In the past few years, streaming services have revolutionized how millions around the world listen to music and watch television, shows, and movies. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more streaming services have captivated audiences with the release of quality movies, record-breaking shows, and intriguing documentaries- including many hip hop features, such as Biggie & Tupac, Bad Rap, ReMastered: Who Shot The Sheriff (a Bob Marley documentary), and more.
While many of these shows and movies have audiences raving, some within the film industry are less than enthusiastic about this change and are debating whether or not this new media should be eligible for major awards, which have typically been relegated to traditional media, such as theatrical release films and network television shows.
The controversy mostly surrounds the Academy Awards. In the past, there had been no clear rules as to whether or not streaming films were eligible to be entered into the prestigious competition. However, with this year’s domination by Roma, a Netflix film, some within the Hollywood community are questioning whether or not movies that are not released exclusively in theatres should be eligible for nomination. (Roma is one of the select few films that Netflix has also released in theatres in tandem with release to the streaming service or with a much shorter window than most theatrical releases.)
Opponents argue that streaming films should not be allowed to compete because they do not have the same theatrical release run as traditional movies and comparing sales numbers and reception is akin to comparing apples and oranges.
However, proponents of allowing Netflix films and other streaming media into the awards show to point out that it gives newer filmmakers a chance to be recognized on the high level of Hollywood giants, despite not having major blockbuster budgets.
Many looked for a compromise between the wishes of Hollywood producers and the streaming service stakeholders. Steven Spielberg proposed that in order to be eligible, a film should run for four weeks before being released on streaming service. Ultimately, the Academy kept the rule that stated that “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” in order to be eligible — but the film can also be released on “nontheatrical media” at the same time.”
Ultimately, it was the Department of Justice that had the final word. The DOJ sent a letter to the Academy earlier this month stating that if it makes eligibility changes, it could “eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”
For now, the DOJ’s ruling seems to favor the streaming services, which leads us to wonder what Attorney General William Barr is binge-watching now on Netflix.