| The debate around streaming versus theatre release continues. |
The latest development is in France where Netflix has been attempting to obtain a very limited release in theatres for “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.” It anticipated that this move would enable it to stream the films immediately, bypassing France’s strict three year windowing regulations. However, France’s National Film Board has rejected the idea of granting Netflix a temporary visa for a limited release of the films which are also in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes officials have also confirmed a new rule, effective next year, that all films in competition must have theatrical distribution in France.
Netflix had asked a French distribution company, The Jokers, to manage discussions with the film board about a temporary visa for “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.” The permit would allow Netflix to offer a maximum of six public screenings in France for up to one week.
But Frédérique Bredin, the president of France’s film board, told Variety that the board would not grant the permit to Netflix because she expected the company to give a wider theatrical release to the two films since they are in competition at Cannes. She added that even with such a temporary visa, Netflix would not have been allowed to bypass French windowing rules.
Netflix is now working with The Jokers on an alternative plan to release “Okja” in select theatres in France, insiders say. One possibility is to four-wall several theatres in France to show “Okja” day and date with its global rollout on Netflix on June 28. Such private screenings would not be subjected to France’s window-release regulations, and the film board would have no say in the matter.
While France’s main exhibitors might shun the prospect of renting their theatres to The Jokers and Netflix, some smaller art-house venues might be willing to be part of an operation that would surely attract publicity.
Manuel Chiche, who owns The Jokers, is a fan of Bong Joon-ho’s work and has distributed several of his previous films in France, including “Memories of Murder” and “Snowpiercer.” The Jokers is one of France’s most significant purveyors of high-profile American indies and Asian films.
The selection of Netflix films in competition at Cannes has triggered a clash between the festival and its board, which is made up of representatives of the exhibitors’ association and other film guilds that are hostile to the streaming company. Cannes’ artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, apparently expected Netflix to work out a limited theatrical release, and appears not to have anticipated the level of backlash. In the end, he and the board opted to maintain Netflix’s films in competition without a traditional theatrical release but issued a new rule Wednesday that any film in competition would have to “commit to being distributed in French movie theatres.”