After announcing their U.S. and UK limited theatrical-streaming release plans for Martin Scorsese’s $160M mob opus The Irishman this morning, Netflix has unveiled the release dates for its entire awards-season slate including Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, the Eddie Murphy pic Dolemite Is My Name, David Michod’s The King, Wash Westmoreland’s Earthquake Bird, Noah Baumbach’s drama Marriage Story, Sergo Pablos’ animated pic Klaus, Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes, Jeremy Clapin’s French animated pic I Lost My Body, and Mati Diop’s Atlantics.
The latter two pics are Cannes Film Festival award winners the streamer acquired in May.
For Oscar eligibility, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires a film to have a seven-day run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County, and Netflix is providing a theatrical run for these pics which go far beyond that minimum requirement before they hit the streaming site.
Marriage Story, starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple on the rocks, will get a longer theatrical prerelease before streaming at 30 days (November 6 theatrical, Decemeber 6 streaming) than The Irishman‘s 27 days. The Two Popes will play 23 days of theatrical prior to Netflix (November 27/December 20).
Other pics are 21 days on the big screen, i.e. Laundromat (September 27 theatrical/October 18 streaming), Dolemite (October 4/October 25) and The King (October 11/November 1). Earthquake Bird (November 1/November 15), Lost My Body (November 15/November 29) and Atlantics (November 15/November 29) will play for two weeks before they’re available on in-home/mobile, while Klaus will play for one week (November 8/November 15).
The truncated theatrical-streaming release is the new world order in awards season, and it’s a rollout to which AMPAS has given its full OK — in fact, it’s a rule that’s been in place going back to when Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop, an IFC shortened theatrical/VOD release, was nominated for Adapted Screenplay in 2010. Truncated theatrical/streaming releases erase the stink of any foul box office results for these specialty releases, so a contender isn’t bogged down by sour headlines. Even more, these pics are accessible to a wider audience during the year-end awards voting period. Note that even though these pics will have an exclusive pre-theatrical run, they will continue to play in theaters while they’re on Netflix.
Those in distribution circles say Netflix is known to offer their pics to exhibition on favorable, even generous terms where the theater sees an upside. With the big three major chains — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — refusing to go along with Netflix’s pitch for a shortened theatrical window under 90 days (the industry norm), Netflix will rely on other indie chains like Landmark, iPic, Alamo Drafthouse and mom-and-pops to play its slate. Non-Netflix distribution sources tell me that the widest one of these pics could go is anywhere in the 200-500 theater range. Last year, some of Roma‘s bookings were “four-walled,” meaning that Netflix rented out a theater for a short period (and could essentially hand out tickets to voters in key markets as needed). In such four-wall cases, comScore, the middle-man for box office ticket sales between the studios and theaters, can’t even see what a Netflix film would gross.
For Netflix, it’s not about the money, it’s about the awards prestige: Roma came close to winning Best Picture at the Oscars with three trophies for Best Director Alfonso Cuarón, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography.
Still be determined is whether any of the 2019 pics, specifically The Irishman, get any kind of special play, i.e. Dolby. Last year, Cuarón demanded that Roma be seen on the big screen with key specifications, and a Dolby system was installed at the Landmark’s Pico Boulevard location by the streamer.
Starring a huge ensemble cast that includes Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa Rauch and more, The Laundromat follows a widow who investigates an insurance fraud, and chases leads to a pair of Panama City law partners who are exploiting the world’s financial system. The pic will get a UK theatrical date September 27, and global of October 18. The movie is playing Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian film festivals this fall.
Craig Brewer’s Dolemite Is My Name stars Eddie Murphy as real-life Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu-fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon. The pic, which is making its world premiere at Toronto, will open in the UK on October 11, and be available to stream worldwide October 25.
Michod’s The King, produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, will make its world premiere at Venice. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, Lily-Rose Depp and more, The King follows King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life. Pic opens in the UK on October 11 and will be available on Netflix worldwide on November 1.
The Irishman as previously reported this morning will go in the UK on November 8.
Earthquake Bird follows a young woman living in Tokyo who becomes the prime suspect in a horrific murder when her friend goes missing in the wake of a tumultuous love triangle. Based on the Susanna Jones novel of the same name, the pic stars Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough, Naoki Kobuyashi, Kiki Sukezane, Yoshiko Sakuma, Kazuhiro Muroyama, Ken Yamamura, Akiko Iwase, Crystal Kay and Jack Huston. Pic will open in the UK on November 8.
Marriage Story is a portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. In addition to Driver and Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta co-star. Pic’s UK theatrical date is November 15.
Klaus follows a postman who is posted to a frozen town in the North – where he discovers Santa Claus is hiding out. It shares the same theatrical date in the UK as the U.S. — November 8. Voice-over cast includes Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Norm MacDonald and Will Sasso.
I Lost My Body won the Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize and tells the story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. Pic opens a week after U.S. in the UK on November 22. The same dates go for Cannes Grand Jury prize winner Atlantics. That pic, which takes place in a suburb of Dakar, follows teenager Ada, who is in love with Souleiman, a young construction worker. She has been promised to another man. One night, Souleiman and his co-workers leave the country by sea, in hope of a better future. Several days later, a fire ruins Ada’s wedding and a mysterious fever starts to spread — and she learns that Souleiman has returned.
The Two Popes will open in the UK two days after U.S., on November 29. Pic stars Anthony Hopkins as Catholic Church hardliner Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as reformist Pope Francis as they try to find common ground. Pic is making its world premiere at Venice, and will continue to Telluride and Toronto.