Netflix Becomes a Broadway Producer With Peter Morgan’s ‘Patriots’


Netflix, the streaming behemoth that has evolved from mailing out DVDs in red envelopes to becoming a hugely important player in the entertainment industry, is embarking on a new adventure: producing on Broadway.

The company will pick up its first Broadway credit this spring as a producer of “Patriots,” by Peter Morgan, the creator of the hit Netflix series “The Crown.” The new play is about an oligarch who was an early supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia but then fell out with him and wound up dead.

Even before “Patriots” begins its Broadway previews on April 1, Netflix is already in the early stages of developing a screen adaptation of the story, according to Emily Feingold, a Netflix spokeswoman.

“Patriots” will be Netflix’s first Broadway credit, but not its first stage venture. The company is actively involved as a producer of “Stranger Things: The First Shadow,” a play now running in London that is a prequel of sorts to the popular Netflix streaming series. The “Stranger Things” production is expected to come to Broadway, but the timing and other specifics are unknown.

Netflix’s foray into Broadway producing comes at a time when the entertainment industry has been aggressively working to monetize intellectual property — adapting popular titles and franchises on many different platforms, including not only film, television and stage but also books, video games and immersive experiences.

Broadway has long had the attention of Hollywood studios — Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal have been particularly active in pursuing stage adaptations of their films. And for some time now, the recording industry has been actively involved on Broadway, seeing the stage as another way to repurpose pop song catalogs.

Now new players are showing signs of interest in the theater industry, which is continuing to struggle to recover from the pandemic.

Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon, is leasing a theater in Greenwich Village — the Minetta Lane — and has been regularly staging work there and recording the shows for release on its audio app. The company this week will stage its first commissioned musical, called “Dead Outlaw,” which tells the true story of an American bandit whose body became a carnival exhibit.

And A24, the independent film studio, said last year that it had acquired the Cherry Lane Theater in the West Village, adding that it planned to use the building for live theater and film programming but releasing few details.

Netflix has reason to feel hopeful about “Patriots.” In addition to “The Crown,” his six-season series about Queen Elizabeth II, Morgan has had success on stage with history-based dramas, including “Frost/Nixon” and “The Audience.”

“Patriots,” based on the life of Boris A. Berezovsky, was written long before this month’s death of another Putin critic, Aleksei A. Navalny, but Navalny’s death is sure to make it feel more timely.

The play, which is scheduled to open April 22 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, also arrives with a track record. It has already had two runs in London — a nonprofit production in 2022 at the Almeida Theater, and a commercial production last year in the West End — with which Netflix was not involved, but which gave the company’s executives an opportunity to see it. Reviewing the initial production for The New York Times, the critic Matt Wolf called it “gripping.”

The Broadway production is to star Michael Stuhlbarg as Berezovsky; Will Keen will play Putin, reprising a performance that won him an Olivier Award last year. The production is being capitalized for up to $8 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Netflix has also shown its interest in theater in other ways: It has brought a number of adaptations of stage productions to the screen, including the musicals “The Prom,” “Matilda,” “13” and “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and the plays “The Boys in the Band” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Netflix also filmed for streaming staged performances of the musical “Diana” and the concert show “Springsteen on Broadway.”

The stage productions of “Stranger Things” and “Patriots” share a lead producer in Sonia Friedman, a London-based impresario who regularly produces both in the West End and on Broadway. Friedman is no stranger to working with big brand intellectual property and large entertainment companies — she is also one of the lead producers of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”



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