Netflix Is Locking Down Some of Hollywood’s Biggest Names

Netflix has become a major player in Hollywood. In just a few short years, it went from an online video rental startup to an award-winning studio pumping out high-profile original content. Its success with shows like Stranger Things, Daredevil and House of Cards, stand up specials from Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock and films like Beasts of No Nation, The Cloverfield Paradox and Okja have prolific filmmakers and showrunners paying attention. And the big-name talent is rolling in.

On Wednesday Variety reported that Jay and Mark Duplass—the independent filmmakers behind films like Safety Not Guaranteed, The Skeleton Twins and The One I Love, as well the HBO comedy Togetherness—signed a deal granting Netflix the rights to their next four films. The first untitled project starring, Mark Duplass and Ray Romano, has already wrapped production and will release later this year. 

“Turns out when you make films for Netflix, millions of people all over the world watch them," the Duplass brothers said in a statement. "This is not a terrible thing for an independent filmmaker.”

GettyImages-823238892 Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass of 'Room 104' speak onstage during the HBO portion of the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

It's not so surprising to see the Duplasses pledge loyalty to the streaming service. Back in 2005, Netflix’s Red Envelope Entertainment co-distributed the brother's first feature film, The Puffy Chair. But slightly more brow-raising was the deal Netflix inked a week earlier with Ryan Murphy.

Formerly the crown jewel of 20th Century Fox TV, Murphy has spent more than a decade churning out hits for Fox and FX, like 9-1-1American Horror Story, American Crime Story and Feud. Murphy will continue his creative leadership on those shows—along with a new FX series, Pose—but his new ideas for the next five years belong to Netflix. Variety estimates the deal to be worth between $250 million and $300 million.

Back in August, ABC suffered a similar loss. Netflix nabbed the wildly successful Shonda Rhimes, ending the network's 15-year relationship with the Grey's AnatomyScandal and How to Get Away With Murder showrunner. Rhimes agreed to make her next Shondaland project for Netflix, in a deal reportedly worth $100 million.

Shonda-Rhimes Shonda Rhimes joined hundreds of women in Hollywood who launched a new initiative to combat sexual harassment. Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Rhimes, Murphy and the Duplasses will join a Netflix stable of creators that is becoming one of the most impressive in Hollywood. The studio had previously lured such A-listers as Ava DuVernay (13th), the Wachowski sisters (Sense 8) and Spike Lee (She's Gotta Have It) to bring projects to its streaming service. And it has more coming. The Coen Brothers' first TV series, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, streams later this year. And after Paramount wouldn't foot the bill, Netflix stepped up to fund Martin Scorsese's next film, The Irishman, which will be released in 2019.

For subscribers, the new talent is exciting—and worrying. New, high-profile, potentially award-winning original content is great. But what about the viewers who liked Netflix as an archive for film and TV? On that front, the news is less promising. Netflix announced last fall it plans to make its library 50 percent original content by the end of 2018.

Back in the day, one of the most appealing aspects of Netflix was its catalog of older films and shows. But consumers have noticed it's harder and harder of late to find that content on the streaming service. Maybe Blockbuster has a chance for a comeback, after all.