Alfonso Cuaron’s triple-Oscar winning “Roma” is to get a theatrical release in China on May 10. The release will be handled through distributor Estars, making use of the circuit of 3,900 screens assembled by the Nationwide Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas.
“Roma” was produced by Esperanto Filmoj and Participant Media and released by streaming giant Netflix outside China. Participant’s other Oscar winner, Best Picture winner “Green Book,” was also given a theatrical release in China through the NAAC. It has grossed more than $71 million to date.
As a production backed by Netflix, “Roma” remains controversial. It received limited theatrical release in more than 40 countries, starting with 350 screens in the U.S. and Mexico on Nov. 21, 2018, ahead of its Dec. 14 global online release via Netflix. The film currently remains on theatrical release in nine territories, including Italy and Japan.
But others do not believe that the film should have played at major film festivals or been eligible for feature film awards, such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The Cannes Film Festival currently bars films from its main competition section unless they get a theatrical release.
“Roma,” which premiered at the Venice and Toronto festivals in September last year, went on to receive 10 Academy Award nominations, winning three Oscars for best director (Cuaron), best foreign-language film, and best cinematography. The film was also the winner of two Golden Globe awards and four BAFTA awards.
Tim Richards, CEO of leading U.K. cinema chain Vue, said the film did not receive a “meaningful theatrical release.” Richards has told the British Academy of Film and Television Arts that his company would withdraw from the BAFTA Awards unless the organization reconsidered its awards eligibility criteria. “Netflix made at best a token effort to screen Roma, screening it to less than 1% of the U.K. market solely because it wanted an award,” he wrote in an open letter.
There is no such controversy over the film’s release in China. The country is one of the few territories where Netflix does not operate.
Following a young domestic worker in a middle-class neighborhood in 1970s Mexico City, “Roma” is Cuaron’s most personal project to date. It is his first project since the China-friendly “Gravity” in 2013.