2017 has seen a tremendous advancement for streaming media services like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Manchester By the Sea, an Amazon Prime produce film, got nominated for 6 Academy Awards. Taking home 2 of those. Then Netflix produced movies, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, were selected to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France. While this is a huge step toward advancement, it’s being met with considerable controversy.
Manchester By the Sea had to have a normal theatrical run in order to be considered for an Oscar. Something that Amazon Prime was more than happy to accommodate. But Netflix is sticking to its guns with the belief that media distribution is changing and festivals and awards need to change with the times.
Cannes Fights Back
Before Cannes even began there was a considerable outcry from French theater owners. So Cannes announced that future festivals would require a theatrical run in order to enter. This will probably exclude Netflix from ever making an appearance at Cannes. This is even a larger issue in France because France’s Media Chronology Law states that a movie released in French theaters must wait THREE YEARS before having a French streaming release. So If Netflix produced and released a movie in even one French theater, it couldn’t appear on Netflix-France till 3 years later! And as you can imagine, no one, especially Netflix, wants to wait three years to see a movie that was produced and distributed by a streaming company.
But this is only the beginning of this story as it became more complicated on Wednesday, the first day of the Cannes Film Festival. Festival president and jury member, Pedro Almodovar, expressed his disapproval of movie released exclusively via streaming. He said he could not imagine “the Palme d’Or nor any other prize being given to a film, and then not being able to see that film on a large screen.”
Moments after actor Will Smith, another jury member at Cannes 2017, not afraid of a fight said he was “looking for the opportunity to slam my hand on the table and disagree with Pedro. I’m looking forward to a good jury scandal.” Part of Smith’s passion probably stems from the fact that at the end of 2017 Netflix is releasing the David Ayer directed, sci-fi, crime movie, BrightI, starring Will Smith.
And just when you thought this controversy was over, it intensifies. Friday night was the planned debut of Okja, the highly anticipated film by the acclaimed South Korean director of Snowpiercer, Boon Joon Ho. Because of the controversy surrounding Netflix and Cannes, when the film began and the Netflix logo appeared the entire theater erupted into boos. This continued for FIVE STRAIGHT MINUTES! The event was likened to a prison riot in it’s intensity. This was compounded with a projection issue that cropped out a large portion of the picture. When the film was stopped to fix the technical glitch, there was tremendous applause.
The projection for Okja was eventually fixed and screened to its completion. Afterwards there was tremendous buzz and approval for Boon Joon Ho’s masterful film.
Most of the streaming controversy comes from theater owners and filmmakers. Theater owners obviously want to keep the theater-going experience intact and profitable. While filmmakers rightfully believe that movies should be experienced on the best screen in the best conditions. Not simply on your phone while riding the bus. While both of these arguments are valid, there is no denying that Netflix is changing the landscape dramatically. Moviegoers are now looking to save time and money. Sitting on their couch at home is one of the best way to do that.
There’s no telling how long this controversy will drag on. But one thing is for sure, it’s only just begun.
Okja debuts on Netflix June 28th. Don’t forget to watch it and support this growing media format that deserves more awards love!