Why go out when you can stay in? Audiences answered that question in a big way with the Netflix release of “Beasts Of No Nation.” The streaming company rolled the dice earlier this month by going day-and-date with Cary Fukunaga‘s drama, and at the box office at least, the results weren’t so hot. In its opening weekend, the movie pulled in just over $51,000 from 31 screens for an underwhelming per-screen average of $1,645. However, on Netflix, ‘Beasts’ had a very different story playing out.
The streaming platform’s exec Ted Sarandos recently opened up to Deadline and in a rare move, shared some numbers about the performance of the child soldier drama, which he says already has been viewed 3 million times by U.S. customers of Netflix, and that’s not all. “We are just thrilled with the total audience reach of this film, not just in North America but the world. In the first week of release, ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ was the most watched movie on Netflix, in every country we operate in,” Sarandos stated. “Even Japan, and I’m only calling out Japan because most specialty films don’t do very much of their box office outside the U.S. at all, let alone in Japan. Studios have trouble opening those movies in Japan. This was No. 1 in really diverse places in the world — Japan, Brazil, Mexico, places where these films typically never even open. It’s been incredibly gratifying to see these audiences respond to this film.”
Indeed, that is quite a feat, and Sarandos makes a point about how the life of theatrically released arthouse films are determined by a small audience. “The interesting thing, in the early coverage, the success and failure of limited-release films is measured in a couple of thousand people. Here, we’re talking about an audience of over 3 million, and just in North America,” he explained. “So we have brought and we will continue to bring a very large audience to this film — and not just in North America but around the world, and that is a unique thing we brought to this release strategy. There’s only so much we can do about what happens in the theater. We can make it available and try to book it, but if theater owners don’t want to book it, they won’t book it. Whether it’s in a theater or at home, our focus is on the total audience of the film. We just want people to see and love this movie. And they are seeing, and loving, this movie.”
As Netflix begins to tangle more and more with Amazon and other rivals over original programming, the allure of putting a passion project in front of millions of eyeballs at all at once, around the world, will be hard to resist for many filmmakers. But for all the streaming success, Sarandos says that watching at home is not the same as going to theater, and he counts the experience as two different things.
” If you want to go out and see a movie and sit in a dark room with strangers, it’s not an experience you can replicate at home. But it is a very good experience, to watch a movie at home in 4k, in the comfort of your living room. That’s the way most people see their movies,” Sarandos said. “It’s a very sexy thing to talk about whether there’s a feud, but I think what’s really happening here is that we’re offering consumers a lot of choices they didn’t have just a few years ago. It’s interesting, the whole debate and us spending a lot of time talking about windows, and theater owners and splits. Consumers, they really don’t care about any of that. They just want…a great movie, and I don’t think they make the same distinction we do, as to where they see it.”
Bingo. We’re in an era of consumer choice, and the outlets and studios that understand that, and meet their audience by giving them what they want when they want it, are the ones who will succeed. And Netflix seems to be at the forefront at zeroing on what the contemporary cinephile demands when they sit down to watch a movie.