Netflix responds to Steven Spielberg's push for Oscars rule changes: 'We love cinema'
Netflix has responded to the growing controversy surrounding Steven Spielberg’s reported push to block its films from competing at the Oscars.
After IndieWire indicated Thursday that the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park — also a board member of the Academy’s directors branch — would propose rule changes preventing the company’s streaming-focused titles from qualifying for Academy Awards, Netflix’s film shared a statement on Twitter late Sunday reaffirming its commitment to the art of movies.
“We love cinema,” the tweet, posted in the wake of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma winning three Oscars for Netflix at the Feb. 24 ceremony, reads. “Here are some things we also love: Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in town without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art.”
The note concludes by asserting that the outlined points are not “mutually exclusive.”
Spielberg previously addressed his feelings on Netflix’s release model — which has typically favored streaming-only premiere dates — in a March 2018 interview, calling the streamer’s approach a “clear and present danger” to the theatrical experience.
“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” he continued. “The good show deserves an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
Director Ava DuVernay (who worked with Netflix to distribute her Oscar-nominated documentary 13th and her upcoming four-part limited series on the Central Park Five, When They See Us) also responded to news of Spielberg’s meeting by publicly calling for the Academy to include more than just the Board of Governors during deliberations.
“This is a Board of Governors meeting. And regular branch members can’t be there. But I hope if this is true, that you’ll have filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently,” she tweeted Friday. She followed up with another post on Sunday, praising Netflix for distributing “black work far/wide.”
Still, Spielberg isn’t the only figure to clash with Netflix over its release model. Last year, Netflix backed out of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival after the prestigious event banned films without theatrical release dates from its main competition.
“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Variety of the move, which was announced in 2017 by Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
In the recent past, the Academy has altered its policies after a streaming-backed disruption. Following the triumph of ESPN’s five-part documentary series O.J.: Made in America in the Best Documentary Feature category at the 2017 Oscars, the Academy amended its rules to prevent multi-part series from qualifying.
Netflix also changed its approach to distribution after its initial awards season bid Beasts of No Nation failed to receive any Oscar attention throughout the 2015-16 season despite a significant push on the festival circuit. Across the last six months, the company reportedly spent between $40 and $60 million on Roma‘s Oscar campaign, which eventually saw Cuarón’s film (which had already been made before Netflix purchased rights) nominated for 10 Oscars — including Best Picture — after a tiered push to theaters around the world.
A representative for Spielberg did not immediately return EW’s request for comment on Netflix’s tweet.