One of the biggest debates of the streaming age is whether original films produced by streaming juggernauts such as Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, should be eligible for the Oscars or not.
On one side, there are those who believe that only films that have had a theatrical release deserve to be in the running. On the other, there are those who believe that streaming is the future and awards shows should get with the program. As it stands, a film must have a theatrical release of at least one week in a major city to be eligible for an Academy Award.
This year, Netflix released Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Birdbox in a limited fashion so that they could be eligible. Roma succeeded in not only gaining a nomination in the Best Picture and both Best Actress categories, but it won in the Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Foreign Film categories.
However, for Oscar winning director and producer Steven Spielberg, Roma's award show success was not met with excitement.
Steven Spielberg is planning to “propose rule changes” that would specifically prevent Netflix, and other streaming… https://t.co/flPNgECVPW— Vulture (@Vulture)1551542538.0
According to Indie Wire, a spokesperson for Spielberg's production company Amblin Entertainment stated...
"Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. 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."
Indie Wire also reports that among the grievances major film studios have with streaming platforms are these particular issues...
"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."
However, by current rules, films can be eligible with only one week of exclusive theatrical play, and there is no box office requirement. Spielberg is adding to a growing sense that the rules were made in an era when streaming platforms were inconceivable. Given the growth of streaming platforms creating their own content, new clarifications may be needed.
Many people disagreed with Spielberg.
Right now, all a film needs to qualify for Academy consideration is a one-week theatrical engagement in New York or… https://t.co/qfq9YN3cM7— Ron Hogan (@Ron Hogan)1551545855.0
Honestly, Spielberg appears out of touch with consumers in 2019 https://t.co/yIiv8w6SE5— Rich Greenfield (@Rich Greenfield)1551547551.0
Many pointed out how Netflix gives many underrepresented filmmakers a voice.
It’s possible that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how difficult it is to get movies made in the legacy system as a w… https://t.co/f9KNKHYMc4— Franklin Leonard (@Franklin Leonard)1551545776.0
Netflix’s first four forays into aggressive Oscar campaigns were Beasts of No Nation, 13th, Mudbound, and Roma.— Franklin Leonard (@Franklin Leonard)1551545830.0
By my count, Spielberg does one roughly every two decades.— Franklin Leonard (@Franklin Leonard)1551546409.0
Though some did understand where he was coming from.
Part of Spielberg's argument is that Netflix should play by the same rules as every other Oscar nominee, and I do t… https://t.co/usMBBbAUCc— Chris Evangelista (@Chris Evangelista)1551545050.0
This is pretty much my position. I totally get all of the pro Netflix cheerleading – they are along with Amazon sin… https://t.co/XF2Dhpkaif— MZS (@MZS)1551495393.0
Many pointed out that the aggressive awards campaigns mounted by companies like Netflix actually disenfranchise those filmmakers on the platform who don't get the full-court treatment.
I think it's possible to hold two thoughts in your head and to believe that both movie theaters are an important p… https://t.co/euCsVFogdm— Catherine Haight (@Catherine Haight)1551549259.0
Netflix dumps and ignores its films that don't get a theatrical release and won't submit them for awards of *any k… https://t.co/mKELGZUiWM— Catherine Haight (@Catherine Haight)1551549280.0
They also spent $50 million promoting ROMA in order to try to win an Oscar, making it next to impossible for smalle… https://t.co/qVHOya3ONb— Catherine Haight (@Catherine Haight)1551549309.0
And most thought that this was going to be one of the defining film debates of the 21st Century.
I don’t have a take on Spielberg except: the structuring tension between streaming & theatrical release models, bet… https://t.co/xXSm4EOGs8— Maddie Whittle 🤷♀️ (@Maddie Whittle 🤷♀️)1551548484.0
If we’re gonna keep goalposting this argument, there better be MULTIPLE doors opening for filmmakers, writers, perf… https://t.co/d3ebgfasPF— kylie sparks 🖤🥂⚾️ (@kylie sparks 🖤🥂⚾️)1551547185.0
One Twitter user placed the whole debate into a very real market context.
Students of film history won't be surprised by this wrenching, reactionary existentialism from people like Spielber… https://t.co/Yej9jsCIu5— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551546715.0
Hollywood always does this when confronted w/ its own obsolescence & inability to respond & course-correct to chang… https://t.co/0yZp7Xo5EV— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551546888.0
Why would @alfonsocuaron go to Netflix to make ROMA? Why would SCORSESE go to Netflix to make THE IRISHMAN, esp w/… https://t.co/bvo536fvq2— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551546964.0
@alfonsocuaron Answer: Because Hollywood doesn't care about mid-market movies anymore. All it cares about is tentpo… https://t.co/ILuOL9iTSt— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547048.0
He went on to explain how major film studios exacerbate the issue.
@alfonsocuaron Movie studios are loss leaders for companies like AT&T/Time Warner & Sony, and increasingly the feck… https://t.co/wXKnora9B6— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547928.0
But as long as they're in it, they might as well maximize how much they make by producing as many TRANSFORMERS, STA… https://t.co/f9JLh2Dnyi— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547928.0
(When someone like Martin Scorsese can't get a major studio to bankroll a gangster film he wants to make, all is truly lost.) /8— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547928.0
Before finally closing with this message to Spielberg.
Someone like Steven Spielberg—who I love, love, love—doesn't exist on the same plane of existence and experience as… https://t.co/YNB0P8tCDL— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547929.0
But as long as WB, Paramount, etc doesn't care to make their movies, they have no right to cry foul when some new c… https://t.co/m85hjwboT6— Dante A. Ciampaglia (@Dante A. Ciampaglia)1551547929.0
How this all plays out in the coming years is going to be fascinating.
You can find some of Steven Spielberg's movies here.