All films competing in the Cannes Film Festival will have to played in French movie theatres from next year, organisers of the international event said, a rule that could affect the rapidly growing industry of streamed content. The rule change is the fallout of a tussle between Netflix and French cinema owners over two films the Los Angeles-based company produced – Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories and Bong Joon-ho’s Okja.
The federation of French cinema owners had protested against Netflix’s decision to not release the two films in French theatres. As per French rules, a film can be made available for streaming only 36 months after its release in theatres. However, Netflix refused to abide by this.
Cinema owners have pointed out that France has a unique system where a percentage of the box office revenue goes into producing a new film. “We are really sorry that Netflix did not understand the specificity of the French market,” Richard Party, president of the National Federation of French Cinemas told The New York Times. “ They stuck to their position that they won’t let the two films – which were done by great directors and deserve to be shown in competition at Cannes – be shown by viewers in cinemas.”
In a statement, the Festival on Wednesday announced that “any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters” from 2018. “The Festival de Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theatres of those films in France,” they said. “The Festival asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theatres and not only its subscribers. Hence, the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote about the development on Facebook. “The establishment closing ranks against us,” his post read. “See ‘Okja’ on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”