Netflix bosses defended the critically derided Bright during their quarterly earnings interview, declaring that critics are “pretty disconnected” from what makes a hit film.
The company’s top executives were asked about how the Will Smith film was slammed in the press (one critic declared it “astoundingly bad in virtually every way”) yet the streaming service said it a success and even ordered a sequel.
“The consumer response to the film has been great,” said Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “Every internal measurement says it’s one of our most-watched pieces of original content — meaning TV show or film — that we’ve ever had. If you look at the [audience-generated] reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, you see positive experiences with that film. Critics are an important part of the artistic process but they’re pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film. The way we look at it is [that] people are watching this movie and loving it and that is the measure of success. If critics get behind it or don’t, that’s a select group of social media influencers talking to a select audience.”
To his point, on Rotten Tomatoes Bright currently has only 27 percent positive reviews from critics yet 86 percent positive reviews from readers (sort of a reversal of The Last Jedi). Nielsen estimated that a hefty 11 million viewers watched the movie on its opening weekend last month (though Netflix says other companies that claim to measure their ratings are not accurate).
CEO Reed Hastings agreed with Sarandos and pointed out the international box office success of the panned Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (creeping up on $800 million worldwide) and suggested domestic critics aren’t necessarily a good indicator of how a global audience responds. “From an investors standpoint, you want to focus on things like … Jumanji, the critics are pretty disconnected from the mass appeal, especially remembering international at this point. Most of the reviews you read are in English and usually just the U.S.” (To be fair, however, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle actually was rather well liked by critics, rating 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
On another topic, the executives reassured that Netflix wouldn’t be raising its prices again anytime soon. “We have no plans to repeat that in any way in the near term … our responsibility is to take that added revenue and turn it into even better content. Consumers are tolerant as long as something’s improving.”
Netflix reported its revenue grew by nearly 33 percent in the fourth quarter to $3.29 billion, posting a profit of $186 million in the final three months of 2017. Contributing to the bump was its 8.33 million new subscribers during that frame (nearly 2 million in the U.S.; more than 6 million internationally), representing a 25 percent growth from year over year — all adding up to nearly 111 million paid members worldwide.