It was announced last week that Netflix is employing a new tactic to boost their chances of getting Oscar bids — release films in theaters.
Yes, this decision definetely goes against previous statements made by the streaming giant, and does seem to conflict with the company’s vision, but they’re looking at it as a sort of compromise. Netflix selected three upcoming prestige films to run in theaters for three weeks ahead of their online distribution date. This includes the critically-acclaimed drama from Alfonso Cuaron, Roma, which follows an impoverished family in 1970s Mexico City, a new western with a twist from the Cohen Brothers, and the A Quiet Place-esque thriller staring Sandra Bullock and Sara Paulson, Bird Box.
Economically, it doesn’t make the most sense for audiences to see these films in theaters and pay an extra $15 on top of their $8 monthly Netflix fee, but it’s clear that move isn’t for the average viewer. Netflix is looking to leave their mark on the Academy Awards, but it seems that they need an added boost from the big screen market.
There are certain benefits to films being shown in theaters, like maximum viewing quality and undivided attention from viewers, but is it true that these films would have no chance of a nomination without opening in theaters? Netflix has already successfully earned nominations last year for their historical fiction film Mudbound and documentary Icarus, among others, so why is this move happening now?
Perhaps they have genuine faith in these films (especially Roma, which has already proved itself itself the festival sphere) and Netflix just wants to make sure they’re getting a fair consideration. Maybe it’s because even in the age of instant streaming, movies are still better when seen on the big screen.
The really puzzling piece of all of this is that with the exception of Roma, which will run for 3 weeks, the other films are opening just eight days before their Netflix release.
Whatever the motivator, I think this move is important for the long-term look at where the film industry is going. It’s no secret that big film names have migrated over to streaming services, but this unique theater release deal may be the last big push necessary to convince the rest of high-brow Hollywood that Netflix is in it to win it.
Roma opens in theaters Nov. 21 and on Netflix Dec. 14. The Ballad of Buster Scrooge opens Nov. 8 before its Netflix release on Nov. 16. Bird Box will open Dec. 13 and be available for streaming Dec. 21.