For months, we’ve heard from theater exhibitors and analysts about how much money Netflix was leaving on the table by not giving Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” a proper theatrical release in thousands of locations. However, through it all, it became clear that the streaming service was never concerned about money from ticket sales. The end goal is, and apparently will always be, eyeballs and subscriptions. And if the early reports of viewership are accurate, it seems that a lot of eyes sat for 3+ hours and watched “The Irishman” over Thanksgiving.
According to Nielsen estimates (via Variety), a whopping 17.1 million people in the US checked out “The Irishman” on Netflix during its first five days of release. While that number seems to be impressive, there’s a lot more data involved that helps put it into perspective.
First off, the 17.1 million people is an estimate based on the “average minute audience” of 13.2 million viewers. So, this isn’t an exact total of people that sat from the beginning to the end and watched the entire film. Since it’s a streaming movie that is available on most devices at any time, there are a number of folks that started it and haven’t finished yet (or may not ever).
If you’re talking eyeballs that sat through the entire film, Nielsen says that on the film’s debut date, 751,000 viewers (roughly 18% of the total viewership) watched “The Irishman” in its entirety. On Friday, November 29 (the most popular viewing day of the five-day stretch), 930,000 folks sat for 3+ hours and endured the entire runtime.
When you look at previous “hits” for Netflix, such as “Bird Box” and the recent “El Camino,” Scorsese’s film holds its own quite well, with the former earning 26 million viewers in 7 days and the latter seeing 25 million viewers in a week (but both sporting significantly shorter runtimes).
Obviously, the big question that everyone wants to know—Did “The Irishman” suffer because it wasn’t in theaters?— is something we’ll have to wait and find out over time. Viewers don’t equal money for Netflix. The streaming service didn’t purchase the film because it wanted to have insane stats. The studio wants to attract new subscribers, and “The Irishman” will do this (theoretically) by being in the pop culture zeitgeist and in the awards season conversation. But again, it’s hard to put a monetary value on that.
“The Irishman” is on Netflix right now for you to stream.