Somebody has it out for Netflix, and no, it isn’t the head of a rival streaming service. It’s Steven Spielberg, the beloved director who literally changed the way we see film early on in his career and continues to do so. A few days ago Spielberg came out against Netflix, not in his usual way of making wary statements about the future of theatrical movies, but through being part of a plan to affect whether Netflix movies are eligible for the Academy Awards.
Basically, Spielberg plans to voice his concerns at an upcoming Academy meeting, although what those plans consist of remains unclear. What we do know is that he sees Netflix films as TV movies, which is something he’s been saying since at least last year. Following an awards season that saw Netflix earn multiple Oscars for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Spielberg is asserting the vast differences between the streaming and theatrical experience in order to make significant rules changes that will exclude Netflix and other streaming productions.
The irony here is that any changes Spielberg could want, such as demanding a minimum theatrical release window, would affect most other Oscar contenders, as well, which often have a very limited run solely to qualify.
What strikes me, though, is how Spielberg sounds like an old curmudgeon here, and exactly like the filmmakers who didn’t like him when he first broke through to the big screen with Jaws. I’m not saying Spielberg is definitely going to get left in the dust here, but….well, he may get left in the dust here. And I doubt the Academy will go along with him on this. Streaming, like it or not, has brought more movies to more viewers than ever before. It would be madness to cut them out of the party now.
Unsurprisingly, Netflix has taken to Twitter to defend itself. Considering the amount of money they threw around this awards season I wouldn’t be surprised if a more focused effort is to come later, but here is their tweet in response to Spielberg. Thoughts?
We love cinema. Here are some things we also love:
-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.
— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) March 4, 2019