I feel like Axel Foley to Netflix’s Serge:

  • AXEL: “Get the @#?%$ outta here!!!”
  • SERGE: “No, I cannot! It’s serious!”

The streaming giant has done it again, scoring their biggest coup yet. In a deal with Paramount Pictures, Netflix has secured the rights to the long-awaited sequel Beverly Hills Cop 4.

The surprise move marks the third partnership between Paramount and Netflix. Previously, Netflix became the soul worldwide distributor for Paramount’s Cloverfield: God Particle in early February 2018then, just weeks later, it did the same internationally for the studio’s Annihilation which only played theatrically in North America.

In those cases,  Netflix simply bought the films that had already been made. This time, however, Netflix will partner with Paramount to finance and produce the project (along with original BHC producer Jerry Bruckheimer) as well as collaborate on script development and the director search. (No production schedule or release date has been announced, but 2021 is likely.)

This also cements a growing relationship between Netflix and star Eddie Murphy. The streamer funded and recently premiered Murphy’s passion project Dolemite Is My Name, plus they’ll be home to Murphy’s highly-anticipated return to stand-up.

Netflix is also feeling  pressure from Disney+, no doubt, which has secured over 10 million subscribers in the infancy of its week one launch. Add Apple TV+ and HBO Max to the mix and suddenly Netflix is scrambling to keep up.

For diehard fans who were anxious to see Axel Foley back on the big screen (including this humble blogger), having Beverly Hills Cop 4 go straight to streaming is another big disappointment. Unless Netflix does an unprecedented one-eighty from their ongoing policy (which is to grant theaters no more than a two-week exclusive window before they debut it online, something that major theater chains will not agree to, demanding instead the traditional 90-day exclusive), it’s highly unlikely that small independent art house theaters will give the blockbuster-styled action comedy a platform, despite having done so for artier Netflix Oscar contenders such as Roma and the upcoming The Irishman.

The big question is why did Paramount sign those rights away? Beverly Hills Cop is one of their few legacy titles that could really pop big with a reboot done right, and it could ride the wave of a possible Eddie-ssance following the theatrical release of Coming 2 America in 2020 .

Well, it’s likely that the under-performance of other recent legacy sequels (Terminator: Dark Fate and Doctor Sleep, most notably, which have essentially tanked in the past two weeks) probably made Paramount nervous. Combine that with an anxious Netflix who’s being surrounded by formidable streaming competitors on all sides (with more coming) and you have a perfect storm for the deal to be struck.

It should be noted that Paramount retains the rights to Cop 5 but, if the Netflix version is deemed the kind of success that would merit another entry, it’s hard to see a sequel backtracking to the traditional release model. Unless, of course, Netflix becomes so confident by the theatrical prospects of Cop 4 that they make it their first three-month theater exclusive release (fingers crossed!).

If it finds the right director (Dolemite‘s Craig Brewer seems the most likely candidate, especially since he’s also helming Coming 2 America), Netflix may be tempted to try their hand at their first traditional theatrical play. Big box office from next summer’s Ghostbusters original cast sequel and Top Gun: Maverick (another Bruckheimer production) could also make Netflix rethink their streaming-only hard-line. The financial upside of a moderately-budgeted nostalgia IP in the theater space may be too tempting to pass up.

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