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It's only been a few days since Netflix started streaming The Gray Man, its most expensive film to date, but the company has already announced plans to turn it into a major franchise. A sequel is in the works with star Ryan Gosling and directors Joe and Anthony Russo returning. Netflix didn't say when the follow-up is expected to arrive.
A spin-off from Zombieland and Deadpool screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese is in development too. Netflix says that movie will explore a different aspect of The Gray Man universe, but it's keeping quiet on the details for now.
While critics by and large had a lukewarm reaction to The Gray Man, the film appears to be a hit with viewers. It has a 91 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It debuted as the number one movie on Netflix in 92 countries when it was released last Friday. By Sunday, viewers had collectively streamed 88.55 million hours of the movie, Netflix said.
Whether that apparent success translates into helping Netflix retain subscribers and attract new ones remains to be seen. The company lost almost a million subscribers last quarter, though the attrition wasn't as bad as Netflix feared.
Netflix spent a reported $200 million to make The Gray Man. So, along with moves the company is making elsewhere, it's not a huge shock that Netflix is turning it into a franchise. Sequels to other Netflix blockbusters are in the pipeline, including follow-ups to Extraction and Army of the Dead. Netflix also snapped up the sequels to the terrific murder mystery film Knives Out.
In case it's not clear, Netflix is very eager to build beloved franchises of its own. "We want to have our version of Star Wars or our version of Harry Potter, and we're working very hard to build that,” the company's vice president of original series Matthew Thunell told Reuters last week.
Netflix does have a few hit franchises already. A Stranger Things spin-off series and stage play are in development. The company has made a Korean version of La Casa de Papel and is working on a spin-off. It's expanding Squid Game, Bridgerton and The Witcher beyond the core shows as well.
Update 7/26 3:43PM ET: Added first-weekend viewership figures for The Gray Man.