Netflix Goes Into Test-Run Mode: How Theatrical Does It Need to Be?

·3 min read

Netflix doesn’t play favorites. From Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Bardo” to “Christmas With You,” today it released more dates for its fall movie slate. And somehow, the streamer reviled by exhibitors has become their single largest supplier of theatrical releases.

A total of 22 Netflix titles will receive a theatrical release this fall. Granted, many of these releases may be closer to the Oscar-qualifying metric of one theater for one week in one of six metro areas — but between “Bardo,” “White Noise,” and whatever happens with “Glass Onion,” Netflix appears to be in full test-run mode for expanding the Netflix theatrical footprint.

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There are ambitious theatrical windows for Noah Baumbach’s Don DeLillo adaptation “White Noise” (35 days) and Iñárritu’s Mexico-shot poetic comedy “Bardo,” which has 42 days between its premiere in U.S. theaters November 4 and Netflix release December 16; it first premieres in Mexico theaters October 27. All represent prime scheduling for awards consideration, of course.

These films could represent the widest theatrical windows yet for Netflix. Last year, it gave Best Picture Oscar nominee and eventual Best Director winner “The Power of the Dog” two weeks in theaters (including its own brick-and-mortar venue in Manhattan, the Paris Theatre). In what then represented its longest commitment to a theatrical window up to that point, Netflix gave Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 triple Oscar winner “Roma” a full three weeks in theaters before streaming. That was until Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” received four weeks in theaters in late 2019.

Receiving theatrical releases with timing and length TBD are awards-season maybes “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” from Rian Johnson (streaming December 23) and Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion “Pinocchio” (streaming December 9). Of lower profile but in the awards mix is Toronto International Film Festival opener “The Swimmers,” a refugee drama directed by Sally El Hosaini. It will stream November 23, with a theatrical date also to be announced.

There’s also the recently shifted “Blonde” (theaters September 16, Netflix September 28), plus newly slotted German Oscar entry “All Quiet on the Western Front” (theaters September 29 in Germany and select markets; streaming October 28), and Tobias Lindholm’s serial killer story “The Good Nurse” (theaters October 19; Netflix October 26) starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne.

In documentaries, there’s Elvis Mitchell’s “Is That Black Enough For You?!?” (November theaters TBD, followed by Netflix November 11) as well as Hilary and Chelsea Clinton’s “In Her Hands” (theaters November 9, Netflix November 16)

Netflix also announced theatrical-streaming dates for “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” (theaters December 9; Netflix December 25); dark stop-motion fantasy “Wendell & Wild” (theaters October 21; streaming October 28); and Scott Cooper’s “The Pale Blue Eye” (theaters December 23; streaming January 6). Still in search of a date is Sebastian Lelio’s “The Wonder,” starring Florence Pugh, which is expected to hit theaters in November and then stream in December.

Streaming-only debuts include Stephen King adaptation “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” (October 5); “Enola Holmes 2” (November 4); and Lindsay Lohan starrer “Falling for Christmas,” which debuts on the platform November 10.

For more on this fall’s releases, check out IndieWire’s fall movie preview.

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