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Netflix’s plan to release “Roma” and two other films theatrically in North America and Europe was hailed in the U.S. as a major shift in strategy for the streaming giant. But the initiative was met with a scornful shrug in France, where exhibitors say it’s unlikely by itself to produce a reconciliation between Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival. Film bodies in Italy and Germany, home to the Venice and Berlin fests, remain skeptical as well.
With six months to go before Cannes’ next edition, artistic director Thierry Frémaux says he believes a compromise can be found to welcome Netflix back on the Croisette. Last month, he and Cannes president Pierre Lescure met with Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos and film chief Scott Stuber at Frémaux’s Lumière Festival in Lyon, which screened “Roma” as part of a tribute to director Alfonso Cuarón. Netflix says talks are ongoing with Cannes to find a solution that “works well for both parties.”
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But Frémaux, who nearly lost his job in 2017 after selecting two Netflix pics for competition, is walking on eggshells with French exhibitors and distributors, who are well-represented on the festival board and pushed last year for a rule requiring all movies to have a local theatrical release in order to play in competition. That rule prompted Netflix this year to bring “Roma” to Venice, where it won the Golden Lion.
Some industry players in France believed that “Roma’s” victory in Venice would be a big enough argument for Cannes to scrap its new rule. But a member of Cannes’ board told Variety that only an Oscar win could potentially make the board reconsider its position toward Netflix, and even then, French exhibitors would be opposed. Netflix’s planned theatrical release in the U.S. and elsewhere of “Roma,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “Bird...
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