Netflix’s theatrical strategy for Glass Onion is a Knives-Out mystery

Rian Johnson’s sequel gets a week-long, 600-screen sneak preview…followed by nothing for a month, then streaming. How does this work?

Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery premiered at the Toronto International Film Festivals to rave reviews and whetted the appetite of exhibitors who were hoping/praying that Netflix could give the very expensive sequel meaningful cinematic life. Maybe two weeks? Three? A whole month or more in a really broad release? On October 6th Johnson announced this on Twitter… that “Glass Onion” will open on November 23 for a week-long “Sneak Preview Event” on around 600 domestic screens. wump wump.

Tickets for this week-long debut are on sale now, which will be followed (as of this writing) by a month of no public availability before the film begins its streaming life on December 30th. As for release strategies, this one is specific and nuanced; it is also very strange. Film festivals often premiere titles months before release, but launching a national play and then nothing for a month? This is unprecedented.

Could this dead zone offer Netflix an opportunity to fine-tune its plan and extend the release? Distribution and exhibition sources confirm the week-long dates are set. Given the emergency in early December, theaters might happily expand – but Netflix, of course, reserves the option to stream earlier.

A preview is new for Netflix, which previously took advantage of exclusive limited theatrical runs of a week or more before streaming began. However, this sneak is not like other sneaks. Traditionally, a preview takes place a day or two before theatrical release; The Netflix schedule looks like a vigorous warm-up followed by a nap. However, it could increase demand and word of mouth, which is essential for comedy.

First results are promising. Based on sampling, up to 250 tickets were sold at AMC Burbank 16, with over 100 tickets sold at locations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Those numbers aren’t on the scale of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney), which opens November 10 (tickets went on sale Monday and some screens have already sold out), but significant pre-sales are rare for films that they are not based on superheroes or FX franchises. When top-grossing cinemas in major cities see advance sales and sold-out premieres, it suggests that the rest of the country will also experience a string of advance sales – especially if a film is marketed as a limited edition.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”


Glass Onion is aimed at an older audience, and November 23rd is the day before Thanksgiving when many people are otherwise busy. The calendar could give an indication of the strategy. Sneaks include the main Wednesday-Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend; Streaming will begin on New Year’s weekend when many people are available for home viewing.

Beyond marketing for Netflix, the play satisfies the preferences of the filmmakers. Despite all the complaints that Netflix is ​​missing an opportunity with its “glass onion” strategy, regular theatrical play is a weak case. Netflix funded the film because they want to gain or keep streaming subscribers. The company shows no interest in expanding its business model to allow for a full-throttle theatrical release.

Industry observers are at a loss. Let’s say this strategy creates strong word of mouth; can maintain this interest for a month? Another wrinkle: “Glass Onion” is a crime thriller. Johnson asked Toronto audiences not to reveal plot details, but that’s much less likely given a worldwide theatrical release. No theatrical strategy seems ideal for Netflix — and why should it be? It’s a streamer, after all.

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Lindsay Lowe

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