Netflix has confirmed that it will not be at Cannes 2018, after the festival refused to play the streaming giant’s films in competition at the event.
Netflix made a big splash as the French event last year, screening both Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, but French exhibitors protested the company’s presence at the festival, because Netflix did not release those titles in French cinemas. This, however, was due to French national rules, which prevent movies distributed in cinemas from being released on subscription streaming platforms for three years – a blow for Netflix, which has released multiple films day-and-date in cinemas in both the UK and US. (While Amazon enjoyed success at the festival in 2016, and has been willing to stick to a conventional theatrical window for its titles, the online firm’s Prime Video streaming service had not yet launched in France at that time.)
With France unwilling to compromise on its outdate laws, despite Netflix appealing for an exception to the rule, Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s artistic director, has since announced that Cannes will no longer premiere films in competition that are not released in French cinemas. The stance marks a significantly different attitude towards VOD companies that are funding such filmmakers as Bong Joon-Ho compared to festivals such as Sundance, where Netflix not only screens its own films but also acquires others to release worldwide – sometimes, in the case of Mudbound, in cinemas at the same time as their streaming release.
After much speculation about whether Netflix would go ahead with an Out of Competition slot for its titles, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has now confirmed that Netflix will not be attending at all.
“It was not our decision to make,” he said in an interview with Variety. “Thierry announced the change in their qualification rules [that] requires 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.”
“We loved the festival,” he said of their time at Cannes in 2017. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema. We are 100% about the art of cinema. And by the way, every other festival in the world is too.”
“Do we love the red carpet? I love our filmmakers being on those red carpets,” he added. “It’s a very glamorous, very fun event for filmmakers. That is beside the point. That is true of every festival. Last year we were jointly celebrating the art of cinema at Cannes. The divergence is this decision to define art by the business model. In that way, yes, we have diverged.”
The decision means that a number of major Netflix projects will not be at Cannes this year, including Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Paul Greengrass’ Norway, Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, Morgan Neville’s Orson Welles doc They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, and, most notable of all given Cannes’ cinephile status, Netflix’s restoration of Welles’ unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind.
“We support Netflix,” Frank Marshall, who has overseen the Welles restoration, told IndieWire this week. There would be no movie without them. Every studio and financier in town passed on this film, for years.”
Sarandos told Variety that he hopes Cannes will change their 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.”
Sarandos will not be attending Cannes himself, but Netflix representatives will be present on the Riviera, looking to acquire any films that are still seeking distribution. Could Netflix therefore end up acquiring a film that has screened in competition? “Yes 100%,” commented Sarandos. “We don’t discriminate that way.”
Netflix may pull its films from Cannes
10th April 2018
Netflix is reportedly threatening to pull its films from Cannes altogether, after the French film festival has reiterated its stance on screening the streaming giant’s movies in competition.
The festival has made no secret of its views regarding online video, with the country’s rules not allowing movies distributed theatrically to be released on streaming platforms for three years. Netflix had two films debut at the prestigious festival last year, but French cinemas complained about the festival’s embrace of what they perceived to be a threat to their business – and while Netflix requested an exception to France’s outdated policy, so that it could release films day-and-date in French cinemas, that request was denied.
Festival director Thierry Frémaux responded by doubling down on the country’s distribution regulations, imposing a ban on any streaming films in Cannes’ competitive categories, unless the movies are released theatrically on French soil. Last month, he repeated that view in an interview with Le Film Francais, also announcing a ban on selfies.
Now, with only days to go until Cannes announces its 2018 selection, The Hollywood Reporter reports that Netflix is planning to pull its movies from the festival altogether. Netflix has not commented on the reports, but, if true, there are five major Netflix titles that would therefore be deprived of a bow at the Croisette: Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Paul Greengrass’ Norway, Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, Morgan Neville’s Orson Welles doc They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, and, most notable of all, Netflix’s restoration of Welles’ unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind.
Should Netflix go ahead, any of those five films could premiere at Cannes, but in out-of-competition slots that would give its filmmakers a second-class status at the event. Should the impasse continue, the filmmakers in question appear to be standing by the streaming giant.
“Even though we are not in competition, we are collateral damage if they decide not to go,” Frank Marshall, who has overseen the Welles restoration, told IndieWire. “We support Netflix. There would be no movie without them. Every studio and financier in town passed on this film, for years.”
Saulnier appeared to confirm to the site that Hold the Dark will not play at Cannes, commenting: “It’s a shame, I think it could’ve caused a stir… But it will ultimately be better for the film to be showcased at festivals later this year, closer to the release.”
Hollywood will be watching as this year’s festival line-up is announced on Thursday, but with Netflix and Amazon Studios funding such directors as Bong Joon-Ho when traditional studios are unwilling, the future of cinema is perhaps less a question of who’s at Cannes, and more a question of who’s enabling cinema to be made in the first place.
Cannes bans Netflix from competition
26th March 2018
Cannes has banned Netflix from competing at the French film festival.
One of the most prestigious events in the film calendar, Cannes embraced Netflix a year ago, welcoming Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories to the Croisette for their respective premieres. Controversy, however, followed the Netflix films to the French Riviera, as the festival made it clear that they were unhappy with Netflix’s refusal to release the films theatrically in France.
Many have taken this as a sign that Netflix is an enemy of cinema, but that arose directly from France’s own laws around distribution, which say that any film released in French cinemas cannot debut online for three years. Netflix attempted to secure temporary permits to screen the films for under a week in France, as a day-and-date release, but the request was denied.
As a result, Cannes announced last year that it would change its rules for entry.
“The Festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world,” it said in a statement in May 2017. “Consequently, and after consulting its members of the board, the festival has decided to adapt its rules to this unseen situation until now: any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theatres. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”
Now, the festival’s head, Thierry Fremaux has confirmed that Netflix is definitely not allowed to compete for awards at the event.
“The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films,” he said in an interview with Le Film Francais (translated by THR). “But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours.”
That means Netflix could be a part of the 2018 Cannes line-up, but will not have a chance at winning the Palme d’Or.
“Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas,” Fremaux admitted. “I was presumptuous, they refused.”
“We have to take into account the existence of these powerful new players: Amazon, Netflix and maybe soon Apple,” he continued. “We’ll defend the image of a risk-prone festival, questioning the cinema, and we must be at the table every year.”
But with French unions and filmmakers unhappy about Netflix’s presence at the festival last year, and French cinema laws unwilling to change, Fremaux has drawn a line.
“Cinema [still] triumphs everywhere even in this golden age of series,” he concluded. “The history of cinema and the history of the internet are two different things.”
Fremaux also announced another measure for this year’s event, which is to ban selfies on the red carpet altogether.