It's no secret that Netflix isn't very popular in some circles. While there's the attitude that a lot of its original films are studio rejects offloaded to avoid the hassle of cinema distribution, it still has a number of incredible films that were exclusively available on the service - never making their way to cinemas. For that very reason, those films are now banned from competing for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
It's worth noting that there's nothing from stopping Netflix from showing its films at the French film festival, but none of them will be able to compete for the top prize.
This news comes only a year after the service made its debut at last year's festival, showing both Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories - despite protests from French Filmmakers. According to Cannes' artistic director Thierry Frémaux, that's all because Netflix won't release its films in cinemas:
“Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas. I was presumptuous, they refused… The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours. We have to take into account the existence of these powerful new players: Amazon, Netflix and maybe soon Apple. We’ll defend the image of a risk-prone festival, questioning the cinema, and we must be at the table every year.”
The rule is now that films debuting at the festival will need some sort of theatrical release in France. Netflix attempted to get last year's films into French cinemas for less than a week, but due to strict laws regarding the timeline of films being released outside cinemas it just wasn't possible. French law is designed to protect cinema owners and guarantee them a chance to earn money from screenings, meaning cinemas get a four month window of exclusivity before studios can distribute films directly. It doesn't matter whether that's on disc, digitally, or through streaming services.
Naturally those rules run contrary to Netflix's own model, which would likely have seen those films debut in its global catalogue on the same day it got its token French release.
None of that really explains why Netflix needs to have a cinema release to be eligible for the Palme d'Or. Considering the fury expressed by French filmmakers and unions at its inclusion in last year's festival, however, it seems as though getting on the wrong side of Netflix would be the least-antagonistic approach that could be taken. [The Hollywood Reporter]