Where the hits are streaming in 2011

A year ago, I looked at the availability of recent blockbuster hits in online stream and discovered some interesting patterns in online stream offerings. This year, I’m doing the same with the 2011 list of box office hits. The great news is that we appear to see some progress.

2011: Box Office Win­ners availability

For each movie of the top 100 movies at the box office, I pulled data on for streaming info on Netflix, Amazon on Demand, iTunes, and Vudu. I also pulled up availability of DVDs to use as a yardstick in terms of overall movie availability. The final chart looked like this:

Rank Movie Title Netflix Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
2 Transformers: Dark of the Moon No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
3 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 No No  No No Yes
4 The Hangover Part II No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
5 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
6 Fast Five No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
7 Cars 2 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
8 Thor No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
9 Rise of the Planet of the Apes No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
10 Captain America: The First Avenger No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
11 The Help No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
12 Bridesmaids No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
13 Kung Fu Panda 2 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
14 X-Men: First Class No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
15 Puss in Boots No No  No No No
16 Rio No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
17 The Smurfs No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
18 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol No No  No No No
19 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows No No  No No No
20 Super 8 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
21 Rango No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
22 Horrible Bosses No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
23 Green Lantern No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
24 Hop No No  No No No
25 Paranormal Activity 3 No No  No No No
26 Just Go With It No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
27 Bad Teacher No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
28 Cowboys & Aliens No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
29 Gnomeo and Juliet Yes Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
30 The Green Hornet No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
31 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked No No  No No No
32 The Lion King (in 3D) No Purchase only (non-3D) Purchase only (non-3D) Purchase only No
33 Real Steel No No  Purchase only No Yes
34 Crazy, Stupid, Love. No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
35 The Muppets No No  No No No
36 Battle: Los Angeles No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
37 Immortals No No  No No No
38 Zookeeper No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
39 Limitless Yes Yes  Yes Yes Yes
40 Tower Heist No No  No No No
41 Contagion No Purchase only  Yes Yes Yes
42 Moneyball No Yes  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
43 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Yes Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
44 Dolphin Tale No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
45 Jack and Jill No No  No No No
46 No Strings Attached Yes Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only No
47 Mr. Popper’s Penguins No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
48 Unknown No No  No No Yes
49 The Adjustment Bureau No No  No No No
50 Happy Feet Two No No  No No No
51 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) No No  No No No
52 Water for Elephants No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
53 The Lincoln Lawyer No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
54 Midnight in Paris No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
55 Friends with Benefits No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
56 I Am Number Four No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
57 Source Code No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
58 Insidious Yes Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
59 Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family No Yes  Yes No Yes
60 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules No No  No No Yes
61 Footloose (2011) No No  No No No
62 The Adventures of Tintin No No  No No No
63 Hugo No No  No No No
64 The Dilemma No No  No No Yes
65 New Year’s Eve No No  No No No
66 Arthur Christmas No No  No No No
67 War Horse No No  No No No
68 Hall Pass No No  No No Yes
69 We Bought a Zoo No No  No No No
70 Soul Surfer No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
71 Final Destination 5 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
72 The Ides of March No No  Purchase only Yes Yes
73 The Descendants No No  No No No
74 Hanna No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
75 Something Borrowed No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
76 Spy Kids: All the Time in the World No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
77 Scream 4 No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
78 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son No No  No No Yes
79 Red Riding Hood No No  No No Yes
80 Paul No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
81 The Roommate No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
82 Jumping the Broom No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
83 The Change-Up No Yes  Yes No Yes
84 30 Minutes or Less No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
85 In Time No No  No No No
86 Colombiana No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
87 J. Edgar No No  No No No
88 Sucker Punch No No  No No Yes
89 Larry Crowne No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
90 50/50 No No  No No Yes
91 Drive (2011) No No  No No Yes
92 A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas No No  No No No
93 Courageous No Purchase only  No Yes Yes
94 The Rite No No  No No Yes
95 Arthur (2011) No No  No No Yes
96 The Debt No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
97 Priest No Purchase only  Purchase only Purchase only Yes
98 The Mechanic No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
99 Abduction No Yes  Yes Yes Yes
100 Beastly No Yes  Yes Purchase only Yes

But the information, in a raw form, doesn’t really tell us much. To get a better sense of where we are, we need to re-aggregate the info.

Aggregate rental data

Looking at the rental market, we can now see the aggregation providing us a clearer picture

Netflix Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 0 7 7 7 7
Top 25 0 16 16 16 19
top 50 4 25 25 25 35
Top 100 5 45 44 44 74

The data shows that Netflix appears to be missing the Flix part of its name when it comes to streaming, as it offers only 5 of the top 100 box office winners of 2011. By comparison, pay-per-view seems to be doing a better job at making top hits available for streaming, with the numbers declining as you go deeper into the list. So top movies seem to be widely available this year (in fact, 64 percent of the top 25 movies were available for streaming only 9% short of what’s available on more traditional formats like DVD).

Another interesting thing to note here is that the data seems to be relatively consistent across online pay-per-view services with Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu apparently getting access to the same movies, leading one to think that there is little differentiation between those products (of note: Vudu has actually tried to differentiate on offering by providing 7.1 surround sound and 3D movies to available TV sets.) With prices across those services being roughly the same (movies are renting for $3.99 to $5.99 on average), there is a question as to how those services will be able to provide a differentiated experience in the future.

But the big advantage of doing this again this year is that we can compare the information against last year’s data and see if progress has been made:

Netflix Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 -1 Same Same Same -1
Top 25 -2 +2 +2 +2 +2
top 50 0 Same Same Same -1
Top 100 -5 -3 -2 -2 Same

The story here isn’t that pretty for Netflix, which has lost substantial ground from last year’s position, offering less than half of the hits it used to offer last year. If you think of their recent moves towards creating original content, it appears that Netflix is slowly moving away from its initial strategy of providing online streaming of movies on a subscription basis and moving more to a model more akin to that of a TV network.

Another interesting development here is that online streaming seems to be some losing ground compared to DVDs. One could assume that, as a new technology, online streaming would be gaining ground on DVDs but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Granted, we only have a couple of data points so next year’s data will provide us with a better understanding as to whether hollywood is trying to slow down the progress of online streaming.

Sales Data

If we are witnessing such a slow down, one of the reason may be that movie studios are looking to maximize revenue coming from sales.

Ama­zon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 7 7 7 7
Top 25 18 18 18 19
top 50 33 34 34 35
Over­all 61 62 61 74

The first interesting item to show up here is that we are now seeing remarkable consistency in availability of titles on streaming services. However, the availability of legal movie streams is still trailing the availability of movies on DVDs. This gap seems to be less pronounced when it comes to the top of the list than when ones goes further back into the box office records.

Once again, looking at how availability this year compared to last year’s availability provides some interesting information:

Ama­zon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 +1 -1 -1 -1
Top 25 +3 -2 -1 +1
top 50 +6 +5 +4 Same
Over­all +5 -2 +4 +1

As opposed to online rentals, sales of streaming movies seem to be gaining on sales of DVDs, with an increasing parity in availability of movies as bits (streams) or plastic (DVDs). This appears to confirm the suspicion that movie studios are trying to protect their sales revenue at the expense of promoting pay-per-view.


The past year has seen an increasing alignment in the libraries of titles offered by online streamers in an on-demand basis. At the same time, we have seen Netflix apparently abandon its strategy of offering popular movies on a subscription basis. Next week, I will look at whether Netflix’s efforts are getting more focused on television streams or whether we are seeing them pull back across the board in terms of availability of more recent content.

We are also seeing Hollywood now treating online as more equivalent to DVD sales, offering titles for sale online at roughly the same rate as they do on DVD. Let’s hope that this trend continues to hold and that the industry sees the wisdom of providing online streams in an earlier release window. A few independent movies have done simultaneous releases online and in theaters this year and Hollywood has a potential to increase its revenues if it were to increasingly go in that direction.

Two sets of data only provide a small view into an overall trend but I promise I will continue growing the data set and revisit those numbers next year, giving us a better sense as to whether there is any changes in this segment of the media distribution puzzle.

Previous Post
2011: The year that was
Next Post
Legal streams for 2011 TV hits

Related Posts

38 Comments. Leave new

The Netflix thing is to provide most or all of the best newer movies only on DVD. That way, their customers are less likely to stay with their service than if they provided more streaming movies or at least back down the additional cost of DVD service + streaming to $12/month. Sad to see a company suiciding like this. Glad I’m not a stockholder.

    Actually, it seems more complex than that. It appears Netflix has been wanting to go big in streaming but so far, it’s efforts seem lacking. Their DVD offering (the original part of the company) is strong but it appears they still have quite a ways to go before becoming a long-term player in the online streaming business.

Your comparison is a bit misleading because Netflix only offers an unlimited streaming at a monthly fee, while the others are rental/buy services for instant streaming. It would be more fair to compare Netflix to Amazon Prime’s free instant streaming. When compared on a level playing field, both are equally bad.

    Netflix is indeed a different type of service but Amazon offers both subscription-based and pay-per-view so the comparison is between availability as a whole.

    The Netflix/Amazon Prime model may be flawed when it comes to box office hits, based on the data. It appears, however, that the pay-per-view model, while better than the subscription one in terms of availability, still have some catching up to do too.

      Like Daktx2, I think there’s a valuable distinction is between flat-fee vs PPV streaming the chart elides. Comparing NFLX’s flat-unlimited selection to AMZN’s PPV offering is not an apples to apples comparison, as they’re not likely exclusive from each other; one can both subscribe to NFLX and use AMZN’s PPV streaming, where subscribing to two flat-unlimited services is unlikely unless the selection is radically divergent (e.g. NFLX and Hulu).

      Breaking down the AMZN selection between Prime unlimited and On Demand PPV is necessary to make the chart useful and fair, particularly because you label AMZN’s offering as simply ‘Amazon’. At the very least, it should be made very clear that he comparison is with Amazon On Demand, not Prime.

        If you read through the analysis, it becomes clear I’m not talking about Prime. At this point, Prime is too new to evaluate against Netflix. I’m considering adding it in next year’s analysis and am currently using Netflix as a proxy for subscription-based services.

        The reason for using Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu as comparison is that last year, the 3 services had substantially different catalogs. This year, it appears we’re moving towards alignment when it comes to availability of movies on those services. So it looks like Hollywood is essentially shutting the door down on Netflix-like subscription services and looking at online as an on-demand medium.

          Bottom line: if you want your analysis to be viewed as legitimate, you need to clearly split it into two categories: all-you-can-eat subscription streaming services and pay-per-view/rental streaming services.

          Absent that, you are creating a fallacious comparison between business models that are intended to be different . . . and known to be different to their respective customers. For $8 I can rent about two recently released movies per month or get a month’s unlimited access to a back catalog of 10K+ titles, most of which aren’t recent. Consumers understand that they’re purchasing different categories of products — why don’t you?

          Apples and oranges, but you’re presenting it as apples & apples. Bad form. You can rectify it simply be editing the table to have three headers:
           – Streaming  Subscription (with Netflix and Amazon Prime as subheaders)
           – Streaming Rental (with Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu as subheaders)
           – DVD Purchase

          You  might include a fourth column (Digital Download Purchase) if you want to be diligent, and include data for Amazon and iTunes download options

          As it stands now, though, your analysis appears bogus because you’re not accurately representing the differences in your data.

          If you actually read the analysis below (sales vs. rental), you would actually see that it’s not that far from what you’re describing.

          Furthermore, I made all the data available right there on the screen so you are free to build your own research based on it if you disagree with the approach I’ve taken.

          Four things:
          – The idea that Prime is too new to break it out beggars belief. NFLX streaming as a standalone offering separate from DVD is newer than Prime, yet you have no problem separating them.
          – Your own data indicates hat it’s not true the services had, as you claim, ‘substantially different catalogs’. We’re looking at variations of at most 10% (+1/-1 on a top ten).
          – The fact hat your break out a marginal service lke Hudu but ignore one with far more reach like Amazon Prime makes the comparison at the very least suspect.
          – You’re jumping to unwarranted conclusions with your last statement. At best, it suggests that Hollywood is *trying* to *push out the availability window* on new hits for all-you-can-eat services, not that they’re shutting the door on them, and that they are *trying* to push users to a PPV model for them (users, of course, have a mind of their own and plenty of competing options for their attention, so they may not

          Netflix streaming is, at this point, 3 years old. Prime Streaming is under 1 year old.

          It is true that Vudu is marginal but my interest there is that it is backed by Walmart, the largest DVD retailer in the country. At such, one might expect that some special deals would exist to increase availability (and the availability of 3D titles in 3D seems to point to some differentiation there) .

          I’ll grant you that I may have jumped the guns on Hollywood’s stance but with 2 weeks of data, it appears that Hollywood is trying to lower the availability of titles on subscription services. More on this in a couple of weeks 🙂

Justin Bieber’s Never say Never is available on Netflix. Also, Moneyball is available for rent from iTunes. This is as of January 15th, but I’m pretty sure they’ve been available before January 14th (date of publish). There may be others but those were the two I recalled.

    I did the research last weekend so yeah, there are a few variations (I will make the change on “Never say Never”). Moneyball, however, is only available as a pre-order on iTunes (just checked) so it’s not available for instant streaming right now.

    However, these do not materially affect the fact that selection is poor.

If the ISPs (cable, dsl, wireless, satellite) and the gov ever get their act together and actually get decent, affordable internet service (with fair, reasonable or no caps) to the population of citizens that live in ‘rural’ areas, then streaming numbers might change.  For many, living in an area that has no decent service because it’s ‘too expensive to run the wire that extra mile’, those individuals have no options but to continue with DVDs.  And, the population that is not properly serviced is still quite large in this country.  We rank lower than a lot of other countries in what type of internet service is provided to all citizens.

If the ISPs (cable, dsl, wireless, satellite) and the gov ever get their act together and actually get decent, affordable internet service (with fair, reasonable or no caps) to the population of citizens that live in ‘rural’ areas, then streaming numbers might change.  For many, living in an area that has no decent service because it’s ‘too expensive to run the wire that extra mile’, those individuals have no options but to continue with DVDs.  And, the population that is not properly serviced is still quite large in this country.  We rank lower than a lot of other countries in what type of internet service is provided to all citizens.

If the ISPs (cable, dsl, wireless, satellite) and the gov ever get their act together and actually get decent, affordable internet service (with fair, reasonable or no caps) to the population of citizens that live in ‘rural’ areas, then streaming numbers might change.  For many, living in an area that has no decent service because it’s ‘too expensive to run the wire that extra mile’, those individuals have no options but to continue with DVDs.  And, the population that is not properly serviced is still quite large in this country.  We rank lower than a lot of other countries in what type of internet service is provided to all citizens.

Can you add the Zune catalog on XBox 360? Believe it or not, that’s the easiest way I’ve found to stream popular stuff in HD.

Studios aren’t going to let you stream new releases for an all you can eat price on Netflix. For streaming Netflix gets movies in the premium pay tv window about 9 months to a year after theatrical release. For Netflix, the better comparison would therefore be against HBO Go or Showtime’s on demand product. It would probably also be more useful to look at 2010s top 100 movies and seeing how ose services compare. You will notice the movies on your chart on Netflix are the ones from the first few months of 2011. Is just not realistic to exopect the movies that are brand new on Netfilx at the current price.

    You are correct that a look at the 2010 top 100 movies would be something good and it is something I have schedule for the 3rd part of this series. It should be coming out weekend after next.

    However, all this still begs the question of why would online get a different release window than DVD?

      Online doesnt get a different window from DVD. You can typically buy or rent PPV online day and date of the DVD release.

      What you can’t do is get those as part of an all you can eat subscription. This is how it has always been- brand new movies have never been on HBO or Starz, they show up about 6 months after the DVD release. Same for Netflix

      Thats why it makes the most sense to compare Netflix to HBO or Showtime and not to Amaxon or iTunes. You pay a fixed amount per month to get access to a catalog of series and non new release movies. Comparing Netflix to iTunes is like comparing HBO to what you an get on Comcast PPV.

        If there isn’t a different window for DVD releases and online releases, could you please explain why 74 of this year’s hits are available on DVD while less than 50 are available even on pay-per-view streams. The data seems to point that there must be a different release window for online than there is for internet PPV.

          Without going through all the movies, I can’t speak for every one of them but I believe that most of them that are on DVD and not available for PPV are in the premium pay TV window. When HBO or Starz gets the rights to the movie 9 months out, you cannot digitally rent them any longer. The only online option through iTunes or Amazon is to purchase the movie.

          I think that is what you will find for most of the movies over 6 months. Examples- all of the ones on Netflix which come through Starz and Epix, The Dilemma and others on HBO right now

Netflix = subscription streaming of old catalog movies and tv shows and a few recent releases from EPIX for a low price of $7.99 month.  Hulu Plus = subscription streaming of this season’s and previous season’s TV shows for $8.99 per month.  HBOGo = subscription streaming of HBO original series plus somewhat recent releases from 50% of the movie studios for $14.99 per month (you need to include HBOGo in your analysis).  Amazon/iTunes/Vudu = purchases of the latest movies – they fill the gap that the subscription services can’t provide.  Subscribe to MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL packages and you can cut the cord.   

    HBOGo is still to new to include in my analysis (maybe next year). And the reason for Amazon/iTunes/Vudu was that last year, the selection was different from those services. Since then, there seems to have been an alignment in what the studios give to those 3 (let’s see what happens next year.

    IF old catalog movies are on Netflix, you have data I don’t have access to. Last year, when I did research on availability of top 10 box office winners for the previous 5 years (see ), Netflix had a grand total of 3/50 movies.

    In a couple of weeks, I’ll have more details on how movies that were in the 2010 box office fared (come back then to see the results 🙂 )

Michael Napier
January 17, 2012 10:41 am

I heard about this story on This Week in Tech on Sunday.  I assume this is the article Leo Laporte was talking about.
This is very interesting to me.  I knew Netflix was lacking in new movies available for streaming but I had no idea how much.
Also interesting is that most of the movies that are on Netflix streaming are not available for rental from other providers.  They are for purchase only.

This comparison is way off.  Most of the things you compared are PPV (3.99+ a movie), while Netflix is a subscriber system (8 bucks a month).  Then you toss in DVDs on the side?  If you have DVDs in that list, shouldn’t you also include Netflix DVDs in your list?  I think you have a good list here, but you are comparing apples to oranges to pears.

    The DVD availability actually comes from Netflix.

    Apparently, you seem to be missing the point of the research, which is to assess how subscription vs. online PPV vs. DVD are doing. And so far, DVD wins, PPV comes in second, and it looks like the subscription-based model is broken.

    Maybe you’re missing the point. The goal of this research was to assess subscription vs. online PPV vs. DVD (the DVD data actually comes from Netflix).

    It is not apples to oranges are those are 3 different business models to deliver movies. So far, DVD (the legacy model) continues to be the strongest one, with online PPV gaining and the all-you-can-eat subscription model seemingly broken.

it’s ridiculous to compare netflix to any of these services because they are COMPLETELY different things. apples and oranges.

Instead of comparing by “popularity”, it seems to me that your comparing by “availability relative to release date”, which Netflix is notoriously handicapped by their contracts and is well-documented everywhere. Have you considered recreating your list from 2010 to see how these services compare in streaming popular movies 1 year later?

Also, you don’t address cost in your comparison. If you watched all 100 movies over the course of the year, you’d be paying several hundred dollars more by renting/purchasing them individually from the “on demand” services compared to Netflix’s subscription model in exchange for having to wait 1-2 months. That’s a value proposition I can definitely live with.

Hi Tristan,

Although there legitimate points for consideration that some commenters have brought up, you’ve one a great job here so thanks!


Here is some data I have to compare Amazon Prime and Netflix streaming.

For Box Office All-Time USA Top 100 (from IMDb), there are 4 available on Netflix streaming and 2 on Amazon Prime.
In contrast, 78 are available on other streaming sites (pay per view), ~80 are available in DVD (BlockBuster or Redbox).

If I use All-Time Worldwide, then the number is 3, 1, 78, ~80.

So looks that the situation is no better for the flat-fee model in 2012.

    Thanks for this. Realize that this is a yearly series so I’ll have more data in January on this 🙂

      BTW, another flat-fee site Hulu Plus is even worse. It has no movies from All-Time Box Office Top 100 (either US or Worldwide).

        Actually, I do not include Hulu in my analysis because it is largely a TV-centric site so it doesn’t make sense to look at availability of movies on there.

          Yes, Hulu focuses on TV series. But it still has 3500+ movies (including free ones) while Amazon Prime covers about 3000+ movies and Netflix streaming covers 10000+ movies. So its amount of movies is still considerable.