Just What Are People Watching, Anyway?

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To paraphrase Michael Corleone: Just when we think we’re out, the coronavirus pulls us back in.

With COVID-19 cases surging again across the country and a new swathe of restrictions coming into play, the traditional box office won’t be getting back to normal anytime soon. But people are still watching movies—arguably more than ever before.

So what movies, exactly, are they watching during the COVID era? ScreenEngine/ASI actually conducted a poll to find out—asking 1,200 people what they watched on various streaming services during the movie’s first week of release.

The big winner? Disney+’s Hamilton: The Movie, which landed at No. 1. We could’ve predicted as much: Disney reported a huge surge in app downloads when Hamilton hit the streaming service back in July—a surge directly pinned to the Broadway musical.

Amazon Prime Video’s new movie, Borat 2: Subsequent Moviefilm, finished second in the poll, followed by another Amazon Prime flick, My Spy.

Extraction, staring Chris Hemsworth, is the first Netflix film to land on the chart, all the way down at No. 4. Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, closed out the top five.

Disney+’s Mulan finished sixth—interesting, given that the high-profile live-action remake might’ve been a trial balloon of sorts for the Mouse House. Disney pushed Mulan to Disney+ in September with a $30 price tag, which many thought could be seen as an experiment to evaluate the viability of studios pushing movies straight to VOD or streaming services. (As we’ve mentioned, Trolls World Tour was a hands-down success back when COVID was just gathering steam.) Disney+ reported that it made $35.5 million from Mulan during its opening weekend—not nothing, but not great, either. The poll further suggests that Mulan’s success might’ve been dampened a bit by the premium cost.

Three of the four final spots in the top 10 were claimed by Netflix: The Old Guard (No. 7), The Trial of the Chicago 7 (No. 8) and The Lovebirds (No. 10). (The service claimed the next three spots, too, with Rebecca, Project Power and Enola Holmes). HBO Max claimed its only spot in the top 10 with The Witches.

What does all this mean? For parents, it’s an interesting illustration of the power of the family audience.  Five of the top-10 films were either made for kids or, at least, made with an eye that kids could watch. The fact that Disney+—which, remember, just celebrated its first year of operation Nov. 12—placed three of its films on here speaks volumes, both to the strength of the streaming service and to the demand for its family-friendly offerings.

It also suggests that audiences are also looking for a certain level of escapism. With the exception of The Trial of the Chicago 7, this is popcorn fare. Our blockbusters might’ve been taken away from us, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still interested in pseudo superhero stories like The Old Guard or candy-colored fantasies like The Witches.

But let me draw you to one other, slavishly self-serving point: Every single one of these films comes with its very own Plugged In review.

The entertainment landscape may be more confusing than ever. But Plugged In remains committed to giving you the information you need before deciding what to watch—whether it’s in theaters or not.