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Netflix will release 3 movies in theaters before you can stream them

Netflix is starting to play nice to get a better shot at prestigious filmmakers and awards.

Characters from Roma huddle together on a beach.
Alfonso Cuarón's Netflix film Roma has been hailed as a masterpiece by reviewers. 
Carlos Somonte/Netflix

In an about-face, Netflix said it would put three Oscar-bait films in cinemas for an exclusive period. For years, the company has insisted that its movies stream online the same day they screen in theaters, but that's now changing. Roma, a black-and-white drama by Alfonso Cuarón that's being hailed at film festivals as a masterpiece, will have the longest period of exclusivity in theaters before it starts streaming Dec. 14. 

Netflix has long rankled major movie exhibitors by pushing for so-called "day-and-date" delivery, but, more recently Netflix's practice has put it at a disadvantage both for recruiting prestigious filmmakers and for winning awards. Netflix competitors like Amazon, as well as traditional studios, have at times bested Netflix in bidding wars because some filmmakers value a traditional movie-theater run. Amazon reportedly snagged The Big Sick for this reason, and the creators of Crazy Rich Asians went to Warner Bros. because their all-Asian-cast film had a better shot at making waves if it were a box-office success (which it was). 

On top of that, the Cannes Fillm Festival banned Netflix from competing because of its day-and-date strategy, and powerful Hollywood figures have grumbled that the Oscars shouldn't permit Netflix films as contenders either.  

Late Wednesday, Netflix said two other movies, Ballad of Buster Scruggs from the Coen Brothers and Bird Box, a postapocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock, would initially be released in theaters only, for a short time. Ballad of Buster Scruggs is due to start streaming on Netflix Nov. 16 and Bird Box will stream starting Dec. 21. 

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