A photo of David Stiff

Bright and How Netflix Influences the Box Office

David Stiff on May 16th, 2018

Credit: Netflix

Netflix is not a trend. It has a pattern of making history and it is doing it again.

Since 2010, its technology-first approach helped it to innovate the mail-order movie rental industry and help popularize streaming. Netflix has consistently crushed the competition, from making Blockbuster irrelevant to putting the cable industry on its fee with the need to keep up with streaming services. Now, Netflix is coming for the movie industry more aggressively than ever before, by releasing tentpoles, and first on its list was Bright. According to Netflix, Bright's successfully impacted its user base. But how did it impact the traditional theatrical market? Leveraging AI generated data, we took a look at the different ways Netflix's splash into tentpole territory created new questions (and urgencies) for entertainment executives.

Box Office Bust or Boom!

Using Vault's Deep Audience content prediction platform, we were able to analyze the potential revenue returns Bright would have gained had it been released in domestic theatres. To do this, Netflix had to be re-categorized as a theatrical player in a real-world environment. This re-categorization created two hypothetical assumptions: Netflix made a deal with a domestic studio (e.g. Lionsgate) to distribute Bright, or Netflix takes matters into its own hands by creating an in-house distribution company managed by an experienced, top team.

Then analysis kicked in.

Story data was extracted from pre-release Bright trailers, plus data from talent, budget, release size, and other sources were accessed to come up with the box office potential of Bright in North America. With these assumptions, Bright would have brought in $40 million in its opening weekend with a 3.2X multiple for a $128 million domestic gross. A strong take that certainly suggests the SVOD player impacted those titles in its weekend.

Vault’s Deep Audience platform analyzed story, trailers and more to predict opening weekend revenues.

Bright vs. the Market During Opening Weekend

Opening weekend is a crucial time for any movie, especially since the first weekend a movie can make or break its future. The stakes are very high. For Bright, it debuted during a competitive theatrical week that consisted of other franchise and tentpoles Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming in hot for a second record weekend. Whilst a $40 million opening isn't exactly considered a box office record, it did create headaches for Jumanji marketing campaign. Analysis of online engagement using Vault's Meta Intent and Engagement Measurement platform indicated that there was more audience-generated demand for Bright than Jumanji, with Pitch Perfect 3 struggling to catch up to its predecessor. With Bright in the mix, Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3 had a harder time of reaching its core audience.

Vault's 4CAST and META platforms track audience demand.

This data suggests that had Netflix not released Bright two days before Jumanji, Jumanji's opening may have been stronger. Arguably, by $10–15 million more. True, audience members do both watch Netflix and go to the movies in the same weekend, yet the overwhelming evidence that Jumanji alone was impacted is clear. Plus, on an earnings call.

Netflix CEO Reed Hasting even explained that focus should be cantered on Google Trends data as an indication on how strong it's performed against the likes of Jumanji.

Pay Close Attention

Bright may be Netflix's first high-concept, tentpole movie release, but it wasn't foray in the mid-to-large budget range. Let's not forget Brad Pitt's War Machine, which was produced for $60 million. However, while Bright was a success for Netflix, War Machine, was persona non grata on Netflix earnings calls. The momentum of War Machine just did not match up to that of Bright. After inputting War Machine into Vault's Deep Audience platform to forecast box office, the results came back with a $10–12 million opening weekend. Yes, War Machine impacted the box office, yet not in the same velocity Bright did.

Why Executives Need to Pay Attention to Bright

The potential impact of Bright and Netflix's evolved strategy to include tentpoles requires a new way of looking at theatrical dating. Other streaming players such as Amazon, Apple and soon Facebook, with huge war chests, will also deploy tent pole strategies impacting the theatrical box office. Although executives have always known they are in a competitive space competing for eyeballs and screens, this is a little different. While streaming isn't necessarily replacing the box office, it is drawing people away, and it's vital for traditional theatrical players to plan for streaming tentpole releases with new strategies and new data sources. Netflix, a technologically advanced, data driven studio, made no mistake opening against another tentpole in Jumanji and it paid it off.

Now it's time for traditional players to fight a data-fire with a data-fire to gain their own edge.