Netflix’s ‘Glass Onion’ scores big in semi-limited theatrical release, puzzling analysts

Talk about an unsolvable mystery. We’ll never quite know what would have happened at the box office had “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” stuck with a traditional theatrical release. Then again, would it exist at all in its current state without its enormous financial backing from Netflix? Not even Benoit Blanc can figure that one out. 

The Big Red Streamer made an unprecedented tweak to its formula over the Thanksgiving holiday, offering a “sneak peek” of the upcoming comedy-thriller starring Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, and others. It wasn’t a wide release, but it was far from their typical mini-showcase at their owned-and-operated theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. The result was a seeming financial win, but a lot of people are now wondering if they left cash on the table by not just putting this thing in theaters.

Variety has reported that the movie made roughly $15 million in 600 theaters, for a strong $19,000 per-theater average. This places it third for an otherwise lackluster holiday weekend, behind the superhero “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in its third week and the new animated Disney film “Strange World” (which flopped in comparison to other Disney titles of the past). Those other two movies, which earned $65 million and $18.5 million respectively, showed in six times as many theaters.

Does this necessarily mean that more screenings of “Glass Onion” automatically mean more money? Possibly, but it could be that the “grab-it-or-its-gone” mentality kept the numbers up where it was available. The Variety report says exhibitors confessed that they wished the film stayed in theaters longer, as it was a crowd-pleaser. Netflix is keeping mum about the whole thing, and all numbers surrounding “Glass Onion” currently are estimates. Clearly, the organization is still analyzing the clues. 

One thing this attention is good for is awards buzz. Writer-director Rian Johnson is in a solid and deserving position for a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, and perhaps even Best Director. Supporting actresses Monáe and Hudson are also stand-outs. Production design for that wacky zillionaire’s Mediterranean crash pad, and costumes for all the fancy guests, are also big contenders.  

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” starts streaming on Netflix on December 23. It remains in theaters until Tuesday.

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