The Irishman, the thee-and-a-half hour gangster epic that debuted on Netflix last week, was seen by 13.2 million US viewers over its first five days of release, a solid showing for a film on the streaming service.
The Martin Scorsese-directed movie attracted a bigger average audience over five days than El Camino, a cinematic follow-up to the TV show Breaking Bad that Netflix released earlier this year, according to Nielsen. But it fell short of the 16.9 million attracted by Bird Box, the supernatural thriller starring Sandra Bullock that came out at the end of 2018.
The Nielsen data is an incomplete measurement of viewership on Netflix. It doesn’t measure viewers outside the US, where the majority of Netflix viewers reside, nor does it measure watching on mobile phones. But since Netflix refuses to release much viewership data, it’s the best approximation of the popularity of programmes on the service. Netflix declined to comment on the numbers.
Netflix acquired the rights to The Irishman, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, after Paramount Pictures passed on the project. The film’s length, subject matter and estimated cost make it a hard sell at the box office. The run time limits the number of showings in a day, thus limiting its overall box-office potential.
Only 18% of viewers made it all the way through The Irishman in one sitting on its first day. That’s not unusual for a Netflix feature. A similar number finished Bird Box, and only 11% completed El Camino. Many viewers have discussed plans to watch the movie in parts, and some reporters have joked the picture should be considered a TV series instead.
On the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday — the most popular day for viewing The Irishman — 930 000 viewers watched the entire movie, Nielsen said. The film did best with older viewers, perhaps not surprising given its septuagenarian cast. The median age of viewers was 49 years old, Nielsen found. That compares to the average age of 31 for Netflix users.
Netflix released The Irishman in theatres for a few weeks before it appeared on the streaming service, ensuring that it can compete in the Academy Awards. It’s the current favourite for best picture at the award site Gold Derby. — Reported by Lucas Shaw, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP