Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, recently had a big public fight with the French movie theatre industry at the Cannes Film Festival.
And he couldn’t be happier about it, he told attendees of the Code Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
“It’s been fantastic for us,” he said. “Where someone picks a fight with us, that gets a lot of attention.”
The dustup happened after two Netflix originals were included in the famous film festival. Representatives of the French theatre industry, which plays an active role in the event, weren’t happy that films from the streaming company that weren’t planned for release in French theatres were getting promotion from the festival.
When Netflix’s films were shown, some people in the audience booed. Ultimately the festival — in a clear shot at Netflix — announced that all filmmakers who wanted to have their productions considered in next year’s event had to commit to releasing them in theatres.
Hastings and other film industry experts think the theatres-only rule won’t last. Internet streaming isn’t going anywhere and it will be increasingly hard to convince film buffs that these films should be categorically ignored from such a major film festival, some say.
Cannes should focus on the artistic quality of movies, instead of being influenced by the politics and commercial leanings of festival’s board of directors, Hastings said at the Code Conference. He charged that half of the festival’s directors are in the French theatre industry.
While it may seem like he lost the battle, Hastings smiled about the whole thing. The controversy drew attention and may mean that people will know about a movie that they may never have discovered or watched.
“Sometimes the establishment is clumsy” when trying to squeeze out the up-and-comers “and it’s the insurgents role to play that up,” he said.