Netflix’s participation at the 2018 Venice Film Festival has become a subject of controversy, with Italian cinema exhibitors issuing a statement criticising festival director Alberto Barbera and the streaming giant’s strategy of making films available for streaming on the same day as their theatrical release.
In a joint statement, the National Association of Cinema Exhibitors and National Association of Multiplexed Exhibitors, without naming Netflix, criticised the platform’s day-and-date release system, Deadline reported. They said that they “contest what has been communicated by the Director of the Venice Film Festival and the initiatives that allow the simultaneous release of some films in cinemas and on other media”. This, they said, appeals to the “short-term interests of one party, to the detriment of others” and leads to the “weakening of the value chain in a local market which is suffering from structural challenges such as piracy”.
Netflix is premiering six films at Venice, which runs from August 29 to September 8: Paul Greengrass’s 22 July, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (in the main competition section), Alessio Cremonini’s On My Skin, Orson Welles’s final film, The Other Side of the Wind, and the Welles-centered documentary, They’ll Love Me When I Am Dead.
According to multiple reports, the bone of contention is the Italian film On My Skin, which will open the Horizons sidebar competition section and will be released on Netflix on September 12, the same day it opens in theatres in Italy.
The row comes after the furore surrounding the premiere of the Netflix productions Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. The streaming platform had decided not to release the two films in French cinemas, because the country’s laws require a 36-month window between a film’s theatrical release and its streaming debut. Theatre owners in France then protested Netflix’s inclusion at the festival, following which Cannes organisers passed a rule requiring films to be theatrically released in France to qualify for the competition sections from 2018 onwards.
In April, Netflix chief Ted Sarandos announced that the company will be not be screening any of their films at Cannes this year.
Barbera had earlier told Deadline that the Venice festival had benefited from “all the polemic between Cannes and Netflix”. He said, “We finally succeeded to get a couple films that could have been in Cannes before. It’s a particular situation in France, the streaming window doesn’t make any sense in my point of view. I hope Cannes will be able to find a solution.”