Netflix yanks films from Cannes after new rule about theatrical release

By Joe Berkowitz

April 11, 2018

Cannes can kiss Netflix goodbye this year.

The streaming service and aspiring movie studio has opted not to screen any of its 2018 offerings at the world’s most famous film festival after a controversial new rule left only theatrically released films eligible for awards. Following the decision in late March, Netflix had initially still planned to showcase some of its films in a non-competitive setting. After further examination, the company’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos has reconsidered.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos told Variety. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”

In 2017, Netflix screened the Bong Joon-ho film Okja, along with Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, to both fanfare (from attendees) and complaint (from French theaters owners and unions). The company pulling its films out this year means an uncertain festival future for prestige projects in the pipeline, such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. It also signals that the divide between streaming services and theatrical purists (like Steven Spielberg) is as wide as ever.

Sarandos also confirmed with Variety that while he personally will not be attending Cannes this year, representatives from Netflix will be on hand to continue the company’s aggressive acquisition track record at festivals.