Netflix’s business plan remains a mystery to everyone but the streaming service, but they’re dead serious with their end-year programming game. For two years in a row, Netflix has plunked down a pulpy, late-December offering with A-list talent during what many would consider to be a dumping ground. Yes, a few theater-bound films like Aquaman are making bank, but TV networks generally shut down quality programming for two solid weeks, and Netflix is here to capitalize upon that void. Last year, Bright, starring Will Smith and Joel Egerton, scored 11 million viewers in only three days, and 2018 has brought a repeat. On Friday, Netflix announced that the Sandra Bullock-starring Bird Box (which we predicted would dominate streaming) racked up over 45 million Netflix account views. That’s the highest ever record for a Netflix original film.
To put that number in context, Netflix keeps numbers pretty close to its digital sleeve, but quarterly earnings from earlier this year revealed that the service has at least 118 million subscribers. The number could be higher now, but in the case of Bird Box (Susanne Bier’s adaptation of Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel), it’s safe to say that around one-third of all Netflix accounts checked out this movie. That’s an impressive statistic no matter how one spins it, and those memes didn’t lie about social media-bound interest.
Last year, Netflix pointed toward Bright (which earned a 25% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes) as proof that audiences and critics are sometimes “disconnected,” which most folks probably already gathered. In the case of Bird Box, critics rated it sort-of “fresh” with a 66% score, but the viewing numbers speak much more loudly. If 45 million people actually went to a theater for a movie title over one week, well … that simply wouldn’t happen in 2018.
However, an apocalyptic story about a mysterious unseen entity managed to capture over 45 million eyeballs (and maybe even more, given that multiple people often share Netflix accounts). Sandy Bullock safeguarding kids and finding love and hiding from doom with John Malkovich is not only enjoyable but appeals to the masses. Thank goodness they never showed the monster, right? Otherwise, that 45 million number could have been so much smaller. There’s definitely something to be said for leaving elements unseen.