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Ted Sarandos Says Netflix Returning to Cannes Is ‘Less Attractive’ Under New Rule

Returning to Cannes is “less attractive” for Netflix if its films must play out of competition under a new rule requiring all competition titles to have a theatrical release, Ted Sarandos said early Monday.

Netflix made a splash on the Croisette this year with two movies in the official competition, Bong Joon-Ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But outrage from French exhibitors and others over the selection prompted the festival to issue its new restriction on competition eligibility, effective next year.

Speaking to Variety at Netflix’s late-night bash in Cannes, Sarandos at first said “no” when asked whether the streaming giant would be willing to come back with its films relegated to the out-of-competition berth. But he added quickly: “Well, I shouldn’t say that. It would be less attractive, for sure, because it would affect [Netflix’s] festival strategy around the world.”

Sarandos, the company’s chief content officer, said that films should be judged on their artistic merit, not their commercial potential. “If you say that it has to have a commercial possibility in order for it to be in a festival, that’s a real paradox,” he said, noting that Netflix has been invited to Venice, Toronto, Telluride and other major festivals around the world. “I don’t want our films and our filmmakers to be excluded if they make a choice to go with this distribution rather than another.”

Sarandos expressed his frustration with France’s strict window release schedule, which forbids day-and-date releases and bans on-demand streaming services from showing films until three years after their theatrical release.

“It’s the only place in the world that has this restriction,” Sarandos said. A temporary visa request for a limited release of “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories” in France was rejected, “so we’re going to try some other things that don’t trigger the chronology. But we don’t want to break the rules.”

Ultimately, Sarandos said, he did not want to “hold the movies for a tiny audience.”

Sarandos seemed pleased with the critical response to both “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories,” and happy that the media had shifted their focus away from the controversy stirred up by his company’s presence on the Croisette.

“Cannes loves a scandal, and this one is called ‘L’Affaire de Netflix,'” he joked.

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