Netflix Bails on Cannes Over Theatrical Release Mandate

Ted Sarandos passes on the south of France

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Netflix will not submit its original films to this year’s Cannes Film Festival, following a 2017 mandate that all eligible titles must get a theatrical release in France to be included in the festival’s main competition, TheWrap has learned.

Netflix’s prospective competition titles included Jeremy Saulnier’s Jeffrey Wright drama “Hold the Dark,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” and potentially David Mackenzie’s Chris Pine period drama “Outlaw King.” Paul Greengrass’ “Norway” is also on the horizon at the streaming service, though not all are thought to be completed or ready for screening.

The company also had Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind” — a film the legendary director never finished before his death in 1985. Netflix did it for him, with some change they found in the couch.

The entry would have been a lock for Cannes Classics category, along with Morgan Neville’s documentary about their completing it.

The Cannes rule requiring a French theatrical release did not apply to out-of-competition sections like Cannes Classics, and Netflix could have submitted its films for consideration in those sections. But it opted not to do so.

News of Netflix’s withdrawal was first reported in a Variety Q&A with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. A Netflix spokesperson would not comment further.

Representatives from Netflix’s feature film acquisitions team are expected to attend the festival, according to an individual familiar with their plans, thought it’s unclear if film division head Scott Stuber will be among the attendees.

The prestigious festival made its rule change following protests from European theater owners, who hit the ceiling last year when Netflix strutted titles like Tilda Swinton’s “Okja” in the main competition despite the company’s plans to only stream the film on its digital service and bypass a traditional theatrical release.

“Netflix has been avoiding French regulation and fiscal obligations. These rules allow for the financing of our strong film industry and ecosystem which in turns allows for many French and foreign movies selected at Cannes to get made,” French theater owners said in a joint statement at the time.

Steve Pond contributed to this report.