Steven Spielberg Criticizes Oscar Noms for Streaming Films

As the Academy Governor representing directors, filmmaker Steven Spielberg is intent on changing the rules so that movies made by streaming content creators won’t be eligible for Oscars but would only be considered for Emmys, along with other TV fare. Spielberg — and the studios — were motivated most recently by how close Netflix-produced “Roma” came to winning Best Picture. As it was, “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón won Academy Awards for best director and best cinematographer. One complaint is the lopsided spending for Oscar competition.

IndieWire reports that, “one Oscar strategist estimated ‘Roma’ at $50 million in Oscar spend, with ‘Green Book’ at $5 million,” although The New York Times reported $25 million and Netflix said the Oscars spend was “folded into their entire marketing budget.” Although “Roma” only spent three weeks in movie theaters, it “crushed foreign-language distributors.”

According to Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, his company 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.” Although a movie can qualify for the Oscars with a single week of exclusive theatrical release, some theaters played “Roma” for up to 13 weeks.

AMPAS and the studios also point to the fact that Netflix doesn’t report its box office numbers nor respect the 90-day theatrical window. The reach of Netflix, they argue, is another factor that makes for a slanted playing field, with Netflix movies “available in 190 countries, 24-7.”

One unnamed Academy governor stated that, “there’s a growing sense that if [Netflix] is going to behave like a studio, there should be some sort of standard.” “The rules were put into effect when no one could conceive of this present or this future,” that governor added. “We need a little clarity.”

Although Netflix is in the cross hairs now, other streaming services that create content — including Amazon Studios, Disney Plus, Apple and AT&T — also concern AMPAS and studios. The Academy, however, passed rules in 2012 that dictate that an exclusive theatrical window isn’t required, and several Academy governors told IndieWire that they know requirements for four-week exclusive window and released box office numbers “may not fly.”

Determining an exclusive-window rule would also impact other films, and making it apply only to Best Picture hopefuls “would certainly annoy any number of producers; even if their titles were unlikely to make the cut.”

Netflix’s massive reach gave a movie like “Roma” worldwide recognition, which studios resent. At the same time, “some believe ‘Roma’ was ‘cheapened’ by its streaming.” Now, all eyes are on the upcoming $150 million Netflix movie about Jimmy Hoffa, “The Irishman,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel.

There are a slew of other promising movies in Netflix’s pipeline, but it’s unlikely that Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos will concede to creating a 90-day theatrical window. Still, it might face new rules when next year’s Oscars come around.

Related:
Netflix Defends Its Impact On the Movie Business Ahead of Oscars Debate, TechCrunch, 3/4/19