Commentary: Can best picture Oscar nominee 'The Irishman' make money for Netflix? It's complicated

Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

If a movie was released in theaters, you can find its box office reported. "The Wizard of Oz" made $969,000 internationally when it came out in 1939. Type a title into Box Office Mojo and see what comes up.

This is useful information for a few reasons. Here's a compelling one: A couple years ago a study looked at global box office between 2014-2017 and found that female-led films outperformed male-led films at all budget levels. There's a transparency to the data -- studios, for example, can't greenlight a slate of movies featuring almost all-male leads and pretend it's smart business.

Box office performance doesn't just influence what movies get made, it can also help shape how we think about any given movie.

"It's rare that you'll have a conversation about a movie without somehow, some way, the box office or the performance of a movie being brought up," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, which compiles box office data.

Would the idea of cult hit even exist if we didn't know that it flopped when it first opened only to be rediscovered at some later point when people found it on TV or at midnight screenings?

But what about movies that are released by streaming services, which as a whole rarely provide any data? How do we talk about those movies when we know next to nothing to about how well they did?


"This is an issue that wouldn't have even existed five years ago," said Dergarabedian. "It's analogous to sports -- what if suddenly there were no stats in sports? The whole thing would fall apart. But if you want to be a disrupter, I guess you change the rules on how we perceive what success means. And I think that's what streaming services are doing here."

But what if we could point to a number, like box office, and get some idea of whether a streaming release is "successful" or not?

--Let's look at one Oscar contender: Can Martin Scorsese's crime film "The Irishman" make money for Netflix?

Blogging anonymously under the name Entertainment Strategy Guy, one Hollywood analyst has given this question considerable thought. And he's created some mathematical models to come up with an answer.


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