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Knives Out is heading for full-fledged franchise status.
Two sequels to Rian Johnson’s critically acclaimed whodunit movie have landed at Netflix in a massive nine-figure deal. The first sequel will start shooting this summer in Greece, with Daniel Craig set to reprise his role as detective Benoit Blanc.
Johnson will return to direct and is also producing with Ram Bergman under their T-Street banner. Last January, Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter that he was developing a sequel.
MRC Entertainment produced the 2019 feature, while Lionsgate distributed. The first film went on the earn a massive $311.4 million on a $40 million budget, with Johnson garnering an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. However, MRC and Lionsgate had the rights to the first film only, with sequel rights lying with Johnson and Bergman, allowing the filmmakers to shop any future films around.
The shopping became a duel amid streamers, with Netflix making a massive $400 million-plus deal, according to a source. There are some other points in the deal, too: Johnson retaining complete creative control with the only cast requirement being Craig, as well as no budget requirements. The potential for upside was too big for the filmmakers.
But the deal also shows Netflix’s intense desire — rivals might say desperation — to build and hold on to franchises as the streaming wars begin in earnest. Disney+, packed with Marvel and Star Wars offerings, has come out stronger out of the gate than expected, and HBO Max, with DC and big tentpole offerings, are also fighting hard for a piece of a limited pie. Paramount+, fueled by Star Trek and other brands, will additionally take swings at the dominant streamer.
The deal also leaves some bruised feelings as MRC believed it had a controlling stake in Knives Out, seeing as it had financed the initial outing. Lionsgate also played a part in the success by rolling out a successful release strategy.
Knives Out starred an A-list cast including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette.
MRC Entertainment is a co-owner of THR through a joint venture with Penske Media titled PMRC.
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Sterling K. Brown