Cannes Films Festival Changes Rules Due to Netflix Submissions

Netflix turned heads earlier this month when the streaming service announced that it would screen two of its original films at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. That announcement marked the first time that any over-the-top streaming service entered its original films directly into a big-name film festival, showing that Netflix isn’t just a one-trick pony. With a rumored Hollywood studio on the way and billions of dollars already invested in star-studded original content, Netflix is quickly becoming a full-fledged production company.

However, some of those moves haven’t been without controversy or conflict. The meteoric rise of Netflix has shown to be a media phenomenon which many established institutions weren’t ready for. Case in point: the Cannes Film Festival has officially changed its rules from 2018 onward in direct response to Netflix’s entry of two original films.

When Netflix first announced that it had entered its two films into the festival, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, the Federation of French Cinemas protested on the grounds that Netflix doesn’t pay taxes to French theater unions, a typical requirement of any film studios releasing in France. Furthermore, France’s Media Chronology Law decrees that films must remain off of streaming services within three years of their theatrical release in France; Netflix, however, plans to release Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories for streaming shortly after their Cannes debuts.

Cannes has allowed Netflix to continue for this year, but reports indicate that from 2018 onward, only films that dedicate themselves to a full French theatrical run will be allowed to screen at Cannes. The film festival issued a somewhat passive-aggressive statement decrying Netflix’s assertiveness and assuring that this rule-bending will never happen again:

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. 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.

The changes are not necessarily bad news for Netflix, merely that any future Cannes submissions will have to play by French rules. The 2017 Cannes Film Festival marks the 70th anniversary of the festival and runs May 17th through May 28th. In the U.S., meanwhile, Okja will be released for streaming on Netflix June 28, 2017, while a Netflix release date for The Meyerowitz Stories has yet to be announced.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley

Brett lives at the foot of the ancient Appalachian mountains in Asheville, North Carolina and writes about technology, science, and culture.
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Brett Tingley