Netflix CEO Reed Hastings walked back some of his company’s more inflammatory stances of late today, admitting that the service made some mistakes in its recent high-profile feud with the Cannes Film Festival. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Hastings was giving the keynote speech at the Series Mania Film Festival in France today, when he addressed the dust-up with the prestigious fest.
“At times we have a reputation as a disruptor, and sometimes we make mistakes,” Hastings said in reference to the controversy. “I think we got into a more difficult situation with the Cannes Film Festival than we meant to because, you know, we’re not trying to disrupt the movie system; we are trying to make our members happy. We make our content for them.”
The core of the service’s dispute with the festival lay in the company’s refusal to screen the movies it wanted to have compete in the festival in French theaters; doing so would have made them subject to French film laws that say movies can’t be streamed online in the country until three years after their theatrical debuts. After French cinephiles protested Netflix’s big showing last year, meanwhile, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux put his foot down with a ruling against the company, at which point Netflix escalated by pulling all of its movies from the festival entirely, regardless of their competitive status.
Now, though, Hastings suggests that Netflix is getting sick of this whole prestige film game anyway, and that it’s no longer interested in being seen as a competitive movie studio on par with more established entities. “What we’ll do now is mostly focus on series and standup, docuseries and great content we can do without disrupting or being perceived to disrupt the movie sector,” he said, adding that the company is moving toward viewing its film offerings the same way it does its TV series, and doesn’t want them to compete with theatrical films at all. (Somewhere, meanwhile, we imagine Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg crying out in cineaste despair.)
Hastings made it clear that Netflix still loves Cannes itself, and will be back there soon enough, even if it’s only as a buyer, not an exhibitor. “The thing that everybody wants to do is sell something to Netflix now. We’re the deep pockets,” he noted, in what’s technically a “joke,” but the kind you put in quotes, given how much money the service has been throwing around in recent years, regardless of its theatrical ambitions or lack thereof.