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Netflix can save Hollywood from its sequel problem


Of the 15 highest-grossing films in the United States this year, only one wasn’t a sequel, a remake, or an offshoot of some existing franchise. That was the horror movie Us, a clever take on the trope of the evil twin. Everything else, from Avengers: Endgame to Joker, continued an old story or borrowed existing characters.

What happened to original content?

Harvey Keitel, the Brooklyn-born tough guy from Pulp Fiction and Taxi Driver, says this is why Hollywood “needs to be reformed.”

“Is there authenticity around? Yes,” he said recently. “Could there be more? I’d say yes.”

Keitel also starred in The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese and released on Netflix last week. The three-and-a-half-hour mobster film — starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci — probably would never have been created if not for Netflix.

Scorsese believed he “could not have gotten The Irishman made but for the good graces of Netflix — no studio wanted to do it, nobody wanted to do it,” Keitel said.

Streaming services such as Netflix allow movie makers to take more risks since they’re not looking to recoup their costs through traditional channels. Netflix also gives more freedom to filmmakers, so they don’t feel like they have to sacrifice artistry just to save the company’s bottom line.

It’s hard to pitch original content, which can’t guarantee ticket sales, to the traditional distributors. But if Hollywood has an authenticity problem, Netflix and other streaming services might be just the ones to save it.

While critics of Netflix films such as Steven Spielberg have argued that they shouldn’t be nominated for Oscars since they spend limited time in theaters and diminish the theatrical experience, the films actually pave the way for talented directors SUCH AS Spielberg to create innovative films.

“There’s no doubt that seeing a film with an audience is really important,” Scorcese said at the premiere of The Irishman. “There is a problem though: We have to make the film.”

Scorsese has recently made headlines for criticizing Marvel movies, calling them more like “theme parks” than cinema. You don’t have to hate comic book films to agree that there’s a vast artistic gap between Captain America and Goodfellas.

But superhero films sell tickets. If filmmakers want to see more unique films coming out of Hollywood, they’ll have to operate outside of traditional financial incentives. That means partnering with Netflix and Amazon Studios.

Keitel says the problem with many films now is not that they’re too commercial, but that they’re “commercialized.” If anything can save Hollywood from one more Fast & Furious film, it’s the innovation of the streaming service.