After breaking through at the Oscars in a big way with Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Netflix is aiming to achieve similar success this upcoming awards season with two high profile titles: Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” One of the driving forces behind Netflix’s Oscar campaign for “Roma” was giving Cuarón’s epic as many chances as possible to play the big screen at fall film festivals. Not only did “Roma” play the four biggest events — Venice (where it won the Golden Lion), Telluride, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival — but it also screened at a handful of regional festivals like the Hamptons, Mill Valley, Scottsdale, Palm Springs, and more.
Bringing “Roma” to over a dozen fall film festivals helped legitimize Cuarón’s Netflix movie as a major theatrical experience, an important step in getting the industry to look past the stigma over Netflix’s commitment to streaming. Fall festivals are frequented by Academy members, so getting “Roma” to play the big screen numerous times across the country before its December opening was crucial for Netflix. The move worked as any resistance towards streaming was not felt on Oscar nominations morning. “Roma” picked up 10 noms, including Netflix’s first Best Picture and Best Director bids.
The “Roma” fall festival strategy worked, so it’s unsurprisingly the game plan the streaming giant is using again this year with its Oscar hopefuls. “The Irishman” was just announced as the closing night selection for the BFI London Film Festival, where it will screen in select theaters across the U.K. The BFI event will mark the Scorsese drama’s international premiere after first being unveiled at NYFF opening night. It’s likely the only reason Netflix had to wait until NYFF to debut “The Irishman” is because Scorsese is still tinkering with the visual effects needed to de-age actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” is more directly following in the footsteps of “Roma.” One year after winning Venice’s top prize, Netflix is back in competition with Baumbach’s latest, which stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple struggling through a grueling divorce. “Marriage Story” has already lined up follow-up screenings at TIFF and NYFF, where it will screen as the festival’s centerpiece selection. Telluride famously does not reveal its lineup until just days before the Labor Day weekend festival, but the 2019 edition is likely to include “Marriage Story,” given Netflix’s “Roma” strategy. Like Cuarón’s movie, a Telluride inclusion would make the Baumbach drama the rare title to play all four major fall film festivals.
The already aggressive festival rollout for “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” indicates that these two films are Netflix’s major Oscar contenders for the 2019-2020 awards season. The streaming giant also has David Michôd’s “The King” and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” debuting at Venice. The latter has also been confirmed for TIFF. Expect the latest from Baumbach and Scorsese to appear at regional festivals as Netflix attempts to have another Oscar season using the “Roma” campaign method.