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In Oscar bid, Netflix to release 3 movies in theaters first

Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” will start rolling out in cinemas Nov. 21 and arrive worldwide on Netflix on Dec. 14.
In a major pivot, Netflix Inc. will release three highly anticipated upcoming films in theaters before they become available to its streaming viewers.

A limited number of theaters in the United States and overseas will receive an exclusive period of one to three weeks to play the films.

The streaming giant said late Wednesday in a tweet that Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” the Coen Brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “Bird Box” from Susanne Bier would get limited theater runs in New York, Los Angeles and a handful of other major cities.

Netflix’s modified distribution approach should persuade more theaters to participate. But the move is really about winning Oscars and wooing Hollywood talent, the New York Times reported.

Scott Stuber, Netflix’s film chief, positioned the exclusivity decision as an evolution and not a retreat.

“Netflix’s priority is our members and our filmmakers, and we are constantly innovating to serve them,” he said in a statement. “Our members benefit from having the best quality films from world-class filmmakers,” he added, noting that directors also benefit from the global reach of Netflix’s platform.

Netflix had a different message in an earnings-related announcement just two weeks ago: “We believe in our member-centric simultaneous release model for our original films.” When the service got into a spat with the Cannes Film Festival over theatrical exclusivity in April, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told analysts that “defining distribution by what room you see it in is not the business we want to be in.”