Netflix hits back at Cannes by saying it won't screen any movies at the festival

NetflixNetflix’s ‘Okja’ premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
  • Ted Sarandos said in an interview with Variety that no Netflix titles would be screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
  • This follows the fest’s rule change last year that no movies would be allowed to screen in competition going forward if they were not released theatrically in France.
  • Netflix had two films in competition last year.

Netflix head of content Ted Sarandos is pulling Netflix completely out of the Cannes Film Festival after a long fight with movie traditionalists.

After the streaming giant caused controversy last year, when it had two films in competition at the festival, the most powerful film fest in the world made a rule change that movies without theatrical distribution in France were no longer eligible to play in competition.

Sarandos said on Wednesday, to Variety, that because of the rule change he would not be bringing any titles to Cannes, even to play out of competition.

Emma Thompson Dustin Hoffman Ben Stiller Noah Baumbach Adam Sandler The Meyerowitz Stories GettyGetty(L-R) Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach, and Adam Sandler at the Cannes Film Festival for the world premiere of their Netflix movie ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ in 2017.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos told the trade. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They have set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”

At Cannes last year, Netflix had two titles playing in competition: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But because of Netflix’s model of showing its movies day-and-date (meaning its titles show on its streaming service at the same time they are in theatres – if the titles get a theatrical release at all), theatre owners in France were outraged over the prime position the titles received. Like US theatres, movie houses in France are against Netflix’s model and want titles to play exclusively in theatres for a certain amount of time before being available to stream. This led to the rule change by Cannes.

However, Sarandos said he’s not against Netflix buying one of the films in competition at Cannes this year that is seeking distribution.

Netflix has found success on the festival circuit over the years, specifically at the Sundance Film Festival, where it’s premiered movies that are soon available on the site in the weeks after the festival, like “I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore” and “A Futile and Stupid Gesture.” It’s also made big acquisitions at Sundance, like “Mudbound” in 2017 for $US12.5 million.

But Netflix, as well as its rival Amazon Studios, scaled back big time at Sundance this year on acquisitions. And this latest move by Sarandos may be a hint that Netflix isn’t that interested in what’s going on in the South of France either.

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