Netflix’s Marriage Story Is Headed To Theaters, But Not How You’d Think

Marriage Story Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson divided by a wall

If you’ve been hoping that director Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story would be making a big jump from its Netflix streaming home to the big screen, your prayers may be answered after all.

The film is going to receive a significant boost in its theatrical exhibition, but there’s one pretty big catch you’ll have to work around: this round of silver screen action for the film is only happening in China.

The big reason that Marriage Story is actually being released into Chinese theaters is because the country’s regulators have banned Netflix from operating within their country. So rather than passing the country by completely, the streaming giant is in talks with distributor Road Pictures to sell the theatrical rights for a region specific rollout.

A current favorite in the scrum of awards season titles, Marriage Story was shown theatrically in the United States, as well as in other countries, in a limited release. It was particularly restrictive in the US, considering Netflix and the major theater chains in country have been in a long term standoff pertaining to the window of theatrical exclusivity.

It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it certainly fits rather well into Road Pictures’ business model, as the company has made a name off of importing big festival and prestige favorites like Capernaum and Cold War, and turning them into big hits in China.

It’s a strategy that THR’s report bolsters with some cold hard numbers, as Capernaum in particular made $50 million in its Chinese release, while the film only racked up $1.6 million in its North American release. Should that sort of luck hold up, there’s a shot that Netflix’s investment in Marriage Story might pay off dividends.

Even more interesting is the possibility that should Marriage Story’s release window go well, there’s the potential for Netflix to partner with Road Pictures’ distribution house more frequently in the future. There’s even a chance that both companies could partner on specific tailor made products that will wind up as Netflix Originals on the streaming side, but also serve as Chinese blockbusters in a territorially limited theatrical release.

With the streaming platform/studio trying to keep an eye on their purse strings at home, and the theatrical markets still being somewhat of a minefield for Netflix films, this could be a profitable way to ensure that films like Marriage Story are still made at the studio.

The twin factors of profitability and prestige are in the picture, and if this film hits like it should, there’s no telling what’s in store for Netflix’s theatrical future in 2020 and beyond. We’ll see soon enough, as Marriage Story is looking to open in Chinese theaters at some point in February.

Meanwhile, if you’re in a country with Netflix access, you can currently see Noah Baumbach’s opus of heartbreak on the streaming platform itself.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.