Whither Netflix at the Cannes Film Festival? As business is underway at the Marche du Film, Ted Sarandos (who scooped up Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts with No Nation” which was spurned by Cannes) gave a heated keynote on Friday and, as usual, his remarks about the future of the theatrical model prompted outcries and defensiveness in the house. Watch the full hour-long Q&A below, and read press corps highlights.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos came under fire from European film protectionists during his keynote at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. When the floor was opened to questions, one French reporter asked Sarandos “if he was aware” that within “5, 10, 15 years,” the Netflix model would “destroy the film ecosystem in Europe.”
At issue was Netflix’s policy of not contributing to European film subsidies as most broadcasters in Europe are compelled to do. Sarandos rebuffed the heckler, saying Netflix would “grow the European film ecosystem” by providing a global platform for European filmmakers. Before he could continue, Harvey Weinstein [a Netflix partner on the “Crouching Tiger” sequel among other projects] came to his defense. The Weinstein Co. boss, who was sitting in the front row of the NEXT conference in Cannes, grabbed the microphone to defend Netflix as a “visionary company” and to trash Europe’s film subsidy system.
That got Weinstein on his feet. “For the gentleman talking about the government needing money,” he said, “I hope that the government spends its money on hospitals and children and that the marketplace is so good that his films can be sold to the marketplace and don’t need government subsidies.” Hoots and hollers from the audience greeted that sentiment.
Weinstein continued, “I came here to defend Ted today because I thought somebody was going to talk about the whole movie theater thing, in case he goes off on that tangent, I better come as a bodyguard. But I’m even more thrilled where this conversation went and how visionary this company is.”
Weinstein praised Netflix’s commitment to documentaries and foreign-language programming. “This is a guy who buys documentaries and cares. This is a guy who buys foreign-language movies and cares. And every one of these monopolies, let’s start with TF1 … they’ve gotten a wake-up call by what Netflix has done. And you know what? They’ve all gotten better and their quality is going to improve and they’re going to be big customers for your product. So, having the rebel in the room made us all better and stronger.”
“Nothing we are saying or doing is meant to be anti-theater or anti-cinema,” said Sarandos. “I think it competes beautifully on its own.” He added that the movie industry would benefit from a model where films were released in theaters and on home-viewing platforms on the same day, an idea that theater owners vehemently oppose. “I think movies will be more profitable if consumers had more choice,” Sarandos said, adding that although cinemas might lose a little, “in total the movie business will be bigger.”
Sarandos also discussed windowing issues, saying: “Everything about the way we consume entertainment has been changed by the Internet except the first window for theatrical,” noting that waiting 36 months between a theatrical release and an SVOD bow — as is required by law in France — was “too long” and would mean Netflix won’t release its movies in France in theaters until the law changes.
Discussing Netflix’s business approach to acquiring movies from independent producers, as the company has done with “Beasts of No Nation,” Sarandos said: “All the films we do at Netflix will be profitable to the producer, there will be a premium to the budget. That is unique to the culture.”