Netflix Subscribers Are Really Digging Into ‘Outbreak’ Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Twenty-five years after its release, Outbreak is back.

All anyone seems to be talking about these days is the coronavirus pandemic. And rightfully so, considering the serious threat the virus poses to the world at large. Now the Centers for Disease Control encourages “social distancing” among citizens.

As such, many are choosing to stay at home and fire up their favorite streaming services. Although the goal here might be to pass the time during this difficult period, some viewers are feeling particularly drawn to a surprising variety of programs.

A Netflix logo seen displayed on a smartphone
A Netflix logo seen displayed on a smartphone | Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hollywood reckons with the coronavirus

Due to concerns over the coronavirus, Hollywood has reacted with caution. Big-screen releases such as A Quiet Place Part II, Mulan, and Fast and Furious 9 have all been postponed or pulled from the schedule altogether. Even The New Mutants — Fox’s long-gestating X-Men spin-off — faces yet another delay mere weeks before it was finally set for release.

Likewise, major companies from Disney to Netflix have halted production on their film and television projects. Notably, these include such hotly anticipated projects as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Stranger Things 4. With so much uncertainty in the air, the entertainment industry is increasingly in lockdown as the nation sorts out the coronavirus pandemic.

Streaming services are seeing an effect as well

Right now, moviegoers are unlikely to head to their local theater, especially with so few new releases on the immediate horizon. Yet, streaming services are reaping the benefit of consumers turning to home entertainment. Many anticipate Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu will experience a surge in new subscribers as a result. After all, the current situation lends itself to binge-watching.

However, the nature of the coronavirus pandemic is inspiring viewers to turn toward relevant entertainment. While some citizens are seeking escape through reality series and the like, others are leaning into real-life concerns. For example, Contagion has become one of the most popular streaming releases all of a sudden.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the 2011 medical thriller depicts the rapid spread of a viral infection. The film was a commercial hit and features an ensemble cast which includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, and Marion Cotillard. But given its subject matter, one wouldn’t think viewers would want to see such a harrowing depiction of a pandemic.

1995’s ‘Outbreak’ has become a top 10 Netflix program

As it turns out, Contagion isn’t the only film about a global medical crisis experiencing a resurgence now. 1995 hit Outbreak — starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman — is climbing up the Netflix charts right now. As of this writing, the Wolfgang Petersen-directed movie sits at number six on Netflix’s recently launched feature.

Based on Richard Preston’s book The Hot Zone, Outbreak follows the rise of a fictional virus inspired by Ebola. The film is among the only programs in Netflix’s current top 10 that isn’t exclusive to the streaming service. The others are The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Space Jam, which sit at numbers nine and 10, respectively. The rest of the line-up consists primarily of Netflix original series.

Spenser Confidential sits comfortably at the top of the list, while shows like On My Block, Love Is Blind, and The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez continue to keep viewers locked to their Netflix accounts. As coronavirus remains a concern, we’ll be watching to see if Outbreak or any other similar content rises higher on the list. For now, the renewed interest in Outbreak — and Contagion, for that matter — provide an interesting snapshot into what everyone is watching.