Streaming sites are greenlighting movies that probably would never be touched by traditional studios.
CALIFORNIA, USA —
It’s a tour de force at the Oscars for digital streamers like Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Hulu, all of which have earned a shot at the biggest awards their industry has to offer.
Netflix leads the pack with 27 nominations across all the categories. Apple follows with six, Amazon with four, and Hulu with one.
This year, Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog” is considered by many to be a favorite to take home Best Picture. Streaming distributors also have their hands in the best actor, supporting actor, best actress and supporting actress categories.
For Eric Melin, editor-in-chief of Scene Stealers, these are movies that are getting more recognition for their quality and movies that without distributors like Netflix, probably would have never gotten the greenlight. ABC10 entertainment reporter Mark S. Allen also spoke about the long journey these streamers have taken to get to this point.
Melin and Allen discuss the ins and outs of what digital distributors are bringing to the Oscars.
Why is it significant to see all these nominations from streaming services like Netflix?
“I think what’s significant about it is that Netflix, especially, and some of the other streaming services are giving directors the greenlight for pictures that never would be made otherwise. One that comes to mind right away is ‘The Irishman,’ Martin Scorsese’s three and a half hour mob epic from years ago that had tons of CGI where they had to make Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, they had to de-age them by 20 to 30 years at least.
Nobody wanted that movie in Hollywood. It was way too expensive. Nobody else was going to pay for it. And Netflix got it made. And then we had Roma, which was Alfonso Cuaron’s foreign language film from four years ago. That was also a Netflix movie. This is black and white, subtitled, revolves around a Mexican maid, like who wants to make this movie? It’s not commercial. Netflix is ponying up the money for this stuff. They even gave the Coen Brothers money to do a fun little Western anthology, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” which nobody’s going to go see that in the theaters, you know? So it’s actually kind of cool. On the other hand, Netflix does have, and some of the streaming services they put up money for, the same amount of blockbuster direct just like everybody else. So they’re still doing Chris Pratt action movies with terrible plots and over the top special effects and that kind of thing. They’re really doing both, but for film fans, it’s really cool that we get to have movies like “Roma,” and well, this year, “The Power of the Dog.”
“Steven Spielberg wants you to forget that it was only two, maybe three, years ago he was saying, ‘Yeah, you know, movies need to be released theatrically to be considered. We should not even be judging or voting on movies that were released an alternate way.’ And all of a sudden now, he’s one of the key providers. He’s backing all streaming platforms, and himself is being considered on a multitude of levels of streaming. Not only has the audience made them change, but the industry has changed its ideas on streaming versus theatrical.”
“I think it was coming. I think you’re gonna see a slow arc of the lines being blurred, and like you said, ‘What does it matter?’ That’s going to be the prevailing attitude, if it’s not already… You were gonna see it happen anyway, but because of the pandemic, people couldn’t go to theaters and all of a sudden now, it’s not even an option. Now, streaming matters more than ever, and I think, if anything, that just sped up the inevitable that it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. Movies are movies.”
What’s the difference between streaming services and the traditional studios?
“I think what the streaming distributors and the streaming studios are looking for is to change the way that we view movies, because it’s always been this idea that if something is direct-to-video, or even direct-to-DVD — now it’s direct to VOD (video-on-demand) or whatever — that the quality is somehow lesser. That is getting chipped away every year, right? So now, you have a movie like ‘King Richard,’ the Will Smith film that comes out on HBO Max and ‘Dune.’ They did that with ‘Dune’ as well as the new ‘Matrix’ movie, and you just assume ‘Well, if it’s out on streaming the same day it’s out in the theaters, it’s probably a bad film,’ right? They probably couldn’t sell it,’ and that’s just not the case anymore.
They have completely trained audiences to understand that the day that a film comes out on VOD or their streaming service and it’s out in the theater, it does not mean that the quality is any less. There’s still some films that haven’t done that like ‘Licorice Pizza’ and ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Belfast,’ you know, films that were in the theater for a long time. But I don’t think you could argue that those films are any less good than something like ‘The Power of the Dog,’ which is the favorite to win Best Picture.”
Are the movies better in quality or are they just better recognized?
“I think the quality of the streaming films that we see, especially nominated for Oscars this year, is just better recognized. It’s not that Netflix is making better movies than everybody else. It’s that, when Netflix makes a great movie, it’s available to everyone… all over the globe. That is a huge audience that you’re reaching, right?
If you were to put a movie like ‘The Power of the Dog’ in theaters right now and that was the only place it was able to be seen, it would be the slow drip where people hear about it in different parts of the country, different parts of the world. It’s just a small amount of people at a time, and it’s word of mouth and it’s press building through the theatrical distribution. But Netflix has an enormous amount of power in these streaming services because these movies just come out right away and there’s just millions of people that watch them. Now again, we don’t know how far they’re watching them. All the streaming services are really precious about giving their actual metrics out. You could be watching 10 minutes of the film, and they might count that as a watch. But still, I mean, it can’t be denied that the distribution like that is making a difference.”
“Without a doubt, they’ve gotten better… the early adaptors are the one that win. Had the movie studios, who are making great movies, just adapted to streaming earlier, they would be winning these awards. But Netflix adapted early , got a legion of followers, so it had the platform, it got the capital and it started sinking that money into attracting top name, otherwise, typically theatrically known talent, to make its movies.
It was not that long ago that Blockbuster, which had pretty much all the conventional movie titles, and Netflix were neck and neck. But Blockbuster didn’t have enough capital to invest in the proper streaming platforms — the bandwidth — and Netflix took off. But during that time, Netflix had crap because, you know, Blockbuster had the rights to most of the distribution. So Netflix didn’t have much. And so, it was a great time for people who were making marginal or worse independent films because ‘Oh, Netflix will take it.’ They would take anything. They didn’t have that many great titles, but people adapted. People decided they would sacrifice quality for the convenience of being able to stream and have something automatically delivered. And then slowly, Netflix started ticking up its catalog, its capital gain, and it started investing that money into making great movies. So yeah, the Netflix product has gotten infinitely better, and stand side-by-side with quality with any of the major theatrical traditionally owned studio releases.
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