Cannes Addresses Netflix Controversy By Forcing Competition Films to Receive Theatrical Distribution In France

The festival denied rumors that the Netflix films would be dropped from the 2017 edition, but added new rules in an effort to placate exhibitor concerns.
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Controversy swirled around the Cannes Film Festival after it was announced that the glamorous French gathering would showcase two Netflix titles in its Official Selection, a divisive choice in a country that treasures the theatrical experience. Now the festival is both denying reports that it has considered dropping those films its lineup, and announcing new rules for its Official Competition that would require accepted films to show in French theaters.

Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” and Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” are both scheduled to screen in competition at Cannes this month. Following the announcement of the lineup in April, French exhibitors publicly complained that the presentation of both films would be violating a French law requiring distributors to wait 36 months after a film’s theatrical release before making them available on streaming platforms. Both movies are expected to become available on Netflix worldwide much sooner than that.

However, despite the public outcry, the movies remain in the program.

“A rumor has recently spread about a possible exclusion of the Official Selection of Noah Baumbach and Bong Joon Ho whose films have been largely financed by Netflix,” Cannes said in a statement. “The Festival de Cannes does reiterate that, as announced on April 13th, these two films will be presented in Official Selection and in Competition.”

An Seo Hyun, "Okja"
An Seo Hyun, “Okja”Netflix

At the press conference announcing the Official Selection, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux hinted that some theatrical distributors had been involved in conversations about distributing “The Meyerowitz Stories,” but Netflix has so far denied those possibilities.

“The Festival de Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theaters of those films in France,” the festival said. “The Festival de Cannes asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theaters and not only its subscribers. Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”

However, Cannes added a new regulation to placate concerns that its decision to screen Netflix movies would endanger the theatrical business, by announcing a new regulation that would require future Competition entries to receive a theatrical release in France.

“The Festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world,” the festival said. “Consequently, and after consulting its Members of the Board, the Festival de Cannes has decided to adapt its rules to this unseen situation until now: any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”

The 2017 Cannes Film Festival runs May 17 – May 28.

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