In what would be a change from its current policy, Netflix is considering releasing Alfonso Cuarón's film Roma in theaters before it becomes available for streaming. Up to this point, the company has only ever released its Original Movies in theaters on the same day they debut on the streamer.
While Netflix has won Oscars in the past for the documentary short The White Helmets and documentary feature Icarus, the streaming service is attempting to gain more traction than ever before this awards season. In addition to Roma, Netflix has new offerings from the Coen Brothers (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Paul Greengrass (22 July), and David Mackenzie (Outlaw King) lined up to compete at this year's biggest film festivals, prior to their release on Netflix and in select theaters for Oscar qualification. However, in the past, similar prestige films like Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound premiered day-and-date on Netflix, thus making their theatrical runs fairly unimportant from a commercial perspective.
According to THR, Netflix film head Scott Stuber is "pushing" the company's Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, to give some of their upcoming awards season hopefuls an expanded theatrical release. Both Cuarón and Greengrass reportedly want their new movies to have a significant theatrical run, prior to their launch on the streamer. THR further stresses that, until further notice, no official decisions have been made on the matter.
Up to now, Netflix has released select movies in theaters as a formality and little else. In fact, the company hasn't even reported its theatrical grosses since Beasts of No Nation was released three years ago. Some major theater chains refuse to even screen Netflix Originals at all. Cinemark and Regal (among others) established that precedent back in 2014, when they passed on giving the company's sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Destiny a limited run in IMAX. However, as Netflix continues to change the game in Hollywood, it's possible these chains will start becoming more accommodating in that respect.
Even if Netflix does change its release policy for Roma, it might not seem like anything major at first. THR's sources caution that Cuarón's film (a semi-autobiographical black and white drama set in the 1970s) might only play in theaters for as little as a week, before it premieres on the streamer. All the same, that small change in policy could be enough to get certain major theater chains to begin softening their stance against Netflix's Original releases. Whichever way things play out, it should mark an important turning point in the company's ongoing efforts to truly rival its studio competitors.
We will let you know when Roma gets an official release date.