ROMA is going to be a divisive film, but not so much because of its content, but because of its presentation. Netflix is distributing the movie, which means it’s going to be available on streaming. However, the film’s producers also want it to receive a theatrical release of some kind. Netflix also wants this to an extent because a theatrical release of a week is required for the film to qualify for Academy Awards. With this in mind, Deadline is reporting that Netflix is set to release ROMA on 100 screens worldwide on the same day the film hits Netflix. Although Netflix hasn’t announced a date yet, Deadline says it’s looking like it will be on December 14th.
Why is this divisive? Because some people believe you need to see ROMA on the biggest screen possible with the best sound system. I saw the film at TIFF last month, and let’s make one thing clear: you need to see ROMA. It’s one of the best movies of the year, and a masterpiece by writer-director Alfonso Cuarón. But how should you see it? And if you can’t see it in a theater, is it worth seeing at all?
I would argue that you need to see ROMA in a theater not because of its presentation, but because of the audio. Deadline reports that “Cuarón specifically wants Dolby Atmos-tailored venues,” and that’s because ROMA is all about enveloping the audience. It’s a movie where Cuarón is constantly putting you in places and letting you feel like you’re there, whether it’s a city street in Mexico City or a farm out in the countryside. It’s not a film with fancy camera moves or intense digital effects like Cuarón’s previous movie, Gravity, but the way he frames his shots and pans the camera makes you feel like you’re inside the director’s memories.
If you have a nice TV and a 5.1 surround system at home, you can get away with seeing ROMA on streaming. In fact, the biggest threat to the presentation may not be your home theater system—it may be you. ROMA is a movie that requires you to give yourself over to it, and so if you’re constantly checking your phone or getting up to get food or basically dividing your attention because you can by virtue of being at home, then it’s going to harm the experience. So if you think you may have trouble staying focused on ROMA at home, see it in a theater if it’s playing near you.