What Netflix’s Nancy Meyers drama says about the state of Hollywood rom-com

On paper, Nancy Meyers’ ambitious Netflix work-in-progress seemed to have all the ingredients of a classic Hollywood romantic comedy.

A semi-autobiographical storyline about a filmmaking duo who fall in love and break up again; Celebrities including Scarlett Johansson are expected to star; and Meyers himself, known for box office hits like “The Holiday” and “Something’s Gotta Give.”

But the film’s lavish budget — even thrown back to the height of the genre’s commercial power in the ’90s and 2000s — proved too much for Netflix. The film was reportedly expected to cost well over $100 million to produce, a magnitude typically seen in action extravaganzas, not meet-cutes.

Netflix pulled out of the project Tuesday after a budget disagreement between the filmmakers and the streaming giant became public, according to people familiar with the matter. Puck News reported that Meyer’s team wanted a budget of $150 million, while Netflix would not spend more than about $130 million. A person close to the production disputed the reported numbers but declined to provide specific figures.

Netflix and Meyers officials declined to comment.

The decision comes as streaming services, including Netflix, become more cautious with their content spending to meet investor pressure to boost profits. Streamers have recently canceled previously extended shows, pulled out of films and cut jobs to save money.

With Netflix’s withdrawal, Meyers’ film, titled Paris Paramount, will be sold to other studios, according to one of those familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to comment. But it’s not clear which company, if any, would take on a project at that cost.

“It wasn’t just a huge number — it was an insane, unthinkable, unrealistic sum,” said Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s film school. “There’s a train that’s coming and people just keep jumping on it, and eventually you start saying, ‘Wait, the freight is too much for this train.'”

During the heyday of the romantic studio comedy, Meyers established herself as one of the biggest brands in the genre and one of the most powerful directors in the industry.

Following her successful directorial debut with 1998’s The Parent Trap (starring Lindsay Lohan), Meyers directed hits like The Holiday and It’s Complicated, which often explored the novel’s romantic entanglements (and impeccably decorated homes). mature, affluent working women.

These films capitalized on their strong appeal to underserved, older, female audiences. At the time of its release in 2000, Meyers’ What Women Want was the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman at $182 million.

Meyers remains a magnet for stars, drawn by her sharp dialogue, swooning settings, and exacting dedication to getting the smallest details in her films just right. “The most important thing is that I get what I think the film needs, and I’m the one who’s been put in charge of making the film work right now,” Meyers told The Times in 2009.

But the level of established star power Meyers is accustomed to comes at a high price. Something’s Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, was estimated to be $80 million to produce, compared to What Women Want (Mel Gibson, starring Helen Hunt) which cost $70 million.

And today’s theatrical landscape is far less hospitable to the romantic comedy. Of the top 100 grossing rom-coms at the domestic box office, only five have been released in the last decade, according to Box Office Mojo. (The biggest non-inflation-adjusted hit of all time in the genre, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” came out more than 20 years ago.)

Last year’s Jennifer Lopez Owen Wilson film Marry Me, which was released simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock, grossed just $22.5 million at the domestic box office, while Universal’s Bros, which sold at two commitment-phobic gay men goes, was bombed with $14.8 million.

October’s “Ticket to Paradise,” starring veteran rom-com veterans Julia Roberts and George Clooney, fared better, earning a respectable $168 million worldwide, but still fell well short of the blockbusters Roberts and Clooney regularly produced in earlier decades .

“We’re not in a rom-com friendly era,” Galloway said. “I don’t know if it’s because there’s less naivety or optimism, or because people swipe Tinder and that’s their idea of ​​a date. But whatever the reason, romance doesn’t have the same social appeal.”

Meyers himself hasn’t directed a film since 2015’s workplace drama The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, which grossed $195 million worldwide. This film had a budget of $35 million, which is on the high end of what a typical romantic comedy costs today. A massively profitable hit in 2018, “Crazy Rich Asians” only cost $30 million.

With studios shifting their focus to mid-budget films, the romantic comedy has found a new outlet on streaming services. Netflix showed a particularly strong appetite for the genre, releasing budget rom-coms like The Kissing Booth and Set It Up that resonated with younger viewers.

Recently, Netflix released Your Place or Mine, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, and You People, starring Jonah Hill, Lauren London, and Eddie Murphy—projects that would have been blockbusters in an earlier era. According to Samba TV, they were the top two streaming romantic comedy movie premieres in the last six months.

“Despite drawing strong audiences, millennial parents, and women in particular, tend to tune into the escapist romantic comedies more than any other group,” Dallas Lawrence, senior vice president of Samba TV, said in a statement. “Overall, star power seems crucial to attract audiences.”

But today’s successful streaming rom-coms often feature a younger generation of actors who may not be household names and are therefore not as expensive.

Set it Up starred pre-Top Gun: Maverick Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell alongside more experienced Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs. The “Kissing Booth” stars Joey King, Jacob Elordi and Joel Courtney were little known before the Netflix smash.

The streamer continues to invest in the rom-com space, with upcoming films A Tourist’s Guide to Love coming April 21st and The Perfect Find coming June 23rd. Netflix executives have long stressed the importance of having a mix of different types of content on the platform to please its diverse customer base.

“There is, on average, a stronger rating for romance films in streaming versus theatrical releases when considering revenue per film versus production budget,” said Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, in an emailed statement. “As companies seek to improve their portfolio optimization, matching the right romantic comedy, at the right budget, with the right streaming service is crucial.”

Source : www.latimes.com

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