Covid-19 has rendered streaming platforms essential to keep the film industry afloat
Recent years have seen cinema and streaming services coexist, but 2020 understandably saw the former dwarfed by its more accessible counterpart. The Oscars are already considering changes to their requirements as a result, and other awards should follow suit, reflecting our current situation.
Fears that the traditional movie-going experience is being lost to a surge in demand for streamable media has dominated film-circle talking points in recent years. Yet evidence suggests they aren’t in competition at all- active subscription service users were found to be more likely to make trips to the cinema than less active users. As of 2020, major studios are having to invest in this format on a scale previously unimaginable. They might see it as a desperate compromise to maintain distribution, but it remains that these services are the lifeline of cinema and deserve to be fully integrated into film awards. The Oscars have already begun to make necessary changes in order to reflect the state of cinema in 2020- films won’t be required to have a theatrical release in order to be eligible. While these are currently slated to be impermanent, the influence may change how award organizations think about streaming platforms. Even if Covid-19 restrictions were to disappear in 2021, it would be backward-thinking to go back to the traditional system, now that the awards have become more inclusive. The relationship between cinema and streaming services is symbiotic. Multimedia networks, TV networks, and news broadcasters have taken the plunge and branched out into on-demand content. As studios continually do the same, the awards should realize that these services do not threaten traditional cinema, but sustain it.
The slackening of requirements enacted by the Oscars in 2020- namely allowing non-theatrical planned films- is an impermanent change that means to curtail the damage done to the industry by COVID-19. Given the circumstances, it is an understandable concession that doesn’t represent where the industry is heading. Streaming is an almost completely separate industry to cinema. There may be a significant overlap in audience demographic, but as a media form, these services are more comparable to TV or considered an evolution of TV. That certain streaming-exclusives qualify as ‘cinematic events’ does not change this. Cinema is just one of many industries devastated by the coronavirus. It has stepped aside but will bounce back as soon as it has a viable way to do so. When this happens, awards should respect the integrity of the traditional medium and keep stringent entry requirements.