Netflix has pulled its films from the Cannes Film Festival following a rule change that would bar its movies from competition, in the latest battle between streaming services and traditional film distributors.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Variety that he was pulling the films from screening at Cannes after organizers set a rule that bars any film that doesn’t have theatrical distribution from prize eligibility. While the streaming service could show some of its films without competing, Sarandos said it would put them at a disadvantage when compared with other movies.
“There’s a risk in us going in this way and having out films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival,” he said. “They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
Cannes organizers announced a rule last year that movies could not compete for awards without a French theatrical release, though they could still screen at the festival. Netflix premiered two films, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, at Cannes last year with the hopes of getting theatrical releases in France, but no agreement was ever reached between the streaming service and regulators.
Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said during a press conference Thursday that the theatrical distribution rule had been in place for decades, but only came up last year because of Netflix’s distribution model, Deadline reports. Fremaux said it was a “shame” to not screen any Netflix movies and that there was an “ongoing debate” with executives from the service.
According to Fremaux, the film festival had wanted to screen two Netflix films this year, in particular The Other Side Of The Wind, an unfinished project by Orson Welles. But films have to stick to the distribution rule, he said.
“It’s too bad. Welles was president of the jury and of course had the Palme d’Or,” he said, referring to the prestigious award given at the festival. “His place was here.”
He continued: “They know and love cinema, but we don’t have the same position. The world is like that today. Last year, when we had them on the red carpet we were very criticized. This year they won’t be on the red carpet and we’ll be criticized.
Sarandos said he would not personally attend Cannes, but that some Netflix executives will be at the festival to look for films to acquire, according to Variety.