- HOLLYWOOD, Calif.
In late February, Steven Spielberg expressed support for establishing Motion Picture Academy rule changes that could end Oscar eligibility for streaming films (such as those from Netflix with limited theatrical distribution). But such a move, if it comes to pass, would be in violation of antitrust law, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Makan Delrahim, chief of the DOJ’s antitrust division, wrote in a letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, dated March 21, that a revision of Oscar eligibility rules--such as one which would result in excluding movies primarily distributed via streaming services like Netflix--could adversely affect a disqualified film’s earning power, suppress competition and raise antitrust concerns. He specifically cited possible violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act’s Section 1 that “prohibits anticompetitive agreements among competitors.”
Those opposed to streaming films with limited theatrical distribution being eligible for Academy Awards contend that such work is more akin to a TV movie, making it more qualified for Emmy than Oscar consideration. Still, Netflix’s Roma--which was shown in select theaters---won three Oscars this year (Best Director and Cinematography for Alfonso Cuaron, and Best Foreign Language Film) while also being nominated for seven others, including the marquee Best Picture honor.
Netflix may have at least one strong contender for the upcoming Oscar season with Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated The Irishman, though there’s talk that this picture may have a wide theatrical release rather than just exhibition in select theaters.
Netflix responded in early March to Spielberg’s initial advocacy for Academy Award rule changes. Via Twitter, Netflix stated, “We love cinema. Here are some things we also love. Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art.”