Cannes Film Festival and Netflix square off over the inclusion of streaming releases

Cannes Film Festival and Netflix square off over the inclusion of streaming releases

By Josh Rottenberg MAY 10, 2017, 12:29 P.M.

As the movie industry continues to grapple with the migration of millions of eyeballs – not to mention filmmaking talent – to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, the Cannes Film Festival has decided to draw a line in the sand.

On Wednesday, the festival decreed that, beginning in 2018, “any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters.”

The new rule follows the earlier announcement that two Netflix films, Bong Joon-ho’s "Okja" and Noah Baumbach’s "The Meyerowitz Stories," will be included in the lineup of this year's fest, which begins next week.

In a statement, the festival noted the "anxiety" the inclusion of the films had stirred up among some cinephiles, saying that it had "asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theaters and not only its subscribers" but that "no agreement has been reached."

Responding to the announcement, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings quickly fired back in a post on Facebook.

“The establishment closing ranks against us," Hastings wrote. "See 'Okja' on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”

Indeed, despite the pushback from Cannes and elsewhere, Netflix has shown no interest in altering its distribution model, which involves either releasing films concurrently via streaming and in theaters or solely via streaming.

In an interview with The Times last year, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos touted the company's streaming-centered approach as a boon to many filmmakers whose movies might otherwise struggle to reach a wide audience in theaters alone.

"I think movies are special because of how well they’re crafted, how well they’re acted and shot – not because of the room that you saw them in first," he said, adding, "I don’t believe it’s sensible to hold back 81 million people from watching a movie so that a couple of hundred people can see it in a theater."


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