Bird Box Mania
What makes a cultural phenomenon? Why do some movies consume the zeitgeist, while countless others are forgotten? If I knew the answer, I suppose I’d be a billionaire by now. But however you spin it, Bird Box is most definitely a cultural phenomenon. The Netflix film, starring Sandra Bullock and based on a novel by Daily Fuel alum Josh Malerman(!), was viewed by 26 million Americans in its first week of streaming. The average movie ticket price is $9.14, which means it was seen by as many people as a movie that grossed $237 million in its first week. It enjoyed a bigger opening audience than any 2018 film except Avengers: Infinity War. The film has a fresh 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and inspired memes that dominated the internet over the holidays. It’s Bird Box’s world, and we’re all living in it.
December of 2018 has been a very good month for Netflix’s film division. After taking the television world by storm by producing series like House of Cards and BoJack Horseman, the streaming service has been releasing a copious amount of original movies. But few, if any, of them had achieved any critical or commercial traction. This month, that all changed with Roma and Bird Box. Roma is a critical darling and Oscar frontrunner (although this critic is still rooting for A Star Is Born), and has provided Netflix films with artistic legitimacy. And Bird Box is arguably the first true streaming blockbuster. Not a bad run.
But what made Bird Box go viral, in a space where so many films haven’t? Was it the high concept (a mother must guide her children to safety without removing her blindfold)? The reemergence of Sandra Bullock (who hadn’t headlined a major movie since 2013, but came roaring back with Ocean’s 8 this summer?) The free availability and release during the holidays, when people have time on their hands? Who’s to say? But through some combination of quality and timing, Malerman has a bona fide smash hit on his hands.
Which brings to mind some advice he gave Daily Fuel years earlier, about the beauty of discipline. As daunting as our goals may seem, there’s joy to be found in working diligently towards them, and seeing steady progress as a result. Josh couldn’t have known how much Bird Box would take off when he was writing it, but by sitting down and doing the work every day, he laid the foundation for something magical to happen.