Team Netflix or Team Cinema?
The recent win of the Netflix released Roma at this years Oscars has brought the Netflix vs Theatrical debate back into the spotlight.
This is an ever evolving topic that I’ve been closely watching over the years. As the Netflix streaming giant continues to pump out shockingly high cinematic quality content direct into millions of homes, their mark on the changing cinema landscape is undeniable.
We are well into an online streaming new wave.
Netflix’s Roma scooped 10 nominations for the 91st Academy Awards this year and took home 3 for Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Cinematography (Alfonso Cuarón) and Best Foreign Language Film. In the most prestigious Hollywood ceremony of the year, Netflix truly came of age.
Netflix is breaking all the rules for how movies are distributed and of course not everyone is happy. The Netflix model is to release films directly onto their online library. When Netflix was first created these films were pulled from the world of Hollywood blockbusters, classic movies, tv series etc. Now, 2019 is going to be Netflix’s biggest year yet for original content.
Some of Netflix’s original films have limited theatrical runs (as Roma and Birdbox did over the Christmas period), at times releasing ahead of their scheduled Netflix debut or even on the exact same day. This method gives audiences the freedom to enjoy these Netflix films on the big screen or from the comfort of their own home.
In the case of Roma, it released in a very select number of theatres alongside its Netflix release (specifically so it could qualify for the Oscars). A stunningly photographed black and white film, Roma deserves to be seen on the big screen. I was not so lucky to see it this way. The limited theatrical release meant the only cinema screening Roma in my area was too far away and I was forced instead to watch it at home. Something of the cine-spectacular was lost in watching this film on my laptop computer.
Roma is a film made for the big screen yet it benefited immensely from online streaming.
Once the word spread of Roma’s captivating and simple human beauty, well that’s when the cinemas wanted to start screening it more widely. A month later and it was nominated for 10 Oscars and you know the rest.
Roma is a film which was made to be experienced on the big screen and yet only thanks to its home release was it able to do just that.
It's not as simple as home streaming vs going to the cinema
Different films need to be experienced in different mediums. It’s possible I lost something in the film translation when I watched Roma on my computer instead of a large screen cinema with dolby surround sound but at least I saw the film. Right? Isn’t that the lesser of two evils?
With cinema quality movies and tv delivered straight to your living room, the threat of streaming services to cinema houses is very real. Going to the movies will always be a fun night out but it is pricey and you want to be assured ahead of time that what you are seeing is worth your time and money. Audiences want the freedom to watch movies at home if they choose.
Streaming services and cinema houses need to find a way to move forward together on this point. It is all the same battle. Keeping audiences happy and engaged (and spending).
When the next big hit film is released it might be in cinemas or it might be in your living room. We are in a new world order and the landscape is still evolving.
Distribution is no longer simply:
Step 1. Film is released in cinema
Step 2. Film is released on VOD/Blu-Ray.
The rule book is out the window now. One thing is for certain though, as long as great movies are still being made I will find a way to see them. One way or another.