(Reuters) - Martin Scorsese's new gangster film "The Irishman" was watched by an estimated 17.1 million Americans in its first five days of release on Netflix, according to Nielsen data released on Friday.
The Nielsen estimates were the first indications of audience interest in the movie, which cost some $160 million to make and is expected to be a major contender at the Oscars. Netflix has never won the coveted best picture Academy Award.
By comparison, last December's Netflix thriller "Bird Box," starring Sandra Bullock, scored nearly 26 million U.S. viewers in its first seven days of availability, according to Nielsen's subscription video on demand content ratings.
Netflix said at the time that "Bird Box" was watched by 45 million members worldwide in its first seven days of release in December 2018.
Netflix does not routinely release viewing data and the streaming platform declined to comment on the Nielsen estimates for "The Irishman."
The Nielsen estimates cover only U.S. viewers and is limited to those streaming Netflix on television, excluding viewers on mobile devices and computers.
"The Irishman," which stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, has already picked up multiple critics awards despite a limited release in U.S. movie theaters in November after an impasse in negotiations for a longer movie rollout between Netflix and major theater chains.
Netflix has not released any box office figures for the film's 26-day run in independent movie theaters.
Scott Stuber, head of original films at Netflix, told Hollywood trade outlet Variety on Thursday that Netflix was working toward releasing more viewership data on its movie offerings but gave no timeline.
"The Irishman" and its lead actors and director are expected to be nominated for multiple Golden Globe awards when nominations are announced in Los Angeles on Monday. Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 13.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)