netflix oscar race

Netflix wants in on the Oscar action, and some members of the Academy aren’t happy. According to a new report, Academy members are split down the middle regarding Netflix’s attempt to join the Oscar race by releasing several of their films in limited theatrical runs. One faction of Academy voters thinks the idea is intriguing, while another thinks Netflix is running a scam. More on the Netflix Oscar race below.

The Hollywood Reporter has an inside look at Netflix’s battle to join the Oscar race. There’s been a disconnect between Netflix and traditionalist Oscar voters, primarily due to Netflix’s lack of theatrical releases. The streaming service is more than happy to stick to streaming platforms, which doesn’t sit well with the Academy, or their rules. In an attempt to play nice, Netflix is giving limited theatrical runs to films like Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma with hopes of netting coveted Oscar noms. But not every member of the Academy is into this. They particularly don’t like that Netflix is “four-walling” the release – a practice in which a studio or distributor rents movie theaters for a period of time and receives all of the box office revenue. Per THR:

Some Academy skeptics are railing against Netflix’s reliance on four-walling, a strategy akin to self-publishing in the cinema world, in which a distributor pays theater owners for the privilege of screening to the general public, rather than booking a theater and sharing a percentage of the gross. By four-walling, Netflix removes the burden of revealing any unfavorable box office numbers, a privilege none of the other companies releasing their best picture contenders the traditional way will enjoy. If Netflix secures a best picture nomination for Roma based strictly on these purchased screenings, multiple knowledgeable sources say they believe the film will become the first ever four-walled movie to do so in the modern era.

Some Academy members are fine with this, though. Producers branch member Stephanie Allain said: “The business is changing. We can’t hold on to everything. It’s fantastic that [Roma] is going to be in a big theater. To me there’s no devaluation at all in the way they’re releasing it.”

Others, meanwhile, think this is a full-blown scam. One anonymous Academy member said: “Netflix is pulling a big con…They’re trying to buy their presence and identity as a film company without playing by everybody else’s rules. They don’t want to take the risk of having bad box office numbers. They are going to make assertions about how fantastic the crowds were, but there will be no dollars. There’s no credibility because there’s no accountability.”

To the average movie-goer, and the casual film fan who tunes into the Oscars for entertainment, none of this is likely to register much. But it’s clear the Academy is of two minds here – traditionalists, and members who are open to change. Anyone can see that Netflix is only going through the trouble of theatrical releases to net Oscar nods – but is that any less manipulative than most other traditional Oscar campaigns? Oscar nominations are courted through junkets, lunches, and more – when you get right down to it, it’s all a racket. Netflix is just being a bit more transparent about their scheming than most. Will it pay off? It might. Roma is one of the year’s very best films, and I’d be shocked if it didn’t land some sort of Oscar nomination.

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