In a standoff that began at Cannes, Netflix has acquiesced and decided to give the releases of three of their fall/winter films theatrical runs before their streaming release, a first for the streaming giant and a strategic move on the everchanging Oscar landscape.
Netflix made a big splash last year when Mudbound earned four Oscar nominations, all of which came with history-making landmarks: Adapted Screenplay for director Dee Rees (a first for an African-American woman), Supporting Actress and Original Song for Mary J. Blige (the first time ever a performer was nominated in both categories in the same year for the same film) and Cinematography for Rachel Morrison (the first woman ever nominated in that category). This was the beginning of validation and momentum that their business model wasn’t going to hurt the movie industry but push it in a new direction. They didn’t win any of those categories but they did nab a win in Documentary Feature for Icarus, their first.
On the top of their list is ROMA, Alfonso Cuarón’s black and white personal epic, which will have exclusive limited theatrical engagements starting November 21st in Los Angeles, New York and Mexico. Additional engagements in U.S. cities and London will begin November 29th with other top U.S. markets and international territories continuing to roll out beginning December 7th. The film will then be released globally on Netflix on December 14th with an expanded theatrical release in the U.S. and international markets. In total, the film will be theatrically released in over 20 territories globally with 70mm presentations also being planned during the film’s theatrical release.
ROMA has played every major festival this year (after the Cannes kerfuffle, of course), more than other film in Oscar contention and Cuarón, with Netflix’s deep pockets, made sure that nearly every screening of the film was equipped with 4K viewing and an immersive 7.1 Atmos sound mix. An enormous expense and gamble that looks like it could pay off. At the moment, ROMA is considered one of the frontrunners for Best Picture.
Deadline reported the news first, also detailing that The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which world premiered at the Venice Film Festival, will have exclusive limited theatrical engagements starting November 8th in The Landmark in Los Angeles, The Landmark 57 West in New York, the Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco and Curzon Theater in London. The film will be released globally on Netflix on November 16th and will have an expanded theatrical release in additional U.S. cities, Toronto and theaters throughout Europe.
Bird Box, starring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, is set to world premiere at AFI FEST on November 12th, and will have exclusive limited theatrical engagements starting December 13st in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London. The film will be released globally on Netflix on December 21st and will have an expanded theatrical release in additional theaters in the U.S., Europe and throughout Europe.
It remains to be seen if Academy voters will bite but the accessibility of Netflix films to voters across all guilds and industry groups is an advantage over studios still clinging to in-hand DVD screeners. With this also being the first year the Academy completely switches over to online balloting for voting, that could also put Netflix ahead of the pack