LOS ANGELES • Netflix will debut three of its upcoming original films in a limited number of theatres before they 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 theatres and on Netflix on the same day. The three movies are potential Oscar contenders.
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 more theatres on Dec 14.
At the end of September, Netflix had 137 million subscribers to its movie-and television-streaming service.
It began stocking its library with original films three years ago.
Netflix had been insisting that any movies it sent to theatres be available to its streaming membership on the same day.
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 film-makers and we are constantly innovating to serve them," Mr 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 (1996) film-makers Ethan and Joel Coen, will start a limited theatrical run next Thursday, eight days before its debut on Netflix.
Bird Box, a thriller starring Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, will begin playing in some theatres on Dec 13, before hitting Netflix on Dec 21.