Which streamers are getting the most out of their classic movies?

14 October, 2022

In general, the most impactful movies a streaming platform can have are going to be current, buzzy, must-watch films that are powerful motivators for subscribers to sign up.  However, as we see in this month’s data, classic movies can also be essential viewing.  As franchises grow, original films in a franchise can see a renewed spike in attention.  Even beyond these franchises, classic movies provide a familiar catalog of content for platforms to offer their subscribers.


Unsurprisingly, the most in-demand classic movie last month was Top Gun, which is still riding the high of its renewed relevance following the release of Top Gun: Maverick earlier this year.  While the original Top Gun had 44.9 times the average movie demand (impressive for a film over 35 years old), Maverick is still flying higher with 92x demand for the month.

Two movies from the original Star Wars trilogy were also among the most in-demand movies released 20 or more years ago.  New Disney+ series this year have expanded the Star Wars universe and brought audiences back to the classics that kicked off the massive Star Wars franchise. Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered in May and Andor released its first three episodes on September 21st.  Smart franchise extensions like these allow Disney to not only cash in on the new series’ success but also benefit from increased attention on legacy content.

Demand for The Nightmare Before Christmas rose in the month leading to October, when it has seen a seasonal spike in demand.  Predator 2 was among the ten most in-demand classic movies last month following the release of the latest movie in the franchise, Prey, on Hulu.  Demand for the movie actually peaked in mid-August around the time of Prey’s premiere and has fallen since then.

A number of timeless favorites with a high longevity also featured in the top ten.  It is no surprise to see that both Forrest Gump and Titanic still have strong demand decades after their release even without extensive franchises or the seasonal interest that has helped boost demand for some of the other films this month.  It may be a surprise to see Anastasia and Spirited Away as the most in-demand classic movies geared towards children given Disney’s deep catalog and traditional dominance among children’s content.


Looking at the relative importance of classic films to the libraries of US streamers we can see a few players leveraging this legacy content more than others.  HBO Max had the greatest amount of total demand for its film library in September and the total demand for classic movies on the platform was more than on any of these other streamers.  As a proportion of demand for all movies on the platform, films released 20 or more years ago made up 36% of demand for all movies available on HBO Max in September.  

Paramount+, however, was the platform with the largest share of demand for its movie catalog coming from classic movies.  40% of demand for movies on Paramount+ was for films that were released in 2002 or earlier.  While Paramount has a deep reserve of classic movies to draw on for its streaming service, this number was boosted specifically by the recent success of the original Top Gun, available to stream exclusively on Paramount+.

Netflix managed to have the second highest total demand for its movie catalog in September.  Despite this, only 11% of this demand was for movies more than 20 years old - a much smaller share than other platforms.  This underscores the effort (and expense!) that Netflix has had to put into building its film catalog with recent content.  Unlike legacy media companies like Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix has not been able to rest on decades of legacy content to bolster its film catalog.  Fast forward 20 years and maybe things will look different with Netflix looking at today’s investments as tomorrow’s classics.

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