After facing pressure from foreign distributors in recent weeks, Netflix is considering a limited theatrical release in France for its movies that are playing at the Cannes Film Festival.
This marks the first year that Netflix has opened films at the prestigious film festival in the south of France. Two of its titles will be debuting in competition there: Bong Joon-ho’s monster movie “Okja” with Jake Gyllenhaal, and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller.
Netflix’s inclusion in the glitziest film gathering in the world shows just how far the new-media giant has come in a remarkably short time. It was only in 2015 that the company made its big push into producing its own films with “Beasts of No Nation.” But its iconoclastic distribution strategy, one that forgoes a traditional theatrical release in favor of launching directly to its streaming-service subscribers, has made it controversial, particularly in France.
After the Cannes lineup was announced earlier this month, the Federation of French Cinemas – a network of state distributors – quickly lashed out. They criticized Netflix for not paying taxes to theater owners, and argued that a streaming release of a big-screen spectacle threatened the integrity of movies.
In France, a film can’t be shown on a streaming service for 36 months after its wide theatrical bow, which has discouraged Netflix from showing its original movies in theaters there. But now the company says it’s trying to find a compromise by screening “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories” in art houses.
“We are certain that French film lovers do not want to see these films three years after the rest of the world,” Netflix said in a statement. “With that said, we are exploring theatrical distribution of these two films in France, for a limited theatrical run, day and date with the films’ release on Netflix. We are thrilled to explore any and all options that will give these films an opportunity to be viewed by as large an audience as possible, on a variety of screens, because similar to French exhibitors, we want to continue to contribute to the development and financing of films.”