Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix: Should Netflix Be Allowed To Participate In Film Awards?

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The ongoing debate on whether Netflix, an online streaming producer, should qualify to win Oscars has swollen after renowned director and producer Steven Spielberg, along with other colleagues, announced its disapproval of Netflix qualification and proposed a revision to the Academy’s requirements and rules that would potentially disqualify Netflix from participating in future Academy Awards.

The pronouncement has caused a series of online and offline tirades from Hollywood’s biggest names, some support Spielberg, while others rebutted his idea.

Spielberg has since been vocal about his opposition on allowing streaming movies participate in film’s most prestigious award but has only made a move after Netflix have bagged four significant Oscars in the 91st Academy Awards this year.

Netflix’s original movie ‘Roma,’ written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, bagged three Oscars trophies including Best Foreign Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Director.

‘Period. End Of Silence,’ a Netflix original documentary, also won Best Documentary Short.

The wins earned by Netflix in the recently concluded Academy Awards was equal to some of Hollywood giants like Fox, Disney, and Universal Studios.

One of the requirements to get nominated for an Oscars is that movies should include a theatrical release, something that Netflix circumvented by releasing their bets on chosen cinemas and chose dates. The video streaming giant has spent more than $20 million in the Oscars campaign for ‘Roma’ alone.

Still, Netflix was a legitimate contender and this year’s Oscars. The streaming service is likely to step up its awards game even more with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which The Hollywood Reporter said is gunning for a wide theatrical release. A teaser ad aired during the 91st Oscars for the gangster drama said “in theaters next fall,” instead of the “in selected theaters” phrasing that was used for “Roma.”

The problem, however, is that Netflix does not necessarily play with the same rules as other studios. Since most of the revenue that Netflix get from a movie is through streaming, the tech giant does not report theatrical grosses, a difference that irked some Hollywood giants including Spielberg.

Many big names in Hollywood have chipped in their thoughts regarding the matter that has sparked debate online.

When the Academy announced that the topic would be discussed by board members who will only include 54 people to talk about something that affects 8,000 members, Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted at the film academy’s handle in response:

“I hope if this is true, that you’ll have filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently,” DuVernay wrote.

Some have attacked Spielberg for not understanding what Netflix mean to independent and minority filmmakers.

Franklin Leonard, who founded The BlackList, which surveys the best-unproduced scripts in Hollywood, noted that Netflix’s first four major Oscar campaigns were all by and about people of color: “Beasts of No Nation,” ”The 13th,” ”Mudbound” and “Roma.”

“It’s possible that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how difficult it is to get movies made in the legacy system as a woman or a person of color. In his extraordinary career, he hasn’t exactly produced, or executive produced many films directed by them,” Leonard tweeted Saturday. “By my count, Spielberg does one roughly every two decades.”

“The notion of squeezing 200+ people into a dark, unventilated space to see a flickering image was created by exhibition economics not any notion of the ‘theatrical experience,’” Schrader wrote in a Facebook post-Saturday. “Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing.”

Sean Baker, who directed “The Florida Project,” suggested a compromise: That Netflix offered a “theatrical tier” to pricing plans, which would allow members to see its films in theaters for free.

“I know I’d spend an extra 2 dollars a month to see films like ‘Roma’ or ‘Buster Scruggs’ on the big screen,” Baker tweeted. “Just an idea with no details ironed out. But we need to find solutions like this in which everybody bends a bit in order to keep the film community (which includes theater owners, film festivals and competitive distributors) alive and kicking.”

Netflix has poured in billions of dollars in original contents to leverage exclusivity and lure in new subscribers. In 2018, the company spent more than $12 billion on original material and was expected to make it to $15 million in 2019. According to The Wrap, the company spent approximately $20 million to $30 million on campaigning Roma for the Oscars.

Nonetheless, the success of Netflix’s content in this year’s Academy Awards is a sign that the streaming service giant is becoming a significant player in Hollywood. Last month, Netflix was the first streaming service to join the Motion Picture Association of America.

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