Netflix original movie “Bright” starring Will Smith — which has been widely panned by critics — pulled in a total audience of more than 11 million in the first three days of release, according to Nielsen estimates.
The hybrid cop-buddy/fantasy movie, said to have a $100 million budget, also drew an audience of about 7 million U.S. viewers 18-49 on connected TVs from Dec. 22-24.
So is “Bright” a hit? That’s hard to say, given that Nielsen has only released select data since launching its subscription VOD measurement service this fall and Netflix doesn’t reveal such metrics.
According to Nielsen, “Bright” was less popular than supernatural-thriller series “Stranger Things” season 2 — but drew a bigger crowd than the second season of Queen Elizabeth II drama “The Crown.”
In the first three days of “Stranger Things” season 2’s release (Oct. 27-29), the premiere episode averaged an impressive 15.8 million viewers overall (and 11 million in the 18-49 demo) over that period, per Nielsen. Meanwhile, “The Crown” season 2’s first episode on Netflix averaged nearly 3 million U.S. viewers, including nearly 1.3 million people 18-49, within the first three days of its availability (Dec. 8-12).
Netflix has disputed Nielsen’s figures (and other third-party attempts to measure viewing on its service). The streamer specifically said the estimates for “Stranger Things” were off by a wide margin; Netflix didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Nielsen numbers for “Bright.”
And Netflix has a point: The way Nielsen is measuring subscription VOD is not a complete picture. First, Nielsen uses audio-based content recognition methodology for TV households to track SVOD viewing, which excludes mobile devices and computers. In addition, the Nielsen data currently covers only the U.S. Furthermore, Nielsen is extrapolating the SVOD viewing based on a panel of TV households.
But as a comparative metric, the Nielsen tabulations for “Bright” — which Netflix has marketed heavily as a big-budget, blockbuster-worthy picture — shows that it attracted a healthy but not astonishing level of interest. For what it’s worth, Nielsen also said 56% of overall viewership for “Bright” was male and 44% was female over the first three days. Netflix reported 52.8 million total U.S. streaming subscribers as of the end of the third quarter of 2017.
If you simply multiplied the 11 million three-day U.S. viewership estimate by average movie-ticket price ($8.93 for Q3), that might look like a $100 million box-office opening weekend for “Bright.” But that’s not a valid apples-to-apples comparison, because the vast majority of Netflix subscribers are already paying for the service — they didn’t go out and buy theater tickets for the movie. Netflix’s standard two-stream HD plan, now at $10.99 per month, also is less than the cost of two movie tickets.
“Bright,” directed by David Ayer (“Suicide Squad”), currently has a dismal 26% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes — but a strong 89% audience-approval score. Variety‘s Peter Debruge offered one of the few raves for the film.
The movie has generated controversy over its racial allegories. “Bright” is set in an alternate present-day Los Angeles, where Smith plays a cop partnered with the LAPD’s first orc officer (Joel Edgerton). The film’s conceit is that orcs are the lowest social caste, while elves are the highest-ranking class and fairies are hornet-like pests. “Bright” tries to explore the discrimination against orcs as commentary on the U.S.’s history of racial discord, an attempt some have criticized as falling flat.