By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollitt.
As Netflix gains ground as a leading distributor of independent films, some higher ups in the industry are looking to bar Netflix exclusives from the Academy Awards. This is leading to questions regarding the changing landscape of the film industry today.
Recently Steven Spielberg came out against Netflix’s inclusion in the world of film saying “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie… You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.” This has raised quite a lot of drama within the filmmaking world. Even the academy itself is divided on whether or not Netflix originals deserve to be put in the same camp as major motion pictures.
Spielberg went on to say, “I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.” This comment is in regard to Netflix giving a number of their original films a limited theatrical release.
Many are claiming that this bias serves to bolster the position of a dying market. With the rise of in-home streaming services, less and less people are making the journey out to theaters to view movies. Netflix original films that are high quality in both production and content give consumers even more reason to forgo traditional viewing outlets in favor of sitting at home.
By denying Netflix access to the Academy Awards, Spielberg and others who share his view are delegitimizing the value of their content and is preserving the theater as a place where only big-budget, studio backed films can find success. This can shape public perception of movies that are only released on Netflix and can drive them toward traditional movie theaters when they want to watch something that is “critically acclaimed”.
Many in the Academy share this sentiment and disagree with Spielberg. They praise Netflix for their ability to provide a spotlight for independent film makers who would otherwise have a difficult time finding someone to produce their film. They think that a movie is a movie regardless of the platform on which it is released, and it deserves recognition if it is of high quality.
The current state of the film industry, as pointed out by director Joe Berlinger, is even proving that the niche that is being filled by Netflix is more needed than ever “More importantly, as traditional Hollywood continues to focus on big, blockbuster global event films and comic book sequels, the edgy adult-themed ‘indie’ dramas that until recently were a flourishing category of cinema are in danger of extinction.”
Others in the Academy see Netflix and other streaming services as the future of content delivery and of filmmaking. They think that in order to remain relevant in the face of shrinking ratings, the Academy needs to adapt to the times and recognize that the public has for a while now been transitioning to non-traditional forms of viewing movies.
Any attempt to stifle streaming services could be seen as an attempt to keep in place the power and prestige of Hollywood, only serving to further alienate established industry professionals like Steven Spielberg from the general public.
A general public who, more often than not, is only concerned with the quality of a movie. Not arbitrary rules made up by old men who are seeking to keep an emerging platform from gaining ground in an industry that is ruled by old money and old power.
No matter what decision is made regarding the inclusion of Netflix in the Academy Awards, one thing is for sure: Netflix isn’t going anywhere. If original movies that are able to make audiences happy, and more importantly continue to make money are still being made, the Netflix won’t be abandoning the indie film business any time soon.