Netflix decisively signaled Monday that it is far from through with the often pricey prestige indie film business, successfully bidding a widely reported $20 million at the Sundance Film Festival to acquire director workplace relationship drama Fair Play.
The film, produced by MRC and T-Street, stars Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich as engaged employees of a cutthroat New York hedge fund whose relationship begins to unravel when Dynevor’s Emily receives an unexpected promotion to a level above Ehrenreich's Luke.
Fair Play was directed by Chloe Domont, a 35-year-old feature-film first-timer whose previous experience included directing episodes of HBO’s Dwayne Johnson series Ballers and Showtime’s Billions.
Fair Play has a solid 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson noting, "It’s a grim, dynamic thriller, one that sets workplace and home crashing into one another in a small symphony of beautiful disharmony."
The purchase follows an earlier Sundance acquisition by Netflix of XYZ Films' Run Rabbit Run featuring Succession actress Sarah Snook.
As Next TV correspondent David Bloom noted Sunday from Park City, Utah, the buzz at Sundance over the weekend was that the streaming companies — now facing economic headwinds driven by a suddenly streaming-bearish Wall Street — were demurring on expensive acquisitions, such as the $25 million Apple paid for eventual Oscar Best Picture winner CODA in 2021.
And for its part, Netflix — which broke through with its own Best Picture Oscar for Roma four years ago — hadn't had a huge amount of success this trophy cycle with prestige dramas All Quiet on the Western Front and The Pale Blue Eye ... at least until Tuesday, when Western Front received nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Still, Netflix's bold bid for Fair Play — which reportedly beat out rival bids from Searchlight and half a dozen other aspirants — comes as the streaming giant is spending slightly less for content than it used to, and allocating more of its budget to local-language productions.
In fact, a Netflix insider conceded to Next TV that this year‘s domestic release slate, announced last week, is notably smaller than 2022's.
Also last week, Netflix revealed that it spent $16.84 billion for content in 2022, 4.9% less than in 2021, when it spent $17.7 billion on movies and shows. ▪️
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!