More than one in three New Zealand households subscribe to Netflix, the global heavyweight among streaming services, to watch movies and TV series.
That is some 1.7 million adults, or four in 10 people aged 18 and over. They are heavy viewers and don’t exclude watching free-to-air television. In fact, according to an analysis by the ThinkTV website, seven out of 10 watch TV in a typical day.
This column decided last year to cater for this large audience on the basis that the profile fitted NZ Catholic readers.
Of course, the cinema remains the main focus, but Netflix has won its dominance by now being a bigger spender on filmed entertainment
than any Hollywood studio. Initially, Netflix replaced a DVD mail order business and moved into production only a few years ago.
Last year, I rated the top 10 Netflix Originals, a list dominated by comedy, thrillers and science fiction. This year the task is harder and doesn’t include the 23 original movies being released in the final two months of the year.
These are headlined by Michael Scorsese’s The Irishman, which is having a limited cinema season, and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Both are timed for the awards.
Netflix’s Roma was Best Picture winner at the Oscars in February. Netflix’s big production budget isn’t just attracting proven directors such as Scorsese and Baumbach.
Big stars aren’t afraid to join them. Sandra Bullock captured more than 45 million viewers in the first week with Bird Box, a futuristic thriller in which the monsters attack people with eyesight rather than hearing (as in A Quiet Place).
Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird in March went behind the scenes in an American basketball players’ strike, with a documentary-style exposé. He did this again with Meryl Streep in double-starring roles as both a victim and practitioner of dodgy offshore financing in The Laundromat.
The other side of the glamorised Bonnie and Clyde story was slickly presented in the John Lee Hancock-directed The Highwaymen, a period police drama starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner.
Oscar winner Brie Larson (for Room) was starring at multiplexes in the blockbuster Captain Marvel when Netflix released her low-budget childhood fantasy Unicorn Store, in which she acts and directs with much more effect.
From Denmark, A Fortunate Man traced the history of an ambitious
engineer, who marries into a wealthy Jewish family in a bid to build a large canal project in Jutland in the early part of the 20th century.
Comedy is a Netflix strength and two make it into the top 10: Always Be My Maybe, featuring Asian-American comedians Ali Wong and Randall Park, and the Spanish Despite Everything (A Pesar de Todo), in which four daughters attending their mother’s funeral are given the task of identifying
Hilary Swank is another formidable matriarch in the Australian-made I am Mother, in which she is an android raising a human daughter in a spaceship.
The French drama Mercenary, about a Polynesian rugby player trying to make a go of it in France, depicted Pacific Islands life just as forcefully as the best local productions.