Entertainment industry debates theatrical distribution versus Netflix

Los Angeles: The news that filmmaker Steven Spielberg will be proposing a rule change at the next Academy meeting that will make it more difficult for Netflix films to compete at the Oscars, has sparked debate online among the film community.

As reported by indiewire.com, Spielberg is likely to take his criticism of Netflix films at the Oscars to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Spielberg’s Academy Award attention is devoted to ensuring that the race never sees another “Roma”, a Netflix film backed by massive sums, that didn’t play by the same rules as its analog-studio competitors.

Now, several are arguing in favour of Netflix or pointing out that the situation is more complicated than theatrical release versus streaming, reports variety.com.

Indian actor Kabir Bedi tweeted in reaction to the news: “DINOSAUROUS! Never imagined Steven Spielberg so retrograde as to want different rules for films made by streaming services and those produced by all others. A film is a film is a film. No matter who produces it. And: Rule changes he wants would disqualify most regular producers.”

Sean Baker, “Tangerine” and “The Florida Project” director suggested that Netflix add a “theatrical tier” to its pricing plans.

“This would help keep theatre owners and audience members who appreciate the theatrical experience satisfied,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “Just an idea with no details ironed out. But we need to find solutions like this in which everybody bends a bit in order to keep the film community…alive and kicking.”

Film and TV director Richard Shepard wrote that “good movies are good movies — wherever they play. And in a world where we have more ‘Jurassic Parks’ then ‘Shirkers’, Netflix fills a gap. Love the big screen, but love the story/heart of movie more.”

“The Blacklist” founder Franklin Leonard added that what matters isn’t what would happen to Netflix, but to “every other film and filmmaker who will struggle to get access to the resources necessary to make a film but not get those allowing for a four week exclusive theatrical release”, variety.com reports.

“First Reformed” writer-director Paul Schrader emphasised that “distribution models evolve” and pointed out that “Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing”.

The director, however, said that some films are too esoteric to benefit from being added to Netflix’s “larder”, using “First Reformed” as an example.

“Dream Girl” associate producer Prasanna Ranganathan posted a thread explaining that Netflix has gone the distance in terms of giving distribution to projects from people of colour and other marginalised groups.

“If the Academy’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as articulated in its A2020 strategy is as robust as it seems, excluding Netflix and its diverse artists, storytellers and filmmakers from awards consideration makes no sense.”

“Jinn” director Nijla Mumin wrote that “no one is lining up to give you a full theatrical release. Smaller films are often put into smaller theaters, where many people don’t see them.”

In her thread, she questioned whether a film’s inability to find wide theatrical distribution should mean it is “erased from the entire awards conversation”.