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Netflix, Spielberg Tussle Over Oscar Eligibility

Netflix, Spielberg Tussle Over Oscar Eligibility

And the Oscar for best fight over how the Academy Awards will deal with new ways of delivering movies to audiences goes to ... Steven Spielberg and Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) for “Should Studios Compete With Streaming Films?” 

Spielberg, who as producer of a long line of Oscar-winning and nominated films going back nearly four decades represents the Hollywood establishment about as much as anyone, said last week that the inclusion of films produced and distributed by streaming companies like Netflix in the Academy Awards isn’t fair.

Is Netflix TV?

Spielberg said he’ll ask the Academy’s board to consider a rules change to deal with the new reality of film distribution in the streaming era, an idea the Academy is reportedly likely to consider.

The row follows the nomination of Netflix’s original film “Roma." It was up for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture and won three, though it lost the top prize to “Green Book,” which was partly produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

Spielberg has complained that the Academy’s current rules, which don’t require a movie have an exclusive run in theaters, put studio films at an unfair disadvantage to streamed films, which can run directly into homes worldwide around the clock, unlike films facing the limitations of theater release.  

What Netflix puts out, Spielberg argues, is essentially television, and therefore should be considered for Emmy Awards instead.

Netflix counters that easier access is exactly what's good for moives, arguing streaming services make good films more accessible to audiences.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” a spokesperson for Amblin told independent film news website IndieWire last week. “He’ll be happy if the others will join … when that comes up” at the next Academy board meeting.

The Rules Today

Current rules do require that to be eligible for Oscar consideration, films must be first released in a public theater in Los Angeles for at least a seven-day run. But the rules allow the film to be simultaneously released by other methods, including streaming.

Most documentary features have to have a theatrical run in Los Angeles and New York, though there are exceptions in that category, and streamed films are still eligible if they have those theater runs first. Documentaries also have to be reviewed by a major newspaper’s film critic.

IndieWire reported that the Academy is likely to at least hear Spielberg out.

“Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches. And the board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting,” the Academy said, according to IndieWire.

Other filmmakers have taken to social media to say that Netflix has made it easier for lesser-known filmmakers to get their work noticed, including filmmakers of color, who have sometimes had a hard time breaking into the studio system. It also has opened up the awards process for lower-budget movies.

But ultimately, the model for bringing movies before an audience is changing, "American Gigolo" director Paul Schrader said in a Facebook post. 

"Distribution models evolve. The notion of squeezing 200-plus people into a dark unventilated space to see a flickering image was created by exhibition economics not any notion of the "theatrical experience," he wrote. "Distribution models are in flux. It's not as simple as theatrical versus streaming."

Netflix stock was down 1.7 percent at $351.25 at the time of publication. 

Related Links:

Why Strong Subscriber Growth for Hulu, Netflix Bodes Well For The Sector

A Filmmaker's Choice: Win Best Picture Or Make A Lot of Cash?

Posted-In: Academy Awards Indiewire Oscars Steven SpielbergMedia Best of Benzinga


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