After the Oscars 2019 Award Ceremony, Steven Spielberg pushed for a rule change that would require a movie (specifically, Roma and TV Movies) to screen for at least four weeks to be eligible for nomination at the Oscars.” On the other hand, Netflix stated: “‘We love cinema. Here are some things we also love,’ Netflix tweeted. ‘Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive.’”
Steven Spielberg is best known for his films Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T, Saving Private Ryan, etc. His particular style revolves around adventure movies. However, he is capable producing sensitive movies such as Schindler’s List.
Spielberg’s priority is to make films and keep movie production to traditional means. Therefore, he keeps a traditional outlook on how films are distributed. It makes sense that he doesn’t want Netflix have a fast pass for distributing movies, let alone getting awards too. Spielberg clearly understands Netflix’s business model. But he’s speaking on behalf of people who worked hard to get where they are. He is speaking for people who have a reputation and long history of making movies. The Oscars are not to be taken lightly.
Netflix’s primary motive is to make more money. Netflix does so by “breaking the fourth wall” by disrupting traditional methods of making and distributing films. Netflix creates a streaming service with subscribers, and invests all of its money into advertising and producing original TV shows and TV Movies, such as Roma. This was the first year a Netflix produced movie won 4 Oscars, 3 from Cuaron’s Roma. Roma was highly regarded as the best film of 2018. It pays homage to Cuaron’s childhood, and difficult moments of his past. When asked if he’s happy after making films, Cuaron stated: “I’m never happy, I’m relieved.” Clearly, Netflix is invested in credible directors.
The audience who watch these movies primarily care about availability. Whether that’s experiencing the whole surround sound movie theatre experience, or in the comforts of home. Netlfix’s business model fits the audience’s necessities because Netflix provides flexibility at a fair price (subscription per month while a movie costs over 15 dollars).
Is it possible to find a medium in this controversy?
The benefits of allowing TV Movies to win awards are providing new ways for independent film to become mainstream, bring more awareness to underrepresented films, and allowing passionate filmmakers to have a studio to bring their scripts to life.
The disadvantages for allowing TV movies to win awards are that they will eventually oversaturate the market, change how movies are usually licensed, and allow Netflix to monopolize movie production. These are based on conjecture.
In April, we expect an Academy Award meeting where the rules committee presents proposals to 54 Board of Governors who will decide what kind of movies will be considered for accolades. Currently, the movies that qualify for Oscar nominations have to attend to a set of rules. For example, Roma was nominated for best picture. However, the lines are blurred because Netflix does not execute a traditional theatre movie release. Roma was released in international theatre’s which is okay, but it also needs to be released in Los Angeles for a consecutive week.
Spielberg’s point is that Roma should be considered a TV movie and should be part of the Emmys instead. He also stated that Netflix de-motivates filmmakers from competing at Sundance Music Festival and from raising money for production in a legitimate movie studio. He implies rules should be changed so movies that are only shown for a couple of weeks in theatres cannot be nominated for awards. This mentality abides by the 1950s where television caused people to stay away from theatres and that Netflix is doing the same with TV movies. Television is flourishing by poses a threat to filmmakers.
“The Irishman” an upcoming film by Martin Scorsese, probably will abide by traditional distribution methods, such as widespread release instead of Roma’s “in select theatres” model. To release his film through Netflix, “Netflix will have to expand the three-week art house theatrical window it pioneered amid controversy this awards season and will have to allow theater owners to report box office numbers, which the streamer did not do for Roma.” It’s important for films to deserve the right recognition. Is it the Academy Award Rules that should be changed? Or that filmmakers should have the advantage over Netflix? But Netflix requires reputation. What about the young filmmakers? Young filmmakers still have to pitch an idea. These are difficult and unanswered questions.
The questions are still open-ended, but as Netflix invests 12 billion into producing new shows and movies, some may actually deserve accolades. More filmmakers will want to be recruited and more people will want to subscribe to Netflix. Even Disney is trying to compete with Disney with it’s own streaming service, along with HBO, Hulu, etc.
My prediction? Even if the Oscars tighten up their rules, Netflix will continue to grow. The people like speed and accessibility. And movies that won’t air in theatres won’t hinder successful movies that are produced through Netflix. Times are changing. Technology exponentially advances these days. Next up, are how Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence fuses together to change how we interact with movies.