The long simmering debate within the motion picture industry that asks the question… What is a movie and how should it be seen?, has escalated on several levels in the past few weeks . Beginning with pointed comments from two of the worlds most respected filmmakers, directors Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan.
Commenting on Netflix, Spielberg is quoted as saying “Movies shown on Netflix and other streaming services should not be allowed at the Oscars” He went on to say. “I don’t believe that films that are given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for Academy Award nominations. Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, you deserve an Emmy. But not an Oscar.”
Nolan, the director of such films as Dunkirk and Inception argues “The definition of cinema cannot be separated from the platform for which it was intended.” Adding “You shift away from that and it becomes something else. The audience experience gives movies a completely unique position as with no other art form”.
Couple these remarks with the bombshell announcement by Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux that banned Netflix from screening their pictures in competition at this year’s festival and that results in a battle that could have a significant impact on the landscape of the Hollywood awards season.
In fact any movie that plays in French theaters must wait 36 months before it’s made available on a subscription streaming service like Netflix unlike the U.S. exclusive theatrical window which is a significantly shorter 90 days. Because of the 36-month Netflix doesn’t want their films shown theatrically in France.
In spite of this, Fremaux asked that Netflix would allow its 2018 films to be shown out of competition. Five movies were under discussion which include: Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold The Dark, and David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine, but Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos decided that it wasn’t fair to his filmmakers and stated “We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker…There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
So, it appears, at least for now, that the lines have been drawn in the sands of the Côte d’Azur.