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August 12, 2018

What percentage of movies are available to stream, rent or buy online?

Screenwriter and writing community hero John August posed a question on Twitter a couple of days ago.  He was surprised to find that some major movies are not available to stream or buy in the US, despite their clear value and audience interest.

He asked people to add any other movies they find which fit his criteria (i.e. top 100 mainstream, English-language movies) and which are not currently available to stream, rent or buy digitally in the US.

This sounded like a fun challenge, so I took it on.  I expanded the criteria slightly to look at the 200 top grossing movies of the past two decades, 4,000 movies in total.

I’m also going to subdivide the ‘top films’ of each year into three cohorts:

  • Highest Grossing, measured via the US box office gross.
  • Most Loved, measured by IMDb audience scores (out of 10).
  • Best Reviewed, measured by Metascore, which is an average of all major film critics (out of 100).

Digital availability of top movies (1998-2017) in the US

Let’s look at the big picture first, then we’ll zoom in to get more detail.

Across all 4,000 movies, just under half are available to stream via subscription, 92% can be rented digitally and 95% can be bought digitally.  The availability is slightly better for the highest grossing 50 movies, as opposed to the top 50 as judged by audiences and film critics.

Streaming availability – how deep is the stream?

Let’s start by looking at what movies are available to stream via subscription.

Across all 4,000 movies in the dataset, I tracked 23 different subscription streaming services.  This is a market dominated by a few huge players, with Netflix offering almost one in five of the movies, and Amazon Prime Video and Starz not far behind.

 

If a film is available to stream then it’s most likely to only be available on just one platform.

There is a strong skew towards more modern movies, with 80% of 2017 movies (i.e. those first released in cinemas in 2017) available, compared with just 38% of 2015 movies.

Rental

Next, let’s turn to digital rentals.  The top two spots in the availability chart are taken by Google projects, namely the Google Play Store and YouTube (this is paid rentals, not pirated streaming!)

We also see a much higher availability rate than with streaming, with over 90% of movies available on at least one platform.

Movies tend to appear on more than rental platform simultaneously (much more so than we saw with streaming). More than nine out of every ten movies are available on at least one platform.  The highest grossing films are the cohort available on the greatest number of platforms, with over 80% available on more than three platforms at the same time.

Interestingly, there is the opposite skew in availability over time than we saw with streaming.  Movies released in the last year or two are the least likely to be available to rent on any platform when compared to older movies.

Purchase

Last, and certainly not least, is digital purchases.  This category had the highest availability, with over 80% of all movies available on all of the six biggest platforms.

Distribution of top grossing movies is extremely widespread, with the top 50 grossing movies of each year being offered for sale on five or more platforms.  Most Loved and Best Reviewed films have a lower distribution reach, 94% and 93% respectively, and are available on at least one platform.

The vast majority of movies are available to purchase, even those first released in cinemas twenty years ago.

Missing classics

John’s original question was about movies which are not available to stream, rent or buy in the US.  So, in answer to that, here is a list of 120 such movies.

The movies below were all in the top 200 grossing movies of their year of release.

Key:

  • BO rank = US box office rank (1 is the top grossing movie that year)
  • Meta rank = Metascore Rank (1 is the best-reviewed film that year)
  • IMDb rank = IMDb audience Rank (1 is the highest-scoring film that year)
  • Metascore = Average of all critics, out of 100.
  • IMDb = Average audience score, out of 10.
MovieYearBO rankMeta rankIMDb rankMetascoreIMDbWeblinks
Hero20024746857.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
Instinct19996012892436.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Jungle Book 2200361150167385.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
Apocalypto2006634010687.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
Boogeyman200565173188324.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
Exorcist: The Beginning200471178174305.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Man of the Year200681153115396.2JustWatch
The Musketeer200186174186274.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Dragonfly200289175121256.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Bye Bye Man201791155193374.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Grindhouse2007952419777.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie2002979083586.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Pledge20011013862716.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
Georgia Rule2007108182141255.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
3000 Miles to Graceland2001111186139215.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
The King and I1999112164192294.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Secret World of Arrietty20101161516807.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Serving Sara2002116186167185.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Youth in Revolt20091186196636.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Chill Factor1999118155173335.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
Cookie's Fortune19991194267706.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
American Outlaws2001121178135256Wikipedia, JustWatch
Wrongfully Accused19981221321246.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Drop Dead Gorgeous199912316692286.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
3 Strikes2000123195188114.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Get Over It200112582148525.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
Whatever It Takes19981261321854.7JustWatch
The Good Girl20021273892716.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Ponyo2008128514867.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Brotherhood of the Wolf20011296841577.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Juwanna Mann2002129179189244.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Head Over Heels2001130174167275.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
Spirited Away200113212968.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Croupier19981381938757.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
Bread and Tulips20001385228687.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
The In Crowd2000139192185144.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Les Boys II19981401321186.2JustWatch
One Night with the King2006140155109386.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2200414019720092Wikipedia, JustWatch
Disobedience20171414375746.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
A Single Man20091422018777.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
One Night at McCool's2001143114125466.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Gold201614511382496.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Last Ounce of Courage2012148184198114.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Material Girls2006148196194173.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
You Were Never Really Here20171521770846.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
Monsieur Ibrahim20031534026697.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
How She Move200715367195633.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Barfi!201215318538.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
N-Secure20101531851983.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
3 Idiots2009154431678.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
Talaash20121545533657.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Dreamers20031546640627.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
Kissing a Fool19981541321605.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Golden Bowl200015567128626Wikipedia, JustWatch
Redline2007155185189244Wikipedia, JustWatch
Alone in the Dark200515619419992.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Rider2017157420927.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Bon voyage20031574462686.9JustWatch
Captive2015157147172365.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
On the Line2001159151196344.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Happiness199816098817.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
Lovely & Amazing20011622452756.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
I'm Not Scared20031651826737.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
L'auberge espagnole20021665830657.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Bossa Nova20001668396576.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Youth20171675947697.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
A Day Without a Mexican2004168178184304.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Toilet - Ek Prem Katha2017168180357.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Good Thief20021714883686.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Goodbye Christopher Robin201717110657547.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
Bang Bang20141711941725.5JustWatch
Under the Sand2000173545867.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
Hurlyburly19981731321495.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
Last Orders20011751849787Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Animation2013175189217.6JustWatch
The Book of Mormon Movie, Volume 1: The Journey20031781961963.2Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Mother20031792371726.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Gingerbread Man199817946156655.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Old Fashioned2014179178180295.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Full Frontal2002180134187454.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Thérèse: The Story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux2004180184103276.4JustWatch
Basic Instinct 22006180185191264.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
For Your Consideration200618140109686.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag201318118918.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2016: Live Action2016181189297.4JustWatch
Bright Young Things20031825589646.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Then She Found Me200718288138566Wikipedia, JustWatch
Race 220131821891805.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Together20001831021847.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
What If...2010183185776.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu20121841851525.8Wikipedia, JustWatch
A Aa2016184189647Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Luzhin Defence20001855868646.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
Persecuted2014185193198113.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar19991861851445.9JustWatch
Urbania20001873259737Wikipedia, JustWatch
Ararat20021877383626.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Crush2001187143139375.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
Resurrecting the Champ20071889389556.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Kaminey2009188195247.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Last Kiss20011894949657Wikipedia, JustWatch
Raavan20101891851715.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Business of Strangers20011914493676.4Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Shape of Things20031917579596.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
We Are Family20101911851605.6JustWatch
Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl1998192132207.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Son's Room20011933028737.4JustWatch
The Princess and the Warrior20001935821647.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Singles Ward20021931991076.3Wikipedia, JustWatch
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie2001194608617.9Wikipedia, JustWatch
Departures2008195343688.1Wikipedia, JustWatch
The Best Two Years2004195198317.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Where Hope Grows201419613591416.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Race2008196192886.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Neerja2016197189207.7Wikipedia, JustWatch
Delhi-62009198123134456Wikipedia, JustWatch
Dostana20081981921016.5Wikipedia, JustWatch
Raanjhanaa2013199189217.6Wikipedia, JustWatch
Heading South200520025104736.4Wikipedia, JustWatch

Note: It could well be that one or two of these are actually available, either on an obscure platform or incorrectly labelled (and therefore lost in the data analysis).  If you spot any such films within a week or so of this article’s publication then let me know and I’ll update this list.  After that, I won’t be updating it as availability will constantly change and so this stands as a record of the situation in mid-Augst 2018, rather than a live representation of the market as it may appear to you now.

UPDATE – Top 100 1970-2017

John asked me to run the stats a bit further back in time.  To do this I narrowed to John’s criteria of top 100 grossing movies.

As you can see below, all forms of digital delivery skew towards more recent films.

Across his criteria, 335 films were unavailable on all platforms.  You can view the raw data in this Google Spreadsheet.

Further reading

If you’ve enjoyed this jaunt into the availability of top movies then here are a few older articles from the blog to continue your journey:

Notes

The data for today’s piece came from a number of sources, including Just Watch, IMDb, Box Office Mojo, The-Numbers/ Opus, Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes with verification achieved via Netflix, iTunes, Vudu and a host of other providers. Of the 4,000 films I studied, I found streaming, rental or purchase data for 3,956 movies (99%) and Metascores for 3,766 movies (94%).

In a small number of cases, the top movie groups may include one or two more movies than their name suggests, due to identical scores.  For example, in 2006 both Children of Men and Volver received a Metascore of 84.  This means they are tied for 10th place, and consequently, both appear in the Top 10 Best Reviewed group for 2006.

This research focuses on US access to these movies.  I could expand it to other countries if there’s a desire.

Epilogue

Thanks to John August for posing such an interesting question.  These are exactly the type of challenges that are fun to crack and hopefully useful to filmmakers and film professionals.

If you have a similar question or conundrum, please do drop me a line or ask in the comments below.

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4 Responses

  1. Chloe August 13, 2018 at 9:05 pm #

    Incredible research, Stephen! Thank you, as always.

    Two updates I noticed for the Missing Classics database: Disobedience and Goodbye Christopher Robin are available on Google Play in the U.S.

  2. Carlo August 21, 2018 at 7:15 am #

    Unavailability is what made me start downloading movies 20 years ago (it all started with The Phantom Menace, if those around at the time recall). I have now almost 5000 movies and I checked the list (I stopped at letter K because it’s clear piracy is quite ahead of legit distribution) and I have the following movies:
    A Single Man – Tom Ford
    After Hours – Martin Scorsese
    Aladdin – Ron Clements, John Musker
    Apocalypto – Mel Gibson
    Bullets Over Broadway – Woody Allen
    Caddyshack – Harold Ramis
    Candyman – Bernard Rose
    Casino Royale – Martin Campbell
    Cocoon – Ron Howard
    Dogma – Kevin Smith
    Fahrenheit 9/11 – Fahrenheit 9/11
    Fame – Alan Parker
    Fight club – David Fincher
    He Got Game – Spike Lee
    Heavenly Creature (non Heavenly CreaturD) – Peter Jackson
    Henry & June – Philip Kaufman
    Howl’s Moving Castle – Hayao Miyazaki
    Inland Empire – David Lynch
    Instinct – Jon Turteltaub
    Jungle Fever – Spike Lee
    Kundun – Martin Scorsese

    many of them are dvd rips so it would be a breeze to made them available online to stream.
    And, yes, I understand collecting pirated movies is illegal, but that’s the way it goes.

  3. Klaus Badelt November 5, 2018 at 8:47 pm #

    Interesting research. And this is just the Box Office top 200. Would love to know more about the other many thousands of “good films” out there – independent, narrative or documentaries, verticals, international… Those which never had a real chance in the old distribution industry. Did digital change their opportunity – or same old story?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Many Older Movies Aren’t Available Online, But Screenwriter John August Wants to Change That | Fishstream TV - August 17, 2018

    […] call for a more systematic approach. Stephen Follows took up the challenge, which resulted in a blog post that tracks the availability of the 200 top-grossing movies for each year going back to […]

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