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NETFLIX TURNS ITS ATTENTION TO Films It Hopes Everyone Wants To See

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The streaming service wants to be more than a place where big names bring passion projects studios have passed on. It’s now trying to make the kind of blockbusters normally seen in theaters.

Nicole Sperling

By Nicole Sperling

Toward the end of “Red Notice,” Netflix’s flashiest and most expensive attempt to date at starting a film franchise, Ryan Reynolds descends into a cave to search for a bounty pilfered by Nazis. Adorned in khakis and a fedora, he whistles the theme to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as he walks down the stairs. The director Rawson Thurber calls it “a tip of the cap to the greatest action-adventure film of all time.”

That homage to the “Indiana Jones” movies also serves as something of an indicator of Netflix’s film aspirations, which have evolved over the years as its subscriber base has grown to 214 million and filmmaker resistance to its streaming-first model has waned. The company has shifted its priorities from being the place where big-name filmmakers bring passion projects that the studios find too risky. (Think Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” or Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”) Now, the company is aiming straight for what the old-line studios do best: the PG-13, all-audience films that traditionally pack movie theaters, create a cultural moment and often transform into lucrative franchises.

In the next year, Netflix is releasing more than a handful of expensive, star-studded films intended to appeal to a wide audience, from filmmakers with a history of doing just that. Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) is directing Mr. Reynolds in the time-travel film “The Adam Project.” Francis Lawrence, the director behind “The Hunger Games” franchise, will see his fantasy-adventure “Slumberland” with Jason Momoa debut on the service next year. And Joe and Anthony Russo, the brother directing team behind “The Avengers,” will unveil the espionage thriller “The Gray Man” starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans.

For Scott Stuber, Netflix’s global film chief, this is the culmination of four years of working to convince Hollywood that the service’s subscriber base is worth more than any box office returns a film can muster.

Netflix’s global film chief, Scott Stuber with his wife, Molly Sims, has spent years trying to convince Hollywood that Netflix’s subscriber base can be more valuable than a big box office.
Netflix’s global film chief, Scott Stuber with his wife, Molly Sims, has spent years trying to convince Hollywood that Netflix’s subscriber base can be more valuable than a big box office.Credit…Miguel Medina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Here’s the thing about Netflix, which is kind of mind-blowing, more people are going to watch ‘Red Notice’ than have seen all of my other movies in their entire theatrical release combined,” said Mr. Thurber, the writer, director and producer of “Red Notice” whose credits include “Skyscraper,” “Central Intelligence” and “Dodgeball.” “That’s how big Netflix is. It’s almost incalculably large.”

Netflix has declared “Red Notice,” a globe-trotting heist film that also stars Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, a smash success. The company said the movie was viewed 148 million hours in its first weekend on the service, marking the biggest opening weekend in Netflix’s history. But it received tepid reviews, with The New York Times calling it “an expensive brandishing of star power — only the stars haven’t got it in them” and The Los Angeles Times referring to it as a “linp imitation blockbuster.” ”Daily business updates  The latest coverage of business, markets and the economy, sent by email each weekday. Get it sent to your inbox.

And that echoes a point that has been made about the overall quality of Netflix’s films.

“I think one of the fair criticisms has been we make too much and not enough is great,” Mr. Stuber said in an interview, adding, “I think what we want to do is refine and make a little less better and more great.”

Despite the reviews, Mr. Stuber is thrilled with “Red Notice” and is bullish about his upcoming slate of films, which include a mixture of prestige pictures aimed for the awards stage like Jane Campion’s “Power of the Dog” and Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” debuts from directors like Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Tick, Tick … Boom” and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter,” along with more general audience fare like the R-rated thriller “The Unforgivable,” starring Sandra Bullock.

Mr. Stuber, who was a senior film executive at Universal Pictures and an independent producer making films like “Central Intelligence” and “Ted” before coming to Netflix, is satisfied that most of the resistance to Netflix’s decision to essentially abandon the exclusive theatrical window has been quashed. (The company puts some films into theaters ahead of release, but rarely for longer than about three weeks.) And that has broadened the number of stars and filmmakers willing to work on films that will largely bypass multiplexes.

“For us, it’s always been about access to material,” Mr. Stuber said, pointing to the moment that Mr. Scorsese chose to bring “The Irishman” to Netflix as a turning point for the streaming service.

Mr. Stuber said that Martin Scorsese’s decision to bring “The Irishman” to Netflix was a turning point for the company.
Mr. Stuber said that Martin Scorsese’s decision to bring “The Irishman” to Netflix was a turning point for the company.Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

That move led others to take a chance, not just on projects that studios passed on but on big-budget films, often with an R-rating, that frequently populate movie theaters, like Charlize Theron in “Old Guard,” and Chris Hemsworth in “Extraction.” Now, the goal is to expand into more PG-13 movies.

“We’re finally getting access to that kind of material and those filmmakers and artists, and I think we’re heading in that direction in a pretty exciting way,” Mr. Stuber said.

The main advantage that studios point to when comparing themselves to Netflix is their ability to create a cultural moment when they open a big, boisterous blockbuster in theaters all over the globe. David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery who will soon run the merged Warner Bros. Discovery, referenced that power during a recent talk at the Paley Center in New York.

“We can open a motion picture anywhere in the world,” he said.

That distinction may not matter as much anymore.

“All of Hollywood is hanging its hat on one thing: You can’t create a zeitgeist moment from an online movie,” the media analyst Richard Greenfield said. “I would say that there are very few movies that even have zeitgeist. And there is lots of stuff creating cultural moments that will never hit theaters.”

A sequel is planned for “Enola Holmes,” starring Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill.
A sequel is planned for “Enola Holmes,” starring Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill.Credit…Alex Bailey/Netflix

Mr. Levy knows the power of movie theaters. He directed this year’s “Free Guy,” starring Mr. Reynolds, which earned $331 million at the worldwide box office despite the constraints of the pandemic and not being based on a previously known property. He’s hoping that there will be similar recognition for “The Adam Project,” the first movie he’s directed for Netflix. And that starts with marketing.

“I think they can be a little louder and more strategic in how they tell the world something’s coming,” Mr. Levy, who is also a producer of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” said in an interview. “I think increasingly there’s an awareness that filmmakers, actors and those of us who make movies want our work seen, but we also want our work known. And I think we’re going to see an evolution of how Netflix markets and publicizes its movies in order to keep the creative community doing repeat business with Netflix.”

The service has had success with the way it markets its TV shows, with “Squid Game” prompting a run on green jumpsuits for Halloween costumes and “Stranger Things” causing Eggo waffles to sell out. But its films have had a harder time breaking into the broader cultural conversation.

“I think it’s a movie business conundrum that we’re all having across everything in this changing entertainment landscape,” Mr. Stuber said. “How do we make movies as culturally relevant as they were when we were kids?”

One way Netflix hopes to demonstrate that its movies are having an impact is its recent announcement that it will release a weekly top 10 list of movies based on the number of hours they have been watched. The streaming company had previously been reluctant to make any sort of audience numbers public, and it counted anything that was watched for as little as two minutes as a “view.”

“When you have the No. 1 movie, it’s a great feeling but it also drives conversation,” Mr. Thurber said. “And if Netflix is able to share their metrics in a way that is authenticated and believable, then people will understand just how big Netflix is and how many people actually watch.”

The “Red Notice” director Rawson Thurber, right, with Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Thurber said more people would watch his movie on Netflix than all the people who watched all of his other movies combined in theaters.
The “Red Notice” director Rawson Thurber, right, with Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Thurber said more people would watch his movie on Netflix than all the people who watched all of his other movies combined in theaters.Credit…Frank Masi/Netflix

The other answer is to improve the quality of the material.

Mary Parent, production chief at Legendary Entertainment and Mr. Stuber’s former partner at Universal, sold “Enola Holmes,” starring Millie Bobby Brown, to Netflix in April 2020. It become one of the service’s top-watched films during the pandemic. She is currently in production on the sequel and argues that the criticism about the quality of Netflix films is unfair.

“When you have 200 pieces of content a year, there is naturally going to be variety, and quality is subjective,” she said. “Just because something isn’t well reviewed doesn’t mean it is poor quality or that it doesn’t deliver on the promise of the premise. You turn on ‘Red Notice’ because you want to be entertained and see giant movie stars.”

Still, Mr. Stuber split his commercial film team in two in July in an effort to both ramp up output (this year, Netflix will release 70 films) and to improve the quality of the product. Mr. Stuber said he charged the groups with spending more time working closely with their filmmakers than they have in the past. The reason? He wants better movies.

“If you have the budget to make 14 movies and you only have 11 great ones, let’s just make 11,” he said. “That is what we need to aim toward because you really are in a deeply competitive world now and you want to make sure that you’re delivering at a pace that people see greatness consistently instead of randomly.”

Nicole Sperling is a media and entertainment reporter, covering Hollywood and the burgeoning streaming business. She joined The Times in 2019. She previously worked for Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. @nicsperling

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MAVIN’S ‘OVERLOADING’, MOST TRENDING 2022 YOUTUBE MUSIC VIDEO

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Mavin Record Boss, Don Jazzy

YouTube has announced that Mavin Records’ ‘Overloading’ has emerged the most trending music video on Youtube for 2022.

Google’s Communications Manager for West Africa, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

Kola-Ogunlade said other music videos on the most trending list are Rema’s ‘Calm Down’, Kizz Daniel and Tekno’s ‘Buga’, Asake’s ‘Sungba’, Burna Boy’s ‘Last Last’ and Skiibii’s ‘Baddest Boy’.

He highlighted others as Fireboy’s ‘Bandana’ and Asake’s ‘Peace Be Unto You’.

“YouTube unveiled lists ranking the top trending videos, music videos, shorts, and creators in Nigeria today.

“This year’s lists are reflective of the most important moments to unfold in 2022 on and offline, such as the performance video for Mavins’ Crayon, Ayra Starr, Ladipoe, Magixx and Boy Spyce’s song titled Overloading, episode 24 ‘Apocalypse of Selena Tested and Selina’, the Nollywood romantic comedy from Uduak Isong TV.

“Every year, the YouTube end-of-year top lists give us a glimpse into what people in Nigeria were most curious about.

“YouTube is the place where everyone comes to see what has and is happening in the world while participating in, and having an impact on today’s culture,” he said.

Kola-Ogunlade listed the top most trending videos as Selina Tested Selina, Best Friends in The World episode 1, Olukoti, 100 Days Building a Modern Underground Hunt with a Grass Roof and a Swimming Pool.

He identified others as Tegwolo and Mama Tegwolo Compilation Part 1, Cultists Clashes with OBO, Innocent Housemaid, Obsession and Cultists Number One.

Kola-Ogunlade stated that the most trending top shorts were ‘She Use Witchcraft to Take Our Money’, ‘Everyone Will Relate to This’, ‘Social Experiment’, ‘He Got His Daddy Back’, ‘Mummy GO addressed Tiwa Savage’ and ‘Granny Knocked in my Home’.

According to him, others include Kiss Daniel’s ‘Buga’, Traffic in Lagos Nigeria, Children Poor Prank and Amapiano Groovist.

“The top trending videos list is based on a range of factors beyond just views that indicate how ‘trending’ a video really is.

“The YouTube culture and trends team also consider engagement and looks at signals like shares and likes of a certain video.

“YouTube announced that YouTube Shorts are being watched by over 1.5B logged-in users every month and averaging over 30 billion daily views.

“YouTube paid more than $50billion to creators, artistes, and media companies in the three years before June 2022.

“More than two million people participate in YouTube’s partnerships programme around the world,” he said.

According to him, YouTube’s subscription services, YouTube Premium and YouTube Music, now have more than 80 million users, around the world.

Kola-Ogunlade listed the top most trending creators as Real OGB Recent, Oga Sabinus, Neptune3studio, Official Broda Shaggi, Brain Jotter Comedian, House of Ajebo, Taaooma’s Cabin, Kiekie TV, MSA and Officer Woos.

He said the most trending breakout creators on YouTube were Neptune3studio, Shank Comics, Double Ds Twins, Kiriku Official TV, Stylebyreme, Bimbo Ademoye TV, Adam W, The Geng, Nurses Lecture Room and Wakawaka_Doctor.

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I’M STILL UP-AND-COMING, WIZKID DECLARES

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Afrobeats star, Ayodeji Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid

Despite garnering several local and international awards in over 10 years of his career, Afrobeats star, Ayodeji Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid, still considers himself an up-and-coming artiste.

In an interview with 10 Magazine published on Thursday, the hit maker spoke at length on his blooming music career and bigger steps he planned on taking in future.

The Grammy winner mentioned that he has plans to take his label, Starboy Entertainment, to the levels of Roc Nation, Ovo, Universal, Sony, and RCA.

When asked about things he still planned to achieve as an entertainer of his calibre, the self-acclaimed Big Wiz stated that he didn’t feel “accomplished” despite the heights he has attained.

“I’m an up-and-coming artist,” he replied. “I don’t think I will ever feel like an accomplished artist or person, because I see life so different, you know? I still have a lot of work to do.”

However, the singer did not hesitate to boast about the influence of the Afrobeats genre in the current global music scene, and also took a dig at rappers in the same breath.

To him, the rap genre is “dead” as most rappers release songs with the same sounds.

“Afrobeats is the new pop. I sold two million copies in America off of one song! Even some American artists don’t have a diamond record. If I’m being honest, I don’t listen to any other genre of music anymore.”

“I don’t listen to rap. That shit is boring to me. It’s dead now. It’s tired. These guys do the same shit, rap on the same beats, same flows.

“No disrespect to nobody. I don’t have anything against rap or any other type of music. I have a lot of rappers as friends, like a lot. So I’m probably the wrong person to say this,” he said.

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TOKE MAKINWA ROBBED IN LONDON

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Television host, Toke Makinwa

Television host, Toke Makinwa has revealed that she was robbed of her valuables in London.

The incident happened after she recently attended the white wedding of Nollywood actress, Rita Dominic and her husband, Fidelis Anosike, in North Yorkshire, England.

Toke revealed the robbery incident on her Snapchat page three days after the wedding.

She stated that the burglars had taken her belongings, adding that she was left confused and puzzled as to how such an incident could have happened to her.

She wrote: “Just got robbed in London… I’m speechless. All my valuables are gone. Gosh! How could this happen to me.”

Earlier this week, Nigerian singer, Yemi Alade, also bemoaned being robbed on her Instagram page after travelling to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to perform over the weekend.

She claimed the burglars broke into her hotel room, searched through her possessions, and stole every last dollar they could find.

She wrote: “A few minutes after I left my room, some unknown people decided to go through my things and steal all the money they could find, very good.”

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