When Netflix paid $12 million for distribution rights to Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation , they were embarking on a bold experiment: could they stream a movie for free on the same date it opened in theaters? The grosses for its limited, 31-screen run suggested an answer of “not so much” to the second half of that equation—and we’d presumably never know how it did on the streaming side, since the company never, ever releases those numbers. Until now.
In what could cynically be read as an attempt to mute the talk about Beasts’ theatrical underperformance, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos has broken the company’s long-standing policy of keeping streaming numbers secret in an interview with Deadline. “It is worth sharing that this movie, in North America alone, has over 3 million views already,” Sarandos said. “Which I think is a bigger audience than any specialty film could ever hope for in its first two weeks of release, and maybe for its entire run.”
A glance at the numbers indicates he’s basically right; the current average movie ticket price is $8.61 (and that’s a low number to apply here, as specialty releases often play in larger markets like New York, where matinee prices are much rarer), so if everyone who’s streamed Beasts on Netflix bought a ticket, it would’ve grossed $25.8 million so far—more than Ex Machina, Still Alice, Mr. Holmes, Dope, or It Follows.
Of course, it’s quite a leap to assume that everyone who watched something for free would’ve forked over eight bucks for it. But it means the film reached a much wider audience than it might have in the hands of a conventional distributor—and that’s the company’s aim, according to Sarandos. “We are just thrilled with the total audience reach of this film, not just in North America but the world,” he told Deadline. “In the first week of release, Beasts Of No Nation was the most watched movie on Netflix, in every country we operate in.”