Super Bowl viewers were shocked when Netflix dropped an ad for The Cloverfield Paradox, revealing that the J.J. Abrams-produced movie heretofore known as God Particle would forgo a theatrical release and instead debut on the streaming service immediately following the big game on Sunday.
The marketing stunt capped a rescue plan hatched by Abrams, Paramount chairman-CEO Jim Gianopulos, Netflix chief Ted Sarandos and head of original films Scott Stuber, among others.
Worried that Cloverfield Paradox would perish at the box office — it was set to hit theaters April 20 after several delays — Paramount and Abrams handed it to Netflix, which is willing to shell out big bucks for high-profile content.
The deal, broached over the holidays and finalized in January, is worth north of $50 million, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, with Paramount retaining rights for China and home entertainment.
It makes the movie instantly profitable for the studio, which avoids a (likely) misfire and costly marketing campaign. And Netflix got what it was looking for, regardless of withering reviews (18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes at press time): buzz.
“It gets them attention and captures some viewing right off the bat,” says eMarketer’s Paul Verna. And even if the streamer doesn’t ultimately get the viewership it hoped for Paradox, “they still got a brand jolt,” he adds.
Cloverfield Paradox, which finished principal photography in September 2016, was part of the successful and popular Cloverfield series, but sources say Gianopulos, who joined Paramount six months later, was worried.
Despite additions to clarify character beats and tie the film to the franchise’s universe, it was ultimately deemed unsalvageable, even with a cast led by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, David Oyelowo and Daniel Bruhl.
Netflix was an obvious destination, having already taken over international rights to the Natalie Portman starrer Annihilation, which Paramount will release domestically Feb. 23.
Paramount retains the rights to future Cloverfield installments. Overlord, a World War II zombie film from Abrams that scored high in two recent test screenings, could be a contender, although sources say that its fate is still undetermined.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.