At this point, the saga between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival feels like a relationship gone sour. The honeymoon phase has passed, and while the latter wants things to stay the same, the former wants to try something new and exciting. Cannes fired out an ultimatum, and now Netflix is refusing to bend.
After Cannes’ artistic director Thierry Fremaux implemented a rule directly aimed at Netflix surrounding competition for the Palme d’Or, the streaming company has now decided that they won’t show any films at Cannes, competition or otherwise. In an interview with Variety, content officer Ted Sarandos explained that the message has been received loud and clear, and it no longer makes sense for Netflix to attend the festival:
“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker. There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
The rule in question requires Palme d’Or participants to release their films theatrically in France, which Netflix was initially open to. The issue is that films released in this fashion in France cannot appear on SVoD (Subscription Video on Demand) for 36 months after its release for French subscribers. For comparison’s sake, the timeline for both physical and paid Video on Demand is four months, pay TV is 10 months, and free TV is available after 22 months. This does not coincide with the Netflix model.
The current stalemate is prime evidence of the modernization of the movie watching experience versus the old guard remonstrating “the right way” to experience a film. Sarandos touches on this topic in his closing remarks while also speculating a possible change to the rule in the future. And, as with any good breakup, fires a shot back at the festival and punctuates his point with two words that mean so much more:
“We hope that they do change the rules. We hope that they modernize. But we will continue to support all films and all filmmakers. We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back. Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the Internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.”