The Lightning OTF knife is a very cool knife that sells for a very attractive price. Everyone should have at least one of these in their cutlery. Air mail express. Daniel Craig in 'Knives Out.' The only contingencies were that Craig must star in the sequels and that each must have at least the budget of the 2019 movie, which was in the $40 million range.
Just over a year ago, it looked like an open-and-shut case.
In February 2020, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said during a quarterly earnings call that the company was officially moving ahead on a sequel to Knives Out, the surprise box office and critical smash whodunit starring Daniel Craig and written and directed by Rian Johnson.
But on March 31, in a twist worthy of Agatha Christie, came the reveal that Lionsgate would not be releasing the sequel at all. Instead, two sequels would be made by Netflix, which inked a dagger-driving $469 million deal with Johnson and his producing partner at T-Street, Ram Bergman, both of whom are represented by CAA.
Deal points were noteworthy: The pact gave Johnson immense creative control, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. He doesn’t have to take notes from the streamer. The only contingencies were that Craig must star in the sequels and that each must have at least the budget of the 2019 movie, which was in the $40 million range. Sources say that Johnson, Bergman and Craig stand to walk away with upward of $100 million each.
Budget For Knives Out
The other company that missed out on the sequels was MRC, the Beverly Hills-based production firm that financed the first film. (MRC is also a co-parent of THR through a joint venture with Penske Media titled PMRC.) Sources say that MRC had a one-movie deal with Johnson and Bergman, the filmmaker and producer known for critically beloved, modestly budgeted one-off thrillers Brick and Looper before they made Star Wars: The Last Jedi. An MRC rep said the company was “proud” to have partnered with Johnson and Bergman on the first Knives Out and noted that the duo “have always controlled the rights” to the franchise. (MRC is a minority investor in T-Street but it won’t share in the new deal’s windfall as its stake in the production company occurred after Knives Out was already made, giving it no part of that movie.)
Sources note that Lionsgate had what was considered a solid deal in which the company had first right of negotiation and last rights of refusal, all part of the negotiation safety net with which companies normally shield themselves from losing projects. (Lionsgate and CAA declined to comment.) And Johnson and Bergman were considered big backers of the theatrical experience.
But that was before the pandemic hit, theatrical took a nosedive and backend became nonexistent. In January, with the pandemic in full swing and a hoped-for summer production start for a sequel, Johnson and Bergman questioned the near-term viability of theatrical releasing. CAA began shopping the deal and streamers like Netflix pounced hard. MRC and Lionsgate, which in normal times may have gotten the project, could not compete. “It became a perfect storm,” says one insider. “This would not have happened a year ago.”
For Netflix, despite the price tag, the deal made sense on several levels. The streamer gets an instant and proven franchise with sequels to a film that grossed $311 million globally. And it cannily weakens a theatrical competitor.
Knives Out Budget Breakdown
“Yes, it’s overpaying, but Netflix is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers,” says one streaming executive familiar with the deal. “It takes a proven theatrical commodity off the board and puts it in their pocket. And it’s another way they re-educate audiences to think of streaming and their company above a studio.”
For others, the deal shows the leverage sought-after talent is enjoying at this moment, thanks to the competition from streamers. “If you’re talent right now, and you want to bet on yourself, it’s a pretty good time.”
A version of this story appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.By
Reddit Budget KnivesAdam Epstein
Knives Out, the new film directed by Rian Johnson, is the last of a dying breed—the rare “mid-budget,” story-driven movie from a Hollywood studio that’s not tied to an existing franchise. It’s neither a low-budget indie nor a big-budget blockbuster.
Goldilocks might have found Johnson’s flick to be just right, but the American film industry increasingly prefers its movies at one of the two extremes.
Produced on a $40 million budget, Knives Out—released in US theaters by Lionsgate tomorrow—is a throwback whodunit about a dysfunctional family that gathers after the mysterious death of its wealthy patriarch, a famous crime novelist. While they’re all together, a private detective is called in to assist the police investigate the novelist’s demise.
Unlike the majority of Hollywood films that boast one or two big stars, Knives Out is a true ensemble movie. (Marvel’s Avengers movies, of course, are an exception.) Actors like Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis have relatively equal screen time, along with their nine co-stars. It most likely won’t have a sequel. There’s no merchandise to be sold and no extra content to consume. It’s just a movie.
“I said to my producer, ‘We want an all-star cast. We want that old-school, entertaining, we’re-putting-on a-big-show type feel,'” Johnson, who previously directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, told GQ. The film succeeds in that endeavor despite its modest budget and lack of franchise underpinnings. Johnson has said it was inspired by classic Hollywood murder mysteries like 1978’s Death On the Nile, which also featured an A-list ensemble cast sharing the spotlight.
Hollywood used to make this type of movie all the time. In 1990, the average production budget of the 20 highest-grossing films in the US was $32 million, or about $63 million adjusted for inflation. This year, that average was an almost unfathomable $141 million. In 1990, Knives Out would have been a garden-variety movie; today, it’s an outlier.
That Knives Out exists at all is a minor miracle, but Johnson earned a lot of leeway after his successful Star Wars movie, and star Daniel Craig had already agreed to appear in the film before studios bid on the script last year. Lionsgate, considered a “mini-major” Hollywood distributor (smaller than Disney and Warner Bros., but bigger than an independent studio), is one of the few companies left still spending on mid-budget movies in an attempt to counter program the blockbusters.
According to film researcher Stephen Follows, the percentage of films with budgets over $100 million has increased from just 4% in 2000 to more than 12% today. That big-budget explosion has come at the expense of mid-budget movies in the $20-60 million range, which have declined quicker than any other type of film.
Studios no longer view these kinds of movies as smart investments. They’re not cheap like most independent movies and still carry substantial financial risk. But they also don’t have the huge ceiling as blockbuster movies. The bigger the budget, the bigger the risk, and also the bigger the potential returns.
Knives Out Movie Budget
Films like Knives Out rarely become cash cows: This year, only three Hollywood films made for less than $60 million made the year’s top 20 highest-grossing list. Two of them were horror movies (Us and Glass), which can be made on the cheap, and the other was Joker, a film based on the infamous DC Comics character.
Best Budget Folding Knives
It doesn’t help that there literally aren’t enough movie screens to show these mid-budget movies amidst the deluge of blockbusters. “These huge franchise pictures are elbowing out midrange and lower-budget movies,” Jason E. Squire, a film professor at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times. “It’s harder for midsize movies to get theaters in the first place, much less hold onto them long enough to build an audience.”
Knives Out Budget And Box Office
Some mid-budget movies, like the Disney holiday comedy Noelle (Disney+) and Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk (HBO Max), are starting to find homes on streaming services while Hollywood struggles to attract audiences to theaters for anything that isn’t a franchise blockbuster. If it made more movies like Knives Out, maybe it would be more successful. Deadline reported Knives Out is on track for a solid $30 million debut at the box office.