"Establishment closing ranks" - Netflix and Cannes Film Festival go to war

Netflix will be unable to compete in all future Cannes competition unless it shows its movies in French cinemas

"Establishment closing ranks" - Netflix and Cannes Film Festival go to war

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings [Tobias Hase/DPA/PA Images]

The CEO of Netflix has accused the Cannes Film Festival of trying to squeeze it out of future competitions after changing rules for eligibility.

Netflix has two films competing at the prestigious French festival this year: the sci-fi fantasy Okja, which reunites South Korean director Boon Joon-Ho with Tilda Swinton, and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, which features Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler.

But the Cannes organisers are now facing off with the streaming giant after receiving complaints from tradition cineastes about allowing films that bypass traditional release methods to compete for the coveted Palme d’Or.

Members of the film and cinema industry have argued that the Netflix model, which sees films released through the streaming platform at the same time worldwide, is killing off the theatrical business.

To appease those crying foul, the festival organisers said they would be brokering a deal with Netflix to ensure that the company would release both films in a limited capacity in French cinemas. Netflix has past form of this, having last year distributed the Irish-made The Siege of Jadotville in Irish cinemas ahead of its global roll out on Netflix.

But on Wednesday, a festival spokesperson said that the negotiations with Netflix had broken down and all attempts to secure a French distribution had been “in vain.”

As a result, Cannes has now introduced a new rule which demands that any film hoping to screen in competition must also have a theatrical release in France. The rule will come into effect for the 71st festival, set for the Riviera city next summer.

“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,” the statement reads.

“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 theatres.”

Reed Hastings, the CEO who has seen Netflix expand from a DVD postal service to a massive online media giant with almost 100m global subscribers, was critical of the festival’s decision.

"The establishment closing ranks against us," wrote Hastings in a post on Facebook, adding a promotion for a Netflix title.

"See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition."

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