For a long time, everything was fine. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
Today Netflix laid off 150 people — at least — after a previous layoff last month of at least twenty five.
These aren’t anonymous people in other countries. The newly dispensed with were editorial employees, mostly in Los Angeles, who worked on Netflix’s Tudum social media. There are also 70 people from the animation department gone, and they may or may not be included in the count.
Netflix stock went off a cliff on April 18th after the company reported not just stalled growth, but the loss of 200,000 subscribers. They predicted the defection of 2 million more.
The stock has not rebounded. A month later, Netflix is trading at around $190. A month ago it was almost twice that, at $348. Six months ago, Netflix stock was at $690. So you can see, there is a problem.
But the problems are not just defecting subscribers. Netflix has spent money like a group of sailors on wild binges all over the world. Millions have been thrown after Oscars and other awards that have not come in no matter how good the movies or the actors. Cannes doesn’t let their movies in because they don’t play in French theaters. In the US there’s a lurking resistance to Netflix because it undercuts the theatrical distribution business, what used to be the heart of the film industry.
Just to put this in focus, there’s also the issue of the actual movies. Netflix has repeatedly gone for the esoteric — long, expensive, hard to understand, works of art. Think “The Power of the Dog” or “Roma.” They’ve committed to a lot of movies which, at their conclusion, viewers say, “I didn’t understand it.”
To that end, Netflix is now awaiting their most expensive release. “The Gray Man” cost by some estimates $220 million. I reported a year ago March that the budget had sailed over $200 million. There’s been an overall sense of ‘more is more’ with “The Gray Man.”
But less than two months from release, there is no updated trailer. Just one from over a year ago, and some cobbled together by fans on You Tube.
The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. who went from TV to making “Avengers” movies at Disney-Marvel. They are not known for subtlety. In 2019, they released a two-and-a-half hour non-comic book movie, “Cherry,” starring Tom Holland, aka Spider Man. It got pasted by critics — 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. No one knows what its finances were since it was released on Apple TV Plus, which, like Netflix, is a streamer and gives no figures.
“The Gray Man” is top heavy with starry names: Chris Evans, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, plus Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, and “Bridgerton” star Regé-Jean Page. In the past, movies with giant, expanding budgets (see “Waterworld,” “The Postman,” “Ishtar,” etc) that were rumored to be looming disasters proved the gossip correct.
No one knows yet if the Russo’s managed to pull “The Gray Man” together, or if it’s a ticking time bomb. It’s possible that some people do know, actually, and these layoffs may be a way to jettison weight from a boat filling with water. “The Gray Man” is a $220 million movie without superheroes or special effects, not part of a franchise, basically a spy movie a la the “Bourne” adventures. And despite having no current trailer available, it’s coming in two months.
Let’s hope it’s great with a capital G!
Here’s the year old trailer for “The Gray Man”: