One of the biggest movies of 2017 wasn’t even released in theaters. Bright, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (It Comes at Night) as a reluctant pair of cops in a fantastical Los Angeles, was such a popular title that the film actually encouraged more people to sign up for Netflix.
In Netflix’s quarterly letter to shareholders sent on Monday, the streaming giant boasted 117.5 million subscribers as of December 31, 2017. Netflix reports that that figure is up from the number of number of subscribers it had in December 2016, which was 93.7 million. That growth, Netflix says, came from Bright, “one of our most viewed original titles ever.”
Our largest investment in original films to date, Bright, a fantasy action movie starring Will Smith, was a major success and drove a notable lift in acquisition. In its first month, Bright has become one of our most viewed original titles ever. We’re thrilled with this performance and are planning a sequel as well as additional investment in original films.
In any business, one of the most important metrics is new customers, or in Netflix’s case, subscribers, so even though Bright was pounded by critics and loved by audiences — interest in the movie was enough for Netflix executives to highlight (defend?) the movie as not just popular, but able to get more Netflix sign-ups, or “acquisitions.”
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Netflix is notorious for keeping its exact viewership numbers by show or movie under lock and key, but a Nielsen report from December 2017 estimated that Bright had was viewed by 11 million users in its first three days. Had 11 million Netflix users paid the average U.S. movie ticket price of $8.65 to see Bright in theaters, the film would have had a huge $951.5 million opening weekend.
Certainly, are other investments in Netflix’s portfolio that have encouraged more people to plop down $8-$14 per month on a subscription. The service specifically named returning shows, such as the period drama The Crown, the sci-fi anthology Black Mirror, and the nostalgic coming-of-age horror series Stranger Things — a show that “cemented its place as a global phenomenon” — as contributing to a very good year for Netflix. New shows like Marvel’s The Punisher also made a subscription worth more than a one-time movie ticket. New shows like Marvel’s The Punisher also made a subscription worth more than a one-time movie ticket.
But Bright is a standout as one of Netflix’s biggest investments into an original movie, with no ties to an existing franchise (though having Will Smith probably helped). Set in a fictionalized Earth where European fantasy creatures like orcs, elves, and fairies live alongside humans, Bright pairs a jaded LAPD officer (Smith) with the city’s first Orc cop (Edgerton) who uncover an illegal magical wand that could destroy all of reality.
The film was directed by Suicide Squad director David Ayer, and like Suicide Squad. Its screenwriter, Max Landis, saw sexual assault allegations surface the week it premiered. But because Bright’s viewership warranted a sequel. Netflix users will soon watch Bright 2, which won’t have the involvement of Landis.
Bright is streaming now on Netflix.