Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a members-only meeting for only the second time in its 90-year history — and one of the big reasons for the rare event was to discuss Netflix.
The success of the streaming giant’s original content has already become a staple at the Emmys, and now Academy members are trying to figure out if they should allow more Netflix titles into the Academy Awards. Netflix has received Oscar nominations for its documentaries in the past, but never for its narrative originals.
According to Deadline, the 300 members who attended the meeting (the total number of members is around 8,500) spent a good deal of time discussing if a Netflix narrative title should be eligible for the Oscars if it only screens for the required one-week New York and Los Angeles theatrical run.
Netflix will likely have at least one title this year with a lot of Oscar buzz, Dee Rees’ drama “Mudbound” (that begins streaming on Netflix, and presumably also in select theatres, on November 17).
One Oscar member voiced in the meeting that allowing Netflix into the major categories could lead to “a cheapening of the Oscar” — especially if a title won an Emmy and was Oscar eligible in the same year.
But frankly, it’s hard to see the Academy shutting out Netflix if the company has a worthy title, and abides by the rules of releasing it theatrically for eligibility.
Netflix has ruffled the feathers of the movie establishment for years now.
The trouble started in 2015, when Netflix released its first original movie, “Beasts of No Nation,” simultaneously in theatres and on streaming. The major chains boycotted the movie because it did not respect the 90-day exclusive theatrical window.
Then, earlier this year, many in the industry were upset that Netflix titles were in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, as the titles would not get theatrical releases in France (the festival rules have since changed so only titles with intended theatrical releases in France can be eligible to be in competition). But seeing that many Academy members (especially the new crop of 700-or-so that just joined) are working or want to work with Netflix, it’s hard to imagine the 300 people at this meeting spoke for the majority of the membership.
The biggest controversy is that Netflix is not playing by the rules like it’s main competition, Amazon, and respecting the traditional theatrical window. This, for some Academy members, defines a real movie.
Amazon Studios, with its three Oscar wins earlier this year, has quickly been welcomed by the establishment because it acts like a traditional movie studio: theatrical release, followed by home video, and then streaming. Netflix has always wanted to disrupt the industry, and has done so by never doing a theatrical release before putting one of its original movies on streaming.
Netflix has been able to get away with that style with documentaries like “The Square,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” and “13th,” but when the heavily Oscar-buzzed “Beasts of No Nation” didn’t get a single nomination, it was obvious the Hollywood establishment was only going to allow so much change.
The Oscars already get a lot of heat for not recognising enough of the movies in a year that are major box office performers (i.e., the movies general audiences went to see), so neglecting Netflix titles will only make the Academy look more elitist and out-of-touch.
This debate will only build as we get closer to the 90th Academy Awards, which will take place March 4, 2018.
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