Steven Spielberg believes anything on Netflix is television and should be treated as such. In a new interview, the powerful director said he doesn't believe films that premiere on the streaming service should be considered for Academy Awards nominations.
Steven Spielberg on the set of Ready Player One. Image: Warner Bros.
"Once you commit to a television format, you're a TV movie," Spielberg told ITV News. "You certainly, if it's a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar."
When pressed the director added, "I don't believe that films that are just given token qualifications, in a couple of theatres for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nominations."
The topic came up when the director was asked if he felt Netflix was a threat to Hollywood. He thinks it is, but not in the way you'd imagine: He believes the streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are stopping movie studios from making smaller, weirder original movies when many filmmakers would prefer to go that route.
"A lot of studios would rather just make branded, tentpole, guaranteed box office hits from their inventory of branded, successful movies than take chances on smaller films," Spielberg said. "And those smaller films, [that] studios used to make routinely, are now going to Amazon, Hulu and Netflix."
Which is partially true, but partially isn't. It's certainly true that smaller movies are now going to streaming services and that studios used to make them more routinely. But studios stopped making small movies way before streaming services became viable outlets for filmmakers - and when places such as Netflix offered them the opportunity to make those smaller, riskier films, they took it.
Spielberg's line of thinking seems to be coming from a very traditional, and potentially archaic, version of how a movie is made. "Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete in Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically," Spielberg said. "And more of them are going to let the SVOD [streaming video on demand] businesses finance their films, maybe with the promise of a slight, one-week theatrical window to qualify for awards as a movie." I'm not sure if it mitigates anything, but Spielberg also said that TV has better writing, directing and performances than movies these days and is in a true renaissance.
Over the years, many, many films have qualified for Oscars with smaller theatrical debuts. The Post, in fact - Spielberg's own movie - opened in just nine US theatres last December to qualify for Oscars before going wide in January. So maybe all of this is just coming from a place of self-preservation... and knowing that he's one of the few filmmakers in the world a studio would let make a movie like that.
Here's the video in full. The section we're referencing starts about 4:38.