With all eyes on the subscriber counts of the leading streaming services, the last three months of 2021 will be as competitive as it gets. This should be the first quarter that will see Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+ and more operating at full strength as the production delays the pandemic caused over the past 18 months continue to subside. And as Wall Street knows, nothing moves the needle like a TV show or movie that gets as popular as, say, Netflix’s recent hit “Squid Game.”
To help make sense of the sheer tonnage releasing in Q4, Variety Intelligence Platform curated a list of its most anticipated titles set to release in the fourth quarter of 2021. Below is a list of the 20 TV series or movies that could be the biggest attractions for their respective streaming homes in the coming months, starting with No. 1.
1. THE WITCHER S2 (Netflix, Dec. 17)
Season 2 of “The Witcher” seems likely to attract massive viewership given the title already has a strong built-in fanbase on Netflix — S1 of the show became the most watched S1 ever for Netflix shortly after debuting in December 2019. “The Witcher” was also delayed more than once due to COVID complications, which could have helped build up anticipation for its ultimate release. In the vein of “Game of Thrones” — i.e., a fantasy series based on established IP — Netflix has been working hard to milk “Witcher” IP: It released an animated “Witcher” movie in August, greenlit a “Witcher” prequel series as well and is developing a kids “Witcher” series.
2. THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT (Disney+, Dec. 29)
There are little details currently available on “The Book of Boba Fett” beyond its release date and synopsis, but the series seems like it could be a strong performer for Disney+ given Boba Fett is such a classic “Star Wars” character and could have even gained some new fans when he appeared in S2 of “The Mandalorian.” Another indicator of hype surrounding “The Book of Boba Fett” was the nearly 60,000 likes the series announcement by the Star Wars Twitter account received within eight hours, roughly six times what tweets from that account typically get.
3. THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (HBO Max, Dec. 22)
While the 2021 Warner Bros. movies aren’t technically HBO Max originals, VIP+ has decided to include the most notable in this list given WarnerMedia made the massive decision for the studio to go day-and-date in 2021 specifically to boost HBO Max. And you can’t really ask for a day-and-date film better than “Matrix Resurrections” with which to boost HBO Max. “Resurrections” comes over 18 years after the last “Matrix” film, and there’s likely pent-up demand for another installment in the franchise. Keep in mind the first three “Matrix” films have grossed over $1 billion globally.
4. HAWKEYE (Disney+, Nov. 24)
It seems like a forgone conclusion at this point that live-action Marvel TV series will do well on Disney+. “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and “Loki” were all among the most watched original SVOD series Nielsen measured during the week they debuted. The star power of Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfield will help bring eyeballs to the series, as will the fact that the series takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.
5. RED NOTICE (Netflix, Nov. 12)
“Red Notice” has all the makings of a film that Netflix discloses as one of its most watched titles of the quarter during its earnings calls: big stars, big budget and … it is an action movie. “Red Notice” sports a reported budget of around $200 million and stars Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Dwyane Johnson (all of whom have robust social followings to leverage in the marketing). For previous examples of big Netflix films following this formula, see “Extraction” (99 million households viewing within 28 days), “6 Underground” (83M) and “The Old Guard” (78M).
6. DUNE (HBO Max, Oct. 22)
“Dune” could end up being one of the most viewed day-and-date Warner Bros. films because it’s a big-budgeted ($165 million), sci-fi, star-driven (Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya) film that is also appearing to please critics (currently a 91% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes). In other words, it can appeal to the tentpole IP and prestige movie seekers simultaneously. A positive indication of the film’s potential in the U.S. is that “Dune” has already tallied up a solid $76 million at the international box office after its second weekend of release.
7. AND JUST LIKE THAT (HBO Max, TBD Fall 2021)
“And Just Like That” is a revival of HBO’s classic “Sex and the City” series and will benefit from the cult following the franchise has built over the past two-plus decades, especially since the revival follows three of the four main characters from the original series. “Sex and the City” ran for six seasons between 1998 and 2004 and was also made into two films (“Sex and the City” in 2008 and “Sex and the City 2” in 2010), which signals how beloved the series was to many.
8. YOU S3 (Netflix, Oct. 15)
The fact that season 2 of “You” is the no. 7 most watched Netflix series ever when measured by viewing hours within the first 28 days suggests that the series’ latest installment could make a big splash on Netflix. As of this writing, the official Netflix trailer for “You” S3 had more views than the official S2 trailer, which is one indication that the series will still be able to put up big numbers upon debuting.
9. THE WHEEL OF TIME (Prime Video, Nov. 19)
“The Wheel of Time” will benefit from a built-in fanbase. The series is based on Robert Jordan’s book series of the same name that has sold over 40 million copies in North America. Aside from the established IP, Amazon’s “Wheel of Time” appears from its trailer as the type of spectacle TV series you’d expect to do well on SVODs (i.e., a special-effects heavy, fantasy-driven story). It’s no wonder Amazon is choosing to release episodes of “Wheel of Time” on a weekly format, which tends to drive social buzz better than binge mode.
10. MONEY HEIST S5 PT. 2 (Netflix, Dec. 3)
“Money Heist” (or “La Casa de Papel”) is a Spanish-language crime drama that revolves around group of individuals robbing the Royal Mint of Spain and the Bank of Spain. The show has become a signature non-English-language Netflix original — S3 and S4 rank among the top 10 Netflix titles when measured by viewing hours attracted within 28 days of release, for example. With that type of momentum and an even bigger presence in its LATAM home market than when S3 and S4 launched, it wouldn’t be surprising if part 2 of “Money Heist” S5 is highlighted during Netflix’s Q4 2021 earnings call in early 2022.
11. FINCH (Apple TV+, Nov. 5)
Post-apocalyptic sci-fi film “Finch,” like “Invasion,“ helps signal to Apple TV+ subs that the service is not just prestige focused. “Finch” follows the story of Hanks, as Finch, in his journey across the country with his robot and dog after a cataclysmic event. The newest Tom Hanks Apple TV+ title could see meaningful viewership because it’s so different from the typical Apple original film, which to date has typically been slower (non sci-fi) dramas or documentary features. A notable exception to that was “Greyhound,” which also starred Tom Hanks and reportedly did well on Apple TV+.
12. STAR TREK: PRODIGY (Paramount+, Oct. 28)
“Star Trek: Prodigy” builds out the “Star Trek” universe that has meaningfully helped the streamer attract subs prior. For example, “Star Trek: Picard” helped drive a record number of sign-ups to CBS All Access (which we know now as Paramount+) in January 2020. “Prodigy” is specifically aimed at younger viewers, but it could still be a title that piques the interest of some older “Star Trek” completionists looking for a series to watch with their children.
13. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (Prime Video, Oct. 15)
This series is likely to be one of Amazon’s better performing (and newly debuting) originals of the quarter given it is a TV reboot of such iconic horror IP. The 1997 “I Know What You Did Last Summer” has already grossed over $125 million globally and spawned two sequels.
14. INVASION (Apple TV+, Oct. 22)
Apple’s forthcoming sci-fi series “Invasion” (recently described as a “$200 million series” by one of its stars) may rank among the most expensive TV series it has released to date. And “Invasion” is likely to stick out on the Apple TV+ catalog given the service has been lacking big-budget spectacle-TV series to date due to its focus on winning over critics (see titles like “The Morning Show” and “Defending Jacob”). Apple has been focused on dropping more commercial fare as of late, with titles like “Ted Lasso” and “Foundation,” from which “Invasion” could benefit.
15. DON’T LOOK UP (Netflix, Dec. 24)
“Don’t Look Up” seems poised to become a top performer for Netflix based on its star power alone: Perhaps no original streaming movie of the fall will be able to measure up to an insanely stacked ensemble cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett and many more. Netflix certainly isn’t skimping on this project. The budget for “Don’t Look Up” was reported to be in the range of $75 million, THR reported. It should also help that the film comes from the fevered mind of director Adam McKay, who has delivered big hits (“Anchorman”) and critically acclaimed fare (“Vice”). Maybe this time around, he’ll get both in one production. Prior to bowing on Netflix, “Don’t Look Up” will hit theaters Dec. 10.
16. MAYOR OF KINGSTOWN (Paramount+, Nov. 14)
“Mayor of Kingstown” may help give Paramount+ brownie points among the prestige crowd, given it was written by the Oscar-nominated and “Yellowstone” series-creating Taylor Sheridan. But it could also help move the needle for Paramount+ as it’s starring Jeremy Renner just 10 days before the premiere of the probably-going-to-be-heavily-watched “Hawkeye.” Some fans eagerly anticipating “Hawkeye” could see Renner tweet about “Mayor of Kingstown” leading up to Nov. 24 (when “Hawkeye” debuts) and decide to check out the Paramount+ show in the meantime.
17. COWBOY BEBOP (Netflix, Nov. 19)
Titles based on popular anime should help Netflix appeal to more customers globally. After all, anime on Netflix has recently increased in popularity in the U.S. and attracts viewers particularly in markets like Chile and Peru. It’s a wise move for Netflix to make a live remake of “Cowboy Bebop” in its push for anime fans considering how much of a cult following the original show has. “Cowboy Bebop” originally aired from 1998 to 1999 and has long been hailed for helping redefine what people thought animated series were capable of. The show has been praised for things including its music, cynical tackling of adult issues and nods to other famous works. “Cowboy Bebop” was the first anime series to air on Adult Swim in 2001.
18. DOPESICK (Hulu, Oct. 13)
“Dopesick” tells the story of the American opioid crisis from the point of view of groups including Big Pharma, the DEA and a Virginia mining community. The cast (which counts Michael Keaton and Rosario Dawson) could help “Dopesick” stick out on the Hulu catalog in mid-October, but the show should also have some Hulu subs lined up to watch given it’s based on a 2018 New York Times bestseller of the same name. It also has little competition in the form of other October-premiering Hulu originals; there are no other scripted drama Hulu originals dropping this month. Additionally, the fact that “Dopesick” will premiere just weeks after the Sackler family (which for decades controlled Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin) won immunity from opioid lawsuits could make it more of a must-watch for some.
19. THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS (HBO Max, Nov. 18)
The fact that “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (“SLCG”) features Dylan Sprouse in his first major TV role since 2011 likely gives the series a leg up on some other HBO Max originals debuting this fall. Also consider that Mindy Kaling (co-creator of “SLCG”) can boost the show by telling her 11 million Twitter followers and 6 million Instagram followers to watch it.
20. ONE OF US IS LYING (Peacock, Oct. 7)
Like many of the other titles on the list, this series should benefit from its IP already having a fanbase. “One of Us Is Lying” is based on the Karen M. McManus NYT bestselling novel of the same name and may have already drummed up a decent amount of anticipation (at least relative to other upcoming Peacock originals). At the time of this writing, the official “One of Us Is Lying” trailer from Peacock’s YouTube account had 2.1 million views. Meanwhile, the official “Unidentified With Demi Lovato” trailer (which dropped days before the “One of Us Is Lying” trailer) from Peacock had nearly 62,000 views.
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