Don’t Look Up narrowly misses Netflix’s greatest film debut of all time

Tech

don’t look up is Netflix’s second most popular film debut to date, with approximately 4 million hours less than Netflix’s crown jewel Red notification.

The new movie racked up nearly 360 million watch hours during its first 28 days on the service, according to Netflix’s Top 10 Top 10 Tracking Portal. Red notification, meanwhile, counted 364 million hours during its first four weeks on Netflix, while birdhouse is in third place with 282 million watched hours.

While it narrowly missed its chance to topple Netflix’s biggest movie success yet — it looked like it had another chance last week — don’t look up is still a monumental win for the streamer. It’s the second major movie release in a few months to topple previously held records for hours of views. For Red notification released in November, the top record had been held for years by birdhouse, which debuted in 2018.

Some of that viewing boost can be attributed to Netflix’s massive subscriber base now versus when birdhouse premiere (the number has grown considerably in that time to more than 200 million paid accounts). But the back-to-back hits, along with the success of wildly popular titles like Squid Game, The Witcher (season 2), and YOU (season 3) — all of which have a spot in the top 10 Netflix leaderboards — indicate that Netflix knows exactly what it’s doing.

Adam McKay’s don’t look up, which debuted on Netflix on December 24, satirizes the politicization of the climate crisis and centers on a fictional comet hurtling through space on a direct path to Earth. Two scientists, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, warn the US government – an operation in a clown town run by a ridiculous president and her son, played by Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill – about the urgency of an event that could lead to mass extinction but are repeatedly ignored.

Speak with The Atlantic Ocean on tackling the subject, McKay emphasized that he wanted to use comedy to address such an urgently important issue. “The most exciting idea for me was, it’s funny,” he told the publication. “You realize that we live in a culture that is more like a timeshare sales pitch than a real communication system. [As a Hollywood director] I’m in the middle of it, and part of this movie comes from laughing at myself as much as anything.”

But the movie was an almost guaranteed hit from the get-go. Written by a brilliant comedic director, it stars a stacked group of A-list actors, premiered over the holidays, and manages to accentuate a catastrophic event with absurdist humor and exceptional improvisation. In other words, as Lawrence noted in an interview about reading the script, it was an “absolute slam dunk” before it even started filming. While don’t look up got a slightly better critical response (55 percent vs Red notices 37 percent Tomatometer scores), Red notification performed much better with audiences and had a 92 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing.

Still, with the release of two record-breaking original films, Red notification and don’t look up, in less than two months is a huge success for the streamer. One or two hits could be be a fluke, sure. But hit premiere after hit premiere is more indicative of a successful content strategy than just throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks.

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