With the Oscars merely a week behind us, it makes me wonder what will the next Academy Awards will have in store for us. Top of mind is that Steven Spielberg is suggesting that streaming movies shouldn’t win Oscars. It’s not clear why he doesn’t think they should be nominated, but it’s being reported that Spielberg will rally support for rules restricting Oscars for streaming movies when the subject comes up at the Academy’s Board of Governors meeting in April. All we know is that Spielberg feels “strongly” about this particular topic and it seems like he will go to battle for it.

What’s interesting about this is that Spielberg himself works on streaming projects. For example, he is working with Apple to revive his Amazing Stories series. But his argument is that anything on services like Netflix should be considered “TV” and thus better suited for Emmys and not the Oscars. This is a hard sell for me. On one hand, I definitely see where he’s coming from with this. I mean, can we compare a movie like BlackKklansman to a movie like Roma? Yes, these are very different movies, but I’m using them in my example for a reason. Why exactly? Simply put, these were both really good movies and also received a lot of reviews.

But what Spielberg is suggesting is that Roma isn’t of Oscar quality, and that’s where I struggle with his argument. Sure, he’s the expert when it comes to making movies and directing, but I’m not convinced that we can (or should) separate content like this and say that one is Oscar quality and one isn’t.

On the other hand, studios have accused streaming giants, like Netflix of playing dirty by using shorter theatrical release windows, having massive marketing budgets, secret viewer data and instant worldwide releases to thrash conventional movies. So maybe Spielberg isn’t wrong. Maybe these movies can’t be put in the same category.

What’s not clear is whether or not Spielberg will get his way. There are many critics who will certainly want to weigh in on the argument. But here are some reasons why this might not work out in Spielberg’s favor:

  • The current Oscar’s rules don’t require an exclusive theatrical window, and requiring one might punish independents that can’t justify waiting that long for a digital premiere.
  • Some filmmakers note that streaming might be the only way for their movies to see wide release. Ava DuVernay, for example, said that Netflix made it possible to distribute 13th around the world. This is in comparison to a critically acclaimed movie like Selma, which only had a limited release.

Spielberg might not get his way because this kind of rule change is likely to only please Hollywood studios who are eager to protect the theater-going experience. And you can’t blame them, but in the wake of things like #OscarsSoWhite this would just be another bad move by the Academy as it will risk making the Oscars an exclusive club for traditionalists.

If Spielberg had his way, streaming movies would lose a significant amount of public recognition and wouldn’t be considered in the same class as their traditional counterparts, even though they increasingly have similar talent and budgets. Stay tuned for more on this as it progresses in the coming months.

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