What was probably Netflix’s most expensive movie ever had only the platform's third-biggest film opening of the year.
In fact, garnering just under 88.6 million viewing hours in its first three days on Netflix's global platform, The Gray Man wasn't even Netflix's No. 1 program for the week of July 18-24. That distinction belonged to the Season 4 debut of Virgin River, which attracted just over 105.4 million streaming hours.
Directed by superhero impresario brothers Joseph and Anthony Russo and starring Ryan Gosling alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, The Gray Man arrived with a $200 million production budget, an aggressive promotional spend that was outsized by Netflix standards ... and conspicuous timing, given Netflix’s recent growth and Wall Street troubles.
But the film’s first three days were no match for the 148.7 million streaming hours garnered in the first 72 hours by the action-comedy Red Notice back in November. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, Red Notice went on to have Netflix's best first 28 days on platform opening ever for a movie, English language or non-English language.
The Gray Man far undershot the first three days of Netflix's second biggest opener, Adam McKay global warming satire Don't Look Up, with (111 million streaming hours last December).
In terms of more recent Netflix film openings, The Gray Man also fell short of Reynolds' action-comedy follow-up The Adam Project, which opened to 92.4 million streaming hours in March. ■
In fact, The Gray Man didn't even match up to a well reviewed but somewhat garden-variety Adam Sandler movie, Hustle, which drew nearly 85 million streaming hours in its first three days from June 9-12.
Among 202 film reviews for The Gray Man tracked by Rotten Tomatoes, less than half (48%) were positive. This isn't damning — Red Notice was critically loathed even more. And The Gray Man could grow its audience in subsequent weeks, as other Netflix films have.
The performance didn't stop Netflix from issuing a Gray Man sequel and spinoff Monday.
But some industry watchers have positioned the film as somewhat of a referendum on not so much how much money Netflix spends on content, but how it spends it.
The company has indicated little intention to cut back on its $17 billion content budget as it faces its first economic recession. However, Netflix has revealed little intention to grow that number substantially, either.
Meanwhile, it faces a question of global priorities — will it continue to invest in big-budget action movies targeted to saturated markets like the U.S. and Canada? Or will it start allocating more of its resources to growth regions like India? ▪️
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!
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