The battle between Netflix and Oscars traditionalists has caught the attention of the Department of Justice.
Makan Delrahim, the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson on March 21, according to Variety, which said it obtained a copy of the letter. The letter warned the Academy, which is the Oscars voting body, against any rule changes that could limit Netflix’s ability to compete, citing “antitrust concerns.”
“In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” the letter said, according to Variety.
Netflix did not immediately return a request for comment from Business Insider.
“We’ve received a letter from the Dept. of Justice and have responded accordingly,” the Academy said in a statement to Variety. “The Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration.”
Veteran filmmaker Steven Spielberg was expected to lead a campaign at the meeting to change Oscars rules to limit participation from streaming services like Netflix, Indiewire reported last month.
“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” a representative for Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment, told Indiewire. “He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”
Spielberg has opposed Netflix’s presence at the Oscars for some time, and he’s argued that the streaming giant should compete solely for Emmys. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” he said in an interview with ITV News last year.
Netflix has faced pushback throughout Hollywood and the film industry, most notably when it pulled out of the Cannes Film Festival last year after a rule change banned any films without a theatrical distribution in France. It is skipping Cannes again this year.
Netflix broke through the Oscar race in a big way this year after spending at least $20 million on its campaign, according to The New York Times. While Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” ultimately lost best picture, it took home three prizes, including best director, foreign-language film, and cinematography. Netflix also won for best documentary short for “Period. End of Sentence.”
The streamer responded to Spielberg’s criticism on Twitter last month. The full quote is below:
“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
“These things are not mutually exclusive.”
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