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The month of July proved why streamers have already replaced theaters for me

Published Aug 9th, 2020 9:15PM EDT
Most watched movies
Image: Netflix

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  • Netflix’s The Old Guard is at the top of the list for July regarding the most-watched movies for the month across the major streaming services.
  • The list comes from data courtesy of the streaming search engine service Reelgood.
  • Most every major streamer is represented on the list below, including Hulu, Disney+ and Apple TV+

When Italian actor Luca Marinelli learned he’d gotten the part of “Nicky” in the new Netflix original movie The Old Guard, he explained to me in the days before the Charlize Theron-led superhero drama debuted on the streamer, he ran straight to a nearby shop in London and bought the comic book the movie is based on. His character in the film is an immortal mercenary who fights with the superhero group led by Theron’s “Andy.” One of the things I took away from our brief conversation about his part and about the movie itself is how Marinelli threw the question back at me when I asked what he thinks about the kind of crotchety, get-off-my-lawn-tinge to criticism from Hollywood stalwarts like Martin Scorsese who think superhero movies aren’t “real” movies. That they don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as classics like, say, The Godfather. “Well, why not?” Marinelli asked me. Why can’t they be? They can tell just as much of a compelling story, he went on — and that, in fact, is what attracted him to this role. “I fell in love with the characters and the story,” with the latter including Nicky’s backstory of being old enough to have fought in the Crusades, where he met and killed his great love “Joe.”

Speaking of a compelling story, audiences have been quite compelled, indeed, to watch and enjoy The Old Guard since its release — on Rotten Tomatoes, for example, the movie has earned a very respectable 81% score compiled from 236 critics’ reviews, and it also currently has a 71% audience score derived from more than 2,600 ratings by members of the public. The Old Guard, by another reckoning, also earned another distinction upon its release, topping one list of the most-watched movies for the month of July.

Big-budget original feature films were already increasingly debuting on streamers like Netflix, giving audiences a reason to forgo your local cinema, if you wanted. Now, of course, it doesn’t matter whether you want to see these movies on the big screen or not — the coronavirus pandemic has not only closed the doors of hundreds of theaters around the US and world. There’s also no telling when they’ll open back up again, if ever.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find the latest data shared regularly with BGR by the streaming search engine service Reelgood. We publish it in various forms, including weekly looks at the most-watched streaming series and movies, as well as on a monthly basis. The thing that struck me about these new results, below (the most-watched movies across the major streaming services for July) is just how … substantial, I guess is how I’d put it, these titles are, for the most part. I would have happily driven to my local multiplex and settled into one of the cushy chairs with some popcorn for almost any of these titles, and what I think this list shows is the degree to which all of the streamers are stepping up to the plate to give audiences not just bingeable TV series to enjoy but original theatrical-quality entertainment that can be enjoyed at home.

most watched moviesImage source: Apple

The #2 movie for the month, Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, is another example of this. Sony Pictures scrambled its theatrical release plan and sent it to Apple TV+ instead, where it’s currently one of the best things on the iPhone maker’s Netflix-like streaming service at the moment.

Unfortunately for movie theater operators, this trend of packing streaming services with a greater degree of quality fare is only going to increase the longer the pandemic drags on — and perhaps even, for a time, after it’s over. No doubt audiences won’t immediately rush out to pack public places like theaters once again, at least not at first and not to the degree they did before.

“If the U.S. government would have taken this seriously when the shutdown began, and mapped out a comprehensive plan of action, we’d all be sitting in our favorite theaters right now, watching Hollywood blockbusters in their normal habitat,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told CNBC. “Now, because of the lack of leadership, theaters across America are on the verge of bankruptcy with no real cinematic savior in sight.”

Meantime, streaming audiences are left with a ton of premium fare to consume across all of the major services. For the month of July, these were the top movies, according to Reelgood:

  1. The Old Guard
  2. Greyhound
  3. Knives Out
  4. Palm Springs
  5. Hamilton
  6. Parasite
  7. Ad Astra
  8. The Dark Knight
  9. The Shawshank Redemption
  10. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.