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March 8, 2019
Streaming services, primarily Netflix, have been under fire over the past couple of years.
At the recent Cannes Film Festival, a new rule was implemented that delegitimize any films that did not get a theatrical release from entering the competition within the festival. The new rule almost forced Netflix to pull its movies from the festival, even though they could show their films out of competition during the festival.
More recently, Steven Spielberg has been pushing for the Academy to delegitimize any film not shown in theaters for four weeks before heading to a streaming service to not be allowed to compete for the coveted Oscars.
His push for this new rule has divided Hollywood.
I am not on his side.
The recent push against streaming services is wrong and hurts the medium significantly.
I am all for finding ways for movie theaters to survive in the age of the streaming services, but this is not the right way to do so. Running films in theaters costs money and is never a guarantee of a return on investment.
Streaming services have brought a new and promising age for independent and avant-garde films. These films usually cannot afford to have large runs in theaters and are typically doomed to obscurity due to that fact.
Streaming services, especially Netflix, have become a new home for such films. Netflix funds said films and keep them on their service to maximize profits. Keeping these films out of theaters, or in theaters for a short time, makes funding these films less of a risk.
If award shows start to require such an extended theatrical run before the films enter said services, it will secure the funding of these films more of a financial risk. Due to this, the financing of them will decline.
Filmmakers need to stop classifying films by where they are watched. It is a gatekeeping mentality that will only hurt the medium. It is as if Spielberg forgot that he too was once an independent filmmaker that struggled to get funding.
Streaming services also allow for more international films to reach American shores in an accessible manner.
Roma would not have made such a splash in America if it were not readily available on Netflix.
I see this as a fear of the new. Streaming services do pose a threat to theaters, which are where films primarily should be viewed, but delegitimizing streaming services from awards and festivals only hurts the medium. Filmmakers should celebrate any medium that allows quick and easy access to films and any service that takes risks with funding said films.