'Roma' to Get Minor 3-Day Theatrical Release in Italy Amid Anti-Netflix Measures

Golden Globes-Roma-Yalitza Aparicio-Publicity Still-H 2018
Courtesy of Netflix

Despite winning the Golden Lion in Venice, Italians may have a hard time seeing the acclaimed film on the big screen.

Italy’s exhibitors have just sent another message to Netflix by grouping together and boycotting a theatrical run of Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed film Roma.

According to the newspaper Repubblica, Cineteca di Bologna head Gian Luca Farinelli has stepped in to make sure that some Italians will be able to see the film on the big screen. Roma will be distributed by film preservation center Cineteca di Bologna on about 50 screens from Dec. 3-5 in theaters before becoming available to Netflix subscribers to stream on Dec. 14.

After Cuaron took home the Golden Lion in Venice for his film, Netflix celebrated its first major festival win for a narrative film. Yet Italian exhibitors, who are already battling constant piracy and slow ticket seasons, were less than thrilled. 

Netflix film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs also won the best screenplay award in Venice from the Guillermo del Toro-led jury. Numerous film organizations including CICAE, ANEC, FICE and ACEC, banned together to protest Netflix’s inclusion in Venice.

The organizations protested that Venice, which is paid for with public funds, was now seemingly being used to promote the U.S. streamer over European films that would be screened in theaters. To add insult to injury, Netflix does not currently employ any full-time employees in Italy.

The government is responding with several measures to protect local industries. First off, the European Parliament has decreed that 30 percent of streamer’s productions must be EU-centered.

But Italy has gone even further with the extraordinary measure of writing into law a theatrical window for Italian films. The measure responds to another Venice controversy, after the local film On My Skin broke the country’s unwritten gentleman’s agreement of waiting 105 days to stream a film after its first theatrical screening. The film was available to Netflix subscribers shortly after its Venice debut. 

Although Roma, as a foreign film, is not technically affected by this new measure, the unwillingness of any exhibitor to promote the film does not bode well for the streamer in the country. With Roma pushing onward with its Oscar campaign, it’s also unclear if the numerous European Academy voters who reside in Italy will be affected by the perceived Netflix slight against their industry.  

This year Cannes outlawed Netflix films from playing in competition, resulting in six Netflix films showing up in Venice. It is unknown if the Italian industry will be able to put the same kind of pressure pressure on Venice’s lineup next year, however it’s clear that the industry means to put up a fight if the streamer continues to act in the country without compromise.