The times, they are a changin’. Last week, the Cannes Film Festival turned a few heads when it announced the addition of two Netflix titles to the festival. Bong Joon-ho‘s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach‘s “The Meyerowitz Stories” will both appear on this year’s lineup of films, with “Okja” competing for this year’s Palme d’Or. And while some might be pleased to see the venerable festival open doors to the digital world, that sentiment isn’t shared by everyone: French exhibitors in particular are less than pleased to see Netflix playing on one of the cinema’s biggest stages.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) have come out hard against Netflix’s festival selections, citing a French law that prevents streaming platforms from showing a movie until “36 months after a film’s theatrical release.” The organization claims that Netflix has blatantly ignored this law for the French market, effectively side-stepping their financial commitments to the National Cinema Center by foregoing a theatrical release. “For several years, Netflix has bypassed French regulations and tax rules,” the FNCF said in a statement. “These rules form the basis of the financing structure of an exemplary cinema industry in our country, which is what allows most French and foreign films of the Official Selection to be made.”
This is certainly not the splash that Netflix was looking to make on the global marketplace, but there’s still time for the streaming video service to make good with French exhibitors if it moves quickly. While exhibitors might see Netflix’s involvement in Cannes as a slap in the face, there are signs that the festival is actively looking to bridge — not widen — the gap between the streaming and theatrical worlds. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux noted that the decision to include Netflix films in this year’s festival was an attempt to convince the streaming giant to “pay attention to theaters the way they pay attention to filmmakers.” A little bit of damage control could go a long way right now.