Ben Affleck believes Netflix is not a threat and the Oscars should adapt to evolving times, even though he also sympathizes with Steven Spielberg's feelings on the matter. In the wake of Netflix's Roma winning Best Director and being nominated for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, the topic of whether or not the streaming giant's films should be considered for Oscars has become a hot button issue. Spielberg is leading the charge to implement rule changes during the year's Board of Governors meeting, feeling that Netflix movies should qualify for Emmys instead.
It's no secret that several industry veterans feel threatened by Netflix's distribution model and what it might mean for the future of movie theaters. In response to the backlash, Roma director Alfonso Cuarón came out to praise Netflix for diversifying how films are released, and Netflix itself stated they "love cinema" in addition to giving people all around the world an opportunity to easily see new movies. It's a conversation that likely won't be going away for a while, and now Affleck has weighed in with his thoughts.
Appearing on Today to promote Netflix film Triple Frontier, Affleck was asked about Spielberg's stance. While he understands where Spielberg is coming from, Affleck ultimately feels Netflix is just the next step of the continuously-evolving film industry:
"I think what he was saying was he believes there should be a robust theatrical release for movies. It's not so much a debate about one company or another as like how long should a movie be in theaters to be considered 'a movie' versus television. And those lines are getting blurred. I'm sure you guys see it on the show, people are consuming on their phones, and on the internet, and on the TV. The business is changing. The movie business has changed a lot over time."
Affleck proved to be extremely prophetic about Netflix's rise (he predicted the streaming model back in 2003), so it isn't surprising to see him have a level-headed and smart response to this particular controversy. Netflix is very much here to stay, working with acclaimed directors like Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee on upcoming projects. They obviously have big plans for films such as The Irishman, and it'll be interesting to see how the film business adjusts to all of the changes taking place. It's worth mentioning that Netflix operated completely within the rules when handling Roma. Cuarón's drama played as a theater exclusive for three weeks before it was available to stream, and Academy regulations dictate a movie needs to screen for one week in Los Angeles County to be eligible for Oscars. Based on that, Roma was very much "a movie" and not something made for TV.
Spielberg needs to be mindful that any changes are going to impact not just Netflix movies, but all films vying for Academy Awards. There are a number of offerings each year that take full advantage of the one-week minimum for a qualifying run at the end of the year before expanding wide the following January. Plus, there are films that open wide over Christmas and play for just one week in their respective year of release. Frankly, it's difficult to see what exactly the Academy can do about this, especially with heavy-hitters like Scorsese and Cuarón working with Netflix. It's unlikely any substantial rule alterations will be passed, but only time will tell.