EXCLUSIVE: Netflix giving their awards season features a qualifying theatrical release isn’t new; the streaming service has practiced this annually going back to 2015’s Beasts of No Nation.
This year the streaming service will be giving awards qualifying runs to the following titles, and Deadline has learned exclusively from reliable sources that these movies will reportedly open on the following dates: Paul Greengrass’ Norway political thriller 22 July on Oct. 10, the Coen Brothers’ western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs on Nov. 16 and Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white epic Roma on Dec. 14. Release dates being release dates, they can always change, but this is what we’re hearing at this time.
We’re also hearing that each of these runs will be in 10-12 theaters in big city locations, and will play largely at the Landmark, which has historically been the case for Netflix movies. Why? Because Academy voters in Los Angeles and New York go to the Landmark. 22 July and Buster Scruggs will play a week. It’s possible that Roma could play for a two-week run.
When it comes to Roma, the Dolby Atmos sound factor is an important one we hear for Oscar-winner Cuaron. The Landmark chain isn’t equipped with Dolby Atmos, however, Alamo Drafthouse is. It’s possible that one of their big city locations (such as the venue in Brooklyn) could be in the mix to land the film. Even if it does not, sources say that Netflix could feasibly four-wall (‘rent’ in distribution lingo) an AMC, Cinemark, or Regal big chain Dolby theater for $25K-$50K during that time frame (note, playing through Christmas would be really tough due to the competition for screen space). The whole big chains don’t-book-day-and-date theatrical titles isn’t a factor here nor are windows because these Netflix releases would reportedly be given a very limited, rented run. If Netflix was planning a wide theatrical release and wanted to be day and date with streaming at the same time, that’s a whole other issue. In this case, Netflix can get around the whole windows thing by renting a theater.
All three movies are making their Venice Film Festival world premieres with Roma tomorrow, Buster Scruggs on Friday and 22 July on Sept. 5. Roma and 22 July will continue on to TIFF, while Buster Scruggs will make a stop at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 4.
The big question is when do these titles stream, and we understand those dates haven’t been worked out yet. Netflix per the rules of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ must bow theatrically on the first day of a pic’s release, and can stream thereafter. There’s talk of releasing these pics theatrically a week to two weeks ahead of streaming. Still TBD.
Again this sounds more like a qualifying play for these Netflix titles and less of a box office play. On the weekend of Oct. 12-14 on the specialty circuit, 22 July would bump up against Amazon’s Beautiful Boy and Sony Pictures Classics’ The Happy Prince. On Nov. 16, Buster Scruggs will face CBS’s Eternity’s Gate in New York and LA, while Roma on Dec. 14 squares off with Sony Pictures Classics’ Capernaum and Annapurna’s Adam McKay-directed tentatively titled Backseat which centers around the George W. Bush presidential administration.
Last year, Dee Rees’ Mudbound which was given a week’s theatrical release went on to earn four Oscar nominations including Mary J. Blige in a supporting actress role. Angelina Jolie’s directorial First They Killed My Father, which also had a qualifying theatrical week’s run, received a Golden Globe nomination in the best foreign language film category.
When reached, Netflix provided no comment for this article.