Mexico’s Major Theater Chain Won’t Release ‘Roma,’ Leaving Alfonso Cuarón Upset

The director says it's sad there are more theaters in Poland and South Korea showing "Roma" than in his home country.
(L to R) Marco Graf as Pepe, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Photo by Carlos Somonte
Photo by Carlos Somonte

Alfonso Cuarón took to social media this week to say he’s upset his acclaimed new film, “Roma,” is only playing in 40 theaters in Mexico ahead of its worldwide streaming debut on Netflix in December. The filmmaker said the 40 locations are “all the theaters we have been able to get” in Mexico since Cinepolis, the country’s biggest theater chain, is refusing to release “Roma” because of Netflix’s streaming policy.

“Roma,” which started its theatrical run in Mexico on Wednesday, November 21, isn’t playing in Cinepolis theaters because the chain requires films to have a 90-day theatrical window before they become available for streaming online or on VOD platforms. Cinepolis executive Claudio Tomasini said the company is willing to screen “Roma” if Netflix adheres to the rule, which would mean moving the film’s streaming date in Mexico to February 2019 (via Variety). If Netflix agreed, “Roma” could begin playing at Cinepolis starting November 29. The theater chain said it would also donate 50% of box office earnings to causes related to domestic services in Mexico.

Cinemax, another popular theater chain in Mexico, is also refusing to screen “Roma” for the same reasons as Cinepolis. Matt Brodlie, director of acquisitions for Netflix, offered both chains the opportunity to show “Roma” in the three-week window ahead of the film’s Netflix release on December 14. Cuarón told Mexican newspaper El Universal he hoped some kind of deal could be reached between Cinepolis and Netflix, but it appears unlikely the streaming giant will push back the “Roma” release. The director confirmed the theater chain “wanted too big a window.”

“I would like many more theatrical engagements in Mexico,” Cuarón said on his Twitter page earlier this week. “We have all the theaters we have been able to get, which sadly is 40. To put that in perspective, Poland will exhibit in 57 halls and South Korea in 50. ‘Roma’ is available to all cinemas who want to exhibit it.”

“Roma” opened in select U.S. theaters November 21, with Netflix expanding the drama into more theaters over the next two weeks. The film is Mexico’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film, which is one reason it’s disappointing the film can’t screen in more theaters across Cuarón’s home country.

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