Netflix Gives Films Exclusive Theatrical Run Ahead of Streaming

(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc. is parting with its long held rule of streaming new movies at the same time as their theatrical release, bringing it more in line with Hollywood studios and potentially giving the company’s films a greater chance for awards.

“Roma” will screen exclusively in theaters weeks ahead of its streaming debut, Netflix said in an emailed statement. Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón’s movie has been tipped as a favorite to win an Academy Award for best picture. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “Bird Box” will also get exclusive limited theatrical releases in the U.S. and overseas.

The decision is a departure for the Los Gatos, California-based distributor, whose policy of not giving theaters exclusive runs before streaming movies in homes put it at odds with cinema operators. Netflix has been spending heavily to produce original movies and content that might contend for Academy Awards, known as Oscars, but the quest for Hollywood’s highest prize has been elusive.

“There’s been an overwhelming response to all of our films this festival season,” Scott Stuber, Netflix’s film group head, said in the statement. “This plan is building on that momentum. Netflix’s priority is our members and our filmmakers.”

Rival Amazon.com Inc.’s film division has been embraced to a greater extent by exhibitors because its movies often run exclusively in theaters before being available for its streaming customers via the company’s Prime service. 

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