Too Many Family Films For One Weekend (And They All Belong in Theaters)

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The first weekend of August-2022 probably had the biggest collection of streaming films we’ve ever seen debut in one week, including Apple TV+’s Luck, Disney+’s Lightyear, Hulu’s Prey, Prime Video’s Thirteen Lives, and Netflix’s Uncharted. It truly was a “streaming film traffic jam” (SFTJ?). I called it “epic” at the time.

Well this week may be more epic-er.

The streamers released at least five big, direct-to-streaming films, two other big theatrical titles, and just a bunch more smaller movies the week of 14-Nov. (Eighteen in total by my count.)

And the funny thing? The week after—meaning the week of 21-November—the streamers didn’t put out any noteworthy movies. Man, the streamers are so bad at planning their release schedules. We have a lot of films to cover, so stay tuned for the performance data on Slumberland, Spirited, Disenchanted, Nope, Smile, A Christmas Story Christmas, The People We Hate at the Wedding, RIPD 2 and a whole bunch more.

(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 November 14th to November 20th.)

Film Part I – The Should Have Gone to Theaters

As I wrote in the introduction, each streamer seemingly wanted to release a family film the weekend before Thanksgiving to get a head start on that Thanksgiving bounce, including:

Slumberland on Netflix.
Disenchanted on Disney+.
Spirited on Apple TV+.
A Christmas Story Christmas on HBO Max.

Did it work? Well, not really. With so many options, none actually stood out and they all sort of got lost in a muddle, which is probably the perfect analogy for the streaming wars.

These were all films that, just five years ago, would have been in theaters, a point I mentioned in my “Most Important Story of the Week” a few weeks back. Slumberland, with a $150 million production budget film and set in the Little Nemo universe? Yes, send that to theaters. A sequel to Enchanted with the same cast as the original hit film? Yes, that belongs in theaters. A sequel to A Christmas Story? Obviously, theaters.

And Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, two obviously bankable movie stars, in a funny, family-friendly musical? How is that not in theaters?

Sigh. If you want to know why theaters are struggling, this lack of inventory is why. (And yes, if these films released in theaters the weekend of 18-November, that would have gone up against the second weekend of Black Panther 2. But all these films would have been counter-programming to that big superhero flick, so I don’t buy that studios should have been afraid of that.)

How did each film perform? We’ll go in order of “had reported Nielsen viewership” to “did not”. 

Slumberland “led the way” with 10.9 million hours. And yeah “led the way” should be in quotes, because that’s only good for the 47th highest “streaming only” film out 223 first-run streaming films in my data set. That’s not great? Here’s the top films in 2022 so far:

Again, this would be a fine debut for a cheap film, but multiple websites estimated that it cost least $150 million, and based on the CGI in the trailer, plus paying talent/buying out back end, I buy it. On the bright side, it does have average/solid IMDb scores, a 6.7 on 18K reviews. Conversely, it only had a three week run on TV Time (see below), which feels short.

(Fun fact, as I mentioned in my “Marvel-cession” articles, this film too is also about grief. It feels like every film released in America this year was.)

If Slumberland was a miss, how do I feel about Disenchanted, the sequel to the charming, 2008 Disney hit, Enchanted? Yeah, I’d call this a miss too. I don’t have a budget, but given the talent and sets/costumes/look, I’d guess it’s pricey too. In this case, let’s start with the IMDb score, which is at a 5.7 on 17K reviews. It didn’t have any “campaigns” run against it, so it may be an authentic “fans just didn’t vibe on this sequel”. (In layman’s terms, Disney kept it from theaters because the movie was bad.)

Anyways, it only got 10.2 million hours in its debut, a bit shy of Slumberland, but it will probably have a steeper drop off. This is more like Chip’n Dale: Rescue Rangers (9.9 million hours on debut) than Soul/Luca/Turning Red/Encanto (all 20+ million hours):

As a reminder—and yes, it was a different theatrical environment—but the first Enchanted grossed $340 million on an $85 million budget (and then sold who knows how many DVDs/Blu-Ray discs…) For Disenchanted, this 10.2 million hours is basically…it.

Next up is Spirited, which didn’t make Nielsen, but I still think may—caution “may”—be the next biggest title on Apple TV+. We’re firmly in the realm of “no data”, but Apple TV+’s Spirited has two huge movie stars and some good marketing. While we don’t have Nielsen data, it had a very strong run in TV Time:

(Some other quick thoughts on this ranking. First, Falling For Christmas—reminder the Lindsay Lohan helmed Christmas rom-com—had a pretty good run. Disenchanted and Slumberland were both on the shorter side.)

How does stack up for past Apple TV+ titles? Pretty good. Similar to Slumberland and our next film, it has a 6.6 on 26K reviews. Anything between six and seven is “average”, not quite good enough to be a word of mouth hit. But that’s a really solid number of reviews for an Apple TV+ title.

Wait…is that a vague Apple datecdote I hear? From Deadline, who proudly reported this:

(Who says the trades don’t tell truth to power?)

Anyhoo, how does this stack up to past Apple TV+ datecdotes? Last fall, Apple TV+ also told Deadline that the Tom Hanks-helmed sci-fi thriller, Finch, had bested the Tom Hanks-helmed war film, Greyhound, for biggest debut. Then we got a leak back in September that Skydance Animation’s Luck had bested Finch, according to Nielsen’s data.

We barely have enough data points to make a table:

Some of you may wonder how a film can do so well for Apple, but then not make the Nielsen rankings, even though Finch did. As a reminder, this happened for Luck as well (it initially missed the rankings, but Puck later revealed it had been Apple’s best performing release in its first week). There’s two explanations. First, notice how Apple TV+ waited a pinch to say that Spirited is their best film? That could mean Fitch had a better opening weekend, but Spirited had the best opening month. Second, Apple TV+ is so small, it’s viewership may not match even Peacock at this point.

That leaves one last film, A Christmas Story Christmas on HBO Max. Note: this isn’t a Max Original, though Warner Bros has the rights to it. It also has an okay IMDb score (6.8 on a mere 10K reviews). It has missed the TV Time rankings so far. Of the four big family films, this is pretty clearly the least popular title.

With all the non-Netflix Christmas stories—technically Disenchanted and Slumberland aren’t actually Christmas films—unlike most films released from January to October, we can’t call these dead yet. The point of a Christmas film is to be watched around, you know, Christmas! As we move into December, maybe A Christmas Story Christmas or Spirited get a bump as folks watch more holiday films. It depends on whether they are, you know, good. We’ll see.

Film Part 2 – The Films That DID Go to Theaters


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The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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