Despite that concession, Netflix is maintaining its approach of opting not to release box-office totals, in much the way that it refuses to issue viewer data for its TV programming.
Although Netflix is remaining tight lipped, Deadline, citing industry sources, estimated strong early returns for “Roma,” based in part on sold-out screenings for the few theaters playing it in New York and L.A. Still, in a year where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences flirted with introducing a “popular film” category, that means Oscar voters will likely be left guessing, at least in part, regarding the extent to which “Roma” has connected with audiences.
Granted, very little about either “Roma” or “Cold War” (which opens Dec. 21) would augur major box-office returns. The two films, in fact, are practically the definition of projects made without much concern about the tyranny of commercial appeal.
By contrast, the critical acclaim being showered on Cuaron’s film — a slow, spare, ultimately deeply moving project — is obviously a big part of Netflix’s battle plan. “Roma” has already garnered overwhelming praise, as various critics’ groups prepare to weigh in with their annual year-end honors.
Netflix has consistently flouted conventions in its assault on the TV business and its norms, and accolades have followed. The service amassed the most Emmy nominations of any programmer this year, and tied longtime leader HBO in overall wins.
The movie business poses its own unique challenges, and perhaps even greater skepticism about these streaming upstarts. If Netflix has demonstrated anything, however, it’s a determination to play by its own rules and, in an industry where money talks, throw money at acquiring credibility and prestige.
Those practices will be tested as awards season kicks into full swing. But if they yield dividends, the kudos that come to “Roma” won’t have been built in a day.
“Roma” is playing in New York and Los Angeles. It expands to additional cities on Nov. 29 and Dec. 5 and premieres on Netflix on Dec. 14.
“Cold War” premieres Dec. 21 in the US. It’s rated R.