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Cannes Won’t Allow Non-Theatrical Movies in Competition, Starting Next Year

Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival

Those of you with an interest in the changing face of theatrical exhibition and film festival bylaws (there are dozens of us!) may have caught wind of a recent hullabaloo unfolding in France. This year’s main Competition slate at the Cannes Film Festival included two films from online-streaming giant Netflix, Bong Joon Ho’s creature feature Okja and Noah Baumbach’s singlehanded resurrection of Adam SandlerThe Meyerowitz Stories. But there‘s been some consternation about opening the gates of Cannes to films that may never see release in France outside of the internet. Is a movie that doesn’t play in a movie theater a movie at all?

The key decision makers at Cannes quelled the unrest this morning with an official notice establishing a policy on the matter moving forward. The full text of the press release has been reproduced over at Deadline, but the gist of it is as follows. Both Bong and Baumbach’s films will be permitted to remain in the Competition lineup, but beginning with 2018’s festival, all films up for consideration must have the stated intention of a physical release in brick-and-mortar theaters. Their exact words were “any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters,” which leaves some room for interpretation. This is to say, Competition titles do not necessarily have to end up getting a theatrical run (Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, for instance, went to HBO and played on TV), just that they’ve got to make an overture of trying.

What this will actually change is not yet clear. Netflix could obey the letter of the law if not the spirit, stuffing whatever 2018’s Okja might be into a theater for a week just to satisfy the Cannes guidelines. Or maybe this will get the company seriously reconsidering their stance on running their films in the real world, which currently amounts to something close to “it is icky and we don’t like it.”

Read the Full Competition Lineup for Cannes 2017

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