Cannes Film Festival announces new rule that could block Netflix films from participating

This is the first year that Netflix will have movies premiering at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival — and it might be the last.

The source of the tension is Netflix’s relationship with theaters. Theoretically, the company has said it’s not opposed to bringing the movies it funds into theaters — as long as they premiere on the streaming service at the same time.

However, that resistance to the traditional window means most Netflix movies get a minimal or nonexistent release in theaters. This, in turn, has stopped some filmmakers from selling their movies to the streaming service. (Amazon has been more amenable to a windowed release schedule.)

So when Cannes announced that it would be screening two Netflix films, Okja (directed by Bong Joon-ho) and The Meyerowitz Stories (directed by Noah Baumbach), the Federation of French Cinemas criticized the decision.

Now the festival has announced a new rule, which requires a film competing at Cannes to “commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters.” A French law mandates that films can’t be shown on streaming services for 36 months after their theatrical release, and it’s hard to see Netflix agreeing to wait that long (or at all), so this could effectively block its films from future festivals.

“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,” the festival said in a statement. “Hence the Festival regrets that no agreement has been reached.”

Cannes did say that the rule only takes effect next year, so Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories should screen as planned.

In response, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted on Facebook: “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.”