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The Irishman was always going to be one of the more interesting films to be released in 2019. Even before Martin Scorsese made headlines for his views on comic book movies, the director shocked the industry in a big way when he decided to make his next film for the streaming service. Now that movie has been on the service for about a week, and we have some idea how many people have actually watched it, but that's really just the beginning of the story.
Netflix occasionally releases viewership numbers for its original movies, though largely doesn't. The streaming service hasn't yet done so for The Irishman, and it doesn't appear that it will. However, Nielsen has released its data on the films viewership and reportedly the film drew an average minute audience of 13.2 million people over the first five days of its release, starting November 27, and through the following weekend. That number includes a nearly 2.6 million average minute audience who watched the movie on its first day of Netflix availability.
As has happened with several high profile, and critically acclaimed Netflix movies, The Irishman was given a theatrical release in the weeks leading up to the Netflix debut. However, that release is designed specifically to qualify the movie for awards, not to bring in box office dollars. As such, the release was quite limited so many who might have been willing to see the movie on the big screen might not have really had the option.
While domestic box office numbers for The Irishman haven't been confirmed, it's estimated the movie has made something in the neighborhood of $6 million to date. That number would certainly have been vastly increased if the 17 million unique viewers who have apparently seen it on Netflix had paid $10 a piece to do the same thing.
On the one hand, Netflix is all about those subscriber numbers, not box office success, but then again, The Irishman wasn't exactly cheap to make, so every dollar could have been useful. It feels like a wider theatrical release, might have been warranted here, though many theater chains refuse to show Netflix films, so maybe such a thing wasn't possible.
How many of the Netflix viewers would have been willing to buy a ticket is impossible to say. However, in the case of The Irishman, the number might be smaller than you might think. According to Deadline only about 18% of the accounts that started the movie on day one actually streamed it in a single sitting. That's not outside of normal for a Netflix film, but considering The Irishman's three-and-a-half hour runtime, it's not too shocking people took advantage of the ability to pause, something they could not do in the theater.
However you look at it, The Irishman has been getting a lot of eyeballs since it debuted. It's also been getting a lot of critical praise and is already ending up on a lot of year end top 10 lists.