The online entertainment company, which boasts 125 million subscribers, has become so powerful it can even afford to snub Cannes. Are cinephiles and conventional broadcasters right to dread for the future?
At the Berlin film festival last February, Clare Binns took her seat for the premiere of a Spanish cinema that was making a quiet buzz. She hoped it might play at Picturehouse Cinemas, the British chain of cinema she runs. In the film, La Enfermedad del Domingo( Sunday's Illness ), an abandoned daughter tackles her well-to-do mother in a remote mountain village. The film's director, Ramon Salazar, has a knack for epic melodrama that has described comparisons with the work of Pedro Almodovar.
” It was a fantastic cinema, and one that is made to be seen in cinema ,” tells Binns.” But it was only when I was sitting there watching it that I noticed the logo .”
Alongside the name of the film's Spanish production company, there rose the ubiquitous- and increasingly divisive- mark of Netflix. The streaming giant, which this week announces that it has more than 125 million global subscribers, had financed the cinema. Binns instantly knew this drastically reduced her chances of getting anywhere near it.” We ran straight to the producer to try to work out a route- in Spain, they are doing a theatrical release- but Netflix didn't want to do anything else ,” she adds.
Instead, Netflix will add La Enfermedad del Domingo to its dizzying carousel of content in June, whereusers may enjoy it at home.” I don't any objections to Netflix as a business ,” tells Binns, who is a subscriber herself.” But for a movie like that to show just on a platform and not the big screen is just so depressing. It's a dishonor .”
Binns' feelings echo an epic tussle in the global movie and TV industries. Last week, a spat between Netflix and the European cinema establishment erupted a month before the Cannes movie festival. The company, which declined to answer questions, only occasionally proves its movies in handfuls of cinemas, partly to induce them eligible for awards. Even then, the movies are made available for home viewing at the same day, a sacrilege in the world of cinema. Now the industry anxieties for the future of a business model- and an art form.