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What To Make Of Steven Spielberg And His Feelings About Movies On Netflix?

Remember when Steven Spielberg was one of the great cinematic innovators? The man responsible for Jaws, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and more was always on the cutting edge of filmmaking. Now, however, Spielberg seems to be a bit stuck in the past. You see, he’s taken issue with streaming services, and especially Netflix, trying to crash the Oscar party. Whether it’s a distaste for movies debuting there, seemingly becoming “television” instead, or merely an attempt to save the theatrical experience, Spielberg has made his feelings very clear. When it comes to the old way of doing things and the new way emerging, The Beard is decidedly Old School.

For those not aware, Spielberg is actually preparing to make a proposal at the next Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board meeting. The proposal, set to be made at next month’s Academy Board of Governors’ meeting, would restrict awards eligibility for films that do not have a significant theatrical run before going to a streaming platform. Potentially, that would mean a requirement of anywhere from four to six weeks before a title could play on Netflix (or Amazon or Hulu, etc) in order to be eligible for Academy Award consideration. Currently, Netflix opts for day and date releases in theaters and on the platform, or somewhere in the area of one to three weeks for something like Roma.

A spokesperson from Amblin had this to say about Spielberg’s proposal:

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. 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.”

On the one hand, you can make a compelling case that this is just a way that Spielberg sees to keep the theatrical experience pure. He doesn’t want movie theaters to disappear, so mandating that a streaming platform make use of movie theaters would go a long way towards preventing a hard right turn towards just streaming/day and date releases. This is probably not the only line of thinking that Spielberg is employing, but if it’s most of what he’s attempting to pull off, you can at least see where he’s coming from. It may be old fashioned thinking, but in this regard, his heart could be in the right place.

The flip side of this is that it may just show that the man is a bit out of touch. Spielberg is a legend, no doubt about that, but his thinking is stuck in the past. If he truly does consider a Netflix release to not be an actual film, it’s a shame. Other contemporaries like Martin Scorsese are utilizing Netflix to get projects off the ground. In fact, Scorsese is even apparently getting the platform to put out The Irishman in wide release for Oscar consideration. Ironically, this would probably satisfy Spielberg’s proposed rule change. It’s unlikely that the rule passes, but it could drive a wedge between board members. At a time where the industry is changing, it may end up just being another example of the Academy splitting itself down the middle…

For what it’s worth, this is how Netflix reacted on Social Media, posting the following on Twitter:

Stay tuned to see what comes of Spielberg’s crusade against platforms like Netflix!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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