Cannes Film Festival officials are cinematic purists, and there’s no shame in that. They are a private organization that admits films that meet their chosen caveat. However, the prestigious event makers’ choice to deny entry to films made by online streaming services may narrow both the viewer pool and film variety entered since the film-making industry is increasingly being guided by the streaming format and viewing experience.
Consequently, this is the first and last year Netflix or any other streaming service will be allowed to submit their own productions. This results from a lengthy kerfuffle between those who believe that this honor should only belong to those who honor a truly cinematic, in-theater experience and those who believe that films made from online distributors are not any less capable of meeting Cannes standards.
Streaming services are held back by the fact that their material is not released in theaters, thus disqualifying them from the cinematic experience. According to a statement released by Cannes Festival board members, as soon as streaming services release their material to French theaters, they can enter the event, but no compromise was actually reached. The films that were admitted to the 2017 list were Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, but no others will be admitted as of 2018.
Some believe this is a fearful and/or competitive reaction to the fact that streaming services are leading a large portion of the entertainment industry,and filmmakers and studios are grasping at straws to keep the art of traditional filmmaking and theater experience afloat. Streaming is the easier and cheaper option, which is hard to compete with, especially if quality remains as good as films seen in theater. Though films distributed online do hold their own, do they also forget their own roots by refusing to distribute to theaters, or do you think Cannes should embrace this leap into modern filmmaking as just another artistic method?
Netflix will likely act in their own business-oriented interest, which is retaining their subscribers, and part of the appeal of being a subscriber is the exclusivity and access for such a low price; it may be too much to ask a streaming service to go against what they promise subscribers, and attendance in the film festival is a price they will have to pay in order to stay true to their business. Perhaps streaming services ask too much of the traditional cinema competition by wanting them to deny the particular experience and method to which they have dedicated their careers.
Also worth mentioning is that Amazon has agreed to release some of their own films to U.S. theaters; perhaps this is an early indicator of plans to enter The Cannes Festival on its own terms, which should offer a nice side-by-side comparison of business maneuvers.
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