The Atlantic

What's at Stake in Cannes's Battle With Netflix

The famed festival is trying to strictly define cinema as a theatrical experience, but it may be fighting a losing war.
Source: Francois Mori / AP

The ongoing publicity battle between one of cinema’s hoariest institutions (the Cannes Film Festival) and its loudest new “disruptor” (Netflix) is a standoff where it’s tough to really sympathize with either side. Last year, after some internal uproar over the presence of Netflix’s Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) at Cannes, the festival announced it would require all competition titles to receive theatrical distribution in France going forward. This year, the Cannes director, Thierry Fremaux, stuck to that edict. In response, Netflix pulled all its movies from the 2018 festival—even the out-of-competition premieres unaffected by the rule change.

Demanding a theatrical run for a Cannes entrant may not sound like an especially strictand in U.S. theaters so they can qualify for Oscars consideration. But France has much tougher release criteria—films aren’t allowed to appear on for three years after screening in cinemas. That runs so counter to Netflix’s model (which puts movies in theaters and online for subscribers on the same day) that it’s tough to imagine a compromise that doesn’t involve France changing its law.

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