When the Cannes Film Festival announced their lineup last month, many were surprised to see two coveted Competition slots taken by Netflix: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” The festival has long stood by their commitment to traditional models of moviegoing, but this embrace of Netflix raised eyebrows, and caused outrage at Federation of French Cinemas (the umbrella group for France’s movie distributors) who have long claimed that Netflix hasn’t played fair by the stringent rules of how movies are released in the country. Today, they have some good news.
Cannes issued a press release this morning announcing that starting in 2018, any film that wants to play in Competition at Cannes, must be intended for theatrical release in France. Essentially, this move is being made to pressure Netflix to operate with the same guidebook as the rest of the industry, where movies that play in wide release must wait 36 months before becoming available on a streaming service. That latter fact has been why Netflix has turned down even day-and-date opening in the country, and simply debuted their original films on their service.
So, what will happen as a result of this? Well, it’s going to be an awkward couple of weeks in the south of France this month for Cannes honcho Thierry Fremaux and Netflix head Ted Sarandos, but I don’t see the streaming service buckling. While a Palme d’Or and Cannes premiere are nice things to have, the commercial and awards season bump from the Croisette tends to be minimal at best, and the new rules still allow Netflix to screen things Out Of Competition or in the sidebars. That being said, if they are working with a filmmaker who wants to try for that Palme d’Or, then perhaps they’ll have a problem.
However, Netflix has been more than content to do things their way for a long time now, and that won’t change. If anything, this might put Cannes’ competitors at Venice and TIFF in a better position to work with Netflix, and the streaming service will arguably be better served by launching any awards season style projects at those festivals anyway. Moreover, one wonders how much Cannes can hold this position when Netflix has no shortage of high-profile projects on deck, including Martin Scorsese‘s “The Irishman.”
You can read the full press release below, but you can bet this will hardly be the final word on the matter.