It's no secret that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has its digital eye set on Hollywood. The company that made its bones on the back of serialized programs like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Stranger Things wants to bring that same level of success to its original films. Netflix has taken a number of steps in recent months to bring those dreams to fruition.
It recently broke with tradition by giving several of its high-profile films exclusive theatrical engagements before debuting them on its streaming service. That helped the company win a number of Golden Globes, and one of its films has been nominated for the top prize at the Academy Awards. The company has also been enlisting a number of the biggest names in filmmaking on upcoming projects.
Now, Netflix has made history by being admitted to the most powerful lobbying group in Hollywood.
A trailblazing membership
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced this week that Netflix will join its ranks -- the first streaming service to rub elbows with the six major Hollywood studios that make up its membership. This is the first time that a nonstudio entity has been granted acceptance. The MPAA and member companies administer the rating system used in U.S. theaters and advocate on behalf of the American motion picture, home video, and television industries. The other members of the influential body are Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal (a division of Comcast), and Warner Bros. (a division of AT&T).
This comes at an important juncture for the MPAA. The group will be losing one longtime member later this year when Disney's acquisition of Fox is complete.
Finally getting the respect it deserves?
Several recent Netflix endeavors have raised the company's profile. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed Roma took the movie world by storm earlier this month, leading the pack with 10 Oscar nominations, including for best picture, as well as best director and best cinematography nominations for Cuaron. Western anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, directed by the Coen brothers, also picked up several nominations, including for best adapted screenplay and best original song.
The streaming giant made news when it revealed that post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Sandra Bullock, had been seen by more than 45 million member accounts in the first seven days of release. The company later updated those figures, saying that more than 80 million households, or 57% of its worldwide subscriber base, had tuned in to the movie, which gave birth to a viral internet meme.
More in the pipeline
Netflix also has a number of projects that will come to fruition in 2019 that illustrate its growing influence among Hollywood's elite.
One of the highest-profile original movies releasing on the platform this year is The Irishman, from director Martin Scorsese. The film, which is reportedly Scorsese's "dream project," is one of the most anticipated movies of 2019. The biographical mob drama will feature Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and will look back at the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa in the mid-1970s.
Michael Bay will bring his unique filmmaking style to Netflix with Six Underground, which follows the exploits of six billionaires who fake their own deaths to form an elite vigilant squad to take down notorious criminals. Bay is best known for his work on the Transformers movies, which boast worldwide box office of nearly $5 billion.
Steven Soderbergh, known for directing such groundbreaking films as Sex, Lies, and Videotape; Traffic, and Erin Brockovich, is heading two projects for the streaming giant. The Laundromat, based on the Panama Papers scandal, boasts a big-name cast including David Schwimmer, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, and Antonio Banderas. High Flying Bird depicts the efforts of an NBA player's agent in the midst of a lockout, working to reform the system to a player-oriented business.
A growing body of evidence
These data points are all part of the growing proof that Netflix is gaining clout in Hollywood, which has been ruled for decades by the old guard.
This isn't just about bragging rights for Netflix. The company's ability to gain award recognition for its feature films will act as a catalyst, providing incentives to other writers, directors, producers, and showrunners by showing that their work won't go unnoticed at Netflix. These bigger names will help the company attract even more customers, which fuels its virtuous cycle. Its efforts to date have resulted in more than 139 million monthly subscribers -- more than any other streaming service.
Its acceptance into the MPAA is also a sign that long-held Hollywood attitudes toward streaming are beginning to crumble -- more evidence of Netflix's growing status in the industry.