×

Netflix’s ‘Roma,’ ‘Ballad of Buster Scruggs,’ ‘Bird Box’ Get Exclusive Theatrical Releases

Netflix will release three major award contenders exclusively in theaters before debuting them on the streaming service.

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” considered to be an Oscar favorite, will receive the longest of these theatrical engagements. The film will be in cinemas for roughly three weeks, beginning on Nov. 21, before debuting on the streamer on Dec. 14. The other movies, the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and Susanne Bier’s “Bird Box,” will have one-week exclusive theatrical runs.

“There’s been an overwhelming response to all of our films this festival season, including ‘Outlaw King,’ which will be in theaters and on Netflix next week, and this plan is building on that momentum. Netflix’s priority is our members and our filmmakers, and we are constantly innovating to serve them,” said Netflix film chief Scott Stuber.

The move is something of a concession for the new media player, which had previously been dismissive of theatrical windows, with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos previously suggesting that exclusive cinema runs were anachronistic. The announcement comes after months of negotiations between Netflix and theater owners. The streaming giant was hesitant to cede too much ground to exhibitors, because it maintains that its first responsibility is to its 137 million subscribers — the people who pay a monthly fee to see premium content. At the same time, major theater chains such as Regal and AMC refused to show Netflix movies unless they were held back from appearing on the streaming site for roughly 90 days, the typical window for a wide release movie. It is unclear if Netflix was able to convert any chains by offering some exclusivity.

The National Association of Theatre Owners, the exhibition industry’s lobbying arm, didn’t seem impressed with the move.

“This halfway gesture will fail to satisfy theatrical audiences, filmmakers and Netflix subscribers,” the group said in a statement, adding, “Netflix has yet to learn that it isn’t theatrical vs streaming – it’s theatrical and streaming, properly sequenced.”

The streaming service likely did itself a service with a filmmaking community that still prefers to have its movies seen on the big screen and with Oscar voters who revere the cinematic experience. Netflix has become a haven for top directing talent, such as Cuaron, Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), David Mackenzie (“Outlaw King”), and Martin Scorsese (the upcoming “The Irishman”), because it promised healthy budgets for challenging movies that other studios might have deemed too uncommercial to produce. Adding a theatrical release component should enable the company to keep attracting big-name directors.

Roma,” which is produced and financed by Participant Media, has received rave reviews for its story about a Mexico City family grappling with a politically and emotionally tumultuous time. It will open in limited release in Los Angeles, New York, and Mexico. Additional engagements in U.S. cities and London will begin Nov. 29, with other top U.S. markets and international territories continuing to roll out beginning Dec. 7. Even after the film debuts on Netflix on Dec. 14, it will keep expanding its theatrical release in the U.S. and international markets. In total, the drama will be theatrically released in over 20 territories globally with 70mm presentations also being planned during its theatrical release. The movie may be one of Netflix’s widest releases, topping the previous high set by “22 July,” which showed on roughly 100 screens around the world.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” an anthology Western with Liam Neeson and Zoe Kazan, will have exclusive limited theatrical engagements starting Nov. 8 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London. The pic will be released globally on Netflix on Nov. 16 and will have an expanded theatrical release in additional U.S. cities, Toronto, and theaters throughout Europe.

Bird Box,” a survival story starring Sandra Bullock, will have exclusive limited theatrical engagements starting Dec. 13 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London. The film will be released globally on Netflix on Dec. 21 and will have an expanded theatrical release in additional theaters in the U.S., Europe, and throughout Europe.

Netflix is also planning awards-season campaigns for several films that have already debuted, a group that includes “22 July,” Tamara Jenkins’ dramedy “Private Life,” and “The Kindergarten Teacher” with Maggie Gyllenhaal.

More Film

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's 'Jiu Jitsu' Obtains Cyprus Support

    In today’s film news roundup, Cyprus is backing Nicolas Cage’s “Jiu Jitsu”; “The Nanny” and “Amityville 1974” are moving forward; “Milk” is returning to theaters; and Garrett Hedlund’s “Burden” is getting distribution. CYPRUS REBATE Nicolas Cage’s “Jiu Jitsu” has become the first international film to use Cyprus’ new tax credit-rebate program by filming entirely in [...]

  • Zhao Tao

    Zhao Tao Gets Candid in Kering's Shanghai Women in Motion Showcase Interview

    Zhao Tao is one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese art cinema thanks to her longtime collaboration with director Jia Zhangke, whom she married in 2012. From 2000’s “Platform” to last year’s “Ash is Purest White,” her work has plumbed the moral depths of modern China and brought stories of the country’s drastic change [...]

  • Skyline on the Huangpu River with

    Chinese-American Film Festival Seeks Particular Dialog

    With U.S.-China ties at an ever-sinking low, the Chinese-American Film and TV Festival on Tuesday pledged to improve communications between the two countries —  at a Chinese language-only press conference Tuesday that had few foreigners present. Most attendees who took to the stage to give congratulatory speeches that seemed more intent on heaping praise upon [...]

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler to Co-Star With Eddie Murphy in 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is set to play one of the leads opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content