Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' is latest film to face hurdles in Netflix vs EU standoff over theatrical releases and homegrown quotas
A story about childhood, family, and war, which should be seen in an initmate gathering rather than lining up near a theater.
Director Alfonso Cuaron is set to receive the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at the 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Awards Gala, but his upcoming film, 'Roma' is creating headlines across Mexico and Italy for some different reason altogether. The critically acclaimed film which is a look back at Alfonso's own childhood in Mexico will be released in limited theatres across Mexico and Italy.
The two giant theatrical chains, Cinepolis and Cinemax have refused to screen the film as it demands that Netflix push its release date of 'Roma' which has been initially set on December 14. According to the theatrical houses' norms, any film requires to have a complete 90-day theatrical window before they are available for streaming online or on VOD platforms. Variety has reported that Cinepolis executive, Claudio Tomasini has said that the company is willing to screen 'Roma' if Netflix abides by the rule, and pushes the films streaming date in Mexico to February in 2019.
However, Matt Brodlie, director of acquisitions for Netflix, has offered both chains the opportunity to show 'Roma' in the three-week window ahead of the film’s Netflix release on December 14. The film will also go out theatrically in a limited number of 50 screens (although it's more than the 40 screens which Mexico has allowed), at a three-day event release early next month before the film becomes available globally on Netflix. Italy’s Cineteca di Bologna is set to handle the distribution of the film in spite of a call by several Italian art-house cinema organizations for exhibitors not to screen 'Roma', which launched in September at the Venice Film Festival and won the Golden Lion.
Alfonso, who has been extremely eager about the film since it chiefly revolves around his childhood which had a strong impact on his career, is quite upset that the film is not being welcomed in his home country. He has told the Mexican newspaper El Universal that he hoped that Netflix and the two theatre giants would come to an agreement about the film. In fact, the 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' director took to Twitter to express his interest in releasing the film in Mexico. "I would like many more theatrical engagements in Mexico. We have all the theaters we have been able to get, which sadly is 40. To put that in perspective, Poland will exhibit in 57 halls and South Korea in 50. ‘Roma’ is available to all cinemas who want to exhibit it.”
However, we can say that it is not all that bad if the film releases on Netflix instead of taking the old way of releasing on big screens. Other than being available to the worldwide audience in a single day, the one thing about a film being released on Netflix is that there is no issue of an opening night. When the focus is no more on how much a film is making on its first day in the theater, it is easier to speculate on the quality of the film. As 'Mute' director Duncan Jones has stated, "The weird thing about doing the Netflix film, obviously is it's not really about opening nights or opening weekend numbers. It's really about, 'Have I made a film that good word of mouth is going to help?' That's kind of where I'm at right now. And it's a very different feeling because that opening weekend sort of stress is not really... it doesn't really exist in the same way for this."
Probably the one other benefit of releasing a film on a streaming platform like Netflix is that the marketing requirements of a theatrical release don't matter, which actually helps preserve a movie's secret until the movie is viewed. Also, as director James Gunn ('Guardians of the Galaxy 2') has rightly pointed out, Netflix is ideal for any consumer since it saves the risk of losing money on a bad film. Gunn said, "The thing is, when you buy a ticket for a movie, you either win or lose: If the movie's bad, you've lost two hours and some money. If the movie's good, you win two hours. You go watch two episodes of a TV show on Netflix and if you lose, you lose two hours. But if you win, you gain thirty-two, sixty, a hundred hours of something that you enjoy. The win-loss ratio is very different."
Alfonso's 'Roma' is a look back at his bubbled childhood in the 70's Mexico, when the nation was torn by the Dirty War. His film is told from the objective perspective of a child who sees the world through his nanny, Cleo's eyes. It can be expected that the film will certainly have an extremely personal tone to itself, and probably releasing a film as intimate in story and tone as 'Roma' will find its best audience in Netflix. The film, starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, and Carlos Peralta, releases on the streaming platform on December 14.
Watch the trailer below: