And the Oscar goes to… Netflix? That’s a line the streaming giant is likely hoping to hear, now that it’s been revealed they'll be holding exclusive limited theatrical releases for three titles prior to their being available on the service, and thus making them eligible for Academy Award nominations.
Deadline reports that among the movies chosen for theatrical release is the sci-fi thriller Bird Box, starring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock. Based on the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, the movie tells the story of a mother (Bullock) and her children, who are trying to survive in a futuristic world where a mysterious alien force has driven the world’s population to deadly violence.
Also getting a cinema release is Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
It's a pretty huge move for Netflix, and they are clearly hoping that Academy voters won’t turn their noses up at made-for-streaming projects, and begin to dole praise on films from outside those given a traditional theatrical release.
Foreseeably, this could make way for more original genre movie releases for the company too, who in May handled the U.S. release for Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi thriller Anon, starring Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried. In 2016, Netflix picked up the urban fantasy crime film Bright, starring Will Smith, for a reported $90 million, which drew some of the streaming giant’s biggest-ever viewer ratings. They’re said to be working on a sequel for the picture (although it’s safe to say we’re not seeing it as Oscar bait), so clearly they're not afraid of big-budget, potentially big-screen-friendly genre fare.
We shouldn’t be too surprised at the company's fierce ambition. In April this year, it was revealed that Netflix considered purchasing Landmark Theatres, a Los Angeles chain of movie establishments owned by Mark Cuban, so it could screen its own roster of films and documentaries.
Meanwhile in September, during a panel at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond said he was "in active discussions with all of the streaming [services] about an IMAX release," including Netflix. Which would certainly make sense for a big genre release of... hmmm... Bright 2.
Can you see Netflix original movies being Oscar contenders? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.