The pandemic has decimated theatrical distribution. It's safe to say that we will never return to the way things were, but no one knows where we are going with film distribution.

One thing we have observed is that when Netflix drops a new, huge title, people are watching it... and they're watching it in the tens of millions over a period of weeks. 

The numbers for these releases are so good that Netflix, usually tight-lipped about this stuff, is out there bragging on social media about it. 

That thread really captures how intense the streamer's recent successes have been. People are staying home, and they're watching Netflix. 

But these metrics are a little fickle.

First, they are self-reported. The stats are based on the number of member accounts that have watched a given show or movie for a minimum of just two minutes. While normal TV usually calculates average time viewing, Netflix does not release that. 

Here are some graphs from Variety that puts things into perspective. 

Screen_shot_2020-10-21_at_11Who finishes watching what?Credit: Variety

Screen_shot_2020-10-21_at_11Did you watch all of these movies all the way through?Credit: Variety

Therefore, these numbers are more of a popularity contest than anything. 

But damn, these new Netflix titles are popular. 

In fact, four of the movies released to Netflix during the pandemic have rocketed up their charts to become their most-viewed movies of all time. This was Netflix’s list of the biggest film openings as of July 2020, as compiled by IndieWire.

  1. Extraction – 99 Million
  2. Bird Box – 89 Million
  3. Spenser Confidential – 85 Million
  4. 6 Underground – 83 Million
  5. Murder Mystery – 73 Million
  6. The Irishman – 64 Million
  7. Triple Frontier – 63 Million
  8. The Wrong Missy – 59 Million
  9. The Platform – 56 Million
  10. The Perfect Date – 48 Million

And now, as of October 2020, here's how that list has changed...

  1. Extraction – 99 Million
  2. Bird Box – 89 Million
  3. Spenser Confidential – 85 Million
  4. 6 Underground – 83 Million
  5. The Old Guard – 78 Million
  6. Enola Holmes – 76 Million
  7. Project Power – 75 Million
  8. Murder Mystery – 73 Million
  9. The Kissing Booth 2 – 66 Million
  10. The Irishman – 64 Million

And this only accounts for movies. On the TV side, 50 million households viewed the first season of Cobra Kai. That's not even a Netflix show. It was originally on YouTube but really found its following on the Netflix platform. 

Netflix's ability to profit off a second run is astounding. They're crushing with Schitt's Creek, which swept the Emmys this year, and Lucifer, which scored 38 million households off its regular network and on Netflix. 

While the second-run phenomenon is wild, Netflix still has its own shows doing very well. Ryan Murphy’s Ratched gathered 48 million viewers, while the newest season of The Umbrella Academy brought in 43 million.

Documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door was projected to attract 52 million households, and The Social Dilemma scored 38 million. 

There's no end in sight to Netflix's dominance. Other companies are just going to need to find a way to keep up. But with the ability to pick up scraps and second viewings to help themselves, the streaming wars just got a new wrinkle. 

What do you think happens next? Let us know in the comments.