Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman might well be Netflix’s highest-profile film as a studio, but it’s far from the only foray the company has made into working with acclaimed filmmakers in recent years. The acclaim that Netflix-produced films like Marriage Story, Okja, Mudbound and Atlantics have received suggests a fascinating balance of artistic risk and creative reward.
But Netflix’s relationship to the film industry is also a constantly fluctuating one. As Alison Willmore wrote in Slate last month, Netflix “has been both at war with the theatrical experience and responsible for reopening the last surviving single-screen cinema in Manhattan after it closed in August.” The news that Netflix had made a deal to keep New York’s Paris Theater open warmed the hearts of many film enthusiasts, even if they lived hundreds or thousands of miles from Manhattan.
It came as a sign that Netflix was willing to meet film enthusiasts halfway — that maybe, just maybe, an algorithm-driven media company could also recognize the value of a communal moviegoing experience, and that that could coexist with home viewing.
This week brought another piece of news that might have seemed unheard of a year or two ago: at the Sundance Film Festival, Netflix announced that the Criterion Collection would release editions of four of its films later this year. And they’re four of the most acclaimed films Netflix has produced: The Irishman, Marriage Story, Atlantics and American Factory.
This won’t be the first time that the two have worked together: the Criterion Collection previously announced that it would release Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma on Blu-ray and DVD next month. But for fans of physical media, and especially fans of the deluxe treatment that the Criterion Collection gives its films, this is terrific news, suggesting Netflix’s prestige efforts will be less of a walled garden than previously believed.
And if this means that at some point, we could see a Criterion Collection Blu-ray of The Night Comes For Us, so much the better.
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