With the premiere of the new Oscar-buzzed drama from Alfonso Cuarn, the streaming giant is set to be heading to the big screen for a new releasing model
At Netflix, disruption is everything. The streaming platform has grown into one of the largest players in the entertainment industry by zigging where all others zag: they ran Blockbuster out of town with their disc-by-mail service, they were the first ones to extract the gold from them thar internet hills, and then they remade the consumption of media in their binge-happy image. So, whats Netflixs latest game-changing innovation? Having purchased the rights to some of this falls most hotly anticipated titles, theyre now toying with the idea of releasing them in bricks-and-mortar theaters actual buildings, in the real world! for an interlude before adding them to the online content library. Its a risky move, but Tinseltown experts say this whole movies playing on screens gambit may just be crazy enough to work.
Yes, it looks like Netflixs latest strategy for success is doing the same thing everyone else has been doing the whole time. Theyve dabbled in theatrical releasing before, but that was limited to a handful of screens for Okja last summer, a far cry from the wide rollouts theyve got planned, and all previous attempts have coincided with the films also hitting phones/TVs/tablets. And yet this does not feel like a regression for a company thats demonstrated an ongoing obsession with racking up and knocking down new competitors, but rather a step forward, both in terms of Netflixs growing profile as a business and their responsibilities as self-appointed cultural gatekeepers. CEO Reed Hastings once said that Netflixs main competitor wasnt any other media entity, just the need to sleep. He has yet to conquer basic biological function, but if this new move does come to pass, Hastings will take on the next-biggest challenger, moving weight classes from pint-sized Hulu to heavyweights Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros.
It all comes down to Roma, the latest feature-length effort from Alfonso Cuarn and a turning point for Netflix company policy. Up until as recently as this past spring, the top brass has been adamant about their god-given right to never play their acquisitions on the silver screen. Netflix entered a staring contest with the Cannes film festival over this exact issue head honcho Thierry Frmaux barred any film without plans to appear in French theaters from the main Competition section and refused to blink, holding Roma from the Croisette as well as Paul Greengrasss massacre dramatization 22 July and the long-awaited completed cut of Orson Welles unfinished masterpiece The Other Side of the Wind. (Netflix also has new features from genre king Jeremy Saulnier, the Coen brothers, indie stalwart Nicole Holofcener and, oh yeah, Martin freaking Scorsese in the hopper.) Now, Hastings may not be so committed to this once-ironclad principle; if trolling the Cannes executive board counts as an art form, he is its highest virtuoso.