Netflix CEO Rips Cannes Theater Policy: "Closing Ranks Against Us"

Reed Hastings - H - 2016

Netflix has two films in the competition this year, but neither will be released in theaters in France.

The Cannes Film Festival is facing off with Netflix over the future of cinema, in particular whether movies that screen at the world's most prestigious film festival will also have to be released in theaters in France.

For the first time this year, Netflix will have two films in competition in Cannes: the sci-fi fantasy Ojka from Snowpiercer director Boon Joon-Ho and Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller.

When Cannes announced its lineup last month, traditionalists cried foul, claiming Netflix' online-first distribution model, which bypasses the conventional method of releasing movies in theaters before streaming them online, was killing the film business. Cannes indicated that Netflix would reach an agreement to release both films theatrically, at least in France. But Wednesday, the festival released a statement saying its efforts were “in vain.”

In response, Cannes has introduced a new rule: to qualify for competition, a film must have a theatrical release in France. The new rule will come into effect next year.

“The festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world,” the statement reads. “Consequently, and after consulting its members of the board, the Festival de Cannes has decided to adapt its rules to this unseen situation until now: any film that wishes to compete in competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters. This new measure will apply  from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.”

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to the move on Wednesday, criticizing the festival.

"The establishment closing ranks against us," wrote Hastings in a post on Facebook, adding a promotion for a Netflix title. "See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition."