Netflix Fires Back After Academy Backlash and Steven Spielberg’s Push for Oscars Rule Change

The streaming giant argues a love of cinema and giving filmmakers more ways to distribute their art are not mutually exclusive.
(L to R) Marco Graf as Pepe, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Photo by Carlos Somonte
Photo by Carlos Somonte

Netflix is breaking its silence after a week’s worth of controversy following the 2019 Academy Awards. As IndieWire reported last week, the Best Picture Oscar being awarded to “Green Book” over “Roma” made it clear some Academy members remain in fear of what Netflix’s dominance means for the fate of movie theaters and theatrical releases. Steven Spielberg  championed “Green Book” behind the scenes and has long thought Netflix films should qualify for Emmys and not Oscars since the streaming giant does not adhere to the traditional theatrical release window before making films available online.

In a statement released on the official Netflix Film twitter account, the streaming giant fired back: “We love cinema. Here are some things we also love. Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive.”

Netflix shares the same mentality as Alfonso Cuarón, who took home three Oscars for “Roma” despite missing out on Best Picture. Cuarón said numerous times throughout awards season that “Roma” would not have been released at all had Netflix not stepped up and made an offer to globally distribute such a challenging film. A black-and-white foreign-language drama with no stars is not something the major studios are interested in distributing anymore.

“For me the conversation about theatrical is super important,” Cuarón told Variety after the Oscars when asked about Netflix backlash. “I’m a filmmaker. I believe in the theatrical experience. But there has to be diversity. The multiplex theatrical experience is a very gentrified experience. You have one kind of product with few variations. It’s hard to see art-house films. It’s hard to see foreign films. Most theaters play big Hollywood movies.”

Spielberg is currently lobbying for an Oscars rule change that would force Netflix to adhere to a more traditional theatrical window (word has it Spielberg wants at least a four-week window, where films would need to play in theaters for a month before streaming) or risk being ineligible to compete at the Academy Awards. As a spokesperson for Spielberg told IndieWire: “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up. He will see what happens.”

The Academy is set to discuss awards rule changes at its post-Oscars meeting in April.

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