Steven Spielberg, Netflix's Ted Sarandos Meet Amid Oscars Debate
The two industry heavyweights — who have been on opposite sides of the debate over what constitutes an Oscar-qualifying movie — sat down with each other this week.
Have director Steven Spielberg and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos reached a détente?
The two have been on opposite sides of the current debate about whether movies that appear on streaming services like Netflix deserve a spot in the Oscar competition.
But earlier this week, the two were seen dining together at the San Vincente Bungalows, the new private club in West Hollywood, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter — a sign that the two industry heavyweights might be looking to achieve some common ground.
Spielberg, a member of the Motion Picture Academy’s board of governors, has been a leading voice in arguing that Oscars should be reserved for films that get their first major exposure in movie theaters. Speaking a year ago to ITV News, he said, "Once you commit to a television format, you're a TV movie. You certainly, if it's a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don't believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination."
Appearing at February's Cinema Audio Society Awards, Spielberg further commented, "The greatest contribution we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience. I'm a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever."
Reports even began circulating that the filmmaker was planning to ask the board of governors at its April meeting to vote for a new rule that would require an Oscar-qualifying movie play a four-week exclusive engagement in theaters — currently a film only has to play in one theater in Los Angeles for one week and it can simultaneously debut on services like Netflix. However, speaking last Friday at SXSW, Spielberg's friend Jeffrey Katzenberg said that Spielberg “has not opined at all" on the subject of a rule change and had no plans to advocate for it within the board.
While Spielberg hasn’t specifically mentioned Netflix by name, under Sarandos, the streaming giant has been aggressive courting Oscars over the past few years — and this year had its best showing ever when Roma took home three Oscars, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron. Although originally Sarandos said Netflix would stick to a day-and-date formula, giving some of its films brief theatrical runs beginning the same day they were made available to its subscribers, Netflix released Roma in a limited number of theaters for a three-week run before the film appeared on the service, showing that it was willing to alter its business model in a few cases in order to pursue Oscar gold.
Reps for both Spielberg and Sarandos declined comment.