Cannes Bans Netflix Films From Competition Because The Internet Is Bad (Or Something)

from the get-off-my-lawn dept

Cannes this week declared that the long-running festival would be banning streaming services like Netflix from being able to win the Palme d?Or. That said, festival leaders weren’t able to offer a coherent reason why. Festival boss Thierry Fremaux apparently tried to offer something vaguely resembling an explanation to a variety of different news outlets, but wasn’t particularly successful. Most of the arguments made by Fremaux to the press had something to do with Netflix being different (gasp) from the traditional film industry production and criticism model:

“The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours,? Thierry Fremaux said.”

The heart of the ban appears to be a fusion of protectionist concerns about how streaming could harm the traditional French film industry and brick-and-mortar theaters (aka: fear of competition). France has a cultural exception law that requires a percentage of all box office, TV and streaming revenues be used to finance homegrown and foreign films. That law also forces a very outdated and obnoxious release window: namely a 36-month delay between theatrical release and streaming availability. Streaming providers’ disdain for such artificial and arbitrary restrictions has been ruffling feathers for years.

In other words, this is really just the same old story about people making silly decisions because of fear of something new disrupting legacy business models that may not work as well in the modern era. But because Cannes just can’t come out and admit that, we instead got a heavy dose of disdain for the internet in general:

“Fremaux said the while new players like Netflix and Amazon are enabling directors to make big budget films, they are creating ?hybrids? that aren?t TV and aren’t quite film. ?Cinema [still] triumphs everywhere even in this golden age of series,? he said. ?The history of cinema and the history of the internet are two different things.”

It’s 2018 and that’s not entirely true anymore but who cares, get off my lawn!

Cannes has previously banned made for TV movies to ensure a certain quality bar in competition. The organization appears to be using that ban to justify banning Netflix, despite the fact that Netflix is now spending billions on producing its in-house, award winning fare. Because many of these films only saw limited runs in theaters (or no run at all) doesn’t automatically equate to low quality, and banning streaming services from awards isn’t likely to magically save an industry unwilling to evolve.

Of course this disdain for all things new isn’t solely a French phenomenon. Stephen Spielberg recently stated that Netflix films shouldn’t be allowed to win Oscar awards, though here too you’ll notice that the justifications are arguably flimsy, with an attempt to equate “streaming” with inevitably low quality:

“Once you commit to a television format, you?re a TV movie,? he told ITV News. ?You certainly, if it?s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don?t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Why not? Who knows! If the content is awful it will get rejected from such competitions anyway. And trying to fend off streaming at this point is like trying to slow the flow of a river with just your hands. The move is pretty clearly an effort by Fremaux to project a certain standard of excellence (he also announced that selfies would be banned at this year’s festival), but the message it’s actually sending the world is more of the “I’m a Luddite” variety.

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Companies: cannes film festival, netflix

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Comments on “Cannes Bans Netflix Films From Competition Because The Internet Is Bad (Or Something)”

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48 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: so you want arty indies to compete with 8 billion mass market?

This might come as a shock to you but they already do period. Even in the most protectionist of markets they already do even by gray or black market smuggling. Communist countries had blue jeans as lucrative items available both illegally and through rare but technically legit means.

It is like saying ‘you don’t want to pay for other people’. No matter what you’ll end up doing so anyway because that is just how the world works structurally. Even if your response is to go the wilderness you are still paying for them by doing so!

Ninja (profile) says:

There’s an interesting phenomenon happening here. I’ll warn in advance that it’s my own perception based on what I’ve been listening from people around me but I’ve seen comments like these elsewhere (even internationally). Anyway, a growing number of people are signing up for 1 or 2 services and deciding that if it isn’t there then it doesn’t exist.

Cannes and other entities based on legacy players and models may be risking getting irrelevant and being replaced. There’s a limit to how much bullshit you can get away with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Cannes has always been an artsy film festival based on somewhat niche cinema-crowds. That it becomes even less relevant is not really going to do much to the hardcores. Besides, Netflix is getting pushed by government across europe to include more european content. By french laws being what they are, Netflix is likely forced to buy older content and take it from there. Unless things change in that relation, the one ring mentality is not likely to spread there.

Dirty Tricks says:

Theater owners against it too

It requires a run in French theaters, similar to how the Oscars require it to run for 7 days in LA county, before being streamed or any other outside of theater/festival release.

If your going to rally against Cannes, at least compare it to other Awards programs for films doing the exact same thing.

This is something the Oscars has done for years, and Cannes is catching up. Also at play is that the French theater owners association is not allowing Netflix to show any of their films, Because they believe it will hamper their business, and also so it doesn’t qualify for Cannes. The other big difference is the 36 month stupid release window that only hurts consumers.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Old man yells at cloud

"Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,”

I never thought someone like Spielberg would wind up as the old man yelling at clouds. Consumer video cameras have reached the 4K state, and that’s equivalent to 35mm film. "Television format" has reached the movie stage. Progress continues, whether Spielberg likes it or not.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Old man yells at cloud

It has nothing to do with film quality and everything to do with business.

The Oscars have rules about what is eligible. TV movies are not eligible without theatrical runs. HBO movies are not eligible without theatrical runs. That’s why the Emmy’s exist – to reward television content, which is what Netflix is, and Netflix has won several Emmys.

Cannes is a festival for film distributors. Anything Netflix shows there already has a distributor – Netflix. They gain nothing by being there except the chance to win an award.

Spielberg is right. He’s even produced stuff for Netflix. He know’s what he’s talking about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

The Oscars have rules about what is eligible. TV movies are not eligible without theatrical runs.

Are "films" eligible if they’re not actually on film? (Ie. digital films.) Otherwise what’s the distinction between "film" and "TV" that makes you say Netflix is "TV"?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

It has absolutely nothing to do with if something is shot with film or digitally, and it never has. It’s solely about how content is distributed.

The Emmys gives awards to broadcast, cable, and streaming. The Oscars gives awards to theatrical distribution. That’s the only difference.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

“Cannes is a festival for film distributors. Anything Netflix shows there already has a distributor – Netflix.”

Lots of movies already have distributors before they show at Cannes. Should they also be exempt, or just the ones that have the “wrong” type of distributor?

But, you’re correct in a way. It’s not about the actual quality of the movie, it’s about the business. Arbitrarily removing things from competition because someone made the “wrong” backend deal is what makes this such a ridiculous thing.

I’m sure you can justify this any way you want. But, “you made this movie, but you signed distribution with Netflix instead of Universal” is neither an argument that makes any sense with regard to the quality of the movie itself, nor something that will win any fans.

The difference makes sense if you’re talking “TV movie of the week” vs a production made for cinemas. In cases where all you’re talking about is that the completed movie had to choose streaming rather than multiplexes for its distribution, you’re actually harming the industry as only those productions “safe” enough for the major distributors are going to end up in competition – and those guys are taking less risks all the time.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

It’s not as simple as “these movies are great and therefore should be competing.” Cannes tried and failed to get Netflix to comply with French law.

> For the 2017 festival, Netflix tried to get temporary permits to screen the films for less than a week in France, allowing for a day-and-date release so the films could be seen in theaters and online at the same time, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

> However, this move clashed with the French law, which mandates a 36-month delay between a movie’s theatrical release and streaming date, the New York Times reported. The rule also requires a percentage of all box office, DVD, video-on-demand, television and streaming revenue to be pooled to fund homegrown films and help finance foreign films, according to the New York Times.

> “The festival asked Netflix in vain to accept that these two films could reach the audience of French movie theaters and not only its subscribers,” according to a statement from the festival to the New York Times in 2017. “Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”

Maybe the law needs to be changed, but that’s not on Cannes, who actually tried to get Netflix to adhere to the rules and failed.

And Netflix isn’t banned from showing films, just from competition.

> Although the new rule effectively bans Netflix and other streaming services from entering their films in the competition, Fremaux said the films can still be selected to be shown at the festival.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/03/26/cannes-film-festival-bans-netflix-films-from-competition-also-no-more-selfies/?utm_term=.ccac1b297946

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Old man yells at cloud

The question then would seem to be: what is there which mandates that, in order to be shown at Cannes, a movie needs to be in compliance with French law?

My best guess at that, based on a shallow reading, is that the festival only accepts films which have been screened in theaters in France – and what is permitted to be shown in theaters in France is subject to the requirements of this law.

If the lineup of films available at the festival is limited by the restrictions of French law, that means the festival is not nearly as universal as its reputation might paint it.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Old man yells at cloud

the festival is not nearly as universal as its reputation might paint it.

It was never as universal as its reputation. The films for competition have always been limited (as it is at most film festivals) but big studios, including Netflix, can still show their films outside of competition if they want the glitz and glamour and hoopla of Cannes.

I work for a film festival. None of the big budget Hollywood films that screen are part of the competition, because that would destroy the whole point of the festival, which is to recognize indie films that don’t have distributors or huge marketing budgets.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Old man yells at cloud

“that means the festival is not nearly as universal as its reputation might paint it.”

Cannes has never been “mainstream” exactly, but that just makes this kind of thing even more disappointing. Rather than embrace new forms of distribution for independent artists who would often not get distribution outside the festival circuit, it demands they operate within a system gamed by legacy corporations. This may be due to law rather than their choice as suggested above, but it’s still a bit sad that they operate in this manner.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Old man yells at cloud

“Maybe the law needs to be changed, but that’s not on Cannes, who actually tried to get Netflix to adhere to the rules and failed. “

The law is clearly there to protect an industry that fails to compete on an even playing field, and certainly needs to be updated. Bear in mind, my criticisms aren’t aimed at Cannes specifically, but an industry that overall demands special favours in order to operate in the way it prefers, rather than deal with the reality of their marketplace.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Old man yells at cloud

I believe that is the intent, but you’re also preventing those films from getting effective distribution once they have been made. The beauty of things like Netflix is that they can take more risks than standard distribution models as they’re not dependant on selling individual tickets for individual titles.

I can understand the wish to keep productions local and meaningful, but if nobody sees them after their Cannes screening then why bother?

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Old man yells at cloud

But you could say the same thing about cable producers like HBO and Showtime and AMC and Hallmark. They are subscriber based just like Netflix, and should be competing with them in the home distribution market, not movie studios in the cinema distribution market, which is what Cannes is all about.

They’re two different businesses, which is my whole argument. The fact that both make feature length movies doesn’t mean they’re the same. The audience might not see the difference because for them it’s all funneled to the same viewing device and they don’t see how it’s all bought and paid for and how much money and effort went behind making audiences decide to watch this over that, but from a business perspective it’s apples and oranges.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Old man yells at cloud

“I never thought someone like Spielberg would wind up as the old man yelling at clouds”

Hmmm… Spielberg… Spielberg…

Wouldn’t that be the young whippersnapper who got his start on TV, then got real traction when his made-for-TV movie Duel was so well received that it actually got a theatrical release in Europe? Even his own career shows that there’s no hard differential line at times.

It’s a shame that he now thinks that the release format now magically makes a work inferior, especially since the reason why so many productions are released direct to streaming is because the studios have so gamed the system in their favour. If people are taking Netflix deals for their production, it’s because his friends are hogging all the screens for the next worthless franchise movie.

Back in his day, “TV movie” had a stigma because they were low budget productions with zero budget, zero production schedule and usually no intention of release or quality beyond a “movie of the week” screening. Whatever you think of the final movie, the idea that Annihilation is “just a TV movie” in the same way because it went straight to Netflix outside the US is ridiculous. The idea that something like Beats Of No Nation should have been treated the same as a Hallmark Christmas movie because of the distribution deal done on the back end is an insult to everyone in the industry.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

Yes, the same Spielberg that produced an award-worthy show on Netflix last year.

It’s not about being inferior or jealous, it’s about the rules the Academy has put in place to define what’s worthy of consideration.

Spielberg’s not an idiot or an old man yelling at clouds. He knows the business as well as anyone. In fact he praises the quality of today television and options it offers filmmakers. People seem to think that calling it “TV movie” is demeaning, but I’m sure he doesn’t mean it that way.

> “The television is greater today than it’s ever been in the history of television. There’s better writing, better directing, better performances, better stories are being told. Television is really thriving with quality and heart, but it poses a clear present danger to filmgoers.”

The guy loves the movie-going experience and wants to keep that option viable for filmmakers. Nothing wrong with that.

Perhaps instead of complaining that Netflix isn’t eligible for Academy Awards, we should stop giving this one particular award so much importance. Netflix can proudly tout its Emmy wins, and maybe Emmy > Oscar.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/steven-spielberg-thinks-netflix-films-should-not-qualify-oscars-1097351

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Old man yells at cloud

“People seem to think that calling it “TV movie” is demeaning, but I’m sure he doesn’t mean it that way.”

He needs to be clearer in that case. In common parlance, “TV movie” has certain connotations, as do terms like “direct to video”, etc. Those inferences are usually used to indicate something inferior. If he didn’t mean it that way, he needs to choose language that doesn’t imply such things.

“The guy loves the movie-going experience and wants to keep that option viable for filmmakers.”

Nothing about being screened or distributed via Netflix either blocks a movie from the theatre or from people enjoying it that way, other than the actions of the theatre owners and major studios. In fact, Netflix actually tried to get day and date released with its first batch of movies before the theatre owners whined about it.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Old man yells at cloud

Yes, he’s not speaking in common parlance. He’s speaking in business parlance. Then he goes on to praise the quality of television – but everyone ignores that, and the fact that he made Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and Five Came Back for TV or that his own studio has a television division and streaming service.

> Netflix actually tried to get day and date released with its first batch of movies before the theatre owners whined about it.

Sure, but that’s a different subject.

But Spielberg’s comments make much more sense in the actual context of the interview. People are pulling out that one quote like he’s attacking everyone’s beloved Netflix and is behind the times, when in fact it’s clear he knows exactly what’s going on in the business and where it’s headed, which is one of the things that makes him Spielberg.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hTTvO50QTs

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Old man yells at cloud

“Yes, he’s not speaking in common parlance. He’s speaking in business parlance.”

So? What, exactly, is the difference, other than the movie didn’t play on a bigger screen when publicly released? There’s no actual difference in reality as far as the production of many of these movies are concerned.

“everyone ignores that, and the fact that he made Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and Five Came Back for TV or that his own studio has a television division and streaming service.”

That’s not being ignored. It just makes his comments even more disappointing.

“Sure, but that’s a different subject.”

No, it’s exactly the same subject. Spielberg is saying that had they not tried to get theatrical distribution and just settled for what they were essential forced into anyway, Beasts Of No Nation should have been treated the same as a Hallmark movie and not been considered for awards. That’s damn well insulting to everyone involved in any such production, especially when the studios that Spielberg is part of are a major reason why people would go that route in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

in other words, yet again, Hollywood cannot stand to have any competition in this field, preferring, as usual, to ban (as it would be impossible to lock up streaming services!) anything that is in the slightest way BETTER! when the hell are all services like Netflix or whatever, services that are ‘different’ as well, going to merge and stick it to the ‘traditional services’ before everything movie-wise just stagnates?

Anonymous Coward says:

The 36 month release window between theaters and streaming is stupid. That said, for award shows that historically made a distinction between films made for theaters and films made for TV, there is a fair argument that could be made on either side about what a film designed for a streaming service that gets a limited theatrical run should count as. That said, the argument should be made on “what type of content the film is” grounds rather than saying that the latter “isn’t good enough” as if that were true it would be a non-issue for these award shows since they wouldn’t be getting nominations in the first place.

Hadtojumpin says:

Wait for the change of iTune as Apple joins in

Couldn’t resist…

Apple is going to spend about a billion dollars on original TV programming, with surely more to come if, most likely, they have success. With the number of viewers on their platform and the name of Apple behind it, how long before Cannes and others decide that they DO like these amazing movies made for streaming? Apple advertising plastered all over the shows and the billboards around the shows will be just a coincidence, surely.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Wait for the change of iTune as Apple joins in

Bad pun…

But, this is really the problem, I think. The traditional players have either ignored consumer demand, or actively fighting against it, that others have stepped in. The new players are fundamentally technology companies, and their purpose is to sell subscriptions or devices, not seats or screens.

The irony is, they forced this upon themselves. They spent so much time fighting online distribution that others have taken on that job. They then spent so much time messing with those new distributors through licensing, etc., that they got tired and started making their own content. Now they’re fighting the content…

What’s sad is that if any industry should have learned from past experience that new tech is nothing to be feared and can in fact benefit you in ways you didn’t expect, it should be the movie industry. I know that speaking about something like Cannes is a different conversation to the average major studio conversation, but it’s still amazing. I can maybe get the concerns about another major US corporation having too much cultural power, but demanding that movies need to be a distributed a certain ways before they’re deemed worthy by their creators’ peers is just silly.

John85851 (profile) says:

An odd quote

I think this quote from Spielberg is odd:
“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Is he trying to argue that Netflix has a “token release” just to qualify for awards? Yet how many Oscar-bait movies are released on Christmas Day in New York and Los Angeles (only) simply to qualify for that year’s Academy Awards?
How many times have we seen TV commercials for movies that say “Opens in New York on Christmas Day, opening everywhere February 15th.” A month and a half later for the rest of the country?? Really?? That’s not a token release at all.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: An odd quote

That’s a good point, although the difference is that Netflix is only giving these movies a release to be Oscar eligible and they still have a distribution deal with Netflix, where for many of those other films, this is their only release, and it’s betting its whole future on getting an Oscar nomination. But yes, it’s a muddy area and if Netflix is following the rules it shouldn’t be an issue.

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