Compared to two years ago, the energy in the film world has really moved back to theaters. When Covid-19 locked down the world, virtually all major films went to streaming, or joint theatrical-streaming releases. From Red Notice to The Tomorrow War to even Encanto, theaters weren’t driving the conversation; streaming was.
In 2022, though, theaters got their mojo back. (At least for the summer.)
Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Thor 4: Love and Thunder showed that the MCU was back (if not quite at the heights that they used to be). The Batman showed that all superheroes were back. Top Gun 2: Highway to the Profit Zone and, shockingly, Elvis, showed that films for older audiences were back. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Minions 2 showed that kids films were back. Even smaller films like The Lost City or Everything Everywhere All At Once had a theatrically-charged buzz.
Will this energy last? The next few weeks look light in terms of potential theatrical blockbusters, so maybe streaming can take back the “conversation” crown. Conversely, maybe those theatrical films will also top the streaming charts.
As I wrote about last Friday, this week’s “Streaming Ratings Report” is a double issue, catching up from a two-week delay in Nielsen’s data reporting. I’ll have three big topics, then the usual quick hits. Let’s get to it.
(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, TV Time trend data, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Netflix Top Ten lists, Google Trends, Samba TV, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of May 23rd to June 12th.)
Film 1 – The Straight-To-Streaming Success Story of the Last 3 Or So Weeks
Once again, the question looming over all feature films is whether they should go to theaters or straight-to-streaming. Yes, I’ve covered this topic a bunch of times, but when literally tens of billions of dollars are on the line, as studios and streamers figure out the best way to make the most money, it feels like it matters.
We’ll start with the latest straight-to-streaming success story on Netflix, Hustle, another Adam Sandler film, but this time more of a “Uncut Gems serious role” than a “Hubie Halloween/Murder Mystery haha” type of role. It was released on a Wednesday, so it had a bit of a head start compared to other films, and made the top 15 releases of all time list in its opening weekend:
Samba TV’s data tells a similar story, as it reported that 2.7 million households watched. Here’s how that ranks in their top X data:
To top it off, Hustle took the number one spot on the TV Time Rankings too for one week. It has a solid 7.4 IMDb rating on 80K reviews, which is good for a sports film.
If we extend the time frame back just a pinch, I’d also say that Netflix’s film, Senior Year, is also a straight-to-streaming success. Through four weeks, it has 34.4 million hours, good for the 18th biggest film (out of 141) in my Nielsen data set. Not bad. (Though it’s still half the size of The Adam Project, Netflix’s biggest film of the year so far.)
The hypothetical question we can’t answer is what would have happened if Netflix had put any of these films in theaters. If Hustle is genuinely popular, could it have earned $50 million in domestic box office, especially since older audiences have returned to theaters to see films like Elvis?
There’s this narrative that major studios killed the “mid-budget” film because they prioritized blockbusters, which has some truth to it. But it’s not like Netflix is helping this situation, are they? If these mid-budget films were in theaters right now, maybe that helps attract more (and different) audiences back into theaters.
The only reasonable objection is the worst case scenario: what if a film comes out and bombs? Does that doom its future on a streamer? This argument itself has some weird ramifications if you think about it too hard—if a film bombs because it’s bad, is it better to have it come to streaming so a lot of customers can watch it NOT knowing it’s bad? Is that good for your reputation?—but I could see a world where the marketing fails and lowers a film’s viewership in later windows.
So let’s answer that question: do theatrical flops bomb on streaming?
Film – The Theatrical Duds Arrive on Streaming
As I covered in detail on Friday, HBO Max is letting Nielsen release their data now! Woot Woot! That’s how we got to add these bright purple stripes to my Nielsen Top Ten Charts:
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