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Netflix pulls out of Cannes film festival after rule change

Los Angeles

NETFLIX Inc said on Wednesday it was totally pulling out of the Cannes Film Festival next month, in reaction to the organisers' move to ban the streaming platform's films from competition for its refusal to release them in cinemas.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Hollywood trade publication Variety in an interview that it was pointless to show at Cannes after the festival rule change.

Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux said last month that Netflix had refused to give its movies theatrical distribution in France and would therefore be banned from competition at the 12-day festival. However, Mr Thierry said Netflix could show movies outside competition.

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Netflix will not participate as a non-competitor, Mr Sarandos told Variety. "I don't think there would be any reason to go out of competition. The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule.

"We want our films to be on fair ground with every other film-maker."

"There's a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They've set the tone. I don't think it would be good for us to be there."

Netflix plans to release 80 original films this year to its 109 million streaming customers around the world.

The company has released a few films, such as fantasy thriller Bright, starring Will Smith, in a small number of theatres. But most major chains have refused to show Netflix movies because it releases them at the same time online. Movies from traditional studios typically run exclusively in cinemas for about three months.

Mr Sarandos said he personally would not attend the May 8-19 festival in the French Riviera, but said Netflix executives would be there looking at films to acquire.

Netflix said it had nothing to add to Mr Sarandos' comments.

The annual festival, which began as an art house showcase more than 70 years ago, has increasingly attracted more commercial movies and top celebrities to its red carpet.

Cannes organisers announced last week that the latest Star Wars movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, would get its world premiere at the festival on May 15, ahead of its worldwide rollout on May 23.

"Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution," Mr Sarandos said.

"Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we've released nearly 100 films over the last couple of years."

Netflix won five Oscar nominations earlier this year for its period racial drama Mudbound, while its film Icarus about Russian sports doping won best documentary. REUTERS