European rules making cinema 'more irrelevant': Netflix

15th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

The head of programming for Netflix said strict European rules were failing to protect cinema and actually making it "more irrelevant", during a talk at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday.

Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for the Internet streaming service, singled out tough regulations in France, such as the 36-month wait for a film to be shown on Netflix after its cinema release.

"It doesn't protect the cinema, it actually makes cinema more irrelevant," he said.

"People will choose not to release in the cinema so they don't have the 36-month wait, because with that comes a huge discount in the television value of that film.

"With our original films, we won't release in cinemas in France. So I don't know how that helps cinema."

Seated in the front row, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein also leapt to the defence of Netflix, which has been criticised for not contributing to government film subsidies, as required by European broadcasters.

Weinstein, who has produced a long line of acclaimed movies from "Pulp Fiction" to "The King's Speech", described Netflix as "visionary" for its ability to create new global markets for things like documentaries and foreign-language films.

"I hope the government spends its money on hospitals and children and that the marketplace is so good that the films can be sold to the marketplace and don't need government subsidies," said Weinstein, who recently tied up with Netflix to make a sequel to martial arts classic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

"Having the rebel in the room has made us all bigger and stronger," he added.

- 'Not anti-theatre' -

The Coen brothers, who are heading the jury at this year's festival, satirised the emergence of companies like Netflix earlier this week, with Joel Coen joking that no one was interested in "watching 'Lawrence of Arabia' on their iPhone".

But Sarandos said Netflix was not a threat to cinemas.

"Nothing we're doing is meant to be anti-theatre," he said.

"On Friday night, if you want to go out on a date with your wife or girlfriend, nothing on Netflix competes with that. But if you don't want to put your shoes on, nothing at the cinema competes with the worst thing on Netflix.

"I want to give consumers choice."

Netflix has increasingly moved into producing its own TV shows, scoring notable successes with "House of Cards" and "Marvel's Daredevil".

It is now moving into movies, including a deal with comedy superstar Adam Sandler to produce his next four films.

Sarandos said it made sense for Netflix to bypass the deals with film studios, which charge around a billion dollars to show their films over a three-to-five year period.

"For that same billion dollars, we could invest in a slate of original films that would be competitive in terms of A-list directors, A-list stars, big production value films that we would have for the entire world," he said.

Netflix is famous for refusing to provide viewing figures for its content, which Sarandos said was an attempt to move away from the obsession with "opening weekend" statistics and advertising revenue.

"We don't steer ourselves towards things that are just titillating for opening weekend -- we want things that people are really going to love and cherish over the long shelf life of a film or series."

He said TV ratings had been "very bad for the quality of television", making companies increasingly risk-adverse.

"That push to win the time-slot has pushed people to make increasingly popular but not increasingly better programmes. I want to avoid that race."

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© 2015 AFP

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