Netflix doesn’t really want you to go to the theater. They want you to stay home and watch Netflix. However, this has led to some conflict when it comes to some of the streaming service’s marquee film titles. Most theaters won’t waste their time with a day-and-date release (why use up one of your screens when the distributor is already cutting into your audience by also releasing the film on a streaming platform), but Netflix has been reluctant to give their movies a theatrical release before bringing them to streaming. However, with some major titles on the horizon, THR reports that the streaming giant is reconsidering its policy.
According to THR, Netflix film chief Scott Stuber is pushing Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos to give some of their bigger titles like Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA a limited theatrical release before putting it on Netflix. Although sources say no decision has been made, there’s rumors that ROMA could get one to two weeks of an exclusive run in a limited number of specialty theater chains like Landmark or Alamo Drafthouse before hitting Netflix.
The reason for the change is that prestige filmmakers like Cuaron and Paul Greengrass, whose 22 July is also hitting Netflix later this year, want a theatrical release. These filmmakers want a real theatrical release beyond a token awards run, and to keep them and their peers happy, Netflix is considering breaking with their model and budging a bit on the theatrical release.
Granted, for Netflix, there’s reason to worry on this front. If you have people going out to a theater to see a Netflix movie, there’s far less chance they’ll come home and watch that same movie again on Netflix. That being said, if Netflix wants to continue to attract top-tier talent, they may have to just take this as the cost of doing business. It’s not like all Netflix Original movies are going to head to theaters, but for films like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Michael Bay’s Six Underground, they may have to play a bit more to the theater crowd.