Cannes puts limits on Netflix in Palme d’Or contest

French movie festival introduces new rule banning Netflix films not released on the big screen

The Palme d'Or trophy
(Image credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Netflix has been banned from competing in the prestigious Palme d'Or contest at the Cannes Film Festival unless its entries have been released on the big screen across France.

The streaming site is taking part in the competition for the first time this year. Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, and Bong Joon-Ho's sci-fi fantasy Okja, starring Tilda Swinton, were announced in the festival line-up last month.

However, Hollywood Reporter says their inclusion provoked an outcry as they have not been shown in cinemas.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Critics argue that Netflix's online-first distribution model, which bypasses the conventional big-screen release in favour of streaming titles online, was "killing the film business".

In response, festival organisers announced they were adapting the rules. "Any film that appears in competition at Cannes from next year will have to commit first to being shown in French cinemas," says The Guardian.

In a Facebook post, Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, said the "establishment" was "closing ranks against us".

"Could it be that the festival was moving away from old-school cinephile insistence on the primacy of the big screen?" asks Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. "Not so fast."

French cinemas "were livid about the inclusion of these "Netflix hipsters" in the festival because the platform wasn't committed to showing the films in their theatres, says the critic.

He adds that president-elect Emmanuel Macron is committed to reviewing laws about film distribution, including the three-year delay imposed before producers can offer streaming video on demand.

In the meantime, however, the new Cannes ruling means Netflix will just have to "suck it up" if it wants to compete, Bradshaw says.

Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety magazine, said he sympathised with the festival and the cinema industry, but added: "I don't think you can force people to consume things in a certain way anymore."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.