Netflix Threatens to Pull Five Films from Cannes

The simmering feud between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival is reaching a boiling point ahead of the French Riviera events lineup announcement next week. The streaming company has threatened to withdraw five of its films that were set to premiere in Cannes over a festival rule that bans Netflix from the main competition.

Alfonso CuarónsRoma,Paul GreengrasssNorway,Jeremy SaulniersHold the Dark, Orson Welless The Other Side of the Wind, and Morgan Nevilles documentary Theyll Love Me When Im Dead, about Welles, are the movies that were scheduled to screen at the event next month.

One industry source described the festival rule, established in 2017, as a way for movie-industry stakeholders to limit Netflixs growing influence—the company has announced plans to spend more than $8 billion on original content in 2018.

“They are weaponizing Cannes,” the industry source said. “What are these people to do? The studios arent funding these movies. Its not like [filmmakers] are choosing Netflix over a 2,500-screen release.”

Netflix sent its first two films to Cannes last year, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, sparking a strong reaction from French cinema owners and filmmakers who object to the companys policy of releasing its movies online at the same time that they screen in theaters. After the outcry in 2017, Festival Director Thierry Frémauxsaid any future films that wish to compete in Cannes will have to commit to being distributed in French theaters. French law is especially odious for companies like Netflix, requiring distributors to wait 36 months after a theatrical release before they make a film available on streaming sites. After Frémaux announced the rule, Netflix chief Ted Sarandos said the new policy made the prospect of returning to Cannes “less attractive.”

Nonetheless, the company had five films accepted to Cannes this year, with filmmakers planning to attend.

In March, Frémaux doubled down on the anti-Netflix policy, tellingThe Hollywood Reporter, “Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas. I was presumptuous, they refused.”

Netflixs experience at Cannes last year was decidedly mixed. Some film critics booed its logo at screenings, the first showing of Okja was marred by a projection mistake, and jury president Pedro Almodóvarsaid he didnt think the Palme dOr should go to a film without a theatrical release.

This years Cannes lineup is due to be announced April 12 and the festival is set to open May 8. News that Netflix is threatening to withdraw its movies was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Netflix declined to comment.

Films already announced that will premiere at Cannes include the festival opener, Asghar FarhadisEverybody Knows, and Disneys Solo: A Star Wars Story, which will screen out of competition.

For The Other Side of the Wind, Welless last, unfinished movie, Cannes was to have been the end of a more than 40-year effort by producers to finish the film.

Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.Nicole SperlingNicole Sperling is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.


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