Just as inexplicably as it came into the world five years ago, the Sharknado film franchise will be coming to a close tonight in a sequel featuring time travel, Nazis, and dinosaurs. Sharknado definitely hit its peak in popularity years ago, so how many people are still watching these movies, exactly? What have the ratings been like for each film, and why is SyFy ending it now?
When the original Sharknado premiered in 2013, it scored about 1.3 million viewers. This number was not particularly phenomenal, as it was about on par with any other SyFy original film that comes out. According to The Hollywood Reporter, two other SyFy originals from earlier that year, Battledogs and Chupacabra vs. the Alamo, both scored 1.5 million viewers even though there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of those.
However, Sharknado began to trend on Twitter the night it aired, with the vast majority of tweets consisting of people who couldn’t believe there was actually a movie airing on TV called Sharknado, even if they weren’t actually watching it live. Buzz about the film built up following the initial airing, and people who had never heard of it before it became a Twitter trend were now curious to check it out.
So when SyFy aired Sharknado a second time, the viewership actually increased to 1.9 million viewers, and when it aired a third time, it brought in 2.1 million viewers. This was an extraordinarily rare instance of an encore presentation of a movie or TV show actually being more popular than the original airing.
After this success, SyFy naturally aired a sequel one year later called Sharknado 2: The Second One. By this time, the original movie had a year to build up momentum via word-of-mouth, and a year to be made fun of on podcasts about bad movies, so the sequel blew the original film out of the water with 3.9 million viewers, according to Deadline. This made it the most-watched SyFy original movie ever.
By this point, SyFy was obviously feeling good about its decision to have already ordered a third movie, which aired the following summer. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! saw a sharp drop-off from the second film, though, with 2.8 million people tuning in this time. Apparently, about one million people had their fill of this joke after two movies, although 2.8 million viewers was still an impressive number and a big increase from even the most popular showing of the original film.
The fourth film, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, did not decline that much from the third one, drawing 2.7 million viewers. By this point, it seemed that the series had found a steady audience, although it was unlikely to ever reach the heights of the second film again.
But by Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, there was another massive ratings dip, with only 1.8 million people tuning into this one. That was a drop of nearly one million viewers from the last film, and even with the Sharknado brand recognition, the number wasn’t that much better than any random SyFy original movie. And any random SyFy movie doesn’t star an actor who is commanding a $500,000 salary for each film.
So with ratings continuing to decline, SyFy announced in March that Sharknado would be coming to an end with The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, a title that cheekily references both the fact that the series has gone on for so long and the fact that the plot is about traveling through time to prevent the first Sharknado from ever occurring. It will air tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.