9 Netflix Films That Failed to Spawn a Franchise

Jan 21, 2023

At the start of November 2022, Enola Holmes 2 dropped on Netflix. The feature was accompanied by quite a bit of fanfare thanks to the positive reputation of its predecessor, but also because it was a bit of a rarity: a sequel to a Netflix original film. Though they’ve become more numerous in recent years, Netflix has often demonstrated trouble in launching long-term franchises around their movies. Typically, Netflix movies that do spawn follow-ups tend to be smaller-scale sleeper hits like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or The Kissing Booth. Meanwhile, many of the company’s bigger-budget works that were built to launch sequels, like Bright and 6 Underground, went absolutely nowhere as franchises.

While more recent Netflix blockbusters like Extraction and The Old Guard have managed to spawn forthcoming sequels, it’s also shocking how many costly genre movies Netflix has launched that have failed to spawn sequels. It’s a testament to how difficult, though far from impossible, it can be to start a movie franchise in the world of streaming entertainment. For a multitude of reasons, seven particular Netflix movies demonstrate these challenges better than most.

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A few weeks after Bright debuted on Netflix, the streamer confirmed that this project would be getting a sequel. Bright was a landmark movie for Netflix, its first real foray into original big-budget motion pictures, so it’s no surprise that the company wanted to keep the good times rolling with more fantasy crime adventures. At the time, leading men Will Smith and Joel Edgerton as well as director David Ayer were said to be coming back for this follow-up. By May 2018, a screenwriter had been hired for the production. Bright 2 looked like it was about to become a reality.

It would take until 2020 for further major news to hit on this sequel, with Louis Leterrier confirmed to be taking the reins as filmmaker on this franchise. All signs still pointed towards this follow-up existing, but after this development, the project went on radio silence again. The busy schedules of creative participants like Will Smith were doubtlessly playing a role in this sequel struggling to make any headway, though there was also the fact that Bright was significantly less valuable to Netflix in 2020 compared to 2017. The film was no longer an anomaly among Netflix origin films, with the streamer having several big-budget films under its belt. There was no more dire urgency to birth a franchise out of this feature. This made it no surprise when, shortly after the Will Smith/Chris Rock snafu, Netflix quietly canned Bright 2.


Image via Netflix

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was quite common for Netflix to purchase pre-existing finished movies from other studios not because of concerns over the viability of theatrical exhibition, but simply because studios didn’t have much faith in their product. What Warner Bros. or Paramount didn’t want to spend millions on promoting would become a new title for Netflix’s original film library, which was desperate for star-studded titles. So it was with Extinction, a 2018 Michael Peña feature that originated at Universal but was sold to Netflix.

The end of this movie suggests there could be further adventures beyond Extinction of humans and robots as they navigate a post-apocalyptic environment. The idea of Netflix being interested in follow-ups to Extinction sounded extra plausible since the original Extinction was partially headlined by the star of another Netflix show, Mike Colter from Luke Cage. However, Extinction barely made a blip in its presence on Netflix and, naturally, has never scored a follow-up.

6 Underground

Image via Netflix

Michael Bay is no stranger to sequels, thanks to titles like Transformers and Bad Boys. Neither is leading man Ryan Reynolds thanks to the Deadpool saga. Netflix had high hopes when pairing the duo up for the original R-rated action movie 6 Underground, hoping it would turn into the next big mega-franchise. After all, the original Transformers produced follow-ups (with a sixth on the way for 2023), and even just a fraction of that kind of long-term franchising could’ve been a boon for Netflix and its original film division. Released in mid-December, the same corridor that Netflix debuted Bird Box and Bright in, 6 Underground was poised to be a big hit.

While the film did attract lots of eyeballs per Netflix’s questionable metrics for measuring viewership, it also didn’t leave much, if any, impact on the larger pop-culture landscape. Part of the problem may have been the very concept of putting a Michael Bay film on Netflix. The dude’s movies are loud, excessive, and explosion-laden, just the kind of features people love to see in IMAX auditoriums, not on Netflix alongside new seasons of The Ranch. The head of Netflix’s film division, Scott Stuber, would later publicly refer to 6 Underground as a misfire and not something the studio would be pursuing sequels to.

Spenser Confidential

The 2020 Mark Wahlberg action/comedy Spenser Confidential is based on a character, the detective Spenser, whose exploits in the world of literature are legendary. This is a character that’s existed since 1973 and has regularly headlined new books ever since. There’s plenty of material here to mine for a long-term franchise, and originally, it looked like a sequel was aiming to start shooting before the year 2021 ended.

The primary reason for Spenser Confidential never spawning follow-ups largely seems to boil down to Wahlberg’s busy schedule, though it could also be that the original film just wasn’t as big a juggernaut as Netflix hoped. Variety reported towards the end of 2020 that Spenser Confidential was only the 21st most-viewed streaming movie of the year, placing it behind much lower-profile titles like Artemis Fowl, Bad Hair, and An American Pickle. Considering Wahlberg’s star power and the notoriety of the Spenser character, Netflix probably wanted more viewership on Spenser Confidential before the streamer turned it into a franchise.

Jingle Jangle

As the holiday film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey was preparing to debut on Netflix, director David E. Talbert revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that there were big plans to turn the film into a multimedia franchise, including the prospect of a potential stage version. There’s no doubt those prospective plans could’ve included a sequel had Jingle Jangle become the next Elf on Netflix. However, Jingle Jangle didn’t seem to take off as a pop culture phenomenon, a development that can be partially laid at Netflix’s feet. The streamer’s refusal to engage in traditional marketing for kid’s movies means that Jingle Jangle has largely vanished from the public consciousness whereas even theatrical Christmas-themed box office bombs tend to get trotted out annually with new marketing pushes.

Jingle Jangle’s problems with spawning a sequel are also emblematic of how Netflix has found itself challenged to compete with the big boys in terms of launching uber-famous family fare. While many of its animated and live-action kid’s movies (including Jingle Jangle) have garnered critical acclaim, the minimal promotion accompanying their debuts means it’s hard for them to stand out against other kid-friendly streaming options like the Minions movies or Encanto. These issues all compounded to ensure Jingle Jangle couldn’t quite become the expansive franchises its director had hoped for.

Thunder Force

Superhero movies are famous for inspiring sequels and Melissa McCarthy’s always talked about being gung-ho to headline sequels to some of her most famous comedies like The Heat. However, there’s never been any discussion of continuing the adventures of McCarthy and Octavia Spencer’s lead characters in the superhero comedy Thunder Force across further sequels. This is largely because, even by Netflix’s own metrics, Thunder Force wasn’t quite a viewership smash, conjuring fewer eyeballs than other Netflix comedies like The Wrong Missy or Murder Mystery. The ingredients were there in Thunder Force to launch a new franchise, but the execution of all those ingredients resulted in a dish nobody wanted to taste twice.

Fear Street

Image via Netflix

Hollywood loves making endless sequels to popular horror movies. With the feature film adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, Netflix, which acquired this property from Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, got lucky in that it was getting an immediate hookup to this phenomenon. Fear Street was produced from the ground up as three separate movies, so the streamer, after purchasing these movies, could automatically call Fear Street a saga. Given that Stine wrote so many Fear Street books, it’s easy to imagine Netflix cranking out Fear Street movies like there’s no tomorrow.

While there have been reports that more Fear Street movies may be on the horizon, there’s been no official word on continuing the adaptations of these famous books beyond the original three movies. That’s especially peculiar given how quickly horror sequels can often get produced, as seen by the various Saw and Paranormal Activity follow-ups. Perhaps Netflix is more interested in producing franchises rooted in the family and action movie spaces, or maybe it wants to concentrate on horror properties developed in-house rather than ones based on pre-existing source material. Whatever the reason, Fear Street has yet to produce more installments beyond the original three movies.

Death Note

One of the earliest Netflix original movies to be based on pre-existing source material, Death Note attempted to deliver a satisfying American adaptation of the beloved manga of the same name. Those ambitions never came to fruition, as the 2017 Death Note feature from Netflix was a widely-reviled piece of work, especially when it came to fans of the original source material. Still, the popularity of the brand name alone seemed to indicate that Netlfix may give this property another go as a live-action film. Cut to the present-day world and it’s been a little over five years since the original Death Note feature. Director Adam Wingard has moved on to the MonsterVerse and there’s been no clamoring for further adventures with this interpretation of the Death Note universe. At this point, it’s safe to say that the book has been closed on Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note.

Project Power

Image Via Netflix

Much like with fellow Netflix original movie Thunder Force, Project Power being a movie about superpowers would seem to set it up nicely to launch a franchise given how much Hollywood loves ongoing sagas about superheroes and people with special abilities. Plus, given that directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are incredibly familiar with franchise fare thanks to their work on the Paranormal Activity sequels and the Catfish TV show, the idea of them being involved in this one Netflix universe long-term didn’t seem far-fetched.

However, there’s never been so much as a whisper about Project Power getting further sequels in the years since its release. The busy schedules of lead actors like Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback certainly didn’t help, while the original Project Power also doubtlessly got overshadowed in the summer of 2020 by another Netflix blockbuster, The Old Guard, thus ensuring it couldn’t get the audience necessary to inspire a follow-up. While Hollywood’s love of superhero franchises doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon, it also doesn’t look like Project Power will be getting a sequel in the near future.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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