Why Spielberg Is Wrong And Netflix Is Right
Over the decades, Steven Spielberg has graced cinemas with some of the most entertaining and iconic theatrical experiences. However, we are now in an era that sees consumers watching the newest movies like never before: at home. But this week, the tension between a thriving entertainment platform and an old school industry leader has reached a fever pitch.
Following Netflix's ROMA taking home 3 Oscars last week, a spokesperson for Spielberg's production company spoke to IndieWire about how the filmmaker feels that movies debuting on streaming services should not be eligible for Oscar consideration.
“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].”
Instead, Spielberg feels that movies debuting on streaming services should be considered for Emmys, rather than Oscars.
Of course, the streaming entertainment leader, Netflix, had something to say about this in a tweet:
We love cinema. Here are some things we also love:— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) March 4, 2019
-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.
While not directly targeting the iconic filmmaker, Netflix’s tweet takes aim at the sentiment that movies premiering at home are lesser than movies making traditional theatrical runs. The backlash to Spielberg’s perspective has been swift, and I couldn’t agree more with the community’s outrage. Here’s why:
Entertainment Consumption Is Shifting
This might be a strange concept to Spielberg, but how consumers indulge in entertainment has evolved over the years. Studios and theaters are doing what they can to keep people at the box office, including heavily promoting theater-only features like 3D viewing and IMAX visuals and sound. But the truth of the matter is these formats are becoming increasingly less affordable.
Which is why monthly streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, are capitalizing on the growing market of consumers interested in watching new movies, but uninterested in the expensive and inconvenient nature of going to the theater.
This is a win for both the consumer and the streaming services, which is why year after year, we see these platforms dumping more and more money into providing quality content…including prominent Oscar contenders. Spielberg’s effort to strip Oscar consideration away from streaming platforms just shows that he is out of touch with the current state of entertainment and stuck in a mindset that needs to evolve with the times.
Other Industry Leaders Are Also Betting On The Convenience of Streaming
Later this year, Netflix will debut the movie The Irishman. Despite the fact that the trailer is nothing more than a falling bullet and list of names against a black background, anticipation for this movie is sky high.
That’s because critically acclaimed filmmaker Martian Scorsese is directing the project, with a high caliber cast including Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro among others. By Spielberg’s standards, this type of production belongs in theaters. But the fact that it will debut on Netflix is a game changer for the perception of streaming services’ place in the market.
There is a growing interest from big name actors and directors to participate in content developed and/or distributed by streaming services, and for those demanding quality entertainment at home, this is a trend to be excited about.
Ultimately, Movies Debuted At Home Are Still Movies
The bottom line is whether a movie screens in theaters or on home televisions…movies are movies. They’re feature length, continuous narratives with the same level of talent and production involved, and if the quality of these films can garner the respect of the industry and meet established qualifications, I don’t see why they should be excluded from Oscar consideration.
In fact, Spielberg’s moving target approach to qualifying/disqualifying movies is disturbing to me. It’s absolutely not fair for platforms, regardless of how nontraditional, to spend excessive amounts of money on attaining quality content, jump through hoops to meet minimum qualifications, and dump even more money into Oscar marketing campaigns, just to have regulations changed with the explicit purpose of edging the platform out of eligibility.
It’s alarming that a figurehead as firmly established in Hollywood as Spielberg has such a regressive mindset regarding the evolution of entertainment. Attempting to kick streaming service movies out of the Oscars seems to be his way of preserving the perceived value of the Oscar, but it’s really just another example of how out-of-touch the industry can be from the general public.