Berlin: European Art House Cinemas Want Netflix Ban

Elisa y Marcela Still 2 - Berlin International Film Festival - H 2019
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

In an open letter to Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick and the German culture minister, cinema owners criticized the inclusion of Isabel Coixet's Netflix film 'Elisa and Marcela' in the competition program of the Berlinale.

Following similar protests by French and Italian theater owners, the international confederation of art cinemas (CICAE), which represents art house cinemas across Europe, has criticized the Berlin Film Festival for including a Netflix film — Isabel Coixet's Elisa and Marcela — in its competition lineup.

In an open letter to outgoing Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick and German culture minister Monika Grutters, the CICAE complained that, as a publicly funded festival, Berlin should reserve its competition slots exclusively for films that will have a theatrical release.

"As the declared business model of Netflix is the exclusive exhibition of films and series on its own portal, Netflix endangers the structures of cinemas as places of culture and the cultural diversity of the film market," the group said.

The complaint echoes a similar call from exhibitors in France in Cannes and in Italy at the Venice Film Festival last year. Italian distributors were particularly enraged that Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, which Netflix backed, won the festival's Golden Lion for best film.

The CICAE argues that Berlin must ban Netflix movies from its competition lineup or risk undermining its position as a cinematic showcase. "Either the Berlinale is a film festival and shows only works destined for the cinema or it’s not a film festival anymore and is on its way of becoming a TV- or platform festival," said Detlef Rossmann, president of the CICAE.

The group called on Berlin to follow Cannes' lead and ban Netflix productions from its competition lineup.

Kosslick has said Berlin's qualification criteria allow it to accept any film "intended for cinematic release somewhere,” whether or not a movie is actually shown in theaters after it screens at the Berlinale. Coixet's Elisa and Marcela, which premieres in Berlin on Wednesday, qualifies as it, officially, is set to receive some sort of theatrical bow in Spain.