Netflix row brings into focus future of cinema

By Fiachra Gibbons — The storm over whether Netflix films should be shown at the Cannes film festival has been billed as a generational clash that calls into question the future of cinema. That the US streaming giant’s movie Okja was greeted both by booing and cheering at its premiere showed how divided film-makers are about the new cash-rich kid on the Hollywood block. Before a single movie had been shown, the head of the Cannes jury, Pedro Almodovar, declared “he could not imagine” either Okja or the other Netflix film The Meyerowitz Stories winning anything.
While Almodovar backtracked Friday, promising scrupulous fairness, there was no hiding his irritation at Netflix’s refusal to take their two films in the running for the top prize, the Palme d’Or, to French cinemas.
Netflix claims “the establishment is closing ranks against us” and its supporters rail against French rules which prevent it from streaming films until three years after they are released in cinemas there.
Hollywood stars at Cannes jumped to Netflix’s defence, with Will Smith — who sits on the jury — warning he would “slam my hand on the table and disagree with Pedro”.
He insisted Netflix has opened up young people to independent films.
That view was confirmed by two young American Netflix fans at Cannes, who said it hadn’t dimmed their love for the big screen.
For horror films in particular the cinema was infinitely superior, said Kelly Greer, a 24-year-old student from Nashville.
Most French producers believe their country’s streaming rules should be relaxed, although many insist films should be shown in cinemas first.
However, Vincent Maraval, who produced The Wrestler, said: “We must not impose our way of watching films on the next generation.”
Yet even for Netflix star Robin Wright, who acts and directs in its flagship series “House of Cards”, that is anathema.
“I think it’s actually really poor for people to watch films on their phones,” she said at Cannes. “It is not fair to film-makers.”— AFP