Spielberg vs. Netflix, Roma and Oscar

Steven Spielberg
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Post “Roma,” the Academy will discuss rules that would level the playing field — but adjusting for Netflix could affect indie titles as well. Prepare for a heated battle.

28 Feb 2019 | A | IndieWire

Steven Spielberg isn’t basking in the glow of Best Picture Oscar-winner “Green Book,” which he supported in this year’s contentious Oscar race. His Academy Award attention is now devoted to ensuring that the race never sees another “Roma” — a Netflix film backed by massive sums, that didn’t play by the same rules as its analog-studio competitors.

As far as he’s concerned, as it currently stands Netflix should only compete for awards in the Emmy arena; as the Academy Governor representing the directors branch, Spielberg is eager to support rule changes when it convenes for its annual post-Oscar meeting.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” said an Amblin spokesperson. “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.”

Per the Academy, “Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches. And the Board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting.”

However, when it comes to determining exactly which rules Netflix may have flouted, or those that would need to be changed, things become murky.

Clearly, studios are heaping mad that “Roma” could come so close to winning the Academy’s top prize. Here’s a roundup of the complaints:

  • Netflix spent too much. One Oscar strategist estimated “Roma” at $50 million in Oscar spend, with “Green Book” at $5 million. (The New York Times reported $25 million as the entire marketing budget.)
  • The massive “Roma” push crushed foreign-language distributors. Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker said he 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.
  • “Roma” only spent three weeks as a theatrical exclusive.
  • Netflix doesn’t report box office.
  • Netflix doesn’t respect the 90-day theatrical window.
  • Netflix movies are available in 190 countries, 24-7.

These claims concern the Academy. However, it’s less clear how they fail to meet Academy standards. Box-office numbers have no impact on Oscar qualifications, and every year films qualify with just one week of exclusive theatrical play. Some theaters held “Roma” for as long as 13 weeks. (IndieWire box-office editor Tom Brueggemann estimated a $3.8 million total.)

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

Bob Iger arrives at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon - Arrivals, Beverly Hills, USA - 05 Feb 2018

Also, while studios may have knives out for Netflix, the streaming behemoth isn’t their only concern. Other streamers are coming. Amazon Studios is changing its release parameters to a more flexible model; Disney +, AT&T, and Apple hover on the horizon. All will live and die on luring talent, and for them the Oscars will be just as crucial.

Original Link: The Spielberg vs. Netflix Battle Could Mean Collateral Damage for Indies at the Oscars

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James Porteous

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