Netflix decided to leave the Cannes Film Festival entirely by decision of the festival's leadership to ban the films from competing unless they get a local theatrical release, according to a Variety report. The report includes an interview with Ted Sarandos, Netflix's content manager, who says the decision was made only after the escalation of tensions between the broadcast service and the Cannes artistic director, Thierry Frémaux. Netflix, although excluded from the competition, was told that it could still screen its films in Cannes, if it so wished. The company no longer attends any official capacity.
"We want our films to be on fair ground with all the other filmmakers," Sarandos tells Variety. "There is a risk that we intervene in this way and that our films and filmmakers receive disrespectful treatment at the festival, they have set the tone, I do not think it's good for us to be there."
"If Cannes chooses to be stuck in the history of cinema, that's fine."
Cannes announced for the first time the banning of Netflix last month, saying that films that want to compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or prize must have a theatrical release in French to be eligible. The change of rules, actually announced last year, only came into effect for this year's Cannes, which will take place in May. And the change of rules was only announced after the owners of theaters, filmmakers and French unions protested vehemently for the inclusion of Netflix Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories movies last year, the first time that Netflix competed in Cannes. The company had both day and date releases for both films, which means they were shown in theaters in some markets on the same day they were launched in their broadcast service. But Netflix did not show any movie in any French theater.
At that time, Frémaux and Netflix tried to negotiate a compromise in which Netflix would ensure a last-minute theatrical release and a week in France to compete. But the company could not avoid the regulations of the French media that require that a film be kept out of broadcast services for up to 36 months after a theatrical release. Frémaux still allows Netflix to compete; the company's films won no awards, and the crowd was booed by the crowd at the premiere of Okja. But the immense reaction led Cannes to institute the change in the rules and to comply with the Netflix ban last month.
"Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in theaters, I was presumptuous, they refused," Frémaux told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "The folks at Netflix loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other movies, but they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours." Frémaux, like many members of the French film industry, sees broadcasting services not only as existential threats to the film and theater business, but as threats to the very nature of cinema as art that should be experienced collectively in a theater.
"We hope the rules change, we hope they will be modernized, but we will continue to support all the films and all the filmmakers, we encourage Cannes to meet with the world film community and we welcome them," Sarandos tells Variety. "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 chose to be about the future of cinema, if Cannes chooses to be caught in the movie history, it's fine. "