Netflix is locked in a war with movie traditionalists, and its A-list stars like Will Smith and Brad Pitt are coming to the streaming giant’s defense.
Netflix seemed to be making progress in its frosty relationship with the movie establishment when it got two films into Cannes this year, Boon Joon-Ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.”
But then Cannes decided to tweak its competition rules, after this year, as a result of the backlash toward the inclusion of the Netflix titles. Going forward, films will only qualify if they have a theatrical release in France (it’s unclear whether those two titles will).
“The establishment closing ranks against us,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote on Facebook. “See Okja on Netflix June 28th. Amazing film that theatre chains want to block us from entering into Cannes film festival competition.” Netflix has historically sparred with movie theaters over its commitment to make movies available online the same day they are in theaters.
Netflix’s movie stars have come to its defense, arguing that it is expanding the industry, not hurting it.
“Quite honestly, without a delivery system like Netflix, this movie wouldn’t have been made,” Brad Pitt said of “War Machine,” his Netflix satire about American military involvement in Afghanistan. “Or if it did get made, it would have been at one-sixth of the budget only … there is a great degree of difficulty to pull off,” Pitt said at a press conference in Tokyo Monday, according to ABS-CBN News. “I guess the financial risk is really difficult for the studios to take on at this time.”
Pitt’s comments echo those of prominent producer Brett Ratner. Ratner said Friday that before Netflix, “Okja” had been pitched to traditional film distributors, which didn’t want to back a $55 million film that was from a Korean director and didn’t necessarily have franchise potential, according to The Hollywood Reporter. These kinds of mid-budget movies have become nearly impossible to make work, he said.
An absolute benefit
On Wednesday at a Cannes jury press conference, after legendary director Pedro Almodovar seemed to take a shot at Netflix, Will Smith described Netflix usage in his own home as an “absolute benefit,” according to Variety. Why?
“[My children] get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen,” Smith continued. “Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.”
Smith, like Pitt, isn’t an unbiased party. Netflix reportedly shelled out more than $90 million for an upcoming Smith blockbuster “Bright.” The movie is a cop thriller set in a world that’s similar to ours in time period but contains fantasy creatures like orcs and elves.
But while Pitt, Ratner, and Smith have done business with Netflix, the fact that Hollywood big-wigs are coming to the streaming giant’s defense is good for Netflix. The streaming service needs all the ammunition it can get.
Additional reporting by Jason Guerrasio.