The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have recently voted that it will not change eligibility rules for its awards. This was made despite the widespread speculations and divided opinions about streaming companies and their flicks being in the running for the coveted awards.
In a board of governors meeting, the board voted in favor of maintaining the status quo – and the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix are rejoicing. Under the current rules, any and all feature-length films including documentaries and biographies are eligible for the Academy Award provided these have a seven-day run and three public screenings per day, at least.
Films that have been released on alternative platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix are also eligible under certain conditions. Movies on alternative platforms, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, are still eligible if these were released on the first day or after the first day of their theatrical release.
In a statement, Academy President John Bailey said, “We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions.” He added that the Academy’s “rules currently require theatrical exhibition and also allow for a broad selection of films” for awards consideration. He further assured that the board will “further study the profound changes” in the film industry.
The decision will almost certainly create more tensions between the filmmaking establishment and the streaming services, as well as the actors, producers and directors. Many A-list actors have also thrown in their opinions on the divisive issue, and the board’s decision isn’t likely to make converts from both sides of the fence.
The streaming companies appears to have an edge, nonetheless, in the issue, thanks partly to their considerable financial resources. Many A-list filmmakers who want more creative freedom are turning to streaming companies, too, and it’s hardly surprising for industry analysts. Major Hollywood companies are notorious for sticking to well-proven formulas for a blockbuster, and it doesn’t sit well for many filmmakers.
Distributors looking for experimental flicks are also turning to streaming companies. With the theaters already filled with superhero flicks, action movies, and musicals, there’s something good to be said about getting more non-traditional works.
In the end, the movie-going public will benefit from the increased range of films to choose from and the filmmakers will have a wider audience. Everybody wins – or at least, that’s a general observation.
If the Academy doesn’t allow films released on streaming sites for consideration, then many would have missed the joys of watching Roma! Roma, an entirely black-and-white Spanish-language drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, won three Oscars including Best Director. Netflix financed and distributed it, and it was shown in theaters for an unprecedented three-week run before it was released on the streaming service.
Before the board’s decision, Steven Spielberg, who sits on the board of governors in the Directors branch, expressed his concerns about the preservation of the national pastime – movie-going, for that matter – and signified that he will ask the board about the matter. His comments sent Hollywood into a frenzy about the potential consequences for the industry, especially in light of recent efforts of Amazon and Netflix to make award-winning flicks.
Even the Department of Justice entered the fray regarding possible anticompetitive agreements. The agency warned that if the Academy changed its rules of eligibility, it could raise antitrust concerns, even violate the anticompetitive laws. Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division, expressed his concerns to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson that the changes being considered may “suppress competition”.
With the current vote made by the Academy, these concerns are moot and academic – at least, for now.
Within the industry, there are fans and foes of streaming companies joining the Hollywood mainstream and getting their movies on the big screen. Helen Mirren, a multi-awarded actress known for her outspoken views, hurled obscenities against Netflix and stated that “There is nothing like sitting in the cinema” during a CinemaCon event. Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group chairman, also jokingly said, “Netflix my ass!” in 2017 after footage of Blade Runner 2049 was shown.
Kevin Costner seems to take the moderate point of view. He said, “I think movies are for theaters, and as long as they can stay in them. And thank God for these downstream ways of viewing movies, but now there is this level of competition and I’m just trying to think of how to end my last story here.”
For now, the status quo is probably the best thing for the film industry. Both the mainstream Hollywood industry and the streaming companies can continue making the best movies. Hopefully, these movies will benefit both the move-going public on one hand and the directors, actors, producers on the other hand.
After all, the better the choices and the greater their number, the better for the moviegoers’ enjoyment and the producers’ bank accounts.