During the current worldwide pandemic, movie studios are no longer providing box-office figures because theaters have been shut down around the nation and the world. Because we are less interested in the actual figures themselves and more interested in what people are watching over the weekends, each week we will dive into Most Streamed and Bestseller Lists on Fandango, iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu to pinpoint the weekend’s most watched films.
The number of new releases on the home digital market is beginning to slow now. As theatrical releases have dried up, there are far fewer of them to release to home viewers. The next few months, however, may be interesting, as most summer blockbusters have been delayed until later this year or next year, which could give a lot of smaller films a chance to find bigger VOD viewers among audiences who are starved for new content.
It’s clear that VOD movies can be hugely successful, too. We have not been given exact figures, but Universal said last weekend that Trolls World Tour posted the highest opening day and opening weekend totals ever for a film released digitally. Again, those figures were not provided, but some estimate that it earned $50 million on its opening weekend, which is slightly better than the $46 million opening of the original Trolls in theaters. I don’t anticipate a lot of hits of that size on VOD, but I suspect a film like The King of Staten Island — the Judd Apatow film starring Pete Davidson based on Davidson’s life — could do very well this summer on VOD. If theaters remain closed, what else are we going to watch?
Indeed, at this point, Trolls World Tour, Bad Boys for Life and Sonic the Hedgehog have combined with Invisible Man to dominate the charts for the last few weeks, while other films are sampled heavily on their digital opening weekends but soon thereafter drop. Tiffany Haddish’s Like a Boss for instance, jumped into the top five last week but it’s already fallen to 15th this week, while two more films that will probably only be sampled — Kristen Stewart’s sci-fi clunker, Underwater and Jason Blum’s woefully reviewed Fantasy Island reboot — have debuted at four and five, respectively, on the VOD charts.
On the other hand, there are a lot of films that haven’t reached the top five, but are sticking around longer than they might otherwise due to an overall lack of options, like Ben Affleck’s The Way Back, Harrison Ford’s The Call of the Wild, and even Robert Downey Jr.’s Doctor Dolittle, because after watching everything else on Disney+, some parents are clearly breaking down and renting it, because it’s still at number eight on the VOD charts, right behind Birds of Prey, another film that hasn’t done flashy numbers but is clearly accumulating a lot of rentals over the long term.
Meanwhile, over on Hulu, it’s almost like the streaming service listened last week and updated their Most Popular section to actually reflect the movies that are most popular, like Best Picture winner Parasite, which has been a monster hit for the streaming service. It is apparently the second-most watched title ever on Hulu among its current library of films, as well as the most-watched foreign-indie film ever on the service. It’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic for it to happen, but it’s great that Parasite is getting a lot of exposure, even if some are complaining about the subtitles.
Otherwise, family fare is doing very well on Hulu right now with The LEGO Movie 2, Storks, Small Foot, and Dreamworks Abominable, the latter of which I highly recommend. My family loved it.
Elsewhere, on Netflix, there were a lot of new offerings this weekend, including two new films, but Despicable Me has taken the top spot. In fact, it has finally knocked Tiger King out of the top spot overall on Netflix, a spot it’s held for weeks.
The number two film on Netflix is the Canadian sci-fi flick Code 8 starring Robbie and Stephen Amell. It “is set in a world where 4% of the population is born with varying supernatural abilities, but instead of being billionaires or superheroes, they face discrimination and live in poverty, often resorting to crime.” It looks intriguing, and 75 percent of its small sampling of reviews on RT view it positively. Meanwhile, a French film called Earth and Blood is number three on the streaming network, and while there are no reviews for it yet available on Rotten Tomatoes, it sounds like a French, arthouse Rambo, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Last week’s top film, Angel Has Fallen has dropped to number four, while Seth Rogen’s The Green Lantern has inexplicably jumped into the top five this weekend. Maybe it’s because a new Green Hornet movie is on the way.
Next weekend will see the kind of new release that can do well in this environment. True History of the Kelly Gang is an IFC films release with a hell of a cast — Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, and Russell Crowe, among others — that will debut digitally. It premiered to positive reviews at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.