Even as Netflix stock struggles, the streamer proved that it can still put on a good show. Except for the guy who jumped Dave Chappelle, last weekend’s Netflix is a Joke Festival was a win: Multiple standups satisfied LA audiences over 11 nights, and that catalyzed a promotional cycle that will drive Netflix subscribers to watch those performances nationwide.
As the international film industry prepares for Cannes — which takes place over roughly the same amount of time — the implications are clear: a physical event, one that teases future content more people want to see! Yes, the Netflix Is a Joke Fest hints at a model that could address one of the biggest challenges in the arthouse distribution landscape.
This column seeks big swings and this one hides in plain sight. Festivals have flirted with taking more active roles in film distribution, but few have cracked the potential to leverage the hype they create. The movies create buzz, they find buyers, and then they wait until they find a slot on the schedule. By that time, the buzz is a memory. The business opportunity to fuse that gap is too obvious to go ignored.
This isn’t about the preordained hits that utilize the festival as a marketing launch. For all the joys of seeing Palme d’Or winner “Titane” at Cannes last year, its presence there was only a key moment in Neon’s timeline for its release.
That luxury doesn’t exist for acquisition titles. The same distributor of “Titane” bought a movie at last year’s festival that’s only coming out this week with Jonas Carpignano’s bracing neorealist crime thriller “A Chiara.” Similarly, Gaspar Noé’s wrenching multi-screen look at senility, “Vortex,” finally made its way to U.S. theaters earlier this month from Utopia Distribution. In early June, as Cannes 2022 buzz ebbs, the 2021 Directors’ Fortnight highlight “Neptune Frost” will come out in U.S. theaters from Kino Lorber.
The Afrofuturist musical from co-directors Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman is the ultimate festival breakout story: a gorgeous, unclassifiable hacker love story set against the backdrop of a dreamlike Rwanda, it conjures a mythical sense of postmodern identity in poetic sci-fi terms that would make Octavia Butler proud. Without the festival context, a movie this daring and unexpected has a hard time telling the world it exists in the first place. And like “Vortex” and “A Ciara,” it had to wait for a full festival cycle for its release.
That’s not always the worst thing. Williams and Uzeyman were at Cannes when they found out that “Neptune Frost” got into TIFF and NYFF; a Sundance invite followed. “We felt like the film was going to determine its course,” Williams told me by phone this week. “The number of films that have come and gone between then and now is astounding. Not all of those films live up to the dream of what they were going to do. Our evenly paced approach felt appropriate.”
The capacity for “Neptune Frost” to find an audience was not guaranteed. …read more
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The Suicide Squad | Official IMAX® Red Band Trailer
From the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn and filmed in IMAX. Experience