Getting booed at Cannes shows Netflix that the movie theater still matters

Key Points
  • Most people still enjoy going to the movies, according to PwC.
  • Netflix and Amazon may be winning awards, but not everyone is sold on streaming.
Netflix can turn money into subscribers: Analyst
Netflix can turn money into subscribers: Analyst

While Netflix is loved by investors and subscribers, the company found a tougher audience last week at the Cannes Film Festival, where fans of art house films booed the streaming company.

The episode, which occurred during the screening of Netflix's new film "Okja," provided further proof that streaming isn't the only game in town.

"People still do actually value the experience" of going to the theater, said Todd Supplee, a partner in the entertainment, media and communications practice at PwC. "The black box is an escape from the world, a date night type activity, or it's a nice evening out with your family."

Despite the expanding array of quality content coming to streaming services and cable, PwC found that audiences still see a separation between movies in the theater and content available on TV or on demand.

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Go chart yourself! Traders go head to head over Netflix

Still, streaming platforms have shown they can distribute critically-acclaimed films. Amazon Studios acquired the distribution rights for "Manchester by the Sea" for $10 million, and the movie went on to take home the Academy Award for best actor and best original screenplay.

Netflix is increasing its efforts to become a premium movie distributor. Though it has dabbled in smaller films, Deadline reported last March that the company paid $90 million for science fiction film "Bright," which is directed by David Ayers and stars Will Smith. It also paid $60 million for Brad Pitt's war satire "War Machine," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Not all traditional cinephiles are embracing the trend. After Netflix submitted a film to Cannes for the first time this year, the festival changed its rules to require that films have a French theatrical release in order to be considered for awards. The move was seen as an affront to streaming services and the video-on-demand industry.

On Friday, Netflix's action-adventure film "Okja" was booed during its screening at Cannes, according to the New York Times, though it was unclear if the boos were related to technical difficulties or occurred as soon as Netflix's logo appeared as the Los Angeles Times reported. Another screening of the movie later that night got a four-minute standing ovation after the film, said The Hollywood Reporter.

A spokesperson for the company who was at the screening reiterated the boos were due to technical difficulties, pointing to a statement apologizing for the snafu from the Cannes Film Festival organizers:

Statement here.

Booed or not, the reports have people outside the Cannes Film Festival talking about the movie.

"This [booing] has more to do with French, non-art-related sensibilities than with the actual quality of the films," said Karsten Weide, program vice president of media and entertainment at IDC. "But, [it's] great PR for Netflix!"

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