Toronto: Netflix’s 'Hillbilly Elegy' to Get Limited Theatrical Release, Says Ron Howard

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer - H Getty 2019
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The Oscar-winning director and Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer took part in a keynote conversation at the Toronto film festival.

Ron Howard on Friday said his film version of J.D. Vance's lauded bestseller Hillbilly Elegy for Netflix is set to get a limited theatrical release to boost its chances for awards season glory.

"Yes, that's the plan," Howard, who is directing the movie adaptation, told a keynote conversation at the Toronto Film Festival when asked whether the provocative pic will get a limited theatrical run.

Netflix giving Howard's movie adaptation a better chance at securing awards season success follows the streamer giving Roma and other films a limited, exclusive berth in theaters before the movies are made available to Netflix customers online.

Howard's Netflix feature is based on Vance's memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, a modern exploration of the American dream and three generations of an Appalachian family as told by its youngest member, and stars Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

Howard said Netflix's awards season strategy for Hillbilly Elegy was likely to draw the biggest audience and the best word of mouth. "There's a chance that more people will see it faster, and there will be more water cooler discussion around the title than if we rolled it out in a typical theatrical pattern," he argued.

Howard and fellow Imagine Entertainment founder Brian Grazer praised Netflix during their Toronto fest appearance as they waded into an industry debate over releasing movies on the big screen versus waiting to watch them on streaming platforms.

“It’s a pretty great model,” Grazer said of Netflix's limited theatrical and streaming strategy. But he added bigger Hollywood movies, especially superhero fare, are better positioned for a wide theatrical rollout.

"Disney kills it. They control like 50 percent of the market. They have huge numbers on Black Panther and all the films they make," Grazer said. 

Grazer and Howard have two smaller films at the Toronto fest this year and executive produced the opening night film Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, while Imagine produced Bryce Dallas Howard's Dads, directed by Ron Howard's daughter and which is bowing in Toronto.