I’m still trying to get my head around why Netflix would pay a jaw-dropping $468 million for two “Knives Out” sequels — plus the right to make a third if writer-director Rian Johnson signs on.
Yes, the original campy murder-mystery hit, produced by MRC and released by Lionsgate in 2019, earned $311 million in global ticket sales, returning a tidy profit for a movie that cost about $45 million to make.
And yes, I understand that Netflix wants and needs a big, potentially lucrative Hollywood franchise to call its own in order to better compete with the level of top-notch IP that powers Disney Plus and HBO Max. This is a rare moment, since sequel rights to studio tentpoles like “Fast and Furious,” “Top Gun” and “The Avengers” are already spoken for.
From the perspective of Netflix, feeding audiences more “Knives Out” movies will attract new subscribers — but the streamer better sign up millions of new customers to justify investing all that dough.
It’s also of value to Netflix to have a global star like Daniel Craig, who starred in the original whodunit homage to Agatha Christie as celebrity detective Benoit Blanc, committed to reprising his role in a proven genre. The first sequel, which Netflix also plans to release theatrically, is slated to begin shooting June 28 in Greece.
Craig will earn many, many tens of millions of dollars from the Netflix pact, as will Johnson (who received an Oscar nomination for original screenplay for “Knives”) and producer Ram Bergman.
All three are represented by CAA rainmaker Bryan Lourd, who negotiated this mega-deal. What made it possible for him to sell the rights to Netflix was that they were controlled by Johnson and Bergman. MRC had signed a one-picture deal for the predecessor film that didn’t include sequel rights. Both MRC and Lionsgate bid on the sequels, as did Amazon and Apple.
One of the losing bidders told me: “The math doesn’t work. There’s no way to explain it. The world has gone mad. It’s a mind-boggling deal.”
Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.
“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.