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Data: Which 2021 Netflix Oscar-Nominated Films Were Most Watched?

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Yinchen Niu/VIP

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Mank” might have been the only Netflix original films to secure Best Picture Oscar nominations Monday, but they weren’t the prestige titles its subscribers most watched.  

That’s according to data from FlixPatrol provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform, which shows that many other Netflix originals vying for 2021 Oscar awards fared better than “Chicago 7” and “Mank” in Netflix’s top 10 U.S. movie ranking during the days following their debut. 

“Hillbilly Elegy,” which was particularly marred by critics, had the longest post-debut run in Netflix’s top 10 U.S. movie ranking (of the movies Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis considered top- or mid-tier Oscar contenders in the Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress category in late February). Earning just one nomination for Glenn Close as Best Supporting Actress, “Hillbilly” charted in Netflix’s top 10 movie ranking following its debut for 13 days. 

Perhaps even more impressive than “Hillbilly” was the George Clooney-directed “Midnight Sky,” which found itself in that ranking in the 12 days following its debut, even ranking no. 1 in the first five days of that stretch. 

“Chicago 7” made it into Netflix’s top 10 U.S. movie ranking in the 10 days following its Sept. 16 streaming debut, while “Mank” only broke into that ranking in the first day following its streaming release. 

Other films, including “Malcolm & Marie” and “Pieces of a Woman,” didn’t hold a post-debut top 10 ranking run as long as that of “Chicago 7,” but they held more favorable positions in that ranking than the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring film.  

“Malcolm & Marie” and “Pieces of a Woman” both ranked no. 1 in the two days following release. “Chicago 7” never reached no. 1 in Netflix’s top 10 U.S. movies ranking following its debut, and that’s why its FlixPatrol score of 58 is still comparable to that of “Malcolm & Marie” (56) and “Pieces of a Woman” (58). 

The FlixPatrol score is calculated by the position of a film in Netflix’s top 10 U.S. movies ranking following release day. This score helps quantify a film’s popularity on Netflix at a given time, rather than its inherent popularity, as it’s easier to remain among Netflix’s top 10 ranking during a period when releases are light. 

Note that Ryan Murphy’s musical “The Prom” had a FlixPatrol score comparable to that of “Chicago 7,” as the former title had a fairly high position in Netflix’s top 10 ranking for the six days following release. 

The apparent discrepancy between what was the best film among the Academy and general public brings back to mind when the Oscars almost adopted a best “popular” film award category.  

While “Chicago 7” and “Mank” likely struck a chord with the Academy for various reasons, including political commentary and technical achievement, they’re probably generally less accessible movies to the public than titles such as “Midnight Sky” or “The Prom.” 

But even top 10 ranking Oscar hopeful films like “Midnight Sky” and “The Prom” probably don’t pop on Netflix as much as the company’s top 10 ranking non-prestige films. Netflix’s “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,“ which debuted Nov. 13, ranked among Netflix’s top 10 U.S. films for 17 consecutive days following release and has a FlixPatrol score of 106. 

The Oscar push has been a long-haul initiative by Netflix, which received its first Best Picture nomination for Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” in 2019. 

Netflix will head into this year’s ceremony with an impressive 35 nominations. That’s up from 24 in 2020, the year it garnered more nominations than any other streamer or Hollywood studio.  

Oscar wins at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony will certainly help Netflix attract more prestige-film-seeking consumers to its service.  

But perhaps just as important, Oscar wins will also help Netflix strengthen the reputation of its film studio, which could lead to more pacts struck with Hollywood A-listers. 

Talent pays attention to what goes on with streamers’ films. For example, Eddie Murphy became more comfortable with bringing “Coming 2 America” to Amazon after seeing how well “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” performed, the NYT reported in late February.