The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors is meeting tonight to weigh arguments over Oscar-eligibility requirements directed toward Netflix movies. One of the most high-profile players to have jumped into this fray isn’t in town for the confab, but Steven Spielberg did offer a few thoughts on the matter.
After the awards-season juggernaut that was Netflix’s Alfonso Cuarón film Roma, the Academy wants to set a template for others who’ll make feature content for streaming services. Spielberg is among those who believe that tougher rules are necessary to help preserve the moviegoing experience.
In an email to The New York Times today in response to the paper’s inquiry on the subject, the Oscar-winning multihyphenate — who is in New York working on his West Side Story remake — defended streaming services but also made his traditionalist’s stance on movie theaters clear.
“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” he told The Times. “Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.”
He then added: “However, I feel people need to have the opportunity to leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place where they can sit in the company of others and have a shared experience — cry together, laugh together, be afraid together — so that when it’s over they might feel a little less like strangers. I want to see the survival of movie theaters. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”
Spielberg, a current governor of the Academy’s Directors branch, has taken some flak over post-Oscars comments attributed to him per an Amblin spokesman. “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” the spokesperson told Deadline’s sister pub IndieWire. “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.”
That’s the meeting being held tonight in Beverly Hills.
Netflix responded quickly to Spielberg’s remarks, tweeting:
We love cinema. Here are some things we also love:
-Access for people who can't always afford, or live in towns without, theaters
-Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time
-Giving filmmakers more ways to share art
These things are not mutually exclusive.
— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) March 4, 2019
But that wasn’t the only group to weigh in. About a month later, the U.S. Department of Justice became an unexpected Netflix ally in the flap. In an April 2 letter to CEO Dawn Hudson, the DOJ cited the Sherman Act in warning the Academy that its stance might run afoul of federal antitrust laws if it “adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars.”