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Netflix, Mexico’s Cinepolis Face Off Over Release of ‘Roma’

In a face-off between the world’s biggest streaming platform and second-biggest cinema theater owner, Mexico’s Cinepolis has called on Netflix to respect traditional theatrical windows for the release of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” in Mexican cinemas.

If the U.S. streaming giant agrees to push back its Dec. 14 release of “Roma” online, Cinepolis said it would release the film in its theaters next week and donate 50% of grosses to causes related to domestic service in Mexico. But if Netflix does not comply, Cinepolis will not screen the film, it said in a statement Thursday.

The standoff comes days after Matt Brodlie, director of acquisitions for Netflix, publicly offered “Roma” to both Cinepolis and Mexican exhibition chain Cinemex for release across their theaters in Mexico. In an open letter to the media, Brodlie said that an “important part” of cinema grosses would be given to nonprofit organizations.

Cuarón’s Oscar hopeful opened Wednesday on select screens in Mexico, his home country, where the movie is set. The film is said to be appearing on just 40 screens there, which, Cuarón noted, is fewer than in Poland or South Korea. (The news has also emerged that “Roma” will be shown on about 50 screens in Italy next month.)

Cuarón tweeted Thursday that 27 additional cinemas in Mexico would screen “Roma” from Dec. 6. It is unclear, however, whether that would raise the total screen count. The director also hit back at suggestions that he was insisting “Roma” could only play at theaters with top-notch facilities. Though “the ideal way to see ‘Roma’ is in 4K Atmos sound projection, we’re exhibiting the film in 2K, 5.1 sound cinemas,” he said.

Cuarón also told influential newspaper “El Universal” that he hoped some kind of deal might be reached with Cinepolis, whose head, Alejandro Ramírez, is a close friend. Cinepolis is a powerful bastion of Mexican cinema, backing the Morelia Film Festival and distributing and now producing multiple Mexican movies of artistic ambition and social relevance, such as Alfonso Ruizpalacios’ “Museo” with Gael García Bernal.

“Nothing would please us more than to exhibit Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,’” Cinepolis’ Claudio Tomasini tweeted Thursday. But he insisted that Netflix respect the traditional theater-to-pay-TV window of 90 days, which would mean making the movie available online in Mexico in February. If so, Cinepolis would release “Roma” theatrically next Thursday.

Such a long hold-back of the film’s release online is unlikely. “Cinemex and Cinepolis wanted too big a window,” Cuarón told El Universal. “I can understand that. It reflects their business model.” But, he argued, release models for movies are changing.

“Just a few more than 40 screens will exhibit the great ‘Roma’ in cinemas,” actor Diego Luna tweeted Friday. “If you have the chance, go and see it in a cinema. It’s a must-see. I hope you find a theater near you. And if not, catch it on Netflix.”

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