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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Netflix to release films in theatres ahead of online debut

'Roma', 'Bird Box' and 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' will hit the big screens first in the coming months

Sandra Bullock in a scene from Bird Box. Courtesy Netflix
Sandra Bullock in a scene from Bird Box. Courtesy Netflix

Netflix Inc has announced it will debut three of its upcoming original films in a limited number of theatres before the movies appear on the streaming service.

The move for Roma, Bird Box and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a change from the company's traditional practice of releasing movies in theaters and on Netflix on the same day.

Roma, a black-and-white, Spanish-language film about a housekeeper in Mexico, will start playing in cinemas in Los Angeles, New York and Mexico on November 21 and later expand to other cities and countries.

Directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron, Roma will debut on Netflix and in additional theatres on December 14.

The company began stocking its library with original films just three years ago and has been insisting that any movies it sent to theatres be available to its streaming membership on the same day.

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Most large theatre chains remain opposed to Netflix films, and some prominent directors have objected to the idea that their movies would be seen mostly on the small screen.

Now, Netflix's strategy is evolving. "Netflix's priority is our members and our filmmakers, and we are constantly innovating to serve them," Scott Stuber, head of Netflix's film group, said in a statement.

Roma is a likely contender for best picture, according to Hollywood awards experts, and Netflix's release plan for the film is similar to ones used by traditional studios to promote their arthouse movies ahead of awards voting.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a new movie from Fargo filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen, will start a limited theatrical run on November 8, eight days before its debut on Netflix.

Bird Box, a thriller starring Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, will begin playing in some theatres on December 13 before hitting Netflix on December 21.