It may be seen as a concession to movie-theater chains, but more likely, Netflix is thirsty for some Academy Awards: In a move that will please people who don’t have Netflix subscriptions, the streaming giant has announced three of its new films will first receive a theatrical release before debuting on the service.
Variety reports that Alfonso Cuaró n’s upcoming period piece Roma, the Coen brothers’ Western anthology The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, and the Sandra Bullock-starring horror-thriller Bird Box will all come out in theaters prior to their Netflix premieres. Yes, this is the same company whose CEO previously suggested that popcorn was the only good development to come out of the moviegoing experience in the past 30 years, and that had formerly insisted upon same-day releasing for theatrical and Netflix premieres for its films. Netflix has been negotiating for months with theater owners, who had been demanding a 90-day window between theatrical openings and movies appearing on Netflix, the same as traditional movie agreements. After presumably having a very good laugh about that, Netflix then made the newest arrangement for these films: a one-week exclusive theatrical run for Buster Scruggs and Bird Box, and a three-week run for Roma before it appears on the service.
Despite technically being a concession to theaters, this seems much more like a way to make top-talent filmmakers and Oscar voters happy, two demographics in whose good graces the company would very much like to be. Roma in particular looks to be a strong awards contender (our own A.A. Dowd hasn’t ruled out the possibility it might be kind of a masterpiece), and can only be helped by the more traditional theatrical release in advance of its debut on the platform. Similarly, some of the big names Netflix has managed to rope into making films under its banner include Paul Greengrass and Martin fucking Scorsese, an outspoken fan of the theater-going experience who will probably be happy to hear the streaming service can offer him a theatrical-release exclusive before his upcoming The Irishman gets slapped onto laptop screens where it will try to entice viewers while sitting alongside season four of The Ranch.
Roma will open in theaters November 21, and then on Netflix December 14. Busters Scruggs will mosey into theaters November 8 and then giddy-up to Netflix November 16, while Bird Box will open theatrically December 13 then globally on Netflix December 21. No word yet if Netflix’s next bold innovation will be airing commercials, or “trailers,” for its upcoming films ahead of other movies currently in theaters.