A year after Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival got into very heated public battle, the streaming service will not be participating once again. Netflix made its Cannes debut in 2017 with the films Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) playing in competition, but French theater owners were none too pleased about the decision, as France has a very strict policy when it comes to streaming films playing in theaters. According to French law, a film must wait 36 months before it can be available on a streaming service if it first wants to play in French theaters, and so last year, Cannes amended its rules to say that any film playing at the festival must obey French theater laws. Meaning if you want to screen at Cannes, your film can’t be available on streaming for three years.
This threw a wrench into Netflix’s plans, which had hoped to debut Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma at the festival. At the last minute, they pulled out and premiered Roma at the Venice Film Festival later that year instead.
In the wake of that abrupt change, talks between Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Scott Stuber and Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux have been ongoing and friendly, per Variety, but a solution to the issue of the French laws has not been found yet. More to the point, Netflix doesn’t have a film ready to present at Cannes this year, and so will be skipping the festival once again.
Netflix and Fremaux had hoped that Martin Scorsese’s epic, ambitious The Irishman would be the film to debut at Cannes this year, but the film’s extensive visual effects (the first half of the movie digitally de-ages actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino) mean that it’s not finished yet. Instead, Variety says The Irishman is expected to premiere at Venice in September before hitting the rest of the festival circuit (i.e. Telluride, Toronto, etc.) ahead of a fall release in theaters and on streaming. The Irishman is Netflix’s most formidable Oscar contender yet given its pedigree and potential for commercial success, so the streaming service has high hopes in the wake of landing the Best Director Oscar for Cuarón but ultimately missing out on Best Picture.
Netflix has a few other awards contenders this year, namely Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded political drama The Laundromat and the Timothée Chalamet period drama The King, but either these films aren’t ready yet or Netflix is not prepared to launch them at Cannes. Or, you know, Cannes still hasn’t gotten it together re: that ridiculous 36-month window policy.
As for what is going to Cannes this year, Variety says Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is expected to bow (which makes sense as Cannes is a favorite for Tarantino), as is James Gray’s sci-fi drama Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt.