SEOUL – A top South Korean director called Wednesday for new rules on screening Netflix films in cinemas as local chains boycott his blockbuster over the U.S. streaming giant’s online policy.
The movie “Okja”, directed by Bong Joon-ho, sparked controversy at this year’s Cannes film festival over Netflix’s policy of releasing its movies in cinemas and online on the same day.
The policy drew angry protests from cinema owners in France, which does not allow online streaming until three years after a film’s release in movie theaters.
“I think the movie came out too early… before the whole industry reached a consensus on how to regulate this new form of platform,” Bong told reporters.
Bong said he pushed for the general release of “Okja” in cinemas due to his “artistic ambition” to make it available across many platforms, but he found the arguments from both sides “understandable.”
“I think that ‘Okja’ will pave the way for efforts to establish new rules and regulations over screening of Netflix movies in theaters,” he said.
Netflix was seeking general release for “Okja” in South Korea but the three top multiplex chains have decided to boycott it.
The $50 million action-adventure film starring Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton is now expected to be screened at a handful of small independent movie theaters across the South beginning June 29.
South Korean movies are customarily made available online at least three weeks after their general release in cinemas.
“Okja” was one of two Netflix-backed movies to premiere at Cannes this year and competed unsuccessfully for the Palme d’Or at the world’s top film festival.
The controversy over the movies even forced Cannes to change its rule, to require that every film in competition be shown in French cinemas afterwards.
The rule will apply from next year, potentially preventing future Netflix movies from competing.
Bong said he felt “baffled” by the controversy at Cannes, describing it as unusual for the international film festival to change rules due to the host nation’s domestic regulations.
“It would have been good had Cannes invited us after sorting out potential legal problems at home,” said Bong, who has directed several highly-acclaimed and award-winning films at home and abroad.
The 47-year-old has argued that the row over Netflix may be temporary as the industry adapts to new technology, pointing out that the advent of television did not kill filmmaking as feared by many in the past.
Netflix is also locked in a similar battle against big U.S. cinema chains. In 2015 most major multiplex chains refused to screen the long-awaited Netflix-made sequel to martial arts blockbuster “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” for the same reason.