Netflix’s first two films at Cannes could be its last

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Netflix is taking two buzzy features to the Cannes Film Festival this year for the first time — The Meyerowitz Stories, the latest from indie darling Noah Baumbach, and Okja, the second English-language film from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-Ho. But a newly announced Cannes rule might make competition difficult for the platform in years to come.

Starting next year, all films that compete at Cannes are required to have a theatrical release in France, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The statement from the film festival doesn’t refer to Netflix directly, instead citing a “new operator” and “unseen situation until now,” and then emphasizing its own “support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world.”

The festival’s competition lineup was announced in early April, and backlash against Netflix’s inclusion started almost immediately — with festival board members and other film producers objecting that Netflix’s streaming-first film release strategy should prohibit it from competing in a festival designed to celebrate theatrical film.

The tone of the response has been fairly hostile, particularly from the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF), which has taken issue with Netflix’s contorting around theatrical release taxes and fees dating back to the 2015 release of Beasts of No Nation. The film never came to French theaters, as French law requires films to be kept off of streaming services for 36 months after their theatrical release. After the Cannes announcement, the FCNF demanded that Netflix announce whether its submissions would play in French theaters, adding that, if they didn’t, it would “call into question their nature as a cinematographic work.”

Just two weeks ago, Netflix said it was considering releasing its Cannes films in arthouses in France for a “limited theatrical run, day and date with the films’ release on Netflix,” and somewhat snarkily added “similar to French exhibitors, we want to continue to contribute to the development and financing of films.” On Wednesday, Cannes announced that whatever negotiations had been underway had fallen through, making the likelihood that Netflix will hew to the rule in the future look pretty iffy.

The Cannes Film Festival starts May 17th. Netflix’s submissions will compete against 17 other features for the prestigious Palme d’Or award — including new work from Todd Haynes (Carol), Michael Haneke (Amour), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Sofia Coppola.

We’ve reached out to Netflix for comment and will update if we hear back.

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