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Steven Spielberg Escalates His War On Netflix

By  Paul Bois

It’s beyond mere rhetoric now. Director Steven Spielberg has taken action to prevent Netflix from participating in the Oscars unless Netflix modifies its distribution models.

According to Vulture, the legendary filmmaker intends to change the Academy rules that could block Netflix and other streaming platforms from seeking Oscar nominations without a proper theatrical run. Typically, a movie would need a 90-day window between its theatrical release and when it can appear on the streaming service.

“The success of Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Roma’ at this year’s Oscars has royally pissed off Steven Spielberg, so much so he’s reportedly doubling down on banning streaming films from awards contention once and for all,” reports the outlet. “A Spielberg vs. Netflix battle will be reaching its peak at next week’s Board of Governors meeting at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the director — who’s a board member of the directing branch — is planning to ‘propose rule changes’ that would specifically prevent Netflix, and other streaming outlets such as Amazon and Hulu, from qualifying for Oscars contention.”

A representative for Spielberg’s production company, Amblin, said in a statement that the director is simply trying to salvage the theatrical experience. “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” said the spokesperson. “He’ll be happy if the others will join (his campaign) when that comes up. He will see what happens.”

The Academy Award-winning filmmaker has been outspoken with his dissatisfaction over Netflix competing for Oscars without a proper theatrical run and a window between release and streaming.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” Spielberg said at a recent event. “I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

The director was echoing similar statements that he made in the previous year, when the Cannes Film Festival issued a ban on Netflix movies from premiering at the festival.

“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 at the time. “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 may 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.”

Upon hearing the news that Spielberg would be seeking to implement the change, Netflix tweeted on Sunday a defense of its platform and method of release.

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.

For the past few years, Netflix has steadily made gains at the Oscars, from “Mudbound” to this year’s “Roma.” Indeed, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” may prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Spielberg, considering that it picked up 10 Oscar nominations, taking home three: Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Director. As noted by the Associated Press, some Hollywood insiders feel Netflix has not been playing by the rules.

“Netflix also isn’t playing by the same rules as other studios,” reports the AP. “The company doesn’t report theatrical grosses, for one, and it’s been vexing some more traditional Hollywood executives throughout this award season and there have been whispers in recent weeks that a reckoning is coming.”

Netflix is not without its A-list defenders, however. Ben Affleck, for example, has said the streaming service is “heavily invested in telling stories.”

“It’s very exciting because you get the sense you’re defining where the future of cinema and distribution is going, you know? Already, people are watching movies on more and more platforms than they ever had, and you get a sense that you’re part of sort of the emerging transition,” Affleck told The Associated Press on Sunday.

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