, while The Crown and The Politician earned nods in the top TV categories as well. But while Netflix’s original series aren’t dominating like they might hope, in the film categories, they are in the pole position to be rewarded for their investment into movies.
Of the 10 films across each motion picture category — drama and musical/comedy — a staggering four were put out by Netflix. No other single studio had more than one film nominated. Their immediate excellence speaks to how they work and how they spend.
“Studios have lots of money, but what are they spending that money on?” asked Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer in a recent Variety interview. “That’s what I would say differentiates Netflix from everybody else. When you’re not depending on something that’s gotta break a record around the world but instead you have a platform that suddenly 130 million to 300 million people can watch your movie around the world.”
What Brewer is getting at is one piece of why the Globes rewarding Netflix is so important. Adult historical dramas like Dolemite and Fernando Meirelles’s The Two Popes are just flat-out hard to make right now. Netflix can offer a huge platform for work that otherwise might disappear or go severely underseen.
Providing opportunities for projects like these to be funded and distributed en masse is powerful, but legitimizing these films with awards recognition is big, too. Overall, Netflix earned 17 Globes nominations, and three films — Two Popes, Irishman and Marriage Story — emerged as front-runners heading toward the Academy Awards.
Last year, Roma, which was produced in Mexico by Alfonso Cuarón but distributed in the United States by Netflix, came away with three Oscars including Best Director. After its first trip through awards season, Netflix seemingly learned a few lessons.
Netflix soon became the first streaming company to join the Motion Picture Association of America and made a concerted effort to put its films in theaters this time around. Viewers could have seen any of the four Globes-nominated films on the big screen if they lived relatively close to a big city.
Another example of the long-game played by Netflix is their relationship with Noah Baumbach. The company bought worldwide distribution rights to The Meyerowitz Stories in 2017. The film became one of the early successes for Netflix on the film side, earning critical praise and likely drawing more attention than any of its previous original films with a cast that included Adam Driver, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler.
The company’s relationship with Baumbach led to Netflix Studios eventually producing Baumbach’s new film, Marriage Story, which like The Irishman has become a top contender for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Netflix’s quest to crash the awards conversation with their original films has always been about creating a domino effect. As I wrote two weeks ago, investments like Netflix’s lease of New York City’s Paris Theatre are centered around convincing accomplished filmmakers to sign on. Showing their movies in a traditional setting is one step, but proving they will be considered for accolades like the Globes and Oscars is another.
Maybe Roma will be remembered as a trailblazer, but this has been Netflix’s business model all along.
“You have to focus on one thing where you’re clear on what kind of impact you want to have,” CEO Reed Hastings told GQ when House of Cards premiered. “Otherwise you never get anything done.”
Back when original TV was the sole focus, that meant carving out a strategy with filmmakers on how often to release episodes, how big of a budget was needed, and when and how to give notes on content.
The difference for films, as Brewer said, is that Netflix can truly offer opportunities for work that don’t exist elsewhere. Partially as a byproduct of Netflix opening up the possibilities of streaming early on, filmmakers are having a more difficult time succeeding at the box office these days.
As its competitors ramp up the competition on the television side, Netflix sees an opportunity to generate subscriptions by producing great films. In order to keep making those films, they need to find artists who want to work with them and who excite subscribers. For better or worse, awards bring legitimacy at every step of that equation.
The floodgates have opened for Netflix and the film industry’s gatekeepers. And although the results are a long time coming, this year’s Globes are a signature moment for the company’s investment into original movies.