This year’s Oscars was a big deal for Netflix.
With Alfonso Cuaron nabbing Best Director for Roma, the streaming giant is essentially one level removed from a Best Picture win, which is quite a feat for its original content. Most have celebrated this progress, but others aren’t so happy.
Among them is Steven Spielberg, who’s sounding a lot like Shooter McGavin these days, essentially running around The Academy saying, “Yeah, yeah, everyone seems to be coming around … Well, I’m not, Dawn!”
Prior to the Oscars, Spielberg made a not-so-subtle jab at streaming services while accepting the Filmmaker Award at the Cinema Audio Society’s CAS Awards for last year’s Ready Player One. As he explained:
“I don’t believe that films that are just given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nominations. Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete at Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically. And more of them are going to let the SVOD [Streaming Video On-Demand] businesses finance their films, maybe with the promise of a slight, one-week theatrical window to qualify for awards But, in fact, once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie.”
Granted, he contended that some of the greatest writing, directing, and performances are on TV, but ultimately conceded that “there’s nothing like going to a big dark theatre with people you’ve never met before and having the experience wash over you. That’s something we all truly believe in.”
That belief, as Indiewire reports, could actually affect the Oscars. As the Academy Governor representing the directors branch, Spielberg could have his say when the Academy soon convenes, and that appears to be the case based on recent statements by his company Amblin.
“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.”
The Academy has since confirmed the notion, adding, “Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches. And the Board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting.”
Spielberg is hardly alone, either. “There’s a growing sense that if [Netflix] is going to behave like a studio, there should be some sort of standard,” said one Academy governor. “The rules were put into effect when no one could conceive of this present or this future. We need a little clarity.”
While most of the argument lies in theatrical distribution — the Academy currently only requires one week of exclusive theatrical play — many studios and distributors are upset with Netflix’s marketing. They reportedly spent between $25 to $50 million in Oscar marketing, which is quite a hike from the paltry $5 million that Universal spent. What’s more, they argue the marketing isn’t spent on pushing viewers to theaters.
All of this should be a concern to Netflix (and any other streaming giants, for that matter). Already, they’re looking forward to 2020, what with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman dropping later this fall, and it’s very likely they’ll have new stipulations to hurdle over come awards season.
Again, for perspective…