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Netflix's Oscar campaign for Roma may be one of the most expensive in years

While there are still new movies that need to be marketed at the start of the new year studios are still very much focused on the year before, shelling out millions to advertise movies for the biggest prize of all: the Oscars. Parties are being thrown and Oscar members schmoozed, but word on the street is there's no other company spending on the festivities like Netflix, who in hopes of making ROMA their biggest Oscar player ever is apparently spending as much as $20 million on the campaign.

In reports from Fast Company and The New York Times, Netflix is apparently sparing no expense when it comes to making Oscar voters fall in love with the new film from Alfonso Cuaron. While the NYT story claims that Netflix could be spending anywhere between $10-20 million on the campaign, a source for FC says, “There’s no question its ROMA campaign is the most expensive since THE SOCIAL NETWORK, which has often been cited in the $25 million area.”

The campaign is far more lavish than most foreign language movies – let alone major, English contenders – get, with Netflix arranging for daily dinners and parties centered around the movie, some being hosted by major Hollywood figures, like Angelina Jolie. As well, Cuaron himself is being rolled out for the occasions, participating in Q&As and speaking with the voting members and industry figures, all to talk about his passion project. Add that on top of billboards featuring star Yalitza Aparicio’s face (in contention for a Best Actress nom), and gifts including $170 books about the movie; Oaxacan chocolates with a note signed by Aparicio; posters signed by Cuaron himself and much more.

Netflix and its chief content officer Ted Sarandos are apparently gunning for that first Oscar after being snubbed in the past (MUDBOUND was nominated for – and lost – four trophies last year), seeing it as a firm validation of their content and place in the industry. “They’re the 800-pound gorilla,” says one source for FC. “It seems like they have unlimited resources.”

Netflix does have many things working for and against them in the race. For one, it's on a hot streak after picking up the most trophies and acclaim in a year when there’s no clear frontrunner, with movies like GREEN BOOK and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY drawing ire for their Golden Globe wins, and movies like A STAR IS BORN and BLACK PANTHER being audience favorites. ROMA won a GG for Best Foreign Language Film (not eligible for Best Drama), and a Critics’ Choice for Best Picture recently, putting it ahead of the pack. However, there’s still a faction in the Academy who feel a vote for ROMA and Netflix is a vote for a future they don’t want, one where streaming overtakes theatrical distribution. Those voters may shun the movie no matter how much they may enjoy it. Did I mention there’s a hint of a political element to these awards?

Of course, throwing all this cash at the campaign will help by spreading awareness for the movie and helping it connect on a deeper level. Mix that in with the fact it's winning other prizes and that means the movie has a strong shot at winning the big prize for Best Picture, making it the first foreign film to do so. There's a lot going against it, but I've said in the past this is a weird year, and while one would think it could set things up for a crowd pleaser like BLACK PANTHER to win, maybe that fringe win will come in the form of ROMA - a black and white, non-English Netflix movie. It would be a first for several reasons, and this seems like a year for that. 

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