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Cannes: Netflix Movies Dominate Early Digital Buzz Amid Screening Controversy

Netflix might not be returning to the Cannes Film Festival next year, but its presence at this year’s fest has garnered the lion’s share of digital chatter.

From May 17-22, Netflix’s “Okja,” a sci-fi film from Bong Joon-ho about a young girl battling a giant corporation over her massive pet pig, had far and away the highest digital engagement out of all the movies and TV shows screened at Cannes so far, according to marketing technology company Amobee. The next highest buzz-generator was another Netflix movie, Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” starring Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, which had 55% the level of engagement as “Okja” (see relative rankings below).

A big reason for all the attention on Netflix: the outcry from the French film community about the streamer being included in the festival despite Netflix not releasing the titles theatrically in the country, and the Cannes Film Festival board’s subsequent decision requiring competition titles to have French theatrical releases starting in 2018.

As Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos joked to Variety, “Cannes loves a scandal, and this one is called ‘L’Affaire de Netflix.'” He said the festival’s new rule makes it “less attractive” for Netflix to consider coming back.

Still, both “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” were well received by critics. And it’s worth noting that Amazon Studios’ “Wonderstruck” from Todd Haynes was the No. 3 movie at Cannes in terms of digital engagement so far as measured by Amobee.

The high digital-engagement metrics for the streaming services’ entries relative to the rest of the Cannes field highlight the fact that audiences that have historically trekked to art-house theaters are shifting to streaming platforms, said Amobee principal brand analyst Jonathan Cohen.

“For film festivals to remain relevant, they have to reflect that expanded definition of filmmaking in their programming choices,” he said.

The conflict between Netflix and the French film industry has raised the profile of “Okja,” without hurting the reputation of the film itself, according to Amobee’s analysis. During the May 17-22 time period, there were about 8,200 tweets about “Okja.” Of those, Twitter users’ sentiment about the movie was 28% positive, 64% neutral, and 8% negative, per Amobee.

While “Okja” was the most talked-about movie at Cannes from May 17-22, overall, the fashion scene at the fest has captured a bigger share of the online conversation than any single title. During that time period, 28% of all Cannes digital content engagement was related to red carpet coverage and what women were wearing; that’s compared to 7% for “Okja.” About 3% of all Cannes digital engagement has been related to Will Smith, the biggest star on the Cannes jury; and only 2% was related to Pedro Almodovar, the jury president at the festival.

To obtain the data, Amobee analyzes digital content engagement from sources including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — in aggregate, more than 600,000 sites across social, web, mobile and video platforms. The resulting scores are a measure of what people are viewing, commenting on, and sharing online.

According to Amobee, the top 10 titles screened at Cannes from May 17-22 ranked by digital content engagement are: “Okja,” “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” “Wonderstruck,” Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” Showtime’s “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “Loveless,” “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” “Good Time,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “Jupiter’s Moon.”

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