Produced By Conference: Netflix’s Ted Sarandos on the Cannes Film Debate

Ted Sarandos and Jerry Seinfeld at the Produced By Conference. Photo credit: Producers Guild of America.

During a panel with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos at the Produced By Conference, presented by the Producers Guild of America, Sarandos opened up on the Cannes debate.

The firestorm that happened recently during the Cannes Film Festival won’t go away but it’s led to publicity for the Netflix films that were screened: Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories.

“I am not anti-theater,” Sarandos said during the panel, according to THR.

“I’m very much against windowing. Consumer access to content is what drives the passion for our industry.” He added, “Our challenge is to make movies so great that [theater owners] have to [to book them].”

If a film is playing on Netflix and made available at the same time on the big screen, why would a family choose to leave the comfort of their home and pay even more money to see it at the theaters?  That’s the real argument here.  The cost of buying a ticket for one person, let alone a family of four or five, is not getting any cheaper.  If one has a streaming account on Netflix, they are better off staying home.

There are a number of movies that are released day-and-date, meaning they are playing in select theaters and available through multiple VOD platforms at the same time.  All of them are indie films and not likely to be a studio blockbuster.

Sarandos comments that film festivals are “meant to celebrate the art of filmmaking” and added that many of the films playing “have no commercial viability at all.”

It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?  So many indies playing these festivals are unable to bring in money.  There may be some bonafide hits that come out of the likes of Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, Telluride, SXSW, etc. but I’m not counting the films that are playing out of competition and just there for the world premiere.

Following the outrage, Cannes now requires that movies be guaranteed to be distributed in France in order to screen during the festival.  Many films play the festival circuit with the hope of getting a distributor.  Some movies from Sundance and SXSW are still awaiting distribution deals, including Mr. Roosevelt, which played last month during the Chicago Critics Film Festival.

Back when I was living in Kentucky, there were a large number of indie films that played the festival circuit but were completely ignored in the Louisville media market.  If films opened in Louisville at all, they were there for a week and gone whereas they will play for several weeks in larger markets such as Chicago.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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