The anticipated 70th edition of Cannes Film Festival opened in the sunny Cote D’Azur in the south of France, but a brewing storm over Netflix’s place at the prestigious festival clouded the event.
After a week of tensions, Netflix’s two competing titles remain in the prestigious festival. However, without a traditional theatrical release, Netflix won’t be able to compete in the future. The festival runs through May 28, when the Palme d’Or winner and other awards will be announced.
Netflix VS the French cinema market
2017 marks the year that Netflix would make his anticipated Cannes debut. The streaming service debuted with its very own two movies, ‘The Meyerowitz Stories,’ directed by Noah Baumbach, and Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Okja,’ in the competition.
However, things got a bit stormy with just weeks ahead of the competition, as French theater owners expressed discomfort over Netflix’s films going straight to streaming without distributing in the French movie theaters
Things heated up last month, during the news conference where it was announced the festival lineup.
Richard Patry, the president of the National Federation of French Cinemas, criticized Netflix for not distributing its films in French cinemas, hence not fully participating in France’s unique system. In which a percentage of box office revenues go towards financing new films.
Patry said, “We’re really sorry that Netflix didn’t understand the specificity of the French market. They stuck with their position that they wouldn’t let the two films — which were done by great directors and deserve to be shown in competition at Cannes — be seen by viewers in cinemas.”
The Festival’s board then convened a meeting to discuss the possibility of taking both Netflix’s films out of the competition under the recommendation of France’sexhibitor’ss association. But the idea was rejected and the movies remain in the competition.
Netflix is changing the rules
On Tuesday, May 9 the festival issued a statement striking once again at the streaming service.
The statement read, “Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theaters of those films in France. The Festival de Cannes asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theaters and not only its subscribers,” the statement said, adding: “The festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”
The festival then expressed it had decided to “adapt its rules” for the future. So, starting next year, “any film that wishes to compete in competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters.”
Meaning that only theatrically released films would be eligible for the prestigious competition.Reacting to Cannes’s new rule, Netflix’s Reed Hastings wrote on his Facebook account that “the establishment [is] closing ranks against us.”
Hastings added: “See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”
Netflix has already premiered films at other prestigious festivals, including Venice and Berlin. In 2015, Venice decided to include the streaming giant’s Beasts of No Nation.
In those cases, Netflix has opted for a limited release at the festivals to then continue on its streaming path. However, France currently has a regulation forbidding films that have been in a wide theatrical release from being made available on an SVOD platform for three years, which clearly affects Netflix as a streaming service.
This issue and other discussions to amend regulations have been blocked for several years, affecting the competitors, however, the upcoming government of President Emmanuel Macron might be favorable for the industry, as he might have a more pragmatic approach on the issue.
A clash of opinions
During the jury press conference that opens Cannes on Wednesday, Jury president, and Cannes regular Pedro Almodovar, clashed with actor Will Smith on the Netflix issue.
Director Pedro Almodovar read a lengthy statement in which he sided with the theater’s owners. It read, “I personally cannot conceive of not only the Palme d’Or but any other prize, being given to a film and then being unable to see this film on a large screen.”
“All this doesn’t mean I’m not open to or don’t celebrate the new technologies. I do,” he continued.
“I’ll be fighting for one thing that I’m afraid the new generation is not aware of,” he said. “It’s the capacity of the hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer. The size [of the screen] should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.”
On the other hand, actor Will Smith, who’s premiering later this year a Netflix movie titled Bright, backed up the streaming service.
“In my house, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit,” Smith said of his children’s viewing habits. “They get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.”
Source: USA Today