Netflix Says It Doesn’t Need Cannes

Last year, streaming service Netflix made its debut at the Cannes film festival. That appearance was seen as a tipping point in streaming media. Netflix and other streaming services were now playing with the big boys in movie making. At least that was the headline. This year, though, Netflix will not make the trip to Cannes. The reason behind the change traces back to a rule change that will not allow any film that was not shown at a French theater from taking home any accolades bestowed at the prestigious festival. Speaking to the media, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said he believes the new rule change was meant to specifically exclude Netflix and other streaming service original content.

Sarandos may have a point. After two Netflix films, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, were considered for awards (neither won) local French theater owners complained, saying films that were not made available for French audiences should be exempted from awards in the future. Festival organizers agreed. Speaking to Variety, Sarandos made his opinion on that scenario very clear: “We love the festival. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema…”

That phrase, ‘choosing distribution over the art of cinema’ may become a clarion call streaming media uses to push back against the perception that the movie industry is unrealistically exclusive where streaming media is concerned. The accusation, that a film festival that exists only to celebrate film, really only cares about making money, hits right to the heart of the fight against streaming media.

Distribution services and theater owners dislike streaming media because it’s begun to increasingly siphon off their profits. More and more people are choosing “Netflix and chill” rather than a “night at the movies”. And, despite some movies still banking huge at the box office, that trend is increasing rather than decreasing. This is especially problematic for distribution services, because consumer demand is expecting new release films to be available to watch at home sooner and sooner. Where it once took a year or more to make it to home video, now first run movies are available to stream often within a few months of debuting at the box office.

Thierry Fremaux, head of the Cannes festival, called Netflix’s business model “the opposite of ours…” That gulf only seems to be widening, and neither side appears willing to help bridge the gap.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience

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