Netflix Threatens to Skip Cannes Film Festival Screenings as Tensions Rise

Festival changed its competition rules last year, saying all films had to have distribution in French theaters

Netflix is threatening to withhold its films from screening at the Cannes Film Festival, a potential move that follows the festival’s change in competition rules which target the streaming giant, according to a filmmaker with ties to Netflix.

A filmmaker told TheWrap that they are of the understanding that Netflix will not participate in Cannes this year, but a final decision won’t be made until April 12, when Cannes announces its official lineup.

Netflix declined to comment, and representatives for Cannes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In order to qualify for competition at the festival, a film has to have distribution in France. Conversely, Netflix believes that its films should have day-and-date releases on the platform, which has been a thorn in the industry’s side.

Netflix’s approach to distribution has frequently led to debate over whether it should be eligible for Academy Award recognition. This Cannes move could have big implications, as Netflix continues to attract high-profile filmmakers.

Last year, Netflix had two films in competition at Cannes — Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” and Bong Joon-Ho’s “Okja.” The French National Cinema Federation, a group representing the country’s theater owners, had called on Netflix to release its films in French theaters. This led to festival organizers changing the rules.

“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,” festival organizers wrote at the time. “This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings then took to Facebook, complaining that, “The establishment closing ranks against us. See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the decision by Netflix.