Netflix Strikes Back at Spielberg’s Oscars Concerns

Netflix bigs up the benefits of streaming in response to the director's questions around awards eligibility.

Alfonso Cuaron's Roma on Netflix

The post-awards season streaming vs cinema debate is heating up, with Netflix issuing a defiant riposte to reports that Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg is going to petition the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to keep movies made by streaming studios away from the Oscars.

Spielberg’s concerns, which he reportedly plans to raise at the Academy’s annual post-Oscars debrief, come on the back of Roma‘s success at this year’s awards – Alfonso Cuarón’s drama earned a whopping 10 nominations and took home three gongs for best foreign language film, best cinematography and best director. “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” said a spokesperson for Amblin, Spielberg’s production company.

And while Spielberg’s camp didn’t name Netflix specifically, the streaming giant behind the much-lauded Roma has now hit back via Twitter. “We love cinema,” Netflix tweeted, before going on to list the benefits of streaming as a distribution model, including access for those who “can’t always afford” cinema trips and “giving filmmakers more ways to share art.”

Spielberg’s complaints seem to revolve around the fact that streaming movies have an advantage that traditional studio films don’t when it comes to Oscar contention, such as increased visibility thanks to the global distribution model, and that they would perhaps be better suited to the Emmys – the annual television awards that also honor “made-for-TV” features.

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One thing’s for sure: the ever-changing landscape of film production and distribution – and the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu – is blurring the lines when it comes to traditional format boundaries, especially around awards qualification.

Even Spielberg’s mate, Martin Scorsese, is embracing the change. His next movie – gangster epic The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci – is a Netflix Original that is highly likely to invite awards recognition. If Spielberg’s protest works, though, The Irishman could be frozen out of the Oscars altogether – or it could force Netflix to adhere to even stricter rules, such as longer theatrical runs for its big hitters, to be in with a chance of Oscar glory. Watch this space…