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Saturday , August 15 2020

‘Bird Box’ bucks holiday trend

This image released by Netflix shows Sandra Bullock in a scene from the film ‘Bird Box’. (AP)

Santa, romance and horror?

For so long, movies around the holidays have been merry and bright. Lately, more and more seem murderous and designed to fright.

Take this winter, where, of course, sugary options abounded, such as “Mary Poppins Returns” on the big screen and “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding” on TV. Then there’s the post-apocalyptic survival story “Bird Box”.

Released just days before Christmas on Netflix, the Sandra Bullock-led thriller is about monstrous entities that compel any human who sees them to quickly try to kill themselves. Not exactly the stuff of sugar plum fairies.

But even though Netflix declines to release viewership numbers, “Bird Box” seems to have struck a nerve, triggering the creation of memes and online chatter for a very dark film dropped into the festive period.

“I have never ever had as much attention or as many page likes, post likes/ shares and comments on any of my other pages as I have had on this one,” says Heather Drake, who started a Facebook page for fans of the story and is not affiliated with the film or distributors. “It’s been insane. I can’t even come close to responding to all the feedback, if that tells you anything.”

Critics have been mixed toward “Bird Box”, with many noting similarities to John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place”. Variety complained about the “inexplicably bland ensemble” and The Hollywood Reporter sniffed that it was “not all that it might have been.” The Guardian declared it “a bird-brained mess.”

In some ways, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a film about monsters attacking people showed up on the online video streamer on Dec 21. Alternate Christmas movies are all the rage these days, from “Die Hard”, ‘’In Bruges”, ‘’Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Lethal Weapon”.

Drake thinks the holiday timing of “Bird Box” isn’t that important, noting the need for fresh and intriguing movies during the holidays far from usual stale fare like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

“I don’t honestly think it would have mattered if it was Dec 21 or July 21,” she said. “However, Dec 21 would give an advantage as many people are on vacation from school and work. And who doesn’t want to cozy up and ‘Netflix and chill’ on a cold night when they don’t have to worry about school or work the next day?”

Netflix’s decision may also be an attempt to replicate last late-December’s hit “Bright”, starring Will Smith and Joel Egerton. That supernatural cop drama also wasn’t received well by critics but garnered strong word-of-mouth interest and a sequel has been promised.

Bullock has been one of Hollywood’s top stars since her 1994 hit “Speed” but had never made a horror movie until “Bird Box”. She told The Associated Press before a special screening in New York this month that the risks she and the cast undertook were somehow appealing.

To evade the movie monsters, Bullock and two young children are blindfolded while navigating through a forest and a treacherous river. The title refers to a literal box of birds that her character carries – the birds begin to chirp when the unseen evil approaches. Like the timing of the final film, it seemed to be a fresh challenge.

“Anytime that they yelled ‘Stop!’ we knew we knew we had gotten to a place where we could all get injured,” Bullock said. “And we fell. And I said don’t stop the camera unless I say, ‘Stop!’”

Also:

LOS ANGELES: Netflix’s frightening thriller “Bird Box” scored the biggest seven-day viewership of all the streamer’s original movie releases to date – with just over 45 million member accounts having watched the movie in the first week, the company claimed Friday.

The movie bowed Dec 21 worldwide on Netflix, and became an instant – if traumatizing – Christmas Day family-viewing experience for some. The Sandra Bullock-starrer also has spawned a raft of internet memes since its release.

In “Bird Box”, Bullock is a single mom trying to save her kid’s lives after mysterious forces invade Earth and causes people to kill themselves. Survivors navigating the post-apocalyptic world must wear blindfolds or be exposed to supernatural entities that embody their deepest fears.

“Took off my blindfold this morning to discover that 45,037,125 Netflix accounts have already watched Bird Box – best first 7 days ever for a Netflix film!” the Netflix Film account on Twitter boasted Friday.

Netflix famously doesn’t release viewing data in any regular way, and the 45 million number cannot be independently verified. Also unclear is Netflix’s definition of what it means for an account to have “watched” a title (in other words, some may have streamed only a portion of the movie). [UPDATE: Asked for clarification, a Netflix rep declined to elaborate on what “watched” means in this context.] While third-party measurement firms including Nielsen attempt to estimate audience metrics for Netflix content, they’re limited in scope; for example, Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings cover only the US and exclude viewing on mobile and PCs.

If 45 million Netflix member accounts did indeed watch “Bird Box” in its first week on the service, that would represent about one-third of the company’s 137.1 million total reported streaming subscribers as of the end of the third quarter of 2018.

At an investment conference earlier this month, chief content officer Ted Sarandos – in trying to back up his point that Netflix’s original movies are gaining ground – claimed that “The Christmas Chronicles” starring Kurt Russell was viewed by Netflix members 20 million times in its first seven days.

Netflix has made some fishy claims in the past regarding the performance of its originals. For example, Sarandos suggested that if “The Christmas Chronicles” had been a theatrical release, 20 million views would make it tantamount to a $200 million first-week movie opening. But that’s a specious comparison: Netflix subscribers pay a flat monthly fee for the entire service – they aren’t specifically buying tickets to see individual movies.

“Bird Box” is directed by Susanne Bier, based on Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel of the same name. The cast also includes Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”) and Bullock’s “Ocean’s 8” co-star Sarah Paulson, along with John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, BD Wong, Machine Gun Kelly and Tom Hollander.  (Agencies)

By Mark Kennedy


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