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It seems that a line is being drawn in the sand of late in regards to the original movies that can be found on streaming services. Companies like Netflix and Amazon are increasingly producing and distributing their own original films strictly for their services, which makes for a hairy situation when these films want to qualify for feature film awards consideration. Well, count the Cannes Film Festival as one body that is making its opinion on the matter quite clear. The festival has banned films from Netflix, Amazon and other streaming companies from the competition for the Palme d'Or.
This may seem rather drastic at first but to be clear, streaming services are not banned from the festival, those films will simply not be eligible to compete for the top prize. That means that the films can still be screened for festivalgoers but the Palme d'Or will be reserved for more traditional, theatrical releases. The rules for eligibility now state that a film must have a theatrical release in France to qualify, according to The Hollywood Reporter. I'm sure the streaming services were chasing awards at Cannes just like at the Oscars, but now there will be no potential story of a Netflix film winning the Palme d'Or.
This decision was not made in a vacuum either. There was quite the uproar last year when Netflix's Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories were allowed in to the festival, going against the rules that require the films submitted to have a theatrical release before a streaming one. Netflix attempted to get temporary permits for a short (less than a week) theatrical run to coincide with the streaming release, but France's laws didn't allow for it. It all worked out in a way since the two Netflix films didn't win any awards, but Cannes decided not to play with fire twice.
Whether streaming films should qualify for the same awards as theatrical releases has become quite the debate of late. Steven Spielberg recently weighed in, stating that he believes that hopping in to cinemas for a super short run is not enough to qualify a streaming movie for an Oscar and that films intended for streaming are TV movies and should be treated as such. Both the Cannes Film Festival and Steven Spielberg are champions of the more traditional movie model and the theatrical experience and they want to defend it.
Nevertheless, streaming movies are a reality of a changing industry and they cannot be ignored. Everyone will have different opinions on this but I think that Cannes struck the right balance here. Instead of banning streaming films from the festival entirely and ignoring a growing segment of the market, films from companies like Netflix and Amazon will still get to screen if they want to. That will allow for these films to still build positive buzz, just without the hypeworthy benefit of a potential Palme d'Or.
As is the case with most institutions, enacting change is often slower than the external realities that necessitate it. The film industry is still adjusting to the existence of streaming services and how it will all shake out is anyone's guess. Maybe we wind up with full integration where a Netflix movie can compete for Best Picture or the Palme d'Or, or maybe everything gets completely divided, with streaming movies getting their own awards and festivals, only time will tell.
Also of note, Cannes has also banned selfies on the red carpet this year in a real case of fighting a losing battle. Check out our guide to see all the original movies headed to Netflix this year and for all the latest in movies, tv movies and everything in between, keep it locked to CinemaBlend.