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Netflix stands by limited theatrical releases, unlimited Dave Chappelle specials

Netflix boss Reed Hastings is fine missing out Glass Onion box office dollars, is happy to spend more on Dave Chappelle

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Netflix stands by limited theatrical releases, unlimited Dave Chappelle
Rian Johnson; Reed Hastings; Dave Chappelle
Photo: Jon Kopaloff; Michael M. Santiago; Kristy Sparow (Getty Images)

Netflix is nothing if not faithful to its strategy, even when it’s struggling with subscriber numbers. In a recent conversation at the New York Times DealBook conference in NYC, the streamer’s founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged that the service should have adopted an advertising model like Hulu’s sooner. Otherwise, though, he was steadfast about the Netflix model, even when admitting that they left “lots” of money on the table surrounding the theatrical release of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

“It’s a promotional tactic like film festivals, and if it works well we will do more of it,” Hastings said of the film’s limited release (per The Hollywood Reporter). “We are not trying to build a theatrical business, we are trying to break through the noise.”

Glass Onion director Rian Johnson has been an advocate for seeing the movie in theaters, despite entering a deal with a company that is not super friendly to theaters. In a previous THR interview, the filmmaker pointed out the deal was made during a time when “[the] big theatrical release just didn’t exist” (during the pandemic). However, he said he hoped that a successful theatrical run of the film would prove “to everybody, most of all Netflix, that these two things can coexist.”

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What Hastings envisions sounds less like a coexistence than a sort of parasitical relationship, wherein the service that helped kill theaters is now taking advantage of the theaters only to further boost the service. Whether this helps Netflix’s own declining numbers remains to be seen. But Hastings is fully devoted to The Netflix Way, which includes the company’s support for its relationship with the “very entertaining and provocative” Dave Chappelle. “That special was one of the most entertaining watch specials we’ve ever had,” he said of The Closer. “We would do it again and again.”

Passing up millions of dollars and supporting without reservation an increasingly controversial entertainer is certainly a visionary strategy. By the way, at the same event, Hastings called Elon Musk “the bravest, most creative person on the planet” and said he’s “100 percent convinced that [Musk] is trying to help the world in all his endeavors,” so you can definitely trust his judgment!