For the first time, a movie whose main release was on the small screen has won a BAFTA and several Oscar nominations. We ponder what this means for the future of film.

Roma is the beautiful, intricate, autobiographical movie about director Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood in Mexico City in the 1970s. Filmed in Spanish, in black and white, and starring little-known actors, it was released for a short run in select Curzon cinemas last year. Most people who’ve watched it will have done so on their TVs or tablets via Netflix.

Now, it has won a staggering ten Oscar nominations, including those for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

On Sunday 24th February, at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, Roma may well make history. If it takes the big gongs, the tidings will be loud and clear: streaming services are now as important as big fat studios.

Jonathan Dean wrote recently in The Sunday Times: “[The] inclusion [of Marina de Tavira, who plays the mother in Roma] means films no longer need to be released at cinemas to be considered for the biggest awards. It means Netflix has won.

“People clearly no longer care how a film is released, just if it is good.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reckons: “Roma’s success demonstrates the Oscars’ acceptance of streaming giant Netflix, which it had had hitherto treated with suspicion. Netflix has launched an expensive awards campaign, which appears to be have paid off.”

There is some good news for cinemas, though. Last year, the US National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) commissioned a study looking at the habits of 2,500 film-watchers. The findings were encouraging for defenders of the big screen.

“The message … is that there’s not a war between streaming and theatrical,” said Phil Contrino, director of media and research at NATO. “People who love content are watching it across platforms and all platforms have place in consumers’ minds.”

Cinemas may have to work hard to innovate, but – whether at home or in a multiplex – people still love movies and popcorn. The future of film is safe as houses.

If you like this, read on:
5 Best Podcasts from BBC Sounds

February 2019