November 1, 2018 / 1:06 AM / 18 days ago

CORRECTED-Netflix to release 3 films in theaters ahead of online debut

(Corrects spelling of Coen, paragraph 9)

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Netflix Inc will debut three of its upcoming original films in a limited number of theaters before the movies appear on the streaming service, the company said on Wednesday.

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 Nov. 21 and later expand to other cities and countries.

Directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma” will debut on Netflix and in additional theaters on Dec. 14.

At the end of September, Netflix had 137 million subscribers to its movie and TV streaming service. It began stocking its library with original films just three years ago.

Netflix had been insisting that any of the movies it sent to theaters be available to its streaming membership on the same day. Most large theater 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.

“Roma” is a likely contender for best picture, according to Hollywood awards experts, and Netflix’s release strategy 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 Nov. 8, eight days before its debut on Netflix.

“Bird Box,” a thriller starring Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, will begin playing in some theaters on Dec. 13 before hitting Netflix on Dec. 21.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Peter Cooney

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