Although Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival continue quietly to negotiate a potential settlement to their differences, the streaming giant will be absent from the Croisette again this year with no film in or out of competition, Variety has learned.
The ongoing talks between the two sides have been friendly, including a dinner in Los Angeles just over a week ago with Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Scott Stuber and Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who was in town for a summit hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press, one insider said. The meeting was one of several held since Netflix and Cannes’ bitter spat before last year’s festival, which led the streamer to take “Roma” to Venice instead, where it won the Golden Lion.
But no solution has been found yet that would allow a Netflix title to return to Cannes’ competition lineup. In any case, it does not have a festival-ready film to present, sources said. Representatives for Netflix declined to comment on the matter. Cannes did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
To avoid missing out on another masterwork like “Roma,” Fremaux has been eager to lay his hands on Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” and made that clear at the Lumière Festival in Lyon, France, last October, where he sat with Sarandos, Stuber, and Cannes president Pierre Lescure. Fremaux then traveled to the Marrakech Film Festival, where Scorsese was being honored in December.
At the time, there was a strong possibility that post-production on “The Irishman” would be done by May, but the laborious special effects have meant that the film will not be ready for Cannes and will likely bow at the Venice Film Festival in September, before rolling out in theaters and on the streaming service in the fall.
Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” with Meryl Streep, an untitled project from Noah Baumbach, Timothee Chalamet-starrer “The King” and the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems” were also thought to be possibilities for the Croisette, but none will enter the fray, sources said. As with last year, Netflix still plans to send an acquisition team to Cannes.
After the streamer made a splash in 2017 by getting both Tilda Swinton adventure “Okja” and Baumbach’s starry “The Meyerowitz Stories” into the competition lineup, Cannes and Fremaux faced a revolt from French theater owners angry over Netflix’s practice of making the films available immediately on their site. The usual process in France calls for a 36-month wait after a film’s theatrical release before it can head to a streaming platform.
Cannes bowed to the exhibitors, creating a rule that no film could compete for the festival’s esteemed jury awards unless it was destined for release in French theaters. In response, Netflix withdrew from the fest and took its films, including “Roma” and Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind,” to Venice. Cannes’ 2018 slate was heavily criticized for its weak American presence, and the absence of Netflix in the official selection was one of the most talked-about issues on the Croisette.
The Cannes-Netflix relationship has continued to obsess industry players and journalists, leading some to make fanciful speculations as to how their standoff might end. One scenario entailed an extended local run in French theaters for Cannes award-winning Netflix films before the titles are made available on the streaming service; another suggested that those films be temporarily removed from Netflix’s platform in France for the duration of their theatrical release. But neither of these scenarios is conceivable for local exhibitors, according to a source at the Federation of French Exhibitors.
This year’s program is shaping up to be stronger on the American front. With Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and James Gray’s “Ad Astra” among the several English-language movies strongly tipped for the competition (which would mean two Brad Pitt moments at the Palais), the festival should not be short of glittery options.