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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, December 11, 2023

Steven Spielberg's fight against Netflix

Steven Spielberg is pictured.

From within the upper echelons of Hollywood, a campaign has been mounted against the ever-growing streaming giant Netflix. Recently, director Steven Spielberg has upped the ante on his attempt to block Netflix-produced films from being considered for Academy Awards. He plans to propose changes to the criteria that films must abide by in order to be eligible for an Oscar.

Spielberg’s intention to propose changes comes after last month’s Oscars, where Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” (2018), which is primarily available on Netflix, won in three categories and was nominated for several more.

Last year, in an interview with ITV news, Spielberg said, "I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination."

Spielberg is universally regarded as a Hollywood titan and has been at the center of various shifts within the industry. Most notably, Spielberg is associated with the creation of the modern-day blockbuster, a phenomenon that started with his 1975 classic, “Jaws.” Since then, he has gone on to direct epics of all types — from the aforementioned aquatic horror “Jaws” to the alien sci-fi “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) to the Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” (1993) to the biographical crime drama “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) to the political thriller “The Post” (2017).

His full-length filmography has spanned five decades, and his films are just as well-received and commercially successful as they were 44 years ago. The grandeur of his films has had a lasting effect on audiences for nearly half a century. A major, uniting theme in his filmography is the ability to create a memorable theatrical experience. The very existence of Netflix, even before it got to the point it is today as an emerging leader in the entertainment industry, challenges all that Spielberg stands for as a creator of shared visual experiences.

At the same time, however, eight Spielberg-directed films are available on Netflix for streaming. Spielberg acknowledged in the same ITV interview that Netflix and similar streaming platforms "take chances on smaller films," which is crucial in a changing film industry where tried-and-true movie formulas are increasingly becoming the norm.

For this, a level of hypocrisy is present in Spielberg’s line of thinking. He is working against the very movies that can offset the uniformity and monotony of many of the films that are being released more and more.

If the proposals that Spielberg plans to put forth are accepted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), movies would not be considered for Oscar nominations if they were produced by Netflix and other streaming services or if they did not initially come out in theaters. If his proposals are not accepted, Spielberg’s struggle will likely become a defining moment in the transition manifesting within the film industry over the past few years.

Regardless of the outcome, it is unlikely that Spielberg will be heavily affected as a movie creator. He holds such a high status that little can happen that would cause audiences to abandon his films.

The only potential loser in this situation would be streaming services. Directors looking for funding would be turned off from production companies whose distribution methods were not compatible with the AMPAS’ requirements, and thus could not win any Oscars regardless of how much money they have to fund films.  

Steven Spielberg used to be considered a driving force behind the evolution of the film industry, but now he’s finding himself on the wrong side of history.