Spielberg Leads Oscar Charge Against Netflix?

Spielberg Leads Oscar Charge Against Netflix

While Netflix’s “Roma” may not have won the Best Picture Oscar last weekend, it got within such close spitting distance that it has rattled conservative elements of the film industry into action.

IndieWire reports that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is going to re-evaluate its stance on films from streaming services, and the person leading that charge would appear to be none other than filmmaker Steven Spielberg himself.

Spielberg recently suggested in a speech that Netflix films should only compete for Emmys, not Oscars, and the site indicates he will now voice his concerns at the upcoming Academy Board of Governors meeting scheduled for April.

A spokesperson for Amblin Entertainment tells them: “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 itself told the site: “Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches. And the Board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting.”

The topic of Netflix movies and what qualifies as a movie began in earnest nearly a year ago during a very public kerfuffle at the Cannes Film Festival in May and has been debated on and off ever since. A lot of it has to do with the so-called ‘theatrical experience’ and the three-month exclusivity window in place that exhibitors demand to protect their business.

“Roma” remains an interesting case study. Had it gone a regular theatrical route, a black-and-white Mexican language film with no stars and following a live-in nanny and house cleaner would certainly not have generated much box-office. Thanks to Netflix though, the film not only scored a 600 screen theatrical release for several weeks but has been available in nearly 200 countries worldwide.

How is it any less a movie than other nominees, especially those who did the bare minimum one-week release on a few screens in New York or LA? In fact, by imposing stricter rules to potentially disqualify streaming services, the site suggests AMPAS may end up making it incredibly difficult for smaller indie films to qualify.

Whatever the case, this AMPAS meeting is going to be closely watched.