The old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” has been taken to heart by Netflix when it comes to theatrical releases.
The streaming video-on-demand behemoth revealed it will debut original movies Roma, from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity); The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen) and post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, from Danish helmer Susanne Bier (Oscar-winning In a Better World) in limited domestic theatrical releases – ahead of streaming.
Netflix, through a longstanding mandate by CCO Ted Sarandos to upend the theatrical window, has always made its original movies available theatrically and streaming at the same time.
The stance has angered the Hollywood status quo, notably some film festivals (Cannes) and exhibitors – the latter refusing to screen Netflix movies also available to its 130 million subscribers.
It has also kept Netflix movies out of Oscar award consideration, whose voters apparently prefer watching new titles in the theater. And Netflix feels it has a trio of possible contenders. Hence the policy the change.
As a result, Roma will bow in theaters in select markets Nov. 21, followed by streaming on Dec. 14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (featuring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson and Stephen Root, among others) will hit the box office on Nov. 8 – eight days ahead of streaming. The same time gap for Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, which hits screens Dec. 13 and SVOD on Dec. 21.
“These upcoming engagements are following the success of our theatrical and Netflix releases of Private Lifeand 22 July,” Scott Stuber, head of original films at Netflix, said in a statement. “There’s been an overwhelming response to all of our films this festival season, including Outlaw King, which will be in theaters and on Netflix next week, and this plan is building on that momentum.”
Stuber said the policy change reflects the Netflix’s desire to attract the best filmmakers and talent.
Indeed, one of Netflix’s first original movies – Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah, and directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”) was ignored by the Academy Awards despite strong critical reviews. A move many saw as an industry rebuke of Netflix’s release strategy.
“Our members benefit from having the best quality films from world class filmmakers and our filmmakers benefit by being able to share their artistry with the largest possible audience in over 190 countries worldwide,” said Stuber.