After Roma managed to score a whopping ten nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, and win three, the Academy will discuss rules that would level the playing field between streamers and movie studios. One director however, would rather see Netflix not compete all together.
For the last few years, a heated debate has commenced amongst the film community, centering around whether or not films that debut on a streaming service should be considered for major film awards. While some argue that it should not matter how a film is distributed, others say that only film’s that embrace the theatrical experience should compete. The legendary Steven Spielberg, argues the latter.
Spielberg has made it clear in the past that he thinks Netflix’s films— which run only rarely in theaters, and even then, not with a traditional distribution model—qualify only as “TV movies.” The Academy is going to re-evaluate it’s stance on the streaming service thanks, in part, to Spielberg’s insistence that Netflix films should only compete for Emmys.
“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” said an Amblin spokesperson. “He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”
IndieWire has rounded up several of the complaints lobbied at Netflix from major studios and, shall we say, purist directors:
- Netflix spent too much. One Oscar strategist estimated “Roma” at $50 million in Oscar spend, with “Green Book” at $5 million. (The New York Times reported $25 million; Netflix insists awards were folded into their entire marketing budget.)
- The massive “Roma” push crushed foreign-language distributors. Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker said he had no financial option but to release Oscar nominees “Never Look Away” and “Capernaum” when theaters opened up after the holidays, which meant fewer Academy voters had a chance to see them.
- “Roma” only spent three weeks as a theatrical exclusive.
- Netflix doesn’t report box office.
- Netflix doesn’t respect the 90-day theatrical window.
- Netflix movies are available in 190 countries, 24-7.
It should be made clear that not everyone sides with the Jurassic Park director. Following the initial report, several filmmakers have spoken out against Spielberg, including A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay:
Several argue that Spielberg’s position on the matter hinder creative freedom, saying that Netflix offers a less restricted environment. This is why films like Mudbound, Roma and Okja see the light of day when regular movie studios wouldn’t dare touch suck risky subjects.
Spielberg’s intention here seem to be, I guess more pure than just being about money. He’s old school and would rather preserve going to the movie theatre than simply sitting at home and turning on the TV. But then the accessibility argument takes hold, wherein going to a theatre isn’t a viable option for some.
Additionally, some theatres were actually against playing Netflix films. So what then? The streamer is attracting some of the biggest names in entertainment, being DuVernay, Martin Scorsese, or the Coen Brothers. Do they not deserve the same level of respect with their movies because of Netflix distribution? It’s an incredibly touchy subject and we’ll have to wait and see how this all pans out.
At its core, it’s the new age Vs. old school.