Netflix greenlights 'Bright' sequel, Smith to return as star

FILE - This undated image released by Netflix shows Will Smith, left, and Joel Edgerton in a scene from, "Bright." Despite scathing reviews from critics, Netflix has greenlit a sequel to “Bright,” with star Smith and director David Ayer expected to return. The streaming service announced the plans Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, just two weeks after the fantasy police drama debuted. (Matt Kennedy/Netflix via AP, File)

Matt Kennedy

NEW YORK (AP) — Despite scathing reviews from critics, Netflix has greenlit a sequel to "Bright," with star Will Smith and director David Ayer expected to return.

The streaming service announced the plans Wednesday, just two weeks after the fantasy police drama debuted. "Bright" is Netflix's first big-budget, tentpole-style release, with estimates that it cost at least $90 million to produce.

With a sequel, Netflix hopes to turn "Bright" into its first film franchise — the kind Hollywood studios rely on. But it will be doing so with one of the worst reviewed films of the year. "Bright" has garnered just a 28 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Yet viewer data suggests "Bright" is a hit — or, at least, a Netflix version of one. Nielsen reported that 11 million watched "Bright" in the United States in the first three days release. If that many moviegoers had paid tickets for "Bright," it would have earned close to $100 million over its first weekend, if going by the average movie ticket price. And Nielsen's tabulation is based on TV-connected Netflix viewing, and doesn't include those watching on their phones or computers.

Netflix doesn't release viewing numbers, but it said "Bright" has been its most viewed movie in all of Netflix's 190-plus countries. It called "Bright" its highest viewed original film ever in its first week of release.

The film stars Smith as a police officer in an alternate version of Los Angeles where orcs, fairies and magic co-exist. Netflix announced the sequel with a mock audition tape from various orcs hoping to land a role in the follow-up.

Co-star Joel Edgerton is also set to return. One person not coming back is screenwriter Max Landis, whose original script sparked a bidding war. Ayer ("Suicide Squad," ''Fury") will write the sequel.

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