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George Clooney’s Midnight Sky Projected To Be One Of Netflix’s Most Popular Movies Ev

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2020 has, if nothing else, allowed for an explosion in film and television streaming, and Netflix is clocking in some ridiculous numbers with The Midnight Sky. The semi-post-apocalyptic science fiction film based on Lily Brooks-Dalton's 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight premiered December 23rd on the platform after a brief, presumably awards-qualifying theatrical run. Marketing was heavy, to say the least, as it is for all Netflix originals, but being cooped up for the holidays seems to have led half of all Netflix users to skip the hunting for a Christmas movie to get in the spirit and play the first thing that Netflix gives them.

The Midnight Sky follows a scientist on a dying Earth portrayed by Clooney, who also directed the film, and a team of astronauts (including Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo) aboard Æther, effectively the new genesis ship for humanity's second start. Their attempts to communicate propel a plot with lofty but ultimately optimistic themes, a big draw for an apocalypse-adjacent film in 2020. The viewership has been growing for Netflix's in-house projects this year; with the competition of theaters and studio releases basically nonexistent, there's never been a better time for Netflix to flex their unshakeable release schedule.

According to Netflix Film's Twitter, 72 million households streamed The Midnight Sky in its first week, which would in theory mean at least 72 million people, likely much more, actually watched it. That would be over one-third of all active Netflix subscribers, and apparently leaves the film on course (how the calculation is adjusted for viewership decay isn't something Netflix cares to share) to be the most-watched Netflix movie ever within a month.

Netflix likes to play coy about their viewership and what their limited available statistics actually mean, but this is a pretty straightforward power move. Regardless of how these numbers may be skewed for PR purposes, 72 million households is a lot. The Midnight Sky cost about $100 million to make, and while Netflix doesn't operate on viewership ROI the same as traditional studios, that's more enough to suggest the money was worth it. Ironically, it wasn't even very well received. Reviews were mixed, with critics and viewers alike expressing disappointment in its poor pacing, lackluster drama, and occasionally nonsensical plot.

That said, this seems like a win for Netflix anyway. Their originals scattershot between great and awful, but people continue to watch them, presumably because they're right there at the top of the browse menu on Netflix. What else are you gonna do? Whether or not this counts as a success, then, is up for debate. Viewership isn't necessarily indicative of profit for Netflix, but that this many people would watch The Midnight Sky is still very important to their bottom line. Without getting too detailed, Netflix operates at a loss in cash burn, but continues growing to offset that loss. What that really means is the more people watch Netflix Originals, the better for Netflix. The Midnight Sky helps prove that people will keep watching Netflix Originals, frankly without too much regard to their overall quality. It may be wise to get ready for more in 2021, and another subscription price hike, and then again and again and again.
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