The Gray Man Reveals Why Netflix Has A Blockbuster Problem

The Gray Man has some huge stars in it, and the blockbuster film failed to meet most expectations, making it seem that Netflix might have a blockbuster problem.

By Vic Medina | Published

chris evans the gray man

You’ve likely heard about, or even watched, one of Netflix’s biggest movies to date: The Gray Man, an action thriller starring A-list actors Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers who helmed some of Marvel’s most popular films, including Avengers: Endgame. In a new column for Variety, however, Tyler Aquilina points to some troubling trends with the film, which points to a larger issue for Netflix. As the world’s most popular streaming service battles numerous rivals for viewers, they are finding their biggest movies are not working out the way they hoped.

Released to much hype on July 22, The Gray Man was initially a blockbuster success, spending its first week in the Netflix Top 10. It so far has racked up over 245 million hours of viewing time, becoming the 4th most-watched film in Netflix history. However, in its second week, the film dropped 60%, and the film faded quickly from the memory of Netflix viewers. Variety reports a romantic drama starring Disney Channel actress Sofia Carson, Purple Hearts, became the streamer’s #1 film. And it did it with a modest budget and no A-list stars or explosions.

Things got even worse for The Gray Man in its third week. It dropped another 46%, dropping to #4 in the Netflix Top 10 films ranking. This is likely not the return Netflix was expecting for a film with a budget of over $200 million, two of the biggest actors on earth, famous directors, and a supporting cast featuring Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, and Alfre Woodard. Right after its premiere, Netflix announced a sequel and a spinoff for the film, plans which executives might be rethinking now, considering the film is lacking in staying power.

Perhaps one of the main problems with The Gray Man, which Variety does not fully address, is the fact that it isn’t a great film. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 46%, with Larushka Ivan-Zadeh of Metro (UK) calling it a “$200,000,000 snooze fest.” Robert Levin of Newsday lamented “All that effort and all that money should have paid for a better screenplay.” IMDB only rates it a 5.9 out of 10.

Despite the middling reviews from critics, viewers seemed to love the film. Viewers gave it a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and some online reviewers, from websites that rely heavily on buzz for clicks, praised the film as well. However, all those positive vibes from viewers did not translate into momentum for the film after the first week. Viewers seemed to be impressed with Chris Evans‘ turn as a villain and liked the elaborate action scenes, but that did not lead to multiple viewings or additional buzz.

With the film underperforming, especially in comparison to its two biggest films, Red Notice and Don’t Look Up, it may cause Netflix film chief Scott Stuber to rethink their strategy. Even though The Gray Man and its other top films benefitted from all-star casts, they all suffered from steep drop-offs after big openings. The films also don’t generate the buzz that shows like Stranger Things and Squid Game do. It should be noted that other streaming services like Disney+, Hulu, and Paramount+ all advertise aggressively on networks and cable TV. To this day, you still see commercials promoting the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+, more than two months after the premiere. It helps that Disney owns ABC and ESPN, allowing for this sort of aggressive advertising, but Netflix would be wise to follow in their footsteps.