Steven Spielberg Demands Netflix Get Off His Damn Lawn
from the swimming-upstream dept
We’ve noted for years that there’s a certain segment of the media and entertainment industry that despises Netflix. Some of this is based on a disdain for Netflix coming to town and throwing oodles of cash around, but a larger chunk is driven by those who simply don’t like change but can’t admit as much. A good example of that later motivator has been the Cannes film festival, which recently banned Netflix from participating in the awards.
When asked to explain why, festival head Thierry Fremaux couldn’t really provide a solid answer, but did infer that what Netflix does can’t be considered good because it doesn’t adhere to traditional and often counterproductive business tactics (like antiquated release windows):
“The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours,? Thierry Fremaux said.”
This idea that Netflix is “demolishing tradition” runs deep in many entertainment industry circles. There’s this pervasive belief that if you (gasp) allow longstanding entertainment and film industry models to change, you’ll kill tradition and the inherent nobility of traditional film. Again, you usually won’t see a whole lot in terms of hard data in these arguments; just these vague, nebulous charges that Netflix and other streaming services — despite increasingly winning their own awards for programming — are somehow disrupting the sanctity of traditional business models.
This disorder flared up again last week when reports emerged that Steven Spielberg planned to pressure the Academy to ban streaming services like Netflix from receiving any future awards:
“Spielberg, a current governor of the Academy?s directors branch, plans to propose changes to Oscars eligibility rules, arguing films that debut on streaming services or get a short theatrical run should qualify for the Emmys instead of the Oscars, according to IndieWire.
?Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,? an Amblin spokesperson told 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.”
Again, you’ll notice in the stories covering this subject that little to no actual effort is made to explain why this should happen, just a vague, meandering argument that these services somehow upset the sanctity of the traditional film industry and the brick and mortar “theater experience.” Often you’ll see claims that streaming services are killing traditional theaters, but data usually doesn’t support that claim. A recent study found that young viewers who stream a lot of content at home are more likely to go see films at the traditional, brick and mortar theaters Spielberg claims Netflix is somehow destroying.
Meanwhile, many of the things Netflix has disrupted needed disrupting, like dated release windows that no longer serve a functional purpose, and the elimination of geographical viewing restrictions that wind up annoying paying customers. Among Spielberg’s concerns is, apparently, the idea that Netflix just produces “TV movies” that shouldn’t be considered high-brow enough to win an Oscar:
“Once you commit to a television format, you?re a TV movie,? he continued. ?The good show deserves an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
But Roma’s performance at the Oscars rather quickly obliterated that argument, as have a number of high-profile Netflix successes over the last few years. What Spielberg’s really engaged in is just vanilla protectionism driven by a fear of change.
Many were, understandably, quick to urge the Academy to open its mind to diverse opinions on this subject:
Dear @TheAcademy, 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. Thanks, Ava DuVernay. https://t.co/DFBLVWhiJj
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 1, 2019
Netflix also offered a fairly pointed response to Spielberg’s attempt to blackball the company from awards consideration:
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
Does Netflix produce a lot of crap? Yes. Does the company use cash to throw its weight around? Sure. So do traditional Hollywood studios (don’t tell anybody). But the laundry-list of awards that Netflix has already won make it clear Netflix isn’t just some parasite. It’s just a disruptive presence to yet another legacy industry that’s nervous about change. If Netflix is legitimately doing stupid things then focus on those. But this idea that it shouldn’t qualify for awards because it doesn’t adhere to dated technological norms is just more grumbly ranting from grandpa’s front porch.