Friday, May 14, 2021

Steven Spielberg Takes Aim at Netflix: ‘Movie Theaters Need to Be Around Forever’

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Steven Spielberg attends the 55th Annual Cinema Audio Society Awards at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
(Feb. 15, 2019 – Source: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images North America)

*Less than a week after Netflix’s “Roma” bagged three Oscar awards, director Steven Spielberg will be proposing a rule change at the next Academy meeting that will make it challenging for Netflix films to compete at the Oscars.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” said a spokesperson for his Amblin production company. “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.”

Spielberg’s campaign has sparked debate online among the film community, with director Sean Baker suggesting that Netflix add a “theatrical tier” to its pricing plans.

“This would help keep theater owners and audience members who appreciate the theatrical experience satisfied,” he wrote on Twitter. “Just an idea with no details ironed out. But we need to find solutions like this in which everybody bends a bit in order to keep the film community…alive and kicking.”

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As reported by Variety, Film and TV director Richard Shepard wrote that “good movies r good movies-Wherever they play. And in a world where we have more Jurassic Parks then Shirkers Netflix fills a gap. Love the big screen, but love the story/heart of movie more.”

Writer-director Paul Schrader noted that “Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing.”

Ava Duvernay, who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” (which you can stream on Netflix), has asked the Academy to consider statements from filmmakers who disagree with Spielberg.

She addressed the Academy directly on Twitter, writing: “Dear @TheAcademy, This is a Board of Governors meeting. And regular branch members can’t be there. But I hope if this is true, that you’ll have filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently. Thanks, Ava DuVernay.”

Spielberg previously expressed his criticism of streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and their unorthodox approach to filmmaking.

“Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money or to go to compete at Sundance,” he said in a 2018 interview with ITV News. “More of them are going to let the SVOD [subscription video on demand] businesses finance their films, maybe with the promise of a slight one week theatrical window to qualify them for awards as a movie. But, in fact, once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie […] I don’t believe that films that are given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Meanwhile, below are some of the complaints studios have submitted to the Academy about Netflix’s business model (per Indiewire via Complex):

  • Netflix spent too much. One Oscar strategist estimated “Roma” at $50 million in Oscar spend, with “Green Book” at $5 million.
  • 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 respect the 90-day theatrical window.
  • Netflix movies are available in 190 countries, 24-7.
Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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