For part two of my (giant) “Dogs Not Barking” series of the first half of 2022, I’m looking at films released directly to a streaming platform. Unlike the TV side, which we covered yesterday, there are fewer movies to talk about. As a result, this article is much shorter.
Yeah, I’m not sure Psych, Days of Our Lives and Curious George films are huge misses if they don’t make the streaming charts. Unlike yesterday’s post, I’m ordering this as a top ten list, a very loose (and I mean loose) top ten list, since there’s not really enough to talk about for each individual streamer.
(In yesterday’s article, I tried to link to my Ankler article on F1 and Netflix, but included the wrong link. To read that article, please click here. Also, since we gave paid subscribers a huge TV article yesterday, we’ve decided to unlock this article for all subscribers.)
Before we get to that, the ground rules again:
– What’s a “Dog Not Barking”? Click here to read our explainer. It’s any film or TV show that either has no ratings data or underperforms on multiple metrics.
– We’re mainly focused on big movies and notable features. Small, one-off documentaries, cheap kids content, foreign language films, and so on…that’s not our focus. We might call out a few of these, but not a lot.
– This is a “U.S. only” look, since America is most mature and competitive streaming market in the world and it has the best data available.
– What determines the winner for each streamer? My gut, but it’s mainly based on how much money I think the streamer spent on the movie, the talent attached, and how high profile the film was (or should have been).
– Also, I’m not going to call out any widely-released theatrical films in this article, which doesn’t really affect the list anyway. At this point, theaters are back! And with theaters being back, more and more, we’re seeing that theatrically-released films do really, really well when they leave theaters and head to the streamers. Compiling this list, the only theatrically-released films that would have been DNBs so far this year are The 355 (man, people did not like that movie) and Old, which hit theaters in 2021.
First, the honorable mentions:
– A Hero (Prime Video)
– Along for the Ride (Netflix)
– Better Nate Than Never (Disney+)
– Crush (Hulu)
– Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+)
– The In Between (Paramount+ domestic)
– Kimi (HBO Max)
– Moonshot (HBO Max)
– Mother/Android (Hulu domestic)
– Munich: The Edge of War (Netflix)
– No Exit (Hulu)
– The Sky is Everywhere (Apple TV+)
Again, if these movies seem small, I agree. That’s not a ton of huge, expensive flops. Compared to the TV side—which had a ton of notable flops and bombs from almost every streamer—there’s a lot less red flags.
Which doesn’t mean there’s no red flags. Onto the winners, meaning losers!
10 – The House and Netflix’s Crazy FYC Spending (Netflix)
It might not seem fair to include a small, super niche stop motion animated anthology like The House on this less. So why include it? Because I was driving up Highland Avenue and saw a giant FYC billboard for it. Which led to this question: why is Netflix promoting this show and spending its precious marketing budget on a super niche film that they know won’t resonate with most of America?
Everyone is always complaining about Netflix not spending enough to market their films; maybe they’re also not spending that money well?
9 – Polar Bear (Disney+)
This one bums me out. As a big fan of nature documentaries, I’m rooting for titles like this. Released on Earth Day and with a run time of 84 minutes, Polar Bear should have made the charts, but like much (or most) non-MCU/Star Wars/Beatles content on Disney+, it didn’t. With an estimated budget of $5-10 million for most Disneynature films, this isn’t a huge miss, but you’d like to see it do better.
My advice? Maybe put the DisneyNature content under the National Geographic content? Because, you know, it’s about nature, not Disney princesses.
8 – Marmaduke (Netflix)
Though it’s not a Netflix Original, Marmaduke came out in May and failed to debut on the Nielsen charts in its first week, despite having some big name talent (Pete Davidson, J.K. Simmons) and (arguably) big name preexisting I.P. (It did make the rankings in its second week, with 4.5 million hours, meaning it’s the 133rd best streaming title out of 177 in my first-run data set.)
Even though it doesn’t come from a major animation studio, kids content should/has to do better than this. This content is designed to be watched and watched and watched again and again by kids—like Encanto or virtually every other Disney animated title—so the failure for this movie to make any charts is concerning.
7 – Prime Video thrillers: Master and Emergency (Prime Video)
Both Master and Emergency are thrillers about very important social issues, yet neither resonated with audiences this year, failing to make the TV Time lists or Nielsen ratings. On IMDb, Emergency has a 6.1 rating on 6K reviews. Master is even worse, at a 5 with 4.3K reviews. It’s basically a toss up for which was the bigger flop, so let’s call it a tie.
6 – Netflix’s Films With Big Name Directors: Metal Lords, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood, and Big Bug (Netflix)
Netflix is releasing a ton of movies in 2022. Just check out all the films Wikipedia is tracking for this year alone; that’s over 70 films from January to June. Which makes these films, from high profile creators like D.B. Weiss (of Game of Thrones fame), Richard Linklater (of Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and Boyhood fame, plus another personal favorite, Waking Life), and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amelie and another personal favorite, City of Lost Children fame) notable as some of the only major Netflix films that failed to chart so far this year. Though these films should have done better, it’s not shocking that they didn’t.
Other Netflix misses—Along for the Ride, Munich: The Edge of War,, and a handful of others—seem small or weren’t Netflix originals. Munich: The Edge of War, for example, had a theatrical release in the U.K., and it had one week with 3.3 million hours in the U.S.
5 – Hulu’s Back-to-Back Releases: Fire Island and The Valet (Hulu)
Fire Island wasn’t a huge bet—Hulu acquired the film at Sundance for $7.5 million—but its performance never matched its buzz. According to Samba TV, it got a paltry 134,000 households to tune in in its first three days. Universal has Bros coming out in September, which will make for an interesting comparison if the box office really propels that film on streaming as well. The Valet doesn’t seem like a super expensive bet, with no bigs “stars”—Samara Weaving and Eugenio Derbez—but it’s still a miss, especially since it had a bit of a marketing push.
Released within two weeks each other, it’s a bit concerning that neither film made the Nielsen charts. Hulu needs to start generating its own hits at some point.
4. Netflix Comedy Specials
Netflix released a ton of comedy specials this year and I’m not sure any of them made the Nielsen charts even once. Just look at June. After their “Netflix is a Joke” festival, Netflix released a few of comedy specials each week, and none of them made Nielsen, even though most of them were released early in the week. The best TV Time performance was Ricky Gervais’ special, and it was buzzy for generating political controversy.
Sure, these comedy specials are usually short—about an hour long—and (hopefully) cheap to produce, but you’d expect a much better hit rate for this content since they’re able to get almost every movie they release onto the Nielsen charts.
3 – Rise (Disney+)
I’m a bit bummed to see Disney’s Rise on this list, since Giannis Antetokounmpo is my favorite basketball player right now. And if anyone has a life story worth sharing, it’s him and his family.
Why does Rise rank so high when it likely didn’t cost that much to produce? Because of Disney’s crazily inept release strategy. First off, why did this come out on June 24th, after the NBA playoffs ended? You’re Disney. You own ABC and ESPN, who broadcast half of the NBA playoffs and the NBA finals. Why wasn’t this film timed to come out, you know, during the playoffs?
If it were me, I’d have released this film theatrically during the first week of the NBA playoffs, advertising it during Giannis’ first round series against the Bulls (and yeah, there was no doubt he’d be in the playoffs) then release Rise on Disney+ during the NBA Finals, when the audience for the playoffs was at its peak.
2 – Academy of Country Music Awards (Prime Video)
This was first awards show to air exclusively on a streamer and it totally failed to chart on Nielsen.
According to Samba TV, last year on CBS, the ACM Awards had 4.6 million households tune in. With that type of viewership, the ACM Awards on Prime Video should have easily made the Nielsen charts and Prime Video almost certainly would have released a datacdote…if the show did well. Prime Video renewed their contract with the ACM’s anyway, which will lead some to conclude that the show did well, as opposed to concluding that Prime Video might not be spending its money well.
This is a red flag not just for Prime Video, but every awards show and every streamer. Awards shows, even minor, unloved awards shows, get millions of people to tune in. If streaming can’t replicate that success, this is a major warning sign for both streaming and awards shows.
1 – The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple TV+)
That’s all I have to say. It just feels like this film should have done better. King Kong ain’t got nothing on him! It was directed by a Coen brother! It was produced by A24, the buzziest production company in town! It’s Shakespeare, but not obscure Shakespeare; it’s the Scottish Play!
And no one seemed to care. It never made Nielsen and, according to Samba TV, it got an abysmal 90,000 viewers in 3 days. Yikes.
Thankfully, for Apple, they can be comforted by the fact that Coda won Best Picture. Apple can try to chase awards, but as other streamers—like Prime Video—have shown, that’s not how you win the streaming wars.