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Cannes Targets Netflix With New Rule Requiring Theatrical Releases, Starting in 2018

Festival issues statement Wednesday, also confirming two Netflix productions will remain in this year’s competition

The Cannes Film Festival has issued a new decree to buck the controversy surrounding its choice to include two Netflix productions in this year’s main competition. Starting in 2018, in order to qualify for competition, films must have a theatrical release in France.

Wednesday’s announcement comes a month after The French National Cinema Federation, a group representing the country’s theater owners, issued a statement calling on Netflix to play ball and roll out Noah Baumbach‘s “The Meyerowitz Stories” and Bong Joon-Ho’s “Okja” on their screens.

Both films are competing for this year’s Palme d’Or at the festival, which runs from May 17 – May 28.

Netflix responded, saying it would consider a limited theatrical run for the films in France, “because similar to French exhibitors, we want to continue to contribute to the development and financing of films.”

Cannes’ new rule makes that a requirement, as of next year.

In its statement announcing the development, Cannes addressed “a rumor has recently spread about a possible exclusion of the Official Selection of Noah Baumbach and Bong Joon Ho whose films have been largely financed by Netflix.”

“The Festival de Cannes does reiterate that, as announced on April 13th, these two films will be presented in Official Selection and in Competition,” confirmed the statement.

“The Festival de Cannes is aware of the anxiety aroused by the absence of the release in theaters of those films in France,” it continued. “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.

“The Festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world. 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. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”

On Wednesday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings issued a statement on Facebook, complaining that “The establishment closing ranks against us.”

Hastings also plugged the June 28 streaming release of “Okja” which he oddly described as a film “that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”