Sorry, Cannes: How Netflix Is Invading the Fall Festival Circuit

Outlaw King Still_ - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of TIFF

Following its high-profile battle with the French event, the streamer is making a strong showing on the late-2018 calendar, and indie producers and filmmakers seem supportive.

A black-and-white drama, in Spanish, set in Mexico City during the 1970s. A three-part drama examining the deadliest terror attack in Norwegian history. A true tale of Italian police brutality. And a 132-minute Western anthology featuring six stories from the American frontier. These four features premiering at the 2018 Venice Film Festival — Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, 22 July from Paul Greengrass, Alessio Cremonini's On My ?Skin and the Coen brothers' The ?Ballad of Buster Scruggs — have little in common. Other than they are just the type ?of niche, high-end or downright weird cinema Venice loves to promote. And they were all financed by Netflix.

Only three months after ?the streamer's snub of Cannes, Netflix is back in force for the fall festivals. In total, six Netflix movies will screen in Venice — ?the company's restored version ?of Orson Welles' final film, The ?Other Side of the Wind, and Morgan Neville's Welles documentary, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead, also will premiere ?on the Lido — a record for the ?event. And the Toronto International Film Festival has picked ?seven Netflix titles, including ?this year's opener, David Mackenzie's Scottish period epic Outlaw King.

Venice's embrace of Netflix has angered some. Italian distributors lashed out, arguing that the fest was condoning the streamer's business model of day-and-date releasing that bypasses theatrical exclusivity. "We will oppose this proposal ?by any means necessary," read a joint statement from the trade bodies ANEC and ANEM, which represent Italian cinema owners.

But other industry players argue that Netflix should be celebrated, not condemned, for ?backing the type of movies that have become nearly impossible to finance using ?the old model, which combined ?a theatrical release with revenue from TV sales and home video. With home video gone, ?TV revenue down and the theatrical business dominated by studio tentpoles, Netflix is one of the few entities willing to finance non-mainstream movies.

"Filmmakers are glad to get financing from Netflix because Netflix gives total freedom to the filmmaker to make the film that they wish without any ?kind of intrusion," Venice director Alberto Barbera tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Without Netflix's backing, Roma would have been a tough proposition for most distributors. ?While Netflix has not yet revealed its release strategy for the film, ?it is believed to include a limited theatrical bow in multiple territories. Lucky Red, the Italian distributor for On My Skin, said it will offer Italian theaters the chance to screen the pic simultaneously with its Netflix release.

"We are really proud On My Skin was selected (by Venice) and that Netflix acquired it," says Lucky Red boss Andrea Occhipinti. "This is the proof we produced a great film." 

This story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.