Netflix Pulls Out Of Cannes Film Festival After Rule Change | Film News
Last year at the Cannes Film Festival, Netflix debuted two well received films, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, but faced outcry from French theatre owners who lobbied Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux to hold Cannes films accountable to a French law that requires movies to not appear on home platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release.
This would of course forbid the streaming giant from participating in the festival unless they gave their films exclusive theatrical windows in France. Netflix Original Films always debut on the service without any release in cinemas, putting the streaming giant in a tough position.
In the lead up to this year’s festival, with Netflix hoping to bring a number of anticipated titles like Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma and Paul Greengrass‘ Norway to Cannes, they threatened to pull out of the festival since Cannes have now established the new rule mentioned above. After Cannes didn’t budge, Netflix have pulled all their titles from the festival and are backing out.
The streaming giant could have allowed the films to play out of competition at the festival, but seem to have wanted to make a statement instead. Netflix have never intended to budge from their release strategy, and even though rival companies like Amazon have found success with releasing films theatrically before appearing on their services, it’s not the Netflix way.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos blamed the festival itself for the issue:
“Thierry announced the change in their qualification rules [requiring] a film to have distribution in France to get in, which is completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world. Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution. Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we’ve released nearly 100 films over the last couples of years.
And if we did that, we’d have to hold back that film from French subscribers for three years under French law. Therefore, our films they are not qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition… I don’t think there would be any reason to go out of competition. The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule”.
Ultimately this comes down to who will blink first. Cinephiles preferably want to see Netflix films like Roma and Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman on the big screen, but Netflix makes more money with their current release strategy. Festival goers want to see these films at festivals, but the people in charge of them want to keep the purest form of cinema alive.
This will likely be an issue that will arise plenty more times as streaming becomes more competitive as Apple and Disney seek to enter the fray. If they move into movies too, how they release them will create an interesting battle between old school and new school release strategies.
Sarandos did go on to say that he hopes Cannes changes their mind:
“We hope that they do change the rules. We hope that they modernise. But we will continue to support all films and all filmmakers. We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back.
Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the Internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine”.