French Exhibitors Attack Netflix’s Cannes Film Festival Selections
With two high-profile films premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Netflix is hard at work proving to filmmakers and financiers alike that it deserves to be taken seriously as both a commercial and artistic distribution platform. And while fans might be excited to watch Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja or Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories from the comfort of their own home, Netflix’s success may have run afoul of French law, putting its relationship with both the film festival and the entire French marketplace in a precarious position.
According to a new report in The Hollywood Reporter, the Federation of French Cinemas has recently come out strong against Netflix’s participation in this year’s festival, noting that French law requires online platforms to “wait 36 months after a film’s theatrical release to stream a film.” And while it might be tempting to say that France is simply behind the times and needs to revise its legal approach to cinema, there is one important financial element in play here. French officials feel that Netflix’s streaming releases are a violation of the terms and conditions put out by the National Cinema Center (CNC), which uses a percentage of theatrical profits to fund its operations. According to the statement released by the CNC:
For several years, Netflix has bypassed French regulations and tax rules. These rules form the basis of the financing structure of an exemplary cinema industry in our country, which is what allows most French and foreign films of the Official Selection to be made.
While it’s unlikely that the Cannes Film Festival will remove either film from the festival — Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach are two very beloved names in the worlds of independent and international cinema — this controversy could open the door to a more collaborative approach between Netflix and the CNC. Netflix is no stranger to striking an exhibition deal to appease a potential business partner; this was the driving force behind Netflix’s 2016 deal with iPic Entertainment, which ensured that the studio’s films would be eligible for Academy Award consideration (which requires a theatrical release). As the studio continues to flex its muscles in the market, it will be interesting to see what other legal issues come to light.