TIFF 2018: Netflix, Eyeing the Oscars, Scores Coveted Opening Night Slot 

Once upon a time there was a relatively modest little DVD rental company. Let's call it Netflix. Born in the 1990s, Netflix had the crazy idea of challenging the big, burly DVD kid on the block—let’s call him Blockbuster. But Netflix thought it might be kind of cool to rent DVDs through the mail. Blockbuster, with its brick-and-mortar castles spread across the kingdom, sat on its throne and scoffed at Netflix's silly concept. Undaunted, Netflix next had the ambitious idea of streaming home videos via the web. Blockbuster winced. Netflix expanded its streaming platform across the planet. Blockbuster withered.

Netflix’s next challenge would be its greatest yet. Sure, Netflix had the home audience—at last count, it had earned around 130 million total subscribers—but now it wanted respect. In pursuit of its goal, Netflix became the most Emmy award-nominated network earlier this year, with 112 nominations in all, surpassing HBO and every one of the top four networks. But while Emmys are swell, in Hollywood, the ultimate symbol of respect is the Oscar.

Which brings us to Toronto.

TIFF programmers have made the game-changing decision to give Netflix’s Outlaw King, a big-budget action drama starring Chris Pine, the coveted opening-night slot at this year’s festival. Pine portrays Robert the Bruce, the renowned King of Scotland who led a 14th-century war of liberation against England.

“Where the movie comes from is not as important as how well it works and who’s making it for us,” TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey told The New York Times.

In fact, TIFF will screen six other Netflix films in Toronto this year, including Roma, a highly anticipated film from director Alfonso Cuaron, who previously helmed Harry potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, and took home the Best Director Oscar in 2014 for Gravity (which also premiered at TIFF).

Toronto’s embrace of Netflix is the polar opposite of the Cannes Film Festival, which this year booted all Netflix films from its slate, claiming that Netflix doesn't have the best interests of theatrical movie houses in mind.

“We’re just chasing great movies and great filmmakers,” countered Bailey. “This just fit the bill for us.”

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