A hot potato: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is having an annual rules meeting later this month. Up for consideration on the agenda is sure to be how movies from streaming services fit into the awarding system (The Oscars), if at all. The DoJ cautioned the Academy that rules discriminating against made-for-streaming movies could violate federal law.
Steven Spielberg has never hidden his contempt for streaming movies calling them nothing more than TV movies eligible for Emmy awards, but not Oscars. Last month, the 72-year-old award-winning filmmaker called for a ban on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu movies being nominated for Oscars.
The US Department of Justice took note of the movement and warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that such a ban might violate anti-trust laws by suppressing competition.
The Sherman Act prohibits rival companies from entering into anti-competitive agreements that would hurt the other firm's sales. These rules include award restrictions.
A spokesperson told Variety that the Academy had received the DoJ's notice and had "responded accordingly," but did not specify what actions would be taken. The Academy's annual rules meeting is set for April 23.
One of Spielberg's complaints is that to qualify for Oscar nominations, some studios that produce content for streaming services have had "token" releases of movies to limited theaters for limited times and have hidden their number of viewers. Some view this as gaming the system and request rule changes that require longer stays in the theater and for studios to divulge their audience numbers.
Netflix and other streaming services are opposed to such rules as they feel it would hinder smaller projects and indie filmmakers from competing for awards in the mega-blockbuster environment. Even Spielberg himself says that today's studios would rather go with a big-name franchise hit rather than take a chance on a smaller production that is bound to get lost in the noise.
"A lot of studios [today] would rather just make branded, tent-pole, guaranteed box office hits from their inventory of branded successful movies than take chances on smaller films," said Spielberg (above).
Of course, these smaller productions are being picked up by Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix thus limiting or completely disqualifying (with the possible upcoming rule changes) them from Oscar consideration through no fault of their own.