Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Netflix’s $100 Million Quest for an Oscar May Be Doomed by New Academy Plan to Require Theater Releases


The party may be over for Netflix.

The streaming platform has spent nigh on $100 million over the last decade to get a Best Picture Oscar. This year, all their plans fell apart anyway as their only viable candidate was the German language war film, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” They won Best International Film, but couldn’t compete with the other candidates.

Now, the Academy of Motion Pictures is considering a new rule requiring films to play in theaters in at least 15 of the top 50 markets. Puck, a newsletter, was first to report this yesterday and I’ve confirmed it.

Prior to the pandemic, Netflix and other streaming platforms that didn’t show their movies in theaters were ineligible for Oscars. Then, when people couldn’t go to theaters, the Academy allowed in their films. But the crisis did huge financial damage to theater chains, so when the pandemic subsided, the Academy reverted to its old rules: films had to open in theaters in New York or Los Angeles to quality for the Oscars.

But the theaters have suffered tremendously. Two big houses in Manhattan have announced they’re closing. In Hollywood, the vital ArcLight and Cineramadome are shut. So the Academy may come to the rescue with this plan. If Netflix, Amazon, Hulu want to be in the Oscar business, they’ve got to have moderately wide releases around the country first.

This is a great idea. Already, Amazon, with Paramount, is about to do that with Ben Affleck’s great new movie, “Air.” Now Netflix would have to do that this fall with Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” — which they will sink millions into for awards — and Apple will have to do the same with Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Who wins? The filmmakers, for one. They deserve to get their films off of laptops and phones and back on the big screen. The theater owners will finally get their customers back. And the streamers will still get lots of subscribers out of it.

Netflix must be having a fit at this point. They still can’t get into Cannes competition because as festival leader Thierry Fremaux says, they’re committed to movies in theaters. Already Netflix faced a defeat when Apple, in 2022, won Best Picture with “CODA.” But they will have to adapt to the new rules so that the entire industry, not just them, benefits from releases.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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