French Theater Owners Freak Out; Get Netflix Booted From Cannes Film Festival
from the competing-isn't-really-the-French-way dept
Even as Netflix continues to draw top talent to produce original series and movies (while failing to destroy the motion picture industry), it is still being locked out of being considered a “real” filmmaker.
The tentative embrace of streaming services’ offerings comes with caveats: films must be released to theaters as well to be considered for major awards. This makes things considerably tougher for Netflix since it’s faced heavy resistance from theater owners and others who see a lack of release windows as a threat to their existence.
The latest rejection of Netflix’s advances is happening at France’s Cannes Film Festival. Netflix has two films up for consideration for this year’s awards, but according to festival organizers, it will be its last unless something changes. Here’s the festival’s official flip-flop, via David Canfield at Slate:
A rumor has recently spread about a possible exclusion of the Official Selection of Noah Baumbach and Bong Joon-Ho whose films have been largely financed by Netflix. The Festival de Cannes does reiterate that, as announced on April 13th, these two films will be presented in Official Selection and in Competition.
The Festival de 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. Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.
The issue here appears to be French theater owners, although the statement doesn’t say that in as many words. Instead, the festival delivers a whole lot of words on a platter of subtext.
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. Consequently, and after consulting its Members of the Board, the Festival de Cannes 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 theaters. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.
To translate this, one needs to look at the events leading up to the festival’s sudden reversal. The festival doesn’t want to lose local support, so it has allowed itself to be bullied into a hasty invitation retraction. This report from CBC News is the explicit version of the statement’s implicit wording.
The [Netflix] selections prompted immediate criticism from French exhibitors. In France, the theatrical experience is passionately defended. Films are prohibited from streaming or appearing on subscription video on demand for three years after playing in theatres.
On Tuesday, France’s National Federation of Films Distributors said the Netflix films at Cannes were “endangering a whole ecosystem.”
Must be a pretty fragile ecosystem if a streaming service being considered for an award threatens its stability. And — considering the three-year no-streaming window French citizens are punished with — it’s easy to see why Netflix hasn’t reached an agreement with the locals. It’s also easy to see Netflix will never be able to reach an agreement with French exhibitors. One side has a whole lot of room for compromise, but if it hasn’t done so already during the rise of streaming services, it’s unlikely to start making concessions now.
So, there will be no Palme d’Ors in the Netflix trophy case. And this nation’s creative industries will continue to prop themselves up on insular, isolationist laws, rather than face the rest of the world head-on.