How do you get millions of people to talk about your movie or TV show without spending more promo dollars?
Netflix has once again demonstrated its prowess in exploiting the social-media zeitgeist with a warning about the so-called “Bird Box Challenge”: The company is urging people to not get hurt if they’re emulating Sandra Bullock or other blindfold-wearing characters from “Bird Box,” the post-apocalyptic thriller it released last month.
“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE,” Netflix tweeted from its primary account Wednesday. “We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl” — a reference to two unnamed children of Bullock’s character — “have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”
Note that Netflix didn’t try to discourage people from engaging in the #BirdBoxChallenge — only to be careful.
To be fair, the “Bird Box Challenge” does seem to be kind of a thing. Videos posted online have shown people walking down stairs, running through their living rooms, stumbling around in the woods, riding escalators, driving their cars (!), reenacting scenes from the movie, or otherwise freaking out while blindfolded. For example, a video posted on the channel of YouTube creator Morgan Adams, “24 Hour Bird Box Challenge,” has accrued more than 1.7 million views since it was posted Dec. 30, while this compilation of #BirdBoxChallenge user-posted videos has nearly 350,000 views.
The Netflix original movie even got a free plug on “Good Morning America”: On Wednesday, the ABC show aired a segment in which a blindfolded Michael Strahan tried to apply lipstick to co-anchor Sara Haines (with predictable results).
In “Bird Box,” Bullock plays a single mom trying to save her kid’s lives after mysterious forces invade Earth — and cause people to kill themselves. Survivors must wear blindfolds or be exposed to supernatural entities that embody their deepest fears and drive them to suicide.
Netflix’s warning about the #BirdBoxChallenge comes after it claimed last week the film captured the biggest seven-day viewership of all the streamer’s original movie releases to date with just over 45 million member accounts globally having watched at least 70% of the full movie in the first week. There’s no way to verify Netflix’s reported number, which if true would represent around one-third of its global streaming customer base.
The movie bowed Dec. 21 worldwide on Netflix and spawned a slew of other internet memes, mostly revolving around the blindfold conceit.
“Bird Box” is directed by Susanne Bier, based on Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel of the same name. The cast also includes Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”) and Bullock’s “Ocean’s 8” co-star Sarah Paulson, along with John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, BD Wong, Machine Gun Kelly and Tom Hollander.