Entertainment & Arts

Cannes 2019: Could streaming really cancel cinema?

Netflix Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Netflix is not screening any films at Cannes

The underground Film Market at Cannes

The future state of cinema has been one of the most hotly-debated topics in sun-drenched Cannes this week, during what jury president Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu described as a "crucial" stage for the "collective film experience".

For the second year running, movies by streaming giant Netflix are notable by their absence, as talks remain ongoing between the studio and the festival about its commitment to theatrical releases.

French cultural laws dictate films considered for the esteemed Palme d'Or prize cannot be streamed within three years of competing and this unwavering stance caused Cannes to miss out on hosting the Oscar-winning Roma last year - as Netflix took the film to Venice for its premiere instead,

Prior to this year's event, festival director Thierry Frémaux declared: "We are not ready to welcome films that are not released in a theatre" and his passion for the preservation of the big screen experience - amidst a sea of readily available online content - was echoed on Tuesday by Inarritu who praised the "communal experience" of cinema.

However, the filmmaker remains upbeat that cinemas and streamers can work together to find a better solution.

"There are great films all around the world," he said, "the thing is the way they are accessed by everybody.

"France is an exception that they protect [cinemas] but I always ask how many of these films that we will see over the next 10 days will be exhibited around the world?

Image copyright Carlos Somonte/Netflix
Image caption Roma, made by Netflix, won three Oscars earlier this year

"I am a true believer that to watch a film is not to see a film, and to see [something] is not to experience something, and cinema was born to be experienced as a communal experience."

He continued: "I do not have anything against watching on a phone, on an iPad or a computer; I sometimes do it myself with my headphones and I can enjoy.

"But I know that to watch a film there, is not the same."

Inarritu - who won an Oscar for the sweeping survival tale The Revenant in 2016 - added: "I was saying the other day to a friend, if somebody 200 years from now should come alive and should see me listening to Beethoven in ridiculous speakers in my car, I would say 'yeah, it's great, what is wrong with that?'

"But it would be disastrous if there was not an opportunity to hear a whole 100 person orchestra playing in a concert hall.

"It's great that they [Netflix, Amazon et al] exist in TV but why not give people the chance to experience cinema?"

Blockbusters

One thing people in Cannes will not be able to experience this year, is the premiere of Martin Scorsese's new film, The Irishman - starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

The Netflix-backed film would have been one of the biggest draws at this year's festival had an agreement been in place, although reports suggest it might not have been ready in time.

Scorsese has praised the streaming giant for affording him the "money" and freedom" to tell the story.

Image copyright Getty Images

Other directors, though, including Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino - who arrives next week with his new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - appear more loyal to the Cannes cause and less keen to make "TV movies".

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond is doing nicely out of cinema and told the BBC streaming companies, which will soon include Apple+, Disney and Warner, might struggle to attract top filmmakers.

"I don't want to sound arrogant," he said, "but there really hasn't been an Imax-worthy film released by a streaming service until now.

"I think that they'll continue to [move into blockbusters] but they're a long way away."

"The biggest directors are reluctant to make a blockbuster for streaming," he added.

Gelfond has been toasting the recent success of the record-busting Avengers: Endgame movie. Imax screenings of the MCU finale broke through the $200m mark.

The chain's next move is to team up with Amazon studios to debut The Aeronauts, directed by Tom Harper and starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, on Imax screens exclusively for a week in October.

Image copyright Imax

The movie mogul suggests the success of the Avengers films in theatres globally "bodes well" for another concluding "event-driven" big-hitter, Star Wars, as audiences still want "to feel like they're inside the movie".

"To get people off the couch you've got to give them something different," he declared.

But he predicts the future for mid-budget movies will generally be away from the traditional major studios and "increasingly on to streaming platforms", as the industry adapts to the new technological era.

Netflix screened Roma in US movie theatres in order to it qualify for the Academy Awards and Gelfond argues that "once the [Cannes three year] window issue resolves itself" there is no reason why films made for online can't include "theatrical screenings" on release.

He's also hopeful that an Imax movie can one day win a Palme d'Or, claiming that Christopher Nolan's 2017 war epic, Dunkirk, was unlucky in that regard.

'Boutique on a world scale'

Away from the glamour of the Oscars and Cannes' official selection, filmmakers from around the world can be found in the basement of the Palais Des Festivals, showing off their wares to potential buyers and distributors.

Chantal Toporow from House of Film - "a boutique distributor on a world scale" as she puts it - believes the value of a theatre showing for a small film anywhere is worth much more than being included on a streaming service.

Image caption Some treasures can be found at Cannes' underground Film Market

"We make movies with a twist and more cerebral curated content," she said.

"You're not monetising your film as best as you can only by streaming.

"You really want to get as many theatrical releases as you can, in Cambodia or wherever."

Whether her movies and those of many other filmmakers of the future will be able to find a home in cinemas, online and in competition at Cannes in the near future, remains to be seen.


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