Netflix says Army of the Dead, Fatherhood are its biggest summer hits so far

The Mitchells vs. The Machines was also Netflix's most-watched animated film yet, based on the company's own count of how many accounts watched at least two minutes.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
7 min read

Army of the Dead is a Las Vegas heist flick but with zombies. 


Netflix's Army of the Dead, a hybrid heist-zombie flick from director Zack Snyder, was sampled by a few million more people than the company had initially projected, reaching 75 million accounts in its first four weeks of release, the company said Tuesday. (Netflix originally had predicted 72 million accounts would watch its first two minutes in May, a week after the movie premiered.) And Fatherhood, a dramedy film starring Kevin Hart, was sampled by nearly as many, with 74 million accounts estimated. 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines was its most popular animated movie so far, Netflix said, with 53 million accounts checking it out. 

Some new series on Netflix were popular, including Sweet Tooth with 60 million accounts and Shadow and Bone with more than 55 million. 

But some followup seasons of previous shows saw their audience drop off. Part 2 of Lupin, a French heist series, reached 54 million accounts, while its first part hit about 70 million. Season 2 of Who Killed Sara?, a Mexican crime thriller, fell to 34 million accounts from 55 million for the first season. Attrition in viewers for subsequent seasons is common, but one hallmark of a megahit is growing audiences season to season. 

Netflix's popularity figures always need disclaimers. 

To start, Netflix counts a show or movie as watched after two minutes. That's a much more generous standard than, for example, Nielsen uses to gauge the audience of shows on regular TV. Netflix has argued in the past that it needn't conform to legacy TV standards like Nielsen's, which were developed to measure the reach of advertising. Netflix, after all, has no ads. Still, the two-minute threshold means some titles count as being watched before the viewer even hits the main title sequence. 

Netflix's stats also aren't independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company, putting Netflix in the position to cherry-pick highlights without much transparency. Traditional media companies, by contrast, report their box office performance and it's independently monitored, and they're at the mercy of third parties like Nielsen as the barometer for TV shows.

And Netflix gets its projections wrong sometimes too. It initially underestimated how many accounts would watch Bridgerton, its soapy period-piece series. Roughly two weeks after the show came out, Netflix predicted 63 million accounts would watch Bridgerton in its first four weeks of release. But when the time actually elapsed, 82 million had. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. The creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix's original content efforts on the map, once said the company wouldn't even share viewership metrics with him. But within the last two years, Netflix has grown much chattier about the popularity of its shows and movies, to help recruit talent and stoke buzz. Netflix also added a top-trending ranking to its service, so people can see what the most popular titles streaming on Netflix in their country are on any given day. 

But Netflix's audience stats have exasperated parts of the TV industry for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability. 

As Netflix grows bigger, so too do its shows and movies. Earlier Tuesday, Netflix reported it had 209 million global members, the biggest subscription streaming service of its kind in the world. By growing its total subscriber base globally, Netflix biggest titles each year tend to be bigger than the ones that came before. 

All Netflix's viewership disclosures are listed below; the newest figures that were just disclosed are in bold. These stats are for the titles' first four weeks of release, using the two-minute metric, except for Netflix's projections where noted:

  • Extraction, an action movie starring Chris Hemsworth -- 99 million accounts.
  • Bird Box, a postapocalyptic movie starring Sandra Bullock -- more than 89 million accounts.
  • Spenser Confidential, an action-comedy movie starring Mark Wahlberg -- 85 million accounts.
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay explosion-fest starring Ryan Reynolds -- 83 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Bridgerton -- 82 million accounts. 
  • The Old Guard, an action-thriller movie -- 78 million accounts.
  • Enola Holmes, a period detective caper film -- 76 million accounts projected.
  • Season 1 of The Witcher, a fantasy series based on an existing franchise of books and  video games  -- 76 million accounts. 
  • Project Power, a dark superhero movie -- 75 million accounts.
  • Army of the Dead, a hybrid heist-zombie flick -- 75 million accounts.
  • Fatherhood, a dramedy film starring Kevin Hart -- 74 million accounts projected. 
  • Murder Mystery, a comedy movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston -- 73 million accounts.
  • The Midnight Sky, a sci-fi movie directed and starring George Clooney -- 72 million accounts projected.
  • Part 1 of Lupin, a French heist series -- 70 million accounts projected. 
  • Holidate, a Christmas-themed rom-com movie -- 68 million accounts.
  • Kissing Booth 2, a teen rom-com flick -- 66 million accounts.
  • Outside the Wire, a sci-fi movie starring Anthony Mackie as an android supersoldier -- 66 million accounts. 
  • Part 4 of La Casa de Papel, or Money Heist, a Spanish-language heist thriller series -- 65 million accounts projected.
  • The Irishman, a period epic about the Mafia, directed by Martin Scorsese -- 64 million accounts.
  • Tiger King, a viral docuseries -- 64 million households. 
  • Triple Frontier, an action/heist movie starring Ben Affleck -- 63 million accounts.
  • The Queen's Gambit, a limited series about a chess prodigy -- 62 million accounts. 
  • Yes Day, a family film about kids being in charge -- 62 million accounts. 
  • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, a sequel Santa Claus adventure movie --  61 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Sweet Tooth, a series based on a DC comic -- 60 million accounts. 
  • The Wrong Missy, a romantic-comedy movie starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus -- 59 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Fate: The Winx Saga, a teen drama about fairies -- 57 million accounts.
  • The Platform, a Spanish sci-fi horror movie -- 56 million accounts.
  • I Care a Lot, a thriller about a con artist who scammed a dangerous man  -- 56 million accounts. 
  • Season 1 of Shadow and Bone, a fantasy series -- more than 55 million accounts. 
  • Season 1 of Who Killed Sara?, a Mexican series about a brother's hunt for revenge -- 55 million accounts projected.
  • Season 2 of You, a psychological thriller series -- 54 million accounts projected.
  • Part 2 of Lupin, a French heist series -- 54 million accounts. 
  • We Can Be Heroes, the kids-of-superheroes action film -- 53 million accounts projected.
  • Season 1 of Ginny & Georgia, a dramedy about a young mother and her kids seeking a fresh start  -- 52 million accounts.
  • American Murder: The Family Next Door, a true-crime documentary film -- 52 million accounts projected.
  • To All the Boys: Always and Forever, the final film in a popular teen rom-com trilogy -- 51 million accounts. 
  • Seasons 1 and 2 of Cobra Kai, a reboot series of The Karate Kid -- 50 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Firefly Lane, a drama chronicling the friendship of two women over decades -- 49 million accounts.
  • The Perfect Date, a teen romantic-comedy movie -- 48 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Ratched, a psychological thriller series -- 48 million accounts.
  • Below Zero, a Spanish action film about an attack on a prisoner transport truck -- 47 million accounts.
  • Season 3 of Cobra Kai, a teen action series about a band of misfit martial artists -- 45 million accounts.
  • Over the Moon, an animated film about a girl traveling to a mythical land -- 43 million accounts.
  • Season 2 of Umbrella Academy, a superhero series -- 43 million accounts.
  • Klaus, an animated holiday film nominated for an Oscar -- 40 million accounts.
  • Season 5 of Lucifer, a fantasy police-procedural series -- 38 million accounts.
  • The Social Dilemma, a documentary about social-media companies -- 38 million accounts
  • Season 1 of Barbarians, a German historical action series --  37 million accounts.
  • Season 4 of Elite, a Spanish teen drama -- 37 million accounts. 
  • Season 2 of Who Killed Sara?, a Mexican crime thriller -- 34 million accounts. 
  • Squared Love, a Polish rom-com film about a womanizer who falls for a model living a double life -- 31 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Love Is Blind, a dating competition series -- 30 million. 
  • Season 2 of Too Hot to Handle, a dating show -- 29 million accounts estimated. 
  • Just Another Christmas, Netflix's first Portuguese-language holiday film --  26 million accounts.
  • Space Sweepers, a South Korean space Western about four outcasts who discover a lethal robot child -- 26 million accounts.
  • Part 1 of Selena: The Series, a Spanish-language show about the famed singer --  25 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Sweet Home, a Korean-language horror show --  22 million accounts.
  • Season 3 of The Crown, a historical drama series -- 21 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of The Sons of Sam, a true-crime docu-series -- 19 million accounts
  • Season 1 of Alice in Borderland, a Japanese-language sci-fi thriller series --  18 million accounts.
  • Season 2 of The Circle, a social experiment reality program -- 14 million accounts estimated. 

Prior to 2020, Netflix counted views differently. Netflix would count something as "watched" when you got through 70% of it, either of the first episode for a series or of a film's total runtime. Netflix says the new two-minute threshold is more fair to all titles, regardless of their length. But it also means the new stats have inflated viewership numbers by about one-third compared with the old ones. 

These are previous viewership stats under the old rules. They're figures Netflix released (or projected, where noted) for the first four weeks of release. 

  • Stranger Things season 3, a retro sci-fi series -- 64 million households. 
  • Umbrella Academy, a superhero series -- 45 million households.
  • Tall Girl, a teen rom-com movie -- 41 million households.
  • Sex Education, a British teen dramedy show -- more than 40 million households.
  • The Highwaymen, a period crime movie starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson -- more than 40 million households.
  • Secret Obsession, a movie mystery about a young wife with amnesia -- 40 million views.
  • Our Planet, a BBC-style nature docu-series -- 33 million households.
  • Always Be My Maybe, a comedy film with Ali Wong and Randall Park -- 32 million households.
  • Unbelievable, a true-crime miniseries about the victims of a serial rapist and the detectives hunting him down -- 32 million accounts.
  • Dead to Me, a dramedy series with Christina Applegate -- 30 million households.
  • Otherhood, a movie about a band of moms visiting their adult sons by surprise -- 29 million households. 
  • When They See Us, a buzzy limited series from creator Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case -- 25 million households. 
  • Bodyguard, a BBC-World Productions series that previously aired in the UK -- 23 million member households.
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary film about the Fyre Fest debacle -- more than 20 million homes.
  • Élite, a Spanish-language high-school soap series -- more than 20 million member households. 
  • Baby, an Italian teen drama series -- more than 10 million homes.
  • The Protector, Netflix's first Turkish original series -- more than 10 million households.