Vue Boss Threatens to Pull Bafta Support over Netflix 'ROMA' Eligibility Row

By Grater, Tom | Screen International, February 20, 2019 | Go to article overview

Vue Boss Threatens to Pull Bafta Support over Netflix 'ROMA' Eligibility Row


Grater, Tom, Screen International


Tim Richards says the exhibitor cannot support the awards if Netflix does not adhere to theatrical windows.

Tim Richards, founder and CEO of European exhibitor Vue International, has slammed Bafta for allowing Netflix’s ROMA to be eligible for its awards this year despite the film’s lack of a traditional theatrical release.

ROMA won four Baftas at this month’s ceremony, including the coveted best film prize, best director and cinematography for Alfonso Cuaron, and the foreign-language film award.

Vue has now said it will “not be able to support the Bafta awards as we usually do unless the Academy board reconsiders its eligibility criteria”. This support includes marketing and endorsement for the awards themselves, as well as buying seats at the ceremony, which the exhibitor said it will no longer do unless changes are made.

Richards’ grievance is over the lack of theatrical screening time for ROMA. The film was primarily released with exhibitor Curzon in the UK, playing in just two Curzon venues prior to its roll-out to the exhibitor’s full estate of cinemas (13 in total) day-and-date with its release on the Netflix platform. In total, the film played at 20 venues across the UK and Ireland including some engagements at independent cinemas; it is still playing some showings.

Even when taken as a whole, the Curzon ecosystem only represents 0.5% of the UK’s cinema market.

While at the time Netflix did indicate a willingness to discuss wider play for the film, the reality is the streamer won’t adhere to the theatrical windows mandated by the multiplex chains including Vue, and those companies have not suggested they would consider moving away from that model. In the letter, addressed to Bafta CEO Amanda Berry, Richards describes theatrical windows as “core differentiators that makes cinema unique”.

In the text, the Vue boss wrote “BAFTA has not lived up to its usual high standards this year in choosing to endorse and promote a ‘made for TV’ film that audiences were unable to see on a big screen.”

Richards pointed to Bafta eligibility criteria which states “the British public should have had an opportunity to see entered films and films should therefore have been screened and marketed to a public paying UK audience”.

He claimed the current release strategy for Netflix titles does not meet this mandate.

“Bafta rules also state, ’Films should not be screened purely to qualify them for these awards, and the film committee may not accept entry if they do not deem the theatrical release to be meaningful’. It is clear that Netflix made at best a token effort to screen ROMA, screening it to less than 1% of the UK market solely because it wanted an award. How could Bafta let this happen?” Richards asked.

The Vue CEO also pointed to next week’s Oscars, at which ROMA is considered a major contender for significant awards and for which voting closes today (February 19). “Bafta, the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and major film festivals should continue to differentiate between a ‘made-for-TV’ movie and a first-run feature film with a full theatrical release, as they have for the last 100 years.”

Bafta response

In a statement to Screen, Bafta responded to the letter, saying: “The Film Committee is satisfied that every film in contention for this year’s Film Awards met the criteria for entry, which includes a meaningful UK theatrical release.

“BAFTA encourages public engagement with cinema-going and aims to be inclusive and supportive of the UK filmmaking sector as a whole. …

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