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Drive My Car (Doraibu mai kā), the critically acclaimed 2021 Japanese film directed and co-written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi based on the short story by Haruki Murakami about a theatre director who deals with the loss of his wife, was released in Japan on August 20, 2021, and was later nominated for Best Picture and Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.
In Canada, the film was released in theatres by independent distributor Films We Like on November 29, 2021, and as of early March 2022 the film continues to play at arthouse cinemas across Canada.
On March 2, we saw that Drive My Car had also became available for digital rental and purchase in Canada through the Apple TV / iTunes Store, in Japanese with English subtitles, for $24.99 to purchase or $7.99 to rent (all prices are in Canadian dollars before applicable taxes). While it may be available at a later date through other digital retailers, we have not yet found it on retailers like Amazon or Google that are usually able to match most of iTunes' offerings.
When and where will Drive My Car be available to stream in Canada?
While we can't yet point to a precise date that Drive My Car will be available on a subscription streaming service in Canada, there are indications it will be available on Canadian streaming in mid-to-late 2022.
As we explain below, we expect it will most likely premiere on Amazon's streaming service, Prime Video.
Update [May 25]: Bell Media's streaming service Crave announced today that Drive My Car will in fact be streaming on that platform in Canada, beginning on Friday, June 24. We plan a fuller update to this post at a later date.
The film did receive renewed attention after its release on HBO Max in the United States on March 2, 2022. Although WarnerMedia did buy streaming rights to this movie for HBO Max, that deal only seems to cover the U.S., where the film is distributed by Sideshow and Janus Films, and it doesn't appear the Canadian streaming release will occur on the same timeframe.
Instead, because the film was released to Canadian cinemas by Films We Like (FWL), it's probable that the Canadian streaming rights will be tied to that company's distribution deals.
To understand the likely outcome in a situation like this, the best we can do is look at when, and how, other films from the same distributor have reached streaming in Canada.
Of the films listed on FWL's website as recent releases, most of the most recent scripted films to be available on Canadian streaming – including Undine, Tove, and About Endlessness, which were all released theatrically in spring or early summer 2021 – were available in Canada on Prime Video as of March 2022. (Several recent FWL-distributed documentaries, such as The Donut King and The Witches of the Orient, have instead gone to CBC Gem.)
This strongly implies that FWL currently has an output deal with Amazon for what's known as the "pay-1" window, meaning that Amazon would have the first (and exclusive) opportunity to present FWL's scripted films on pay TV and/or subscription streaming, beginning several months after each film is released theatrically. These contracts do change from time to time, but they usually tend to be long-term deals.
We noticed that the streaming rights to at least two earlier FWL-released films that hit cinemas in late 2019 and early 2020 – Arab Blues and Greener Grass – are currently held by Crave in Canada. So it's probable that FWL has only recently started a new output deal with Amazon (after a prior deal with Crave ended),
in which case the new deal will very likely cover Drive My Car.
But, again, it seems like Films We Like will stick with its usual timeframes for making the movies it distributes available for streaming in Canada. That implies it won't be available to stream until mid-2022 at the earliest – though, again, Canadians can still buy or rent Drive My Car digitally as discussed above.
Thanks to reader Andy whose recent question posted on Twitter inspired this post.