Netflix responds to Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-rule change: ‘We love cinema’

David di Donatello Awards 2018 - Arrivals

Aha, my reverse psychology worked! I found the Steven Spielberg-Netflix story very interesting, but I wasn’t convinced that a lot of people would want to talk about the more “inside baseball” kind of stories. I trust that THIS post will get approximately five comments though. To recap, the Academy had a Board of Governors meeting the weekend after the Oscars. They talked about various things, but I bet “how do we ensure that a bullsh–t white savior film like Green Book never wins Best Picture again” wasn’t on the docket. Instead, Spielberg – who is on the board – advocated for a rule change which would affect films like Roma and their Oscar campaigns. Roma was financed and produced by Netflix, and Netflix gave the film a small, limited theatrical release, but Netflix spread a lot of money around for the Oscar campaign, which paid off in three major Oscars (including Best Director and Best Foreign Film).

Spielberg wants to change the Netflix model, and change how streaming services conduct Oscar campaigns. The idea is that people should see movies in real movie theaters, not sitting at home. His argument is that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu need to put more time and money into giving their bigger, Oscar-bait films theatrical releases or else those films won’t be eligible for Oscars. One of the biggest arguments against that is Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are putting more diverse stories made by more diverse artists out into the public sphere, and that Spielberg’s rule changes would weaken those vital and diverse voices, if not silence them. Besides that, the streaming business model is the present and future: the old Hollywood-theatrical model is faltering, if not failing completely. Well, Netflix did respond:

This is true. All of these things are not mutually exclusive. While I do think Spielberg will likely get his wish and there will be a rule change about what kind of theatrical releases are required, I also think that Netflix/Amazon/Hulu and now Disney+ know that they’re the future. They’re not going to dunk on the Old Guard. They know they’ll bury the Spielbergs of the world. But is that a good thing? We’re living in such an odd, precarious time for the business models of entertainment.

55th Annual Cinema Audio Society Awards

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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54 Responses to “Netflix responds to Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-rule change: ‘We love cinema’”

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  1. Maya says:

    What is it with old white men and accepting changes?

    • SM says:

      They were ok when they were young and passionate and the innovators. Which Spielberg was. Not that other people are doing that, they do not like it. They would like to live off of their glory till the end of time.
      And the more I think about it, the more I have Spielberg’s argument here. Because basically what he is saying is that he doesn’t care for quality films. He realizes that the theatrical release saves money, the money that can go towards quality. And yes, steaming with no delay from the release helps steaming services earn their subscription money. So basically he says that he gives a shit about quality because why….he is out of touch and can’t make a real quality work (how many awards did the Post win?) so he thinks that he will strong arm the industry into sticking to the current model that benefits big studio movies.

      • Tana says:

        I remember back in the day Spielberg didn’t want to put his moves on VHS because he wanted them seen in the movies, til his disabled fans said “Hey, going to theatres is hard man, why are you denying us the ability to see your stuff?” and his poor fans were “Hey, dude, we can’t take us and our three kids to your movies, that’s over a hundred bucks if we buy food…” and suddenly Spielberg movies were on VHS. He needs to be reminded that there are people for whom the fact that netflix for instance costs less than two movie tickets a month for near unlimited stuff to watch, is a big freaking deal to his low income fans and his disabled fans. Screw him.

      • Lilly (with the double-L) says:

        I had similar thoughts to you three. It’s like: remember when you were a maverick? It seems like some genetic thing for old white guys to turn conservative. I have an older white guy friend in London, from my days living there, and he was such a champion of the rights of all and a feminist. Now he says he thinks it’s a natural progression to become an old fogey (my term). He’s not a monster or suddenly bigoted, but some of the things he now supports hurts others, for sure. All I can say is he’s not a orange predator supporter, but that’s not enough to sustain our friendship. Also, Spielberg can eff off.

    • Anne Call says:

      And an old white man that probably watches all his movies in his private screening room. I’m pretty sure Steve doesn’t stand in line at the local multiplex for his tickets and popcorn and sit amongst the peasants. This is infuriating. Netflix, amazon and Hulu are funding and showing small character driven movies that would never be made in Hollywood right now. And small town America where movie theatres are disappearing can watch them!

  2. Tanesha86 says:

    I agree with the folks over at Netflix honestly. Just because things have been done a certain way in the past doesn’t mean it is the best or only way. I rarely get out to see movies in the theater lately anyway

    • Mel says:

      I agree with the people at Netflix too, I mean right now it’s really mostly superhero films dominating the movie theatre landscape, Netflix not only allows a much wider reach nationally but internationally, I have found some amazing foreigns films and shows I never would have discovered otherwise because they would have never been released in a movie theatre here. What it does is open the spectrum so wide open to what once before was a very small club of selected people and they feel threaten by it, hard not to when you can find something better and more beautifully done on your own screen than at a movie theatre but just like every other business, it’s time for them to evolve as well. It’s why awards shows matter less and less nowadays too.

    • Bella Bella says:

      Near me is one independent movie theater — 40 minutes away, mind you — and the movies there last one week, maybe two, before disappearing. Netflix enables me to see the smaller films I want to see! Even those indie movies given wider release doesn’t guarantee proper attention competing with the big budget films.

      I’ve spent the last few months watching all these excellent 2018 movies written and/or directed by women. Were it not for streaming services like Amazon and Netflix, I would have not been able to see them. No matter their excellence, they *still* didn’t get attention by awarding bodies. The only exception this past year is perhaps Can You Ever Forgive Me?

      What Spielberg is requesting, essentially, is sanctioned discrimination against the indie film from having a seat at the table, discrimination against films made by women having a seat at the table, films made by people of color, films made by anyone other than those making the awful large budget treacly films he makes or the cartoon universe films for the boys. NO. Enough. I am sick and tired of men telling us what is or isn’t valuable or worthy, or telling us what we can and cannot have access to. Enough with policing my life!

    • Sojaschnitzel says:

      I agree with Netflix too, and I really love them by the way. Haven’t had a tv in ages. I’m quite conservative when it comes to technology, and to changes in general, but Netflix was one that I embraced easily and happily. It just makes so much sense. No more watching horribly loud, boring ads that tell us how to live our lifes, and that’s just for the TV. Wasn’t much of a movie goer even before Netflix because it bothers me to no end when someone is talking in the audience, and most mainstream movies are not my cup of tea. I still do go though, into an artsy small cinema with like 40 seats, which shows only independent movies. Hence I really don’t get his point and I think he cares most about money and his own status than really about the movie goer.

  3. Chef Grace says:

    Aww King Steve has a butt hurt.
    Bless his heart.
    I am for changing things and the good old boy Hollywood needs to fade to black.
    Maybe the streaming services can have their own awards. Time for Oscar to take a bow .

  4. BlueSky says:

    I get that if the streaming services want to put out Oscar baity movies, they need to follow rules. But….is he mad because people aren’t going to the movies or people aren’t going to see HIS movies??? I mean, when was the last time he had a hit?? It just seems so elitist and he just seems salty. People are going to go to the movies no matter what but people aren’t going to waste money on movies that are a POS either. Netflix must be doing something right if Spielberg is feeling threatened.

    • Wow says:

      Quality of movies in theaters is lower in many genres than on streaming, not to mention the actual cost of going to a theater. Its $46 for tickets for my family. That’s really expensive and a far cry from what it was when I was a kid and my dad would take us on impulse to the movies because it wasn’t crazy expensive. Its the same reason my family eats out about and eighth of the amount my family did when I was a kid. Its too damn expensive for what you get.

      We see about 4 movies a year, thats about $200. Thats all the money they are getting from me. If hes so pissed about people not going to the movies he should assess why people are staying home instead of attacking people who are just making movies.

    • Ana Maria says:

      you read my mind; my impression is that he is jealous because he is no longer part of the mix

  5. Margo Smith says:

    Fascinating fact, amblin (spielbergs production studio) distributed green book.

    Im actually not sure the academy will change the rules though because of the uproar from Twitter. It’s pretty shameful that he’s have a conniption fit over Roma winning, which was a film by a Mexican director and starring an indigenous woman. The fact that it was on Netflix was incredible because people saw it who perhaps wouldn’t have seen it in theatres.

    • Adrien says:

      No matter what you feel about Roma at least a lot of my friends saw it (on Netflix). We get to debate about it instead of some of us just reading reviews and pretend to even watched the film. I’ve seen so many indies and got no one to talk to about them because they have no means of watching them even if they were heavily hyped by the critics. They are shown in selected theatres on a limited time. Sorry To Bother You and BlackKKKlansmen are few of the critics darlings no one saw. I

  6. Adrien says:

    I don’t like extreme rules. They have to meet halfway. Steven has a point that a Netflix produced film should have a theatrical release first before streaming but he should also accept that movie going experiences are rapidly changing. Lots of independent films are ignored by moviegoing public. But then Netflix or Amazon have the advantage of screening arthouse types to bigger audiences. BTW, I saw Roma in a theatre but it was in a limited showing cinema like a festival setting.

    • Steff says:

      One point no one has brought up is the majority of Oscar voters don’t see the movies anyway, so what point is it to make rules for Netflix distributed films?

      • Tana says:

        They almost never go to the theatres either, they get screener copies of the important category films. They get to watch wherever they want.

  7. ds says:

    This is an issue that I’m sure will come up again. USA has a studio based production where studios “get their money back” on theatrical releases. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon are jeopardising it with their systems even though they pay them the money to stream studio movies. It’s not just the Academy and Spielberg that feel threatened by it. It’s even in Europe that distributers feel these things migh take them down. But I think we’re a long way from dooming the cinema. People love that experience. This is a complex matter really for film makers around the world. I’d love to pin it to Spielberg’s personal issues but have to be frank and say it’s more than that, since I’ve been going to pannels for years now and this is the “problem” that keeps being mentioned more and more in the last few years. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but am sure that both the big studios and EU soft money system will eventually have to start progressing towards these kind of systems, such as Netflix. It is a really strange time for film production and distribution.

  8. tomatoejane says:

    Taking the responses one step further than 5 🙂
    Spielberg needs to take a seat. Oscars need to embrace the new ways of getting movies to people. With larger and larger home screens, going to a movie theater to watch a film is no longer a necessity for many and as Netflix says, not a realistic possibility for many people.

  9. Scal says:

    Netflix didn’t even produce or finance roma-it was participant media in the US. (Plus several production companies in Mexico) Its the same company that produced Green Book so I dont get his arguement at all other than he lost. Netflix paid for the distribution rights.

    If the argument is that “shooting for tv is different than theaters” Curaon had already shot the movie and then the studios turned down the distribution rights. Netflix agreed to distribute it-in a limited release AND on their service. Otherwise it wouldn’t have even made it to the limited release. And again it showed up in theaters for longer and more widely than other nominees.

    This is about someone not liking change and not wanting to give up control. I’m glad that most people seem to be calling him out.

  10. Mia4s says:

    “I also think that Netflix/Amazon/Hulu and now Disney+ know that they’re the future.”

    This, this, and this!!! You can tell by how they spend. I mean the money I’ve heard Disney is spending on the two Star Wars series (and I assume the Marvel ones)? Insane. Will rival any movie. They know which way the wind is blowing.

    As I said yesterday, I have a lot of problems with Netflix (for example their disregard for, and thereby terrible, classic film selection) but this ship has sailed. People love the convenience and comfort and price. If you want to save theatrical you have to vastly improve the theatrical experience, not yell at streamers.

    • tempest prognosticator says:

      Yes! What has Netflix got against classics? That’s really my only big complaint about Netflix.

      I like their response to Spielberg.

      • alyssa calloway says:

        I’m legitimately curious about how much the lack of good classics streaming services have is due to snags in distribution deals vs how much of it is bc they don’t want to put money into them.

        It could really go either way. Bc it’s possible that they don’t think they’re important/going to draw in subscribers & they’ll lose money on them. But there are so many things that I think should be streaming that would be popular that aren’t so I really don’t know. Either way they’re missing out on a solid market.

    • Bella Bella says:

      They used to have great classics in their through-the-mail service. I don’t know if that has changed but I do know the selection of the streaming service is terribly limited across the board — all genres, all eras.

  11. jessamine says:

    This move just ensures the Oscars will become even more irrelevant, honestly. Spielberg, and the Academy, are not playing the long game.

  12. grabbyhands says:

    Steve baby, we get it – you don’t like change anymore now that you’re old. It happens to the best of us.

    Now, I’m not saying Netflix’s motives in this are purely altruistic, but they have a point nonetheless. Not everyone has access to big multiplexes and if they do, they may not have the means to see a movie at a time when ticket prices continue to skyrocket. A Netflix subscription for streaming is less than a ticket price these days. So yeah, I’m all for giving people that option. If the studios want more butts in seats, they’re going to need to stop paying stars 20 million dollars to appear in crappy movie that is the 14 remake of a movie that came out 10 years ago that no one is asking for but that they keep making because they’re too lazy to seek out new and different stories.

    Netflix is providing access to movies that are diverse and are created by a diverse pool of talent – the studios are not doing this. Stuff people obviously want to see. The math isn’t hard, but as ever the group of old white guys at the top are determined to grasp on to every bit of power until their last breath even if it means ruining it for everyone else. And frankly, just because a movie isn’t created or promoted through the studio system doesn’t mean the same creative effort didn’t go into making it. Jaysus.

    Steven should just shut it and go back to re-editing all his old movies so they’re safely sanitized for the faint at heart and accept that his viewpoint isn’t relevant anymore.

    • Margo Smith says:

      Well said grabbyhands!!!!

    • Original Jenns says:

      My first thought! Stop paying everyone millions of dollars and put out quality films. I love seeing movies in theaters. But I’m not paying $30+ for three people WITHOUT the snacks for every movie I’d like to see.

      I agree that there should be some theatrical release to enter in to the awards campaigns. But (example) there’s no way Roma would have been as viewed if it was theater mostly, and just the critics/guilds viewing it is not the point of a film. It gave a voice to people who usually don’t have one, streaming gave people the opportunity to view a movie many would not have paid a ticket price for, and it deserves award recognition for all of that on top of being GOOD. Ava Duvernay also tweeted against Spielberg and made some great points!

      I want to know if he’ll campaign to stop Scorsese’s Netflix movie starring De Niro, Pesci, Pacino, Paquin, and Keitel from entering any awards categories??? Those names right there tell me that Spielberg knows that eventually it’s in with the new, out with the old.

  13. Weaver says:

    I love that Netflix touched upon movies being released at the same time for everyone. There’s no reason people in Los Angeles and New York should get to see certain films before the rest of the nation.

  14. Franny Days says:

    For me it’s a great thing. I have a 10 month old and another one on the way. I have no idea the next time I will be able to go to a movie theater.

  15. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Sorry, business models evolve. Imagine if companies modeled the 1950s still. Hey! The industrial revolution sounds good, let’s go there! Music has changed its landscape every bit as much as film. So too has shopping. Education. Employment. We are evolving. The Spielbergs either get on board with Darwin or fade into memory like Blockbuster. For some crazy reason GameStop is still going pretty strong…why is that? Build it, make it, show it, and the people will come. Sit behind your desk with an old school Mont Blanc and paper and evaporate.

  16. Who ARE These People? says:

    I live in a small Canadian city and was so happy to see a quality non-Hollywood film like Roma. It’s hard not to like and even admire Spielberg, but his complaints make him seem out of touch. And, he was likely speaking with his finance brain rather than his artist brain.

    I wonder how he’d respond if Netflix offered him the opportunity to direct a film for its platform.

    Anyone who says, “movie theaters should be around forever” has no sense of history. He should be glad that filmmakers have new outlets and look for ways to support their work.

  17. mtam says:

    Ugh! So over the influence of these old white privileged men. If he was truly open to innovation he wouldn’t try so hard to hang on to outdated models of cinema that really don’t benefit the majority of the public anymore. I really hope those streaming companies don’t cave to this. The Oscars are really not that relevant anymore, and I think people are seeing that. Also, as some other commenters have pointed out before, not everyone has the time or the financial means to spend $15-30+ dollars to see movies every week. Spielberg needs to get over it and get with the times.

  18. Neners says:

    Any recommendation that includes “we should exclude streaming” in the bylines is not a recommendation for the future. The Oscars are scrambling for cultural relevancy. Following the advice of a privileged luddite, no matter how talented, is not something I would advise.

  19. mela says:

    i love the content on netflix and enjoy their content much more than most of the movies I have seen in the theater. Going to the movie theater is exhausting and expensive.

    I enjoy the accessibility of Netflix and the content is more suited to my tastes.

    Netflix with my babe is the closet thing we have to old school friday night blockbuster nights. 🙂

  20. lucy2 says:

    I think Netflix responded very well.

    Access is an important part of the discussion – not only for location and finances, but physical access. Not everyone is physically able or comfortable going to a theater

  21. Ann says:

    I don’t watch many movies and there are very few films I’d want to see in theaters because I simply don’t enjoy the experience of going to the movie theater. The last movies I remember actively wanting to see in a movie theater were the Harry Potter movies. I hope Netflix and the other steaming services win this one because from my perspective this is Spielberg clinging to the past and refusing to get with the times.

    Plus there has got to be some money somewhere in this that streaming is getting in the way of that isn’t being addressed. I can’t imaging where it would be coming from but I’ve come to learn that powerful people don’t make silly rules like this out of principal. There’s got to be more to this than just Spielberg’s romanticized version of the theater experience.

  22. Jessica says:

    Can we just be done with caring anything about Oscars? The nominating is a joke, the voters don’t see the films and people have to campaign to win. It’s a popularity contest for famous people to reward themselves. Enough. I love a good red carpet as much as the next person, and I used to tune in to the program, but not this year. The Green Book thing completely turned me off probably for good. I don’t see things changing until the dinosaurs die off.

  23. HK9 says:

    I’m one of those people who go to the movies all the time because I love the big screen and you know what, I agree with Netflix. Going to the movies is expensive, and the establishment hasn’t made it any easier for the general public to go so if Netflix is filling that void so be it. Let’s be real, the voters on the Academy don’t even watch the friggin movies anymore, and people are supposed to pay attention to these new rules?!?-please.

  24. Pandy says:

    Netflix for the win! Their argument makes perfect sense. Let’s see Spielberg rebut that.

  25. BPM says:

    The awards should be about the quality of the films. Not where they were screened.

  26. DS9 says:

    So Spielberg’s argument here is that the production venue is more important than the performance?

    At the end of the day, that’s what he’s saying, that of it’s not Indiana Jones with Electrical Light and Magic, it ain’t shit.

    Because Roma was beautifully lit, wonderfully acted from what I saw of it and resulted in a beautiful film.

    Also, I wish the conversation around this topic as a whole didn’t ignore that Netflix is using established talent that can and would do traditional theater experiences.

    Netflix isn’t picking up no name people or putting out a poor product.

  27. mtam says:

    Spielberg’s outdated way of thinking is the reason why films like “Roma” don’t normally get made, or find it difficult to gain a substantial budget and distribution (specially without a known director or star attached). Smaller films like that don’t need to be seen in theatres, so national or international theatrical screenings and campaigns can be costly, and can end up losing them money. Platforms like Netflix give films like that a good reason to be made, it’s less risky, and it give a fairly guaranteed audience, therefore it’s easier to attract more grants and investors to get it made in the first place. He really needs to get with the changes in the industry or bow out.

  28. I have a 3yo and a 5yo and the bladder the size of pin — I do not have the luxury of going to theaters — toddlers don’t sit still even with Benadryl I can’t PAUSE THE F”ING movie so I can go to the bathroom 10 times and miss pivotal plot points. Spielberg is such an a$$.

    I we could get a babysitter but put that on top of the $$$$$ you spend for a movie and some snacks at a theater nowadays and IF the movie sucks you lost money for movie, snacks & sitter and time better spent with your kids for free. At least with streaming platforms, I am not “stuck” watching a movie that sucks, etc. and can move on.

  29. jay says:

    I really wish I wasn’t living the prime of my life in an artistic desert because stupid old men don’t know when to get out of the way.

  30. Cay says:

    I just saw the trailer for “The Mustang” and I’ve been anxious to see it. At the end it says, “In select theaters.” Yeah, that means I probably won’t get to see it any time soon. So much nicer if it’s on Netflix.

  31. Marianne says:

    The thing is, I definitely think its better to watch a film on the big screen rather than in my living room. However, not all places are like LA where you can find a screening of anything. It can make it really difficult if you want to see a film but have to drive out of town (and in some cases a few hours away) to see said film. Not too mention that theater equiette has gone out of the window too. Honestly, like 9 times out of 10 when I go see a movie in theaters there will be someone talking, or on their phone, or singing along, or letting their kid run around, putting their feet on seats etc. It doesnt make me feel very encouraged to go out.

    That being said, I think the Netflix movies that choose to screen their movies in theaters too (for oscars elgibility) should give theaters more time to screen first for a few weeks. Cause, that doesnt give theater owners much incentive to screen a movie if people can just watch it on their couch.

    EDIT : Also to add, I believe box office numbers were up last year so its not like traditional cinema is dead by any means.