Venice: Art House Cinemas Call for Netflix Ban

Roma Still 1 - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of TIFF

CICAE, the International Confederation of Art Cinemas, argues that instead of screening Netflix-backed films like Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma,' Venice should reserve competition slots for “works of art that will be seen in cinemas internationally.”

The International Confederation of Art Cinemas, CICAE, has spoken out against the Venice Film Festival's decision to screen films backed by Netflix in its official competition.

Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, the Coen brothers' The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Alessio Cremonini's Italian crime drama On My Skin have all premiered in competition at this year's festival and will all be released worldwide on the streaming service. A fourth Netflix film, Paul Greengrass' terror drama 22 July, will debut in competition in Venice on Wednesday.

In a statement Monday, CICAE called on Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera to reserve competition slots for “works of art that will be seen in cinemas internationally.” The demand echoes that of French distributors, who successfully pressured the Cannes Film Festival to ban Netflix titles from competition this year.

“Earlier this year, Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, set an example and took the side of art cinemas and decided to exclude films without a theatrical release in France from competition,” CICAE said in the statement. “A prestigious film festival allowing in its official selection lineup titles that will not be seen on the big screen internationally encourages practices that endanger an important sector of the film industry. Cinema and television are different mediums, and cinematic films are made to be seen according to high-quality standards on the big screen.”

Venice has come out clearly on the side of Netflix in the debate. The festival has a record six titles from the streamer in its lineup this year, including out-of-competition entries The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles' final, unfinished feature; and Morgan Neville's documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead, about Welles and the journey behind his last movie.

The upcoming Toronto International Film Festival has followed suit, programming a total of seven Netflix films, including David Mackenzie's Scottish period epic Outlaw King, which will open the festival Thursday.

Cuaron, the Coen brothers and Cucchi have also pointed out that their movies will all get some form of theatrical release in addition to their online bow. On My Skin, for example, hits Italian theaters next week via local distributor Lucky Red, in a simultaneous day-and-date bow with its Netflix release.

Netflix's theatrical strategy for Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is still unclear, though it is thought unlikely that the streaming giant will give either of the films an extensive, and exclusive, theatrical window ahead of its online debut.