Netflix's Bird Box was likely not on your radar a few weeks ago, but it has become an unexpected phenomenon seemingly overnight.
The film, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Sandra Bullock, takes place in a world where a mysterious supernatural force causes people to involuntarily commit suicide if they look at it. To stay alive, they must wear blindfolds. The story cuts between two time periods: one immediately after the sudden deaths, and one five years later when Bullock's character must protect two young children in what appears to be a desolate wasteland. Think A Quiet Place — but with sight instead of sound.
Most Netflix original movies just kind of come and go, but within the first few days of its debut on Dec. 13, it became clear that Bird Box was really catching on. Memes inspired by the film engulfed Twitter. A week later, Netflix, which is usually fairly secretive about its viewership, took the rare step of releasing numbers for Bird Box, revealing that the film had the best ever debut for a Netflix movie, with 45 million accounts watching at least 70 percent of the film in the first week.
For perspective, Netflix only has about 118 million subscribers. The number doesn't take into account people who simply clicked into Bird Box by mistake or quickly turned it off.
So why is Bird Box such a hit? The movie itself is certainly not one of the year's best, but it's a crowd-pleasing, fairly well-made post-apocalyptic drama starring one of the biggest movie stars in the world, which popped up for free on Netflix right before subscribers were about to have a lot of free time on their hands over the holiday week. That, in combination with social media buzz, added up to a winning formula for Netflix. Brendan Morrow