Netflix’s unwillingness to bend on demands killed its chances to get major Oscar contender ‘Roma’ in the most prominent indie chain in the US

‘Roma.’ Netflix
  • The popular Alamo Drafthouse chain will not be showing Netflix’s “Roma.”
  • The Oscar contender will be one of the first original Netflix movies to have an exclusive theatrical run before it streams.
  • After weeks of negotiations between Netflix and Drafthouse to show the movie at its Brooklyn, New York location, the theatre chain finally felt the streaming giant put too many “restrictions and guidelines” on them, a source close to the negotiations told Business Insider.
  • The movie will instead be shown at New York City’s IFC Center, and is locking other locations to show the movie across the country.

Netflix wants to keep its powerhouse directors happy going into Oscar season, but one of the first theatrical runs for its original movies with a big name helmer has hit a snag.

Alamo Drafthouse, one of the most prominent independently owned movie chains in the US, will not be showing Netflix’s Oscar contender, “Roma,” a source close to negotiations between the chain and streaming giant told Business Insider. A source close to Netflix confirmed that Alamo Drafthouse had passed on the movie.

At the end of October, Netflix began to dramatically change course on how it released Oscar-contending movies. Reports surfaced that for the first time Netflix would stop its “day-and-date” model – in which the movie premieres in theatres and on Netflix the same day – and give exclusive theatrical runs of around 1-3 weeks for not just Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” but two other of its anticipated movies, the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” and Susanne Bier’s “Bird Box” starring Sandra Bullock.

Alamo Drafthouse was one of the reported chains in the mix to show “Roma.” But Netflix’s terms on how the movie would be released, and how often, led to the popular chain passing on the anticipated title, according to the source.

While “Buster Scruggs” and “Bird Box” are reportedly getting around one-week runs at select theatres before they are available to stream on Netflix, the company wants to pull out all the stops for “Roma,” which out of the three has the best chance to win Oscars in the major categories, including best picture.

Along with around a 3-4 week run for the movie, Netflix is specifically looking for theatres that can show the movie with Dolby Atmos sound or in 70mm.

As even four weeks is shorter than the traditional 90-day window that the major chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark want movies to be shown in theatres, Netflix knows it cannot go to them. That leaves the streaming giant to depend on the mid-level chains and independently owned arthouses.

Alamo Drafthouse and Netflix had been in discussions for weeks about showing “Roma,” specifically at the chain’s Brooklyn, New York location, which could show the movie in 70mm. It’s one of the only theatres in the city that can pull that off.

Alamo Drafthouse NYC 4547

Netflix was stringent on its terms, according to the source, which included that “Roma” have a full four-week run with all the screenings show in 70mm. The company also planned to four-wall the theatres, meaning Netflix would be renting the theatre from Drafthouse. (It plans to do this at all the locations where the movies will be played.) This is an unconventional move in the industry, where typically the movie theatre splits the box office with the distributor.

Though Drafthouse was willing to show “Roma” at its Brooklyn location, it does not four-wall. Also, the 70mm projector at the location is in its biggest auditorium, meaning that for four weeks the movie would take up its prime space, with Drafthouse unable to schedule in any other titles. That’s a tough ask in a time of year when every weekend a new big movie is about to hit theatres.

“Just way too many restrictions and guidelines,” the source told Business Insider.

“Roma” will now be screened in New York at Manhattan’s IFC Center beginning November 21, IFC confirmed to Business Insider. That theatre does not have capabilities to show the movie in 70mm.

Alamo Drafthouse is not the only theatre, outside of the majors, to pass on the Netflix offer. Business Insider has reached out to multiple arthouses that said they eventually passed on showing “Roma” due to the terms of Netflix. These include some that would have gotten the movie following its exclusive theatrical run, after the movie began streaming on Netflix December 14.

“Terms are not too high, but higher than it should be for a movie that’s streaming at the same time,” one theatre owner told Business Insider.

Other theatres told Business Insider they would love to show the movie but don’t have a venue that can accommodate Netflix’s terms.

“It’s complicated by Netflix’s insistence that theatres have Dolby Atmos, an extremely expensive sound system that very few theatres can afford,” another theatre owner said.