Holmes & Watson
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Source: Sony Pictures

Netflix turned down Holmes & Watson, as Sony eyed sale before theatrical run

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Dec 28, 2018, 1:57 PM EST

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s take on the classic detecting duo of Holmes & Watson has had a rough debut. Its 5 percent critical rating and 27 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes may not yet have impacted its relatively decent box-office showing, but given that word of mouth takes some time to travel, Sony may see anecdotes about fans leaving the theater during the film impacting more than the movie’s (already low) CinemaScore.

The studio must have known something before the film hit theaters (and decided not to screen in advance for critics), as there were apparently attempts made to sale the film off to Netflix.

According to Deadline, the streaming service — which has, in the past, earned a reputation as a quantity-over-quality repository for any and all content, especially that no longer desired by studios — turned the film down.

After distributing a few films that possibly would have struggled elsewhere (Mute, The Cloverfield Paradox, Bright, Mogli, etc.), it’s revealing to see where Netflix draws the line — especially when the picture has the star power of Ferrell and Reilly. But the algorithm in charge of content is rarely wrong. The internet is still buzzing about Bird Box and Bandersnatch, isn’t it?

Sony had to reckon with the $42 million investment itself then, which it did by jumping ship: The studio sold down its share and took a minority stake in the film after failing to strike a deal with Netflix.

Whether these decisions (by Sony to play down their financial involvement and by Netflix to refuse to invest) pay off in the long run will be seen in the next few weeks, but if the consumer satisfaction data and reviews point to anything, it seems that not even familiar characters or familiar faces playing them guarantees a payday. Holmes & Watson may be the watermark against which fans can compare future Netflix purchases in order to better understand the service's decision-making process.