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Cannes

Cannes jury president denounces Netflix amid awards debate

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Netflix continues to be a topic of debate at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. During a press conference Wednesday with the competition jury members, jury president Pedro Almodovar read a prepared statement in which he dismissed Netflix films as viable contenders for festival’s coveted Palme d’Or award.

“Digital platforms are a new way of offering words and images, which in itself are enriching. But these platforms should not take the place of existing forms like the movie theaters,” he said (via The Hollywood Reporter). “They should under no circumstances change the offer for spectators. The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and obey the existing rules that are already adopted and respected by the existing networks.”

Almodovar, the filmmaker behind Julieta and Volver, added he doesn’t “perceive the Palme d’Or [should be] given to a film that is then not seen on the big screen. All this doesn’t mean that I am not open or celebrate new technologies and opportunities, but [as long as] I’m alive I’ll be fighting for the capacity of hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer.”

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Will Smith, another member of the competition jury and star of the Netflix film Bright, came to the streaming distributor’s defense. “I have a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home. They go to the movies twice a week, and they watch Netflix,” he said. “There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix.”

Unlike Netflix’s subscriber base, not everyone in Hollywood is thrilled about the platform’s foray into original film acquisition. Notably, as Variety reported in 2015, four U.S. movie theater chains refused to screen Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation because the film was to be released in theaters and on Netflix simultaneously, rather than abiding by the traditional 90-day delay for home debut.

Adding to the debate, this year was the first time films from Netflix entered the awards competition at Cannes with Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories.

Last week, Cannes officials stated that these films would remain in competition, but their rules have already changed for next year’s festival. “Any film that wishes to compete in competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theatres. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards,” the statement read.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to that rule change on Facebook. “The establishment [is] closing ranks against us,” he wrote. “See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.”