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Indie films to hit Comcast, theaters at the same time

PHILADELPHIA -- Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator, has reached a deal with IFC Entertainment to show selected independent movies at the same time the releases hit theaters.

Philadelphia-based Comcast said indie films from ''IFC in Theaters" will be shown through its ''On Demand" service, which stores movies and other programs for subscribers with digital set-top boxes, starting March 22 nationwide. Indie films typically premiere in New York or Los Angeles. Unless they become big hits, their distribution tends to be limited to a handful of theaters in urban areas.

But the ''day and date" release strategy -- in which movies are released in different formats at the same time -- has raised theater owners' ire.

Last month, Steven Soderbergh's ''Bubble" raised concerns when it was released simultaneously at theaters, on DVD, and on cable TV.

Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Entertainment, said the agreement would greatly expand the audience for indie films. It also gives them a fighting chance: Out of more than 100 movies premiering at the Sundance Film Festival only about 15 get into theaters.

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