Hollywood has finally drawn a line in the sand on Netflix and major figures in entertainment say they will do everything in their power to relegate the streaming network to second-class status.
Over the weekend, the Cannes Film Festival banned Netflix original movies from competing for the top prize — Palme d'Or — at the annual movie event. At the same time, director Steven Spielberg, a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, declared that Netflix films should be banned from receiving Oscar nominations.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cannes Film Festival head Theirry Fremaux said that industry-wide protests from French filmmakers and unions have forced the annual event into banning Netflix and other streaming services from competing for the Palme d'Or. The decision comes after the festival took a gamble last year, allowing two Netflix originals, Bon Joon-ho’s "Okja" and Noah Baumbach’s "The Meyerowitz Stories," to compete with films that had theatrical releases.
While Fremaux admits he took a gamble, he hoped it would at least prompt Netflix and other streamers to give their originals theatrical releases, which did not happen.
“Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas. I was presumptuous, they refused," he said.
At this time, Fremaux says that the streaming model puts Netflix in a different category from other production houses. He added that by bankrolling movies yet refusing to plan theatrical releases, Neftlix qualifies itself not quite as television, but not quite as film either.
"The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present in the future, alongside the production teams for standard-release films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours,” Fremaux added.
“We have to take into account the existence of these powerful new players: Amazon, Netflix and maybe soon Apple,” he continued. “We’ll defend the image of a risk-prone festival, questioning the cinema, and we must be at the table every year. Cinema [still] triumphs everywhere even in this golden age of series. The history of cinema and the history of the internet are two different things.”
Hollywood big shot Steven Spielberg agrees with the festival's decision and has gone so far to suggest that streaming films should not be nominated for Oscars, even though the annual event has, in the past, included streaming-only films like "Mudbound" and other documentaries in its list of nominees.
“I don’t believe that films that are given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for Academy Award nominations,” Spielberg told ITV News. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, you deserve an Emmy. But not an Oscar.”
One of the problems that Spielberg sees with streaming is that it has effectively forced studios into bankrolling strictly tent-pole features while eschewing mid-budget and lower-budget fare, which allow more room for creativity.
"Television is thriving with quality and heart,” he said. “But it poses a clear and present danger to filmgoers. I’ll still make The Post and ask an audience to please go out to theaters and see The Post and not make it for Netflix."
Directors Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino have expressed similar opinions. The only mainstream director to fully embrace the streaming revolution is Steven Soderbergh, who began experimenting with distribution models when he released his indie movie "Bubble" simultaneously in theaters and on DVD back in 2005.