Netflix’s major victory in global war
Netflix is fighting a global war but here in Australia, it's secured a key victory.
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts announced it has accepted David Michod's forthcoming movie, The King, in competition for the local industry's most prestigious film award.
The decision is significant because it's the first movie AACTA has accepted that will not have a theatrical release in Australian cinemas.
The King will only be released on Netflix's streaming platform on November 1. In the US, The King will have a short theatrical run in part to qualify for awards bodies such as the Oscars.
The King is directed by Michod, best known for Animal Kingdom, and co-written by Michod and Joel Edgerton, with the two also serving as producers with Liz Watts.
The film, based on Shakespeare's Henry plays, stars Edgerton and Ben Mendelsohn alongside an international cast including Timothee Chalamet in the title role, Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris, Thomasin McKenzie and Lily-Rose Depp.
It premiered last week at the Venice Film Festival to mixed reviews.
Netflix has been engaged in a global war of sorts against cinema exhibitors who say their business model is being challenged by the likes of streaming platforms who are keeping people home.
At the heart of the disagreement is that Netflix won't abide by a traditional "theatrical window", which means any movie that is shown in a cinema can't be released on a home entertainment platform for several months.
In the US, that period is three months whereas in France, it's a mandated 17-months wait before a cinematic release can be added to a streaming service. It was previously a three-year window before it was reduced in late 2018.
Netflix was famously banned from competition at the Cannes Film Festival at the behest of French exhibitors after two of its 2017 films, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, screened in competition for the Palme d'Or.
This week, Netflix movies Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, Steven Soderberg's The Laundromat, Eddie Murphy vehicle Dolemite is My Name and The Two Popes are being forced into smaller venues at the Toronto International Film Festival after Canadian cinema chains refused to screen the films.
Festival hub Scotiabank Theatre, owned by one of Canada's largest cinema chains, also refused to screen any films released by Amazon.
Netflix has a swath of award contenders directed by high-profile filmmakers in the offing in the next few months, including Marriage Story, The Laundromat and Martin Scorsese's The Irishman that will reunite the director with Robert De Niro for the first time in more than two decades.
While those movies will have a limited theatrical run in the US, varying between two and four weeks, they will only play in independent and art house theatres with all major American cinema chains refusing to play ball.
There are no plans to release any of them on a big screen in Australia.
RELATED: The streaming wars in Australia
Last year, Netflix's big awards season hope, Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, screened in Sydney as part of the Latin America Film Festival and was also in limited release for two weeks around Australia as part of a distribution deal with Palace Films.
American cinema chain AMC usually screens all films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in the run-up to the awards ceremony but refused to screen Roma.
Roma would go on to collect three Oscars, including Best Director for Cuaron, but it was the target of much consternation among an older, establishment plank of Oscar voters. There was speculation among industry commentators that Roma was denied the Best Picture win because certain voters were uncomfortable with awarding it to a streaming film.
The president of the art house cinema association, CICAE, Detlef Rossmann, told The Hollywood Reporter even giving Roma three Oscars was a devaluation of the awards.
RELATED: Roma is a rapturous film
So for the AACTA Awards to declare The King eligible for competition is welcome news for Netflix, and it marks the Australian industry body as more progressive than many of its international counterparts.
"It's an incredibly interesting year for the Australian film industry, with an increasing amount of cinema quality films opting for digital distribution models," AACTA | AFI chief executive Damian Trewhella said in a statement.
"From large-scale productions to those vying for our Best Indie Film award, on-demand viewing is fast becoming a viable option for productions to have their work seen by a wide audience, which is expanding our creative relationships globally."
There are 34 features eligible to compete for the AACTAs this year, including The Nightingale, Top End Wedding, Hotel Mumbai, Ride Like a Girl, Judy & Punch, Animals, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, Hearts and Bones, Palm Beach, Sequin in a Blue Room and Storm Boy.
Nominees for the AACTA Awards will be announced in late October, and the winners' ceremony will take place on December 4.
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