ALL NEWS

Spielberg’s push against Netflix at the Oscars hits a nerve

Mar 4, 2019, 5:23 AM
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, file photo, filmmaker Steven Spielberg poses at the 2019 "A...
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, file photo, filmmaker Steven Spielberg poses at the 2019 "An Unforgettable Evening" benefiting the Women's Cancer Research Fund, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Reports that Spielberg intends to support rule changes that could block Netflix from Oscars-eligibility have provoked a heated and unwieldy online debate. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Steven Spielberg speaks about the business of Hollywood, everyone generally listens and few dissent. But reports that he intends to support rule changes that could block Netflix from Oscars-eligibility have provoked a heated, and unwieldy, debate online this weekend. It has found the legendary filmmaker at odds with some industry heavyweights, who have pointed out that Netflix has been an important supporter of minority filmmakers and stories, especially in awards campaigns, while also reigniting the ongoing streaming versus theatrical debate.

Spielberg has weighed in before on whether streaming movies should compete for the film industry’s most prestigious award (TV movies, he said last year, should compete for Emmys), but that was before Netflix nearly succeeded in getting its first best picture Oscar for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” at last week’s Academy Awards. Netflix, of course, did not win the top award — “Green Book,” which was produced partially by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, did.

Still, Netflix was a legitimate contender and this year, the streaming service is likely to step up its awards game even more with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which The Hollywood Reporter said may also gunning for a wide theatrical release. A teaser ad aired during the 91st Oscars for the gangster drama said “in theaters next fall,” instead of the “in select theaters” phrasing that was used for “Roma.”

But Netflix also isn’t playing by the same rules as other studios. The company doesn’t report theatrical grosses, for one, and it’s been vexing some more traditional Hollywood executives throughout this award season and there have been whispers in recent weeks that a reckoning is coming.

Now, Spielberg and others are planning to do something about it by supporting a revised film academy regulation at an upcoming meeting of the organization’s board of governors that would disqualify Netflix from the Oscars, or at least how the streaming giant currently operates during awards season.

This year “Roma” got a limited theatrical qualifying run and an expensive campaign with one of the industry’s most successful awards publicists, Lisa Taback, leading the charge. But Netflix, operates somewhat outside of the industry while also infiltrating its most important institutions, like the Oscars and the Motion Picture Association of America. Some like Spielberg, are worried about what that will mean for the future of movies.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” an Amblin spokesperson told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson late last week. “He’ll be happy if the others will join (his campaign) when that comes up. He will see what happens.”

An Amblin representative said Sunday there was nothing to add.

But some see Spielberg’s position as wrong-minded, especially when it comes to the Academy Awards, which requires a theatrical run to be eligible for an award. Many online have pointed out the hypocrisy that the organization allows members to watch films on DVD screeners before voting.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted at the film academy’s handle in response to the news that the topic would be discussed at a board of governors meeting, which is comprised of only 54 people out of over 8,000 members.

“I hope if this is true, that you’ll have filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently,” DuVernay wrote.

Some took a more direct approach, questioning whether Spielberg understands how important Netflix has been to minority filmmakers in recent years.

Franklin Leonard, who founded The BlackList, which surveys the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood, noted that Netflix’s first four major Oscar campaigns were all by and about people of color: “Beasts of No Nation,” ”The 13th,” ”Mudbound” and “Roma.”

“It’s possible that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how difficult it is to get movies made in the legacy system as a woman or a person of color. In his extraordinary career, he hasn’t exactly produced or executive produced many films directed by them,” Leonard tweeted Saturday. “By my count, Spielberg does one roughly every two decades.”

It’s important to note that Netflix didn’t produce “Beasts of No Nation,” ”Mudbound” or “Roma,” but rather acquired them for distribution. But if Oscar campaigns are no longer part of the equation in a Netflix-partnership, top-tier filmmakers are likely to take their talents and films elsewhere.

Others, like “First Reformed” filmmaker Paul Schrader, had a slightly different take.

“The notion of squeezing 200+ people into a dark unventilated space to see a flickering image was created by exhibition economics not any notion of the ‘theatrical experience,'” Schrader wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. “Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing.”

But his Academy Award-nominated film, he thinks, would have gotten lost on Netflix and possibly, “Relegated to film esoterica.” Netflix had the option to purchase the film out of the Toronto International Film Festival and didn’t. A24 did and stuck with the provocative film through awards season.

“Distribution models are in flux,” Schrader concluded. “It’s not as simple as theatrical versus streaming.”

One thing is certain, however: Netflix is not going away any time soon and how it integrates with the traditional structures of Hollywood, like the Oscars, is a story that’s still being written.

Sean Baker, who directed “The Florida Project,” suggested a compromise: That Netflix offered a “theatrical tier” to pricing plans, which would allow members to see its films in theaters for free.

“I know I’d spend an extra 2 dollars a month to see films like ‘Roma’ or ‘Buster Scruggs’ on the big screen,” Baker tweeted. “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 (which includes theater owners, film festivals and competitive distributors) alive and kicking.”
___
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Today’s Top Stories

All News

(Photo courtesy of Snowbird Ski Resort)...
Chandler Holt

Avalanche at Snowbird caused by skier, no injuries

On Saturday, an avalanche roared down the slopes at Snowbird Ski Resort. Several people were caught and carried by the avalanche, but no one was buried.
12 hours ago
Flowers and stuffed animals are lined up outside a sign along Pullman Road in Moscow, Idaho, to pay...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Eric Levenson, CNN

‘Sketched out’ University of Idaho students return to campus from break with still no arrest in quadruple killings

More than two weeks since the deaths of 4 students near University of Idaho. With no suspect or arrest, "people are kind of sketched out" as they return from Thanksgiving break
12 hours ago
false lockdown...
Devin Oldroyd

Lehi building placed on false lockdown after report of unconcealed gun

A Lehi building was placed on a false lockdown following a report of a man with an unconcealed firearm. There was determined to be no threat at the scene.
1 day ago
Holiday Police Pay-it-Forward event....
Waverly Golden

Salt Lake City Police Department hosts holiday Pay-it-Forward event

Salt Lake City Police Department along with SLC School District paired 50 children with a police officer for a holiday shopping experience.
1 day ago
This morning the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport o...
Waverly Golden

Snowball Express arrives at Salt Lake City Airport

On Dec. 3 the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport on its way to Orlando Walt Disney World. 
1 day ago
Four Dead University of Idaho...
Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Authorities swat down rumors surrounding unsolved killings of 4 University of Idaho students

Authorities in a small Idaho city that had not recorded a murder in years are urging the public to be vigilant against rumors and conjectures surrounding the unsolved killings of four college students last month.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Spielberg’s push against Netflix at the Oscars hits a nerve