Magazine article Screen International

French Film Industry Bemused by Netflix Cannes Announcement

Magazine article Screen International

French Film Industry Bemused by Netflix Cannes Announcement

Article excerpt

The French film industry has reacted with bemusement, and scepticism in many quarters, to Netflix's announcement this week that it is mulling a limited theatrical release in France for Okja [pictured, top] and The Meyerowitz Stories, its first ever titles to make it into Official Selection in Cannes.

The inclusion of Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho's Netflix-backed action adventure Okja and the streaming giant's recent acquisition The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) in the main competition at Cannes has drawn the ire of French exhibitors and also reignited a long-running debate about France's strict media chronology laws.

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In a statement put out on Wednesday, the company said it was "exploring theatrical distribution" for the two films in France "for a limited theatrical run, day and date with the films' release on Netflix".

The company did not respond to questions regarding the detail of how it was planning to do this, although French media reported a limited release was planned in a handful of cities.

STRICT LAWS

Any attempt to do a limited theatrical release for the films by Netflix and a local partner at the same time as they stream on its French service would contravene local media windows legislation requiring a 36-month window between a feature's debut in cinemas and its distribution online.

It is also unlikely French cinema theatres would get involved in such an operation.

Industry veteran Jean Labadie, founding chief of production and distribution house Le Pacte, questioned how the streaming giant could meet its previously announced global launch date of June 28 for Okja and legally theatrically release the title in France.

"Netflix made a teaser which is very clear: Okja will go out on its platform as exclusive content on June 28, and I imagine that means for the whole world. Surely, they won't wait to show the film in France, or any other country," he said.

"Being in Cannes is part of their publicity campaign and there is no reason for them to follow the French legislation which gets in their way."

Wild Bunch co-chief Vincent Maraval – one of the most vocal French critics of the media chronology laws – said the current Netflix-Cannes debacle was yet another sign of the hypocrisy and incongruity of the current system.

"Does it make sense? Of course not. Netflix has simply understood the mentality of the French and is selling them a smokescreen behind which they can hide their hypocrisy."

"If I were them I would release the film on a single screen in Vesoul in the same way French distributors do when they want to qualify to touch Canal [Plus]. That would wake the French industry up to its hypocrisy and refusal to adapt," he said, implying distributors organise token screenings for feature-length films outside Paris to tap into Canal Plus's film investment obligations.

"The reality is that the media chronology legislation was conceived way before the internet and internet piracy. The film industry is refusing to face up these new circumstances to preserve a system which generates privileges under the cover of cultural exception. It's a hijacking of cultural exception which simply protects the monopoly of the big groups."

FNCF STATEMENT

Referring to the statement by French exhibitor body the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) protesting the fact it had not been consulted on the inclusion of the Netflix titles in Official Selection, Maraval suggested that the big cinema chains had been less than supportive of films selected by Cannes in the past, especially for Un Certain Regard. …

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