Campaigners including Steven Spielberg – who is set to work with Apple’s rival to Netflix – have suggested that the films produced and released by streaming firms should not be eligible for the Oscars, and should instead be classified as TV content.
However, Spielberg walked back those comments and said that he wants to preserve the idealism of the movie theater experience.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday voted to not change its rule for a film’s Oscars eligibility, sparing Netflix after months of pressure to exclude the streaming giant
‘I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them. Big screen, small screen—what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories,’ he told The New York Times following the vote on Tuesday.
‘I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture,’ he added.
But despite the grumbling about the impact of streaming services on the traditional cinema industry, the Academy’s board decided to continue with its current rule: a film ‘must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission’.
‘Motion pictures released in nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County theatrical qualifying run remain eligible.’
Ahead of the board meeting, the Academy had also received a warning from the US Justice Department that any exclusion may fall foul of anti-trust laws.
The battle between traditional cinema and streaming came sharply into focus after Netflix’s impressive haul at this year’s Academy Awards, including three Oscars for Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Roma.’
Other rivals to Netflix include streaming service Hulu – which has followed Netflix into original shows, including ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – and Amazon, which is also producing high-profile content such as ‘Manchester by the Sea’.
Many who support the exclusion of streaming content from the Oscars have suggested that streaming at home or on a device does not capture the true experience of cinema, a criticism that appeared to have been acknowledged by the Academy after Tuesday’s board meeting.
‘We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,’ Academy President John Bailey said in a statement.
‘Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration.
‘We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.’
Despite the hostility, Netflix has attempted to find space and allies within the Hollywood establishment.
The Academy’s board decided to continue with its current rule: a film ‘must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission’
It joined the Motion Picture Association of America in January.
The vote comes just a few months after Netflix announced plans to borrow another $2billion to help pay for the exclusive series and movies that its management credits for helping its video streaming service reel in millions of new subscribers over the past five years.
The additional debt load didn’t come as a surprise as the streaming giant has been spending more money than its business generates since its expansion into original programming with the 2013 release of House of Cards.
The $2billion that Netflix plans to raise in a bond offering will be lopped onto its existing debt of $11.8billion.
That includes another $1.9billion debt offering that Netflix completed earlier last year.
The borrowing binge appears to be paying off. Netflix has gained nearly 100 million subscribers since September 2013.
Investors have been betting heavily on Netflix to win. The company’s stock is worth seven times more than it was five years ago, to give Netflix a market value of about $146billion.