Netflix films tipped for Oscars unlikely to be shown in Irish cinemas

Independent cinemas criticise ‘exclusive’ deal with Curzon chain, which has no screens in Ireland

Leading Irish independent cinemas have appealed to Netflix over what they see as unfair treatment over theatrical releases of its films, including the Oscar tipped Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and the Coen brothers' The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Representatives of the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork and the Queens Film Theatre in Belfast joined UK independent cinemas in requesting Netflix to allow wider theatrical distribution of upcoming titles such as Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. As with previous Netflix releases such as Mudbound, and Beasts of No Nation, those films look set to play only in cinemas that are part of the Curzon chain before arriving at the streaming service. Curzon operates no venues in the Republic of Ireland.

Dave O'Mahony of the IFI, Joan Parsons at the QFT and Chris O'Neill at the Triskel were among 15 signatories to a letter, which highlighted Netflix's "exclusive" deal with Curzon. "Recent reports in the Guardian and Screen would suggest that Netflix films will be available in cinemas across the UK through a theatrical release with Curzon," it read. "We are writing to point out that this is not the case. We as independent cinemas are not able to book and screen Netflix films because the deal is, in fact, exclusive to Curzon."

Roma, the story of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City, has premiered to rave reviews and seems certain of an Oscar nomination for best picture. It would be the first film in many decades to receive that honour without playing in Irish cinemas.

To this point, Netflix, which produced Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, has, when handling certain potential award winners, released those films in Curzon cinemas at the same time as their arrival on the streaming site. (Theatrical release in the UK qualifies those projects for consideration at the Baftas.) Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an episodic western, will, however, screen in Curzon cinemas before their Netflix unveiling.

The letter was organised by Mark Cosgrove from Bristol's Watershed, Jason Wood at Manchester's HOME, and Ian Wild from Showroom cinemas in Sheffield. "This non-availability in huge parts of the country is not only frustrating for us as independent cinemas who promote film culture (we gave The Coen Bros, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass and David Mackenzie their cinema breaks) but also frustrating and deeply confusing for audiences across the country," it continued.

Cosgrove told Screen Daily, a prominent trade publication, that, on contacting Netflix, he was informed the titles were “not available”.

Full Text of Letter

Recent reports in the Guardian and Screen would suggest that Netflix films will be available in cinemas across the UK through a theatrical release with Curzon. We are writing to point out that this is not the case.

We as independent cinemas are not able to book and screen Netflix films because the deal is, in fact, exclusive to Curzon. The exception of Outlaw King being on in Glasgow Film Theatre and Filmhouse we can only assume is because there is no Curzon in Scotland – certainly, other indie cinemas in that part of the UK are not able to book the film.

This non-availability in huge parts of the country is not only frustrating for us as independent cinemas who promote film culture (we gave The Coen Bros, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass and David Mackenzie their cinema breaks) but also frustrating and deeply confusing for audiences across the country. The signatories to this letter all perform important cultural functions as illustrated previously but we also perform an important economic one too. Our cinemas regularly come out very highly – if not top – in box office gross and admissions for independent and arthouse titles. By having such significant audience numbers can only add to Netflix in raising awareness and audiences for their online business model as we regularly do with other online providers – Curzon included!

We appreciate that Netflix may prefer not to fully engage in traditional theatrical distribution in the UK with the restrictions that the windows create and stick with this business plan of exclusivity with Curzon but we would encourage Netflix to work with a wider range of cinemas across the country to get these films - and indeed their brand, out to bigger cinephile audiences nationwide. This would ensure that cinema audiences across the country are given the chance to see Netflix’s brilliant slate of films on the big screen.

Joan Parsons, QFT, Belfast
Mark Cosgrove, Watershed, Bristol
Chris O'Neill, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork
Alice Black, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee
David O'Mahony, Irish Film Institute, Dublin
Paul Taylor, Eden Court, Inverness
Jake Harvey, Phoenix Leicester
Carmen Slijpen, Depot Cinema, Lewes
Olly Meeks, Rio Cinema, London
Jason Wood, HOME Manchester
Andrew Simpson, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
Caroline Hennigan, Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
Ian Wild Showroom Cinema, Sheffield
Kevin Markwick, The Picture House Uckfield
Adam J Marsh, Quad Cinema, Derby