While things heat up in the race to choose a Democratic Presidential Candidate, there is an even more divisive competition happening. I am, of course, referring to the campaign for Oscars and the fight for attention at the box office. For those who don’t know (aka: most people), at the beginning of every year Hollywood throws a series of parties and award ceremonies to give themselves prizes, so everyone is aware of how enlightened and artful they truly are.
Mind you, this is the same group of people that notably announced the wrong winner of its biggest accolade. The real twist to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voting and movie-going for this year’s Oscars came in the form of streaming services. Netflix, the company that produces low-brow teen movies and rom-coms, is evidently also interested in prestige pictures, big prizes, and, not surprisingly, your money. According to the experts, streaming is the future, and companies like Netflix will only become larger, more powerful and influential.
According to reports from The New York Times, rival Oscar strategists claim that Netflix spent over $20 million on Oscar campaigning for its high-brow Roma. According to Netflix, Roma is also the second most viewed movie ever on its website, reflecting that there are actually more subscribers interested in watching a black-and-white foreign language film than people might think. With a handful of films that premiered at recent film festivals (Marriage Story, The Two Popes, The Laundromat), Netflix clearly has high hopes, and will probably have an even bigger budget.
Aside from Netflix, Amazon has high hopes for The Aeronauts and The Report, which will probably not yield the results they want. The upcoming Apple streaming service allegedly has big aspirations for the recent acquisition, The Banker. Interestingly, Disney, despite already being a major studio, now has absorbed the Fox label and all of the films from Fox Searchlight, which has been a relative juggernaut at the Oscars most years. This will certainly be newer territory for them, as most of their experience is in Pixar films.
The voters for Academy Awards, and movie lovers at large, have had a relatively hard time adjusting to this new reality of technology, and this is only just the beginning (looking at you, Steven Spielberg). But as all of this goes on, who loses? The losers here are the movies and studios that are somewhat struggling to stay alive. A24, an independent entertainment company, certainly has some pull, but STX Films, sans hope for Hustlers, and Annapurna will probably be brushed to the wayside this year for awards and box office gains.
The future of movies, and how and where they are distributed are big questions for this industry right now. Will people be settling into their local Netflix theatre? Will places like AMC, Regal, and many local theatres have to close their doors?
While certainly a pressing questions, the more immediate task at hand is, as it always has been, trying to ensure we give credit where credit is due. We should support art and filmmaking (especially female filmmakers). Or, maybe, you don’t care about supporting filmmaking and that’s okay too. If you’re looking for another pastime of media consumption, I would really recommend we all start reading again.