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France

Netflix and Cannes film festival square off over screening rights

media Netflix, the American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Netflix boss Reed Hastings has hit out at the French cinema "establishment", which he claims wants to block the streaming giant's movies from the Cannes film festival.

Hastings took to his personal Facebook account late Wednesday to claim that "the establishment is closing ranks against us", after Cannes effectively slapped a ban on future Netflix-backed movies at the world's leading film festival.

The organisers said they were forced to change their rules after the streaming giant refused to screen its two films in the running for this year's Palme d'Or top prize in French cinemas.

"From now on every film wishing to be in competition at Cannes must be shown in French cinemas afterwards," they said in a statement.

But Hastings -- whose Silicon Valley-based operation now has 100 million subscribers -- placed the blame squarely at the door of French cinemas.

He said: "See Okja (a new a sc-fi thriller) on Netflix June 20th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition."

Okja, starring Tilda Swinton, will nevertheless compete alongside another Netflix-based movie "The Meyerowitz Stories" -- starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller -- for the Palme at the festival, which starts next week.

The crux of the Cannes row turns on French law, which restricts online streaming until three years after a movie is put on general release.

'Change the rules'

The battle prompted French directors and producers Thursday to appeal to their government to change rules.

"More than ever our rules look out of date," said director Claude Lelouch, who heads the ARP film-makers' lobby group.

Under the present rules, films can bought, rented or watched on video on demand four months after they go on general release.
But subscription streaming platforms have to wait 36 months to show them.

The row comes as Netflix is locked in a bitter conflict with big US cinema chains.

Top Hollywood directors including director Sofia Coppola -- whose new film "The Beguiled" is also competing at Cannes -- have also urged their fans to watch their films first on the big screen rather than stream them on tablets and phones.

French cinema owners reacted furiously last month after four films distributed by streaming rivals Netflix and Amazon were chosen to run for Cannes' top prize.

Festival organisers tried to negotiate a compromise, with a "limited release" of the movies in France mooted.

But faced with the possibility of a Palme d'Or-winning film being shown in only "one or two screens" in France, talks with Netflix broke down.

Amazon, on the other hand, is giving its film, "The Beguiled", a proper cinematic release in France, as it did with Woody Allen's Cannes contender last year, "Cafe Society".

Netflix's long-running battle with cinema chains in the US centres on its insistence on releasing its movies online the same day as they hit theatres.

In 2015 most of the big multiplex chains refused to screen the long-awaited Netflix-made sequel to the martial arts blockbuster "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

The film reportedly bombed, with Netflix taking the highly unusual step of not releasing its box office figures.

Its online rival Amazon has taken a very different approach.

Rather than confronting the cinema establishment, Amazon Studios courts Hollywood, releasing its films in theatres before they are made available to subscribers. Nineteen films are in competition for the Palme d'Or, with Nicole Kidman starring in three in the official selection.

 

 
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