The Venice Film Festival has embraced Netflix movies in its 2019 lineup, despite fierce criticism from local and European cinema bodies unhappy about the presence of the streaming giant on the Lido.
Netflix movies set to debut at Venice in main competition this year include Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers pic The Laundromat and Noah Baumbach’s Scarlett Johansson starrer Marriage Story, while David Michod’s The King, starring Timothée Chalamet, will debut out of competition. Amazon will be represented out of competition by Kristen Stewart pic Seberg.
The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), which reps cinema operators in 38 territories in Europe, immediately criticized Venice’s decision, stating this morning, “The inclusion of films in official selections that are within the reach of everyone – and not only that of streaming platform subscribers – benefits the audience as a whole. Where films are available solely on these platforms, or receive only a limited ‘technical’ release in cinemas, festival/award selection becomes in truth only a marketing tool whereby most of the potential audience is denied access to a wealth of great content.”
Last year, the decision to grant Netlfix pic Roma the festival’s Golden Lion top prize outraged Italian trade bodies which claimed that the publicly-backed festival had become a “marketing vehicle” for the platform. They argued that the festival, which hosted six Netflix movies last year, should be reserved for movies which get a traditional theatrical release.
Italian trade orgs including ANEC (National Association of Cinema Exhibitors), ANEM (National Association of Multiplexed Exhibitors) and FICE (Italian Federation of Independent Cinema) issued strongly-worded criticizm of Venice chief Alberto Barbera for the inclusion of day-and-date movies.
European indie cinema body CICAE also called on Barbera to reserve competition slots exclusively for “works of art that will be seen in cinemas internationally.” Andrea Occhipinti, President of Italy’s film distribution association ANICA, resigned from that post following the drama surrounding the festival’s inclusion of Netflix’s Italian movie On My Skin.
The Cannes Film Festival does not include Netflix movies in its main Competition. Berlin included its first Netflix movie in competition this year, a move which also provoked criticism from local cinema bodies.
Barbera defended Netflix’s inclusion last year, telling us at the time, “We don’t have the same laws as in France. Sooner or later the cinemas will realize that the platforms are here to stay. They are a big part of the future. Cinemas must offer a different type of service to audiences. There will be more and more platforms. SVOD won’t kill theaters but you need to find a new way.”
Barbera doesn’t shy away from potential controversy, as evidenced this year by his inclusion of Netflix in competition but also by his inclusion of Roman Polanski’s next film. The latter decision may prove even more incendiary this year.
Soderbergh’s The Laundromat is about the Panama Papers scandal. Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep and Antonio Banderas are among the starry cast for the pic which is scripted by Scott Z. Burns, based on the Jake Bernstein book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite.
Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, and Laura Dern star in Baumbach’s The Wedding Story, which follows an unfolding divorce between New York City and Los Angeles.
Also starring in period film The King are Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily-Rose Depp and Joel Edgerton. The film is based on classic Shakespeare plays Henry The IV [Parts 1 and 2] and Henry V, in which a young disgraced prince Hal (Chalamet) inherits the crown at a particularly turbulent time in English history and must learn what it means to be a king. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is among producers.
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