Netflix, which apparently wants to starting showing some of its movies in theaters before they land on the streaming service itself, is still facing a tough reception from, well, theaters. You know, the brick-and-mortar business sector that Netflix has helped to hobble thanks to the convenience of watching almost whatever you want, on demand and on a mobile device.
The latest turn of events: Now that the Venice Film Festival has come out with a decision in support of screening films in its official competition backed by Netflix, a group of art house cinemas because of that has issued an unsurprisingly art-house-snobby statement in opposition.
The International Confederation of Art Cinemas, based in Paris, has said that the Venice Film Festival should instead only give movies a competition slot if they’re “works of art that will be seen in cinemas internationally.” Which of course is not the case if Netflix works out some kind of special distribution deal that involves showing a film in a limited way before it lands on the streaming service itself.
That demand, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “echoes that of French distributors, which successfully pressured the Cannes Film Festival to ban Netflix titles from competition this year.”
Some backstory is in order. As we reported over the weekend, Netflix is in the midst of an operational shift on a number of fronts, one of which is a shift away from its orthodoxy of being exclusively digital. To win the kinds of film accolades, Oscars and such, that it wants to win, the service increasingly sees a need to produce not only prestige content. But content that needs to make the film festival rounds, so that the theatre-going public sees it. Which sometimes mean a need to show it in theaters, which especially makes filmmakers like Alfonso Cuaron happy. His upcoming film Roma, which critics have been rapturously praising, is reportedly the subject of a secretive hybrid distribution deal with Netflix that involves both a physical and digital release.
Traditional cinemas feel threatened, meanwhile, which the international cinema group’s statement makes clear.
“Earlier this year, Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, set an example and took the side of art cinemas and decided to exclude films without a theatrical release in France from competition,” the statement reads. “A prestigious film festival allowing in its official selection lineup titles that will not be seen on the big screen internationally encourages practices that endanger an important sector of the film industry. Cinema and television are different mediums, and cinematic films are made to be seen according to high-quality standards on the big screen.”
Netflix, meanwhile, has six titles in the Venice festival this year, which runs through Sept. 8. It’s got seven in the Toronto Film Festival.
The streaming giant’s larger plans in this area still aren’t totally clear, in terms of how it will balance these competing interests. “Netflix’s theatrical strategy for Roma and (the Coen brothers’) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is still unclear, though it is thought unlikely that the streaming giant will give either of the films an extensive, and exclusive, theatrical window ahead of its online debut,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Bottom line: a change does appear to be coming to the ways we’re able to enjoy and consume Netflix content. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see what Netflix is thinking in terms of how actual theaters fit into the picture, no pun intended.