Mailbag: We Answer Your Questions About Spielberg vs. Netflix and “Film Twitter”

On the March 6, 2019 episode of /Film Daily, /Film editor in Chief Peter Sciretta is joined by /Film senior writer Ben Pearson, and writer Hoai-Tran Bui to answer some listener emails in the Mail Bag.

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In The Mailbag:

  • Austin from Dallas Texas writes in “I thought I would chime in. I lean towards Spielberg’s side on this. For me it’s not about Netflix or Amazon not being able to release a movie and it not being good. The Oscars to me is for a particular medium just like the Emmy’s. Netflix was using to me a loophole intended for shorts and indie films to their advantage. I feel they should have to do a wide release of their films to qualify. Idk how you put rules into place to not exclude indie films though. Maybe have it based on budget? To me Netflix movies are equivalent to straight to VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray. Those would not be considered for Oscars so why should they. Maybe it’s time to add a streaming category?”
  • Langdon Kessner writes in “Hi Peter,  Big fan of the site and the podcast. I'd like to offer a defense of Spielberg, and I'm honestly shocked that so many people are against him, specifically #FilmTwitter. Watching the argument go from "Spielberg hates Netflix" (which is not true) to "Spielberg doesn't care about minorities" (also not true) was maddening.   For starters, it's important to note (and I'm surprised this wasn't mentioned on the podcast), Spielberg was a huge part of getting Five Came Back, a documentary, produced on Netflix. Author Mark Harris himself stated it would not exist without him. So this idea that Spielberg just hates Netflix and is a cartoon grandpa yelling at clouds is ridiculous (not saying you guys pushed this idea, but social media did).  The issue here is the way Netflix treats their movies, and more importantly, the theaters. Not many of them have been given a proper theatrical release. And even the ones that do come with rules from Netflix. For the few theaters that were able to get Roma in 70mm, Netflix had a lot of rules that made it difficult for them to screen it. It had to be shown in Dolby Atmos, and it could only be screened from Thursday to Sunday. I know this because I wrote a series of articles on independent movie theaters in Boston, and still occasionally talk to the managers. All have said that Netflix is extremely cagey and reticent to conversation when it comes to showing their movies in theaters.  Also important to note (and I was also disappointed this wasn't mentioned): Amazon Prime does not do this. They have a 90-day theatrical window and nobody, least of all Spielberg, is mad at them for it. That's the point Spielberg is making. That Netflix doesn't give their films a proper theatrical release, and instead just a token one so they can qualify for the Oscars. You guys mentioned on the podcast that it feels like elitists saying "No, you can't be in our club". To me, it feels like an first-year employee demanding a promotion without going through the ranks.   And Joseph Kahn made a great point (I won't rehash the whole thing here), but "Oscars are meant to promote the theatrical experience. So Netflix releasing a movie in one theater and claiming they should be celebrated with an Oscar the same way like BlacKkKlansman or even yes, Green Book, is not remotely fair." Basically, if Netflix followed the Amazon Prime model, there'd be no issue. But they don't and prioritize home viewing which is television. A line does need to be drawn and this only happened because Netflix blurred the line between film and television. If they can afford to dump $8 billion in content, they can certainly afford a theatrical release.  Sorry that I wrote a lot, but this debate has infuriated me. Two corporations are going to head-to-head yet Netflix is somehow the underdog? Ugh. This has nothing to do with quality of Netflix (which is Oscar-worthy) or diversity (which is sadly, still an important issue). This is about should Oscar contenders be played in theaters or not. I'm sad that this part of the argument got lost on Twitter and turned into "Does Spielberg hate minorities?!?!?". Alright, that's all I have today. Still a fan of the site and podcast. Hopefully you got a chance to read this and I hope I made some legitimate points. All the best, -
  • Chris Williams writes in “I agree with you and Slash Film's stance that Netflix films should be up for awards.  That being said, I have a thought that leans towards Speilberg's view. There's a reason there's different awards for TV Shows/Movies and Theater Movies. If you had to put Netflix in one of those categories I believe many people would put it in the TV category. That alone would make someone question why Netflix films are up for Oscars.  Also between Netflix, Hulu, and now Youtube releasing more originals. Do we see a streaming award show emerge? It sounds crazy, but a two years ago I didn't see Netflix dropping this much quality content like they are. Anything is possible. What are your thoughts?”
  • Mark B from London writes in: “The podcast is terrific, you all do a brilliant job.  I wanted to suggest the way of diffusing this stupid spat over Netflix’s place in the industry may be best served by just cancelling the Oscars. I think the world in general, although definitely not Hollywood, could suffer the tragic loss of a mass back-slapping effort which is the Academy Awards, and in to the bargain no more inept attempts to televise the event, trim the timings, announce/cancel hosts, etc.. Remove the Awards argument and then nobody will care about the theatrical window and streaming services having the cheek to create good films. All that will matter will be good content, which is what mere mortals seek.”
  • Chris, from NYC writes in “Like a lot of people my Twitter stream (which I never use) is basically bloated with politics, hysteria, crazed propaganda and other nightmares. So, like a lot of people, I kind of hate Twitter.  You guys talk a lot about "film twitter" where people discuss filmmaking and movie news and that sounds like a lot of fun. Can you give any insight on who to follow / lists to follow, etc so I can nuke my current Twitter account and start over with film twitter?”

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