In an open letter, the boss of Vue Cinemas takes BAFTA to task for crowning a film that enjoyed a very small theatrical release as its Best Picture.

 

The Vue cinema chain is back in the news, just weeks after going toe to toe with Universal Pictures in a battle over revenue share, that we talked about here.

This time, the chain’s founder and CEO, J Timothy Richards, has penned an open letter to BAFTA boss Amanda Barry, complaining about the decision making at this year’s BAFTA film awards. Specifically, the decision to lavish the top prize on Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma.

Roma, of course, is a film that’s all but bypassed the theatrical circuit, being funded and distributed by Netflix. It’s had a very limited cinema outing in the UK, and most – Vue included – seem to be on the same page in praising it as some piece of work. Indeed, BAFTA gave it four gongs, including Best Film.

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What Vue takes issue with is effectively the tokenism of Roma’s cinema release. The open letter cites a specific BAFTA rule – 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 – and Richards argues that “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”.

The letter complains that “we believe that 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”.

“Netflix is well known for its tactics and secrecy and its release strategy for Roma in the UK was no exception. It is still unclear whether Roma was screened on more than the 13 Curzon Cinema screens representing less than 0.5% of the cinema market and for one week at the Filmhouse Edinburgh. Not knowing how many people have seen Roma, where it was screened or what level of box office it delivered is another example of how Netflix acts outside the industry whilst at the same time it craves its acceptance”, Richards writes.

He also adds that unless BAFTA revises its eligibility criteria going forward, Vue will no longer support the BAFTA awards.

As of yet, BAFTA has not replied. Roma, meanwhile, is expected to take the top prize at the Oscars this weekend.

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