Venice: Italian Exhibitors Contest Day and Date Release of Netflix's Festival Films

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'On My Skin,' Opening Film of Venice Horizons

Although Italian exhibitors don't have official laws in place, they're now contesting the streamer's growing strength in the marketplace.

The trade organizations of Italy's cinema exhibitors, the ANEC (National Association of Cinema Exhibitors) and ANEM (National Association of Multiplex Exhibitors), released a statement contesting the simultaneous release of films on streaming platforms and in theaters following the Venice Film Festival.

The potential flare-up mirrors problems that presaged this year's Cannes Film Festival. After Cannes demanded that all films needed a local theatrical release to compete this year, Netflix pulled all films from the festival. And Venice scored big as a result. 

The Lido this year will debut a record six Netflix films: 22 July, Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (main competition), On My Skin (Horizons), and The Other Side of the Wind and They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (out of competition).

Following the lineup press conference in Rome, festival chief Alberto Barbera brushed off any Netflix controversy, saying his job was as a programmer, not as a distributor.

"I see no reason to exclude from the competition of the festival a film by Cuaron or the Coens only because it was produced by Netflix," he said. "In France, the law is different as regards to the windows, but fortunately here we do not have these problems."

But not everyone is thrilled, as a local Netflix controversy has been brewing among Italian exhibitors who feel that they've been left completely out of the conversation. 

Without calling out Netflix directly, the ANEC/ANEM statement reads that advances being made with day and date distribution seek to benefit "exclusively the short-term interests of only one party, to the detriment of other actors."

The statement appears to be in reaction to Italian film On My Skin's planned release in theaters in Italy and on Netflix on Sept.12, following the festival.

Directed by Alessio Cremonini, On My Skin tells the true life story of Stefano Cucchi, a man who died horribly in police captivity in Rome. It is the opening film of Horizons and is already receiving a fair amount of critical buzz.

Given the often fragile state of the Italian box office in a country rampant with piracy, it's no surprise that exhibitors are looking to protect their interests. But it remains to be seen if their letter seeking an agreement from all members of the film supply chain is too little too late, or if any further action is planned. 

Netflix has made it clear that it will take its films elsewhere if it can't have its way. And Venice, the first festival to accept a Netflix original feature film (back in 2015 with Beasts of No Nation), has made it equally clear it has no plans on reversing course as far as accepting the streamer's films.

But as industry players, who continue to feel like token players in Netflix's larger distribution game, unite across Europe, the streaming giant may ultimately recognize the benefit in making them feel heard.