2018 has been an extremely memorable year in cinema, and Netflix has been a significant component in these end of year discussions. The streaming service has been leading the charge in how people watch movies for a while now. There’s no debating that. However, it seems they have been attempting a new approach with their films. They have planted their flag in the homes of millions. Now, they are trying to cement themselves in Oscar history by changing the way they release its films.
Obtaining films from distinguished filmmakers such as Alfonso Cuarón, the Coen Brothers, and even Martin Scorsese is quite the feat. While these directors have amassed great success throughout their careers, is a film releasing on Netflix a sign of trouble? The debate seems to be split. Many believe a film releasing on Netflix showcases that studios don’t have faith in its quality or box office success. Others look forward to the release strategy that is as simple as pressing play from the couch. Theaters and Netflix both have their own benefits and criticisms.
There are those who enjoy a night out at the movies, and the reasoning for this can be multi-faceted. At its core level, going to the movies is a social event. A group of people can individually experience a film, and then openly discuss their thoughts together as they formulate. Then, there is the simple factor of a theater’s ability to provide a better quality of film, from both a visual and auditory perspective. Especially in larger formats such as IMAX, it’s a fact. That may not be a deal-breaker to some, but there is no denying certain spectacles on the big screen that are unable to be replicated at home.
Still, Netflix does provide an entirely different viewing experience, which has its fair share of benefits. First and foremost, Netflix has eliminated the “troublesome” audience member. Nothing is worse than somebody else ruining a movie, and the ability to be in a controlled environment is significant. Secondly, Netflix is without a doubt more cost effective. Ticket prices continue to prove unjustifiable, especially when theaters don’t regulate audience members who talk or use their phones. Theaters like the Alamo Drafthouse are attempting to break this habit, but chains like AMC or Regal must adapt to shift the culture as well. So the combination of convenience and practical cost is beneficial to many who don’t have the time or resources to make a trip to the movies. For these film lovers, Netflix is invaluable.
There is a clear divide between the world of arthouse cinema and mainstream films, but Netflix could bridge that gap. Alex Garland’s latest film, Annihilation, was released on the streaming service overseas and had a theatrical run domestically. It was praised across the board for a variety of aspects, though it bombed at the box office. It just was not a film that mainstream audiences were willing to take a chance on, and while that is a different problem entirely, Annihilation was fortunate enough to remain semi-successful and prevalent due to its life on Netflix. A foreign film such as Roma could have possibly received a similar fate, but luckily, audiences and Netflix saw differently.
So what happens when Netflix wants to break through the streaming wall and onto the stage of the Oscars? Their first step was to allow exclusive theatrical runs of certain films prior to their Netflix release date. Movies like Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Bird Box all received this treatment in hopes of bringing various Oscars home to the streaming service. Roma, which many have pegged as a strong Best Picture contender, would be a monumental victory for Netflix. Not only would it be the first Best Picture nominee/winner for the company, but it would also be the first ever foreign film to win the award as well. A win like that could provide the service with a greater incentive to release more of its movies in this manner.
And while Netflix does not currently seem to have any interest in pushing larger theatrical runs, these smaller runs are a great start that are definitely profitable. According to Deadline, Roma was estimated to bring in $200,000 in five days among three theaters. The key takeaway from this statistic is a fact that many have tried to dispute in recent years. It is proof that audiences still want to go to the movies. It’s no secret that Roma was going to be releasing on Netflix after this theatrical run, yet that didn’t stop the masses from rushing out to see it. Due to that success, Netflix expanded the rollout of theaters even further prior to the streaming release date.
No matter what happens at the Oscars, the rollout of Roma was crucial for Netflix and its future in film. Firstly, it showed the company is willing to delve into a world they once criticized. If streaming services and theaters cooperate more, perhaps we will see more massive rollouts for a variety of Netflix films soon. Netflix is pushing Roma for the undeniable reason of winning awards, but this could open their eyes past that. For example, they may allow longer release windows to work with larger theater chains. This will enable cities with smaller markets to see them on the big screen as well, giving both sides a chance. There is nothing wrong with watching a film on Netflix, but if given the opportunity, it is clear that many would flock to the box office. The future of film rollouts will only become more interesting as additional streaming services enter the marketplace, and it is on all parties involved, including audiences, to influence where it will go next.
Where do you like to watch movies, at home or in the theater? Comment below with your thoughts.