Netflix Inc., the digital content streaming company that has irked Hollywood by threatening its way of doing business, is doing something typical of a big studio.
Netflix NFLX, +0.79% is buying a comic-book publisher.
The company said Monday that it is acquiring Millarworld, founded by comic-book legend Mark Millar, the creative force behind a number of stories that were turned into films, including “Kick-Ass,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Logan” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
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Terms were not disclosed, but Netflix said the deal, it’s first-ever acquisition, is a natural progression as the company looks to work more closely with filmmakers and creators.
“Mark [Millar] is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee”
Millar’s creative vision jibes with Netflix, said Erik Davis, managing editor for Fandango.
“Millar’s work takes a little bit more creative risk and it suits Netflix because they can take more creative risks,” Davis said. “They’re not beholden to the Hollywood machine. They don’t have to try to fit a movie into a PG-13 rating.
“They’re following a model that’s worked for other studios, but this is a big step in terms of them wanting to tell slightly different, more heightened genre stories.”
Millar’s work is not just about superheroes, but it often has an other-world feel. “Kingsman,” for example, is a flashy, camp story about a James Bond-like spy.
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In its quest to operate more like a Hollywood studio, Netflix said it’s making an effort to acquire intellectual property. That’s a popular model in Hollywood and one that has been a success for the likes of Walt Disney Co. DIS, -0.88% with its purchases of Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and Pixar.
A number of studios have made similar deals in order to build tentpole franchises.
Netflix said that Millarworld will continue to create and publish stories and characters under the Netflix label, and that films and shows will be exclusive to the platform.
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Millarworld and its co-creators have created 18 published universes, three of which, “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” have yielded four films that have grossed close to $1 billion worldwide.
“As creator and re-inventor of some of the most memorable stories and characters in recent history, ranging from Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ to Millarworld’s ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Kingsman,’ ‘Wanted’ and ‘Reborn’ franchises, Mark is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “We look forward to creating new Netflix originals from several existing franchises as well as new superhero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories Mark and his team will continue to create and publish.”
The closer Netflix comes to resembling a Hollywood studio, the more likely it will attract debate about film distribution. Netflix has opposed Hollywood’s theatrical release windows, or the amount of time a film screens in theaters before it’s available for home entertainment, which is the industry’s traditional way of doing business. The company releases films in cinemas and on the platform on the same day.
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Davis said he’s excited at the prospect of seeing Millar’s work adapted for film, but that he wants to see it on the big screen.
Netflix has a deal with iPic Theaters, but for the most part cinema chains have refused to do business with the company.
“Some things, like Millar’s work, just play better on the big screen. And that’s something that Netflix is going to have to contend with,” Davis said. “I look at the Marvel stuff as a perfect example. The stuff Marvel does for the big scree performs so much better and drives more engagement than the stuff Marvel does for Netflix.”