Yes, Steven Spielberg Is Still Unhappy About Netflix

Hey, did you know Steven Spielberg is not a fan of Netflix? You should, because he's voiced his displeasure with the streaming service several times. It's not so much that Spielberg thinks Netflix makes bad movies. It's that he doesn't approve of their release model, since Netflix tends to skip theaters entirely. In the mind of Mr. Spielberg, movies that don't play in theaters aren't movies at all. Not content to simply grumble to himself, Spielberg is hoping to change the Academy Awards rules so that Netflix movies can't qualify for nominations unless they play in theaters for a certain length of time.

According to IndieWire, Steven Spielberg is headed to the Academy Board of Governors this April to voice his concerns over the rise of streaming movies. "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]. He will see what happens."

The Academy also issued a statement: "Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches. And the Board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting."

Spielberg has been beating this drum for a while now. Back in March of 2018, the famed filmmaker said:

"I don't believe that films that are just given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nominations. Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete at Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically. And more of them are going to let the SVOD [Streaming Video On-Demand] businesses finance their films, maybe with the promise of a slight, one-week theatrical window to qualify for awards. But, in fact, once you commit to a television format, you're a TV movie."

He also added that Netflix movies "deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar." And right before the Oscars this year, Spielberg gave a speech stating:

"I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience...I love television. I love the opportunity. Some of the greatest writing being done today is for television, some of the best directing for television, some of the best performances [are] on television today. The sound is better in homes more than it ever has been in history but there's nothing like going to a big dark theater with people you've never met before and having the experience wash over you. That's something we all truly believe in."

While the filmmaker didn't come right out and mention Netflix there, the implication was clear: real movies play in theaters. Spielberg's increased attention on the topic is likely the result of Netflix's Roma scooping up so many nominations. While many would agree that Roma is a great movie, several Academy members had a problem with it because it was part of the Netflix brand. The film only played in select theaters for three weeks. On top of that, Netflix doesn't report box office numbers, nor do they observe the traditional 90-day window between theatrical and home video (or in this case, streaming) release.

So just what will Spielberg say in April? We'll have to wait to find out, but the bottom line appears to be that certain Academy members really want Netflix to play by the rules, or else they face disqualification. Netflix is well aware of this, and the streaming service is already planning to change their distribution model for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman. Part of this plan involves a potential wide theatrical release, and also reporting box office earnings.

I'm torn on all of this. On one hand, I love Steven Spielberg. Part of the reason I'm a movie fan today is because of Spielberg's films. On the other hand, I've grown to loathe the so-called theatrical experience. I know for some it's sacred, but for me, it's a headache. Crappy projection quality, endless trailers, and rude audiences all combine to create an incredibly unpleasant night out. I'm much happier watching films in the comfort (and quiet) of my own home. I also see where Spielberg, and other Academy members, are coming from, though. They feel it's unfair for Netflix to ignore the rules other studios play by, and still reap the rewards. Based on what Netflix is planning with The Irishman, it certainly sounds as if the old Netflix model will slowly become a thing of the past – at least for films they deem Oscar-worthy.