Netflix’s latest foray into blockbuster films, “Bright,” has been panned by critics for its clumsy racial allegory, but according to Nielsen’s recently launched subscription ratings system, 11 million subscribers saw the film during its first three days of release this Christmas weekend.
By comparison, Nielsen measured that 15.8 million viewers saw the premiere episode of “Stranger Things 2” on its first weekend, while 3 million saw the premiere episode of Season 2 of “The Crown.” In addition, if every one of the 11 million viewers who saw “Bright” had seen it in theaters at the current average ticket price of $8.91, it would have had an opening weekend of $98.2 million against a $100 million budget, higher than the $71 million “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” made in its second weekend.
Of course, there are a few major caveats. One is that Netflix, which does not disseminate its own internal metrics, has disputed Nielsen’s VOD viewership system, which was launched this past fall. It specifically disputed Nielsen’s numbers for “Stranger Things 2,” noting that Nielsen’s system does not gather data from laptops and mobile devices.
And there’s also the fact that there’s no guarantee that “Bright” would have had as large an audience as a theatrical release, as there’s a big difference between pushing a button to watch a movie from the comfort of your home versus driving to and buying tickets at a movie theater. Streaming services like Netflix offer convenience that encourages its users to take risks on films they’re not sure they will like, which is a major factor in why theater chains are fighting to keep the exhibition window open.
Even so, what can be taken away from the launch of “Bright” is that despite its poor reviews — it has a 26 percent Rotten Tomatoes score — there was still interest in seeing it, which is an encouraging start for Netflix as it has struggled to get eyes on its original movie offerings in the same way it has for series like “Black Mirror” and “House of Cards.” A sequel for “Bright” has already been picked up by Netflix, with Will Smith set to return in the lead role.