Streaming platforms should be eligible for awards because they are the norm
Cinema awards should adapt to dominating market trends in film distribution, not vice versa. It may be in the interest of major film studios to obstruct streaming platforms from serious artistic commendation since their revenue is dependant on the box office, but ignoring them is impossible.
(1 of 5) Next argument >
Any doubts from film buffs that Netflix had made its transition from underdog to zeitgeist were perhaps quelled at the announcement of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman being bought by the platform in 2019 after previous major studio backers dropped out from escalating costs. The star-studded gangster swansong from one of America’s most lauded directors surely dispelled impressions that Netflix’s original films were the current-day equivalent of straight to video productions, with it’s $159m budget and widespread critical appraisal. Of course, this film had a limited theatrical run which made it eligible for the BAFTAs and Oscars. Yet it implies that the future for major releases could be as streaming exclusives. There is also no evidence to suggest that this model damages movie-theatres; it is the changing face of an industry that has gone through many iterations. With online video services accumulating 864 million subscribers as of 2019, this reality is very possible. It would be disingenuous to say these services are simply replacing TV channels since they are increasingly putting out content that rivals theatrical-exclusive releases, in budget and quality. Though many big studio releases rely on the box office, The Irishman was ironically dependant on streams. With 26m views in its first week, the film certainly reached its audience. As long as this is the case, there’s no reason to say it isn’t a win for cinema.
Since streaming platforms occupy a wholly different side of the film market, it’s disingenuous to say they represent the norm when considering their eligibility in awards. Outside of America, global box office and attendance hit an all-time high in 2019. Films shown in the cinema are also more likely to start a conversation. Disney still considers it’s major new titles to be ‘event films’, presumably because their influence permeates far beyond the screen, and even before release. While some culturally relevant movies might pop up on streaming platforms first, like Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja (2017), the richness of the cinematic experience will always leave a greater impression in the minds of viewers and critics. This is what film awards capitalize on. They know the cinema offers a uniquely dramatic experience, compared to the casual nature of streaming movies. The Irishman is an outlier since it was always intended for the big screen and was nearly distributed by Paramount. That film also went home empty-handed at the Oscars, possibly for being too bloated- had it abided by studio standards it may have been trimmed and become more accessible as a result. There’s also no way of predicting how well such a film would have done with a more conventional release, and Netflix has further obscured matters by not reporting on the success of their properties. It is clear that streaming will outlive TV. But as a platform to debut industry-defining films, it is not becoming the new normal.
Rejecting the premises