Steven Spielberg is interested in pushing for rule changes to impact how Netflix movies qualify for the Academy Awards, but doing so may prove to be difficult. The streaming giant is coming off a very successful Oscar campaign for Roma, which was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón at the 91st Academy Awards. In fact, Roma was tied with The Favourite for the most nominations of the year (10), illustrating the changing landscape of the awards race. While voters didn't give Roma the top prize, they did show a willingness to embrace it.
Not everyone is thrilled by what that means. Several film industry professionals feel threatened by Netflix's distribution model, which could be one reason why Green Book (which received a traditional theatrical release) topped Roma for Best Picture. Some saw the controversial decision as Academy members pushing back against evolving times, punishing Roma for the fact it came out on streaming. None other than Spielberg is at the front of the anti-Netflix crusade, though it remains to be seen what exactly can be done to alter things.
According to IndieWire, Spielberg is "eager to support rule changes" in regards to Netflix films and the Oscars and hopes to discuss the topic at the Board of Governors meeting in April. Among the issues people have with the streaming service include the large amount of money they spent on the Roma campaign, Roma playing in theaters for only three weeks before it hit Netflix, and that Netflix doesn't report box office earnings.
Unfortunately for Spielberg, this situation is more complex than just making things harder on Netflix. Any rule changes the Academy implements would impact all movies hoping to land some Oscar nominations. Under the current regulations, a movie needs to play for at least one week in Los Angeles County in order to be eligible. This stipulation allows smaller offerings (ironically, like Spielberg's own The Post) to have Oscar qualifying runs at the very end of the year before expanding wide in the following weeks. If the Academy were to make things so movies needed to screen in theaters for a longer period of time, it would basically eliminate this strategy studios have effectively used for years - and wouldn't make too many filmmakers happy. It'd also mean even movies that open wide over Christmas would essentially be taken out of the race, which doesn't seem fair. There's no denying Spielberg and others consider Netflix to be inferior to the moviegoing experience, but the streaming service followed all of the Oscar guidelines when handling Roma. It's not like Netflix violated a rule and still won.
As admirable as it is for Spielberg to fight for theaters, it might be best for him (and other Netflix opposers) to evolve with the times and accept this is where we are. Few could have predicted how dominant streaming services would become, but they're clearly part of the landscape now and are here to stay. As long as Netflix movies confine within established Oscar rules, there's no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to compete for awards. Most would argue their model does more benefit than harm, since viewers all across the globe were able to see Roma at home instead of waiting for it to come to their market. It'll be interesting to see how this develops, but Netflix should have an Oscars presence next year regardless of what transpires.