Culture Crash 18-17: Netflix’s Battle Against Film Traditionalists

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

In recent years, Netflix has become a major player in the film  industry. They have used festivals as the launching pad for their buzzier titles like the animal-rights movie Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerwitz Stories. Last year, Netflix also made a big splash by acquiring one of Sundance’s biggest hits, Mudbound, which was eventually nominated for four Oscars.

But now comes the pushback: This year, the Cannes film festival announced Netflix films wouldn’t be considered for the fest’s top prize. Director Steven Spielberg said he considers Netflix movies to be made-for-TV and nothing more.

And now, the battle is on. Shortly after the Cannes announcement, Netflix announced they wouldn’t bother to bring any movies to the festival if they aren’t in contention for the highest honors. Since that announcement, film lovers have been thrown in the middle of the Video-On-Demand vs. Theater debate.

Does a movie lose merit if it doesn’t run in theaters around the country? Is a Netflix-release good for consumers, since they can watch, say, Will Smith’s latest film, Bright, in the comfort of their own homes? Or is it bad, since it loses some of that essential community feeling that comes with seeing a smash hit movie like last year’s Get Out or this year’s A Quiet Place with a packed audience?

Right now, it seems opinion is split. Of course, seeing a movie in a theater can be a transformative experience. The screen is huge, the sound is turned all the way up, and that means more immersion in the spectacle. But as theaters have gotten more and more expensive, you can also understand why many people prefer catching the latest releases on their couch. Plus, Netflix’s model has opened the doors for filmmakers who wouldn’t have a place at the big-budget-mega-studios.

Ultimately, the battle has only really just begun. It’s Netflix vs. film traditionalists and as for which side will win out in the end? Well, only time will tell.

I’m Evan Rook.