Dear Netflix: bring Glass Onion back to cinemas, you rapscallions

The sequel to 2019 hit Knives Out goes for the jugular of the unfathomably wealthy, and laughs maniacally while doing it – but many people won't be able to see it in theatres.

If you didn’t get to the cinema to see Glass Onion in the last week, I’m sorry to say that you’ve missed out. Now the only place you’ll be able to see it is on Netflix, and not until 23 December.

Of course, it will remain available to view on Netflix for quite some time (at least until they decide it isn’t making profit for them anymore), but not seeing it in a cinema is a real shame. I caught it on its final day and loved it. It’s the perfect popcorn flick that warrants a rewatch almost immediately.

Not only is it as clever and cool as its predecessor Knives Out, it’s arguably more fun. The ensemble cast oozes with star quality, the locations and set designs are gorgeous, and Daniel Craig is having the time of his life as Benoit Blanc, the detective who is once again called upon to solve a murder mystery among the wealthy, vapid elite.

Compelling, most compelling …

The official reason given by Netflix as to why Glass Onion only had a week-long theatrical release before moving exclusively to SVOD is that it ‘builds anticipation’. And it goes without saying that owning a big title like this potentially does wonders for their sales.

There’s also this: to qualify for the 2023 Oscars, Glass Onion must have had a theatrical release before Dec 31 2022, for one week at minimum. In the last two years, these rules were loosened to allow for cinema shutdowns at the height of the COVID pandemic, but now we’re back to pre-pandemic rules – completely ignoring the irony that said pandemic is still the main reason people won’t visit the cinema.

This way, Netflix gets to own Glass Onion exclusively and have it qualify for a nice shiny statuette or three.

Read: You Won’t Be Alone named as Australia’s official Oscars film 2023

Money, money, money

Just recently, Variety reported that U.S. cinemas owners were practically pleading with Netflix to led Glass Onion remain on their screens for longer. Netflix has not, and will not budge, and continues to remind all that it is part of their key marketing strategy.

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But, as Variety reporters speculated, if Netflix released numbers, ‘Glass Onion would have placed third on domestic (US) box office charts following Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (which grossed $65 million USD from 4,258 cinemas over the five days) and Disney’s Strange World (which grossed $18.5 million USD from 4,174 cinemas over the five days).’

It’s easy to see that Glass Onion would have done very well with an extended theatrical release, and the ‘hype’ that Netflix built would have resulted in more bums on seats, which translates into profits for our local cinemas too. So why not keep it going, at least until it’s available to stream on the 23rd?

Knives Out. Image: Lionsgate.

Rob Murphy, projectionist at the Sun Theatre in Yarravile, was also dismayed at the decision. ‘The continued shrinking of the theatrical release window is doing serious harm to an industry that is still recovering from the “perfect storm” that was (and still is) the COVID calamity,’ he said.

‘Events that are equalling the threat of television in the 50s and the introduction of home video in the 80s have recently seen major cinema chains around the world going into receivership.

‘Nothing at home can replace seeing a film on a big screen in a communal setting and if people don’t reincorporate the cinema back into their social habits, it may not survive.’

Read: Splice Here director Rob Murphy says film beats digital every time

The ‘why’ really comes down to: Netflix doesn’t care about movie ticket sales or the in-person cinema experience. They care about subscribers, and they are anticipating a huge uptick in those before the release of this who-dunnit flick. It’s a pretty big bet, though, especially since Netflix spent $40 million to produce Glass Onion and paid $450 million to get the rights to two more sequels.

I reached out to Netflix but they declined to comment.

Why you should see Glass Onion on the big screen

Big screen visuals are always best – you won’t get that at home, no matter how expensive your TV is. But I’m going to argue for the return of Glass Onion to cinemas for another reason: it’s damned delightful with a crowd.

The story of Glass Onion is set in May of 2020, mid pandemic. Five rich personalities are invited via a complicated puzzle box to their friend’s ‘Murder Mystery’ party, set on his remote island home. But among the guests is detective Benoit Blanc, who wasn’t actually invited. How and why did he get there? And will someone actually die in this game?

Kathryn Hahn, Madelyn Cline, Edward Norton, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kate Hudson. Image: Netflix

The group of ‘friends’ calls themselves The Disruptors. Among them, we have Miles Bron, the host of the party (played by Edward Norton doing a timely parody of Elon Musk), Birdie Jay the perpetually cancelled influencer (Kate Hudson), Duke Cody the MRA Twitch streamer (Dave Bautista), Claire Debella the compromised politician (Kathryn Hahn), Lionel Toussant the tech genius (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Andi Brand, the jaded ex-wife of Miles (Janelle Monáe).

Apart from their palpable will-they-won’t-they chemistry (that is, will they murder someone, or won’t they?), this cast have some incredible one-liners that made nearly everyone in my screening gag. ‘We all laughed at Miles’ note that just said CHILD=NFT,’ Odom Jr. says to a Zoom screen, ‘but now CryptoKids is the hottest app on the market!’ And then there’s Hudson’s Birdie Jay confusing sweatshops for a place where sweatpants are made.

I think funny movies like this are best watched with a bunch of people, whether friends or strangers. There’s something electric about having a collective response to a simultaneous experience. I get tingles every time, and come away feeling a little more hopeful about humanity. If the gorgeous big-screen visuals and crystal-clear surround sound won’t get you to the cinema, surely the chase for this intangible feeling will.

Alas, unless Netflix does a total 180 on their December release strategy, you won’t ever be able to experience this with Glass Onion.

Glass Onion is available to stream exclusively on Netflix from 23 December 2022.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports