The Streaming Debate: An Open Letter to Steven Spielberg

By The Nerdling

Dear Steven Spielberg,

Once again, you have opened the debate of whether or not Netflix films should be nominated for Oscars. This conversation comes on the heels of Alfonso Cuarón’s best director win for Roma as well as another Netflix film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs scoring multiple Oscar nominations. It is your opinion these films are “TV movies” and should be considered for Emmys, not Oscars.

I completely understand you are not insulting these or any other films which are exclusive to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. With the quality of TV rising and the lowering of film standards to appease the overseas base, your comments are quite complimentary.

Tony Stark

I also understand your worries about the declining cinema experience. Streaming services have made the choice easy for many of us to stay at home and watch TV rather than go out to spend our hard-earned money at a movie theater. Ticket sales are in decline. The only sure-fire hits these days are Marvel films and Disney live-action remakes of their cartoon films.

But the simple fact is, times have changed. The Academy has to embrace the new in order to remain relevant and profitable. As I have stated in my Op-ed over the disaster that was this year’s telecast, the Academy relies on the ad revenue of the Oscars telecast for the bulk of their earnings. This is becoming an issue with the steady decline in the ceremony’s broadcast ratings. The Academy has work to do in order to reach out to those who would rather watch highlight clips rather than sit through a three-hour awards ceremony.

At the upcoming Board of Governors meeting for the Academy, you plan on proposing a mandatory and exclusive four-week theater run for films wanting Oscar consideration. This proposal will work in contradiction to the Academy’s need to remain relevant. It will also hurt future filmmakers.

Before Netflix started making and carrying arthouse films, the general movie going public rarely saw the majority of the films which were nominated for the biggest Oscar. Films up for Best Picture are usually carried by smaller, arthouse theaters located in major cities. Those living in rural areas or suburbs are not given the opportunity to see these films before the Oscars ceremony. Why would anyone care about awards being handed out to movies they haven’t seen or do not have access to?

Roma

Image Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon allow for indie and mid-range movies to reach an audience theaters do not. There are many areas of the United States where people do not have close access to movie theaters. Or theaters in their area will only screen tentpole movies. Small and mid-range films like Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would not have been available to a large section of the movie-going public if it weren’t for Netflix.

Streaming services have also afforded opportunities to filmmakers. Major studios are unwilling to take chances on films they do not consider a sure thing. Mid-range movie genres such as rom-coms and horror were dwindling until Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon stepped in. Ava Duvernay, Cary Fukunaga, Duncan Jones, Sydney Freeland, and so many others are being handed a chance to make the films the Hollywood machine denied. Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film, The Irishman, wouldn’t even be made if Netflix hadn’t stepped in. No major studio was willing to back the film due to the high cost of digitally de-aging Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

I feel the need to repeat that. A Scorsese directed gangster film starring De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci WAS NOT GOING TO GET FUNDING FROM A MAJOR STUDIO! Five years ago, that statement would have been considered ludicrous.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Mudbound, Beasts of No Nation, or Bird Box would not have been made or seen by the general movie-going public if it wasn’t for Netflix. Documentaries like Minding the Gap, Icarus, Batman & Bill, Period. End of Sentence, or The White Helmets are being seen by those who normally don’t get the opportunity to see documentaries thanks to Hulu and Netflix making them widely available.

I am asking you, Steven Spielberg, to reconsider your position on streaming services. Embrace what this change is doing for the film industry. And what it can do for the Academy.

Sincerely,

The Nerdling, a fellow lover of film


The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

One Comment

  1. Jack Thomas

    These are very good points, but Spielberg is primarily concerned with keeping the art form cinematic. That’s what the Oscars also celebrate. The distribution patterns needs to refocus their spending on building up and marketing a cinema culture – Spielberg could help there. Ultimately,
    money people need to take more risks, to allow the opportunistic indies a chance at sleeper hit status via a cinema release.

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