It isn’t always easy to predict what will be a big hit on Netflix. As much of a superstar as George Clooney has been in the past, we haven’t seen him around much lately. Now, he has directed and starred in what is quickly becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched films of all time. The new sci-fi movie, The Midnight Sky, has reached the #1 spot overall in 77 countries.
Streaming services haven’t always been upfront about their viewing numbers. It’s only recently we started getting data on the top movies at any given time. Unlike box office numbers for movie theaters, streaming services don’t tell us how much their movies earn or how many viewers pick the movie up. Still, sometimes, insiders are able to give us a peek behind the curtain. In the case of George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky, Deadline learned that The Midnight Sky had a projected 72 million households watching the film in its first month. It looks like this puts Clooney’s movie as the sixth most-watched film on Netflix ever. So far.
If you’re wondering why we haven’t seen George Clooney in a while, he’s told interviewers in the recent past that he isn’t interested in making the kind of movies Hollywood is into these days. Clooney has done a lot in television and movies over the years. He’s refined his tastes and knows what he likes. He’s more interested in chasing his own vision as a director, actor, and producer.
So what does that vision look like? According to reviewers, George Clooney’s directing style is all about setting a mood. He likes to film big empty spaces and take a while with his shots. George Clooney’s directing focuses more on visuals than characters. These types of movies usually benefit more from the big screen. Perhaps knowing this, Clooney excitedly filmed The Midnight Sky on Super 65, which isn’t really captured well on smaller screens. While that must have disappointed him as an artist, it doesn’t seem to have stopped viewers from picking up the apocalyptic tale.
Of note, some people did get to catch George Clooney’s intended look for the Super 65 film in theaters. With the pandemic closures considered, The Midnight Sky was Netflix’s largest theatrical release in 2020, with 800 locations in 16 countries.
The story is based on the book by Lily Brooks-Dalton, Good Morning, Midnight. It’s an apocalyptic tale about redemption. Both reviewers who liked it and didn’t like it called it quiet and sad. The story has plagues, radiation, ominous undertones for the end of the world. There’s a joke in here somewhere about it being a strong holiday choice for December 2020.
So with all the mixed reviews and the sad tones, why are so many people tuning in? Is it George Clooney’s superstardom? Is it because people are looking for something new to turn on? Maybe those factors play in. But though most Netflix users are streaming The Midnight Sky on their small screens, maybe there’s something to big beautiful shots and a quiet movie. Maybe there’s something to George Clooney’s vision as an artist. Whatever the magic formula is, the movie has drawn 72 million Netflix accounts to click “Watch Now” in the first month, and that speaks well to Clooney’s ability to keep making the kinds of movies he wants to make.