Organizers of the Academy Awards have decided not to impose new criteria targeting Netflix, giving the streaming giant a temporary reprieve as Hollywood continues to battle over the rise of streaming platforms.
Critics of Netflix had proposed a requirement that all movies vying for the Best Picture Oscar must be released in theaters for at least four weeks. The streaming service has released certain movies in a limited number of theaters in order to meet the qualifications for awards.
But after its annual rules meeting Tuesday night, the board of governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would maintain its current procedures, which state that Best Picture hopefuls must be released for at least one week in a theater in Los Angeles. Movies released on “nontheatrical media,” such as streaming platforms, are still eligible as long as they premiere online at the same time as or after their theatrical release.
“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” academy president John Bailey said in a statement, but he added that “we plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”
Some industry bigwigs, including director Steven Spielberg, suggested the academy change its eligibility rules after the Netflix film “Roma” was nominated for 10 Oscars earlier this year and won three.
Other filmmakers pushed back, arguing that Netflix’s wide platform and large budget have provided more opportunities for filmmakers, particularly those from marginalized communities, and that streaming platforms make movies more accessible to audiences.
Spielberg on Tuesday walked back his previous comments, trying to downplay headlines that portrayed him as waging a war on Netflix.
“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” he wrote in an email to The New York Times. “Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.”
But he expressed concern that the “shared experience” of watching movies in theaters is going away.
“I want to see the survival of movie theaters,” he wrote. “I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”
Adding another twist to the saga, the Department of Justice got involved last month and wrote a letter to the academy, warning that the rule change could “raise antitrust concerns.”
It’s unclear “whether the DOJ sent the letter at the urging of Netflix or President Donald Trump’s administration or some other party,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, which also reported that some academy board members “are said to be angry that Netflix may have been a factor in getting the DOJ involved.”
The board announced some rule changes Tuesday, including expanding the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling from three nominees to five and renaming the Best Foreign Language Film category to International Feature Film.
“The reference to ‘foreign’ is outdated within the global filmmaking community,” Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann, co-chairs of the International Feature Film Committee, said in the academy’s statement. They said the new name “promotes a positive and inclusive view of filmmaking, and the art of film as a universal experience.”