Netflix rises to become Hollywood's top movie producer

Mike Wheatley

Netflix has emerged as Hollwood's number one filmmaker at a time when studios are debuting more films on streaming services than ever before, according to the Motion Picture Association’s annual report.


While the COVID-19 pandemic is generally assumed to be the reason movie makers have increased their reliance on streaming services, the trend was evident even before then, the report noted.

The trend is being led by streaming giant Netflix, which has emerged as the biggest film studio in Hollywood. Having released its debut original production Beasts of No Nation in 2015, it has ramped up its filmmaking at lighting speed, and last year released 129 original movies.

The pandemic accelerated the trend begun by Netflix. In 2020 dozens of major movie studios abandoned cinema releases in favor of streaming services such as Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

According to the MPA, the number of online exclusive movies doubled from 2017 to 2020.

“In 2021 there were 179 original films exclusive to online streaming services, comparable to 2020,” the MPA said.


MPA’s data covers Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+, Showtime and Starz. Movies that saw a theatrical release, even if it was only a limited release, were not included in the count.

The pandemic has evidently accelerated a trend that had already begun, prompting many to speculate that we could see an end to the era of theatrical releases first. Even as the pandemic recedes, Disney has already debuted a number of movies that went directly to Disney+. The company is planning further streaming releases too, including the new Pinocchio film starring Tom Hanks.

Meanwhile Netflix has said it intends to release a new movie every week throughout 2022. Amazon has also begun playing with online exclusive releases, such as with Hotel Transylvania 4.

The theatrical release isn’t entirely dead, though. One of Hollywood’s most prominent studios, Warner Bros., has dropped the idea of launching movies on HBO Max and will instead revert back to the older format, though its theatrical release windows has been cut from 90 days to just 45 days, after which time it will be available through streaming partners.

That 45-day window appears to be the new standard, with Paramount and Universal also adopting the same strategy.