Netflix Remains at Risk of Being Frozen Out of British Oscars

(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc. overcame an attempt to tighten eligibility rules at the Academy Awards, meaning it won’t have a harder time competing for Oscars next year.

But there’s still a risk of being frozen out of the U.K.’s top film prizes, the Baftas. The British Academy of Film & Television Arts is reviewing its awards criteria and could make changes that punish streaming services.

Timothy Richards, founder and chief executive officer of movie-chain Vue International, is one of the industry honchos pushing the organization to change its rules. He wants eligible films to be showcased in theaters, not just online.

“We are having some very constructive discussions with Bafta and expect them to have a hard look at, if not change, their policies,” he said in an interview.

Earlier this year, Richards slammed the Baftas for supporting a “made-for-TV” movie by giving Netflix’s “Roma” four awards during its February ceremony, including best film.

The British Academy expects to publish its 2020 rules later this year.

“Our decisions are made in a careful and considered way; they are reviewed regularly, and we take into account voices from across the industry,” the organization said in a emailed statement. “Our conversations with industry are ongoing.”

Spielberg Opposition

In the U.S., Netflix is on more solid ground. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said on Tuesday that it would maintain rules that only require a short theatrical run. Powerful directors like Steven Spielberg had argued that the academy should work harder to preserve the experience of seeing movies in theaters.

Though Netflix does arrange theatrical runs for its prestige movies like “Roma,” they only play for a few weeks. The main purpose of Netflix’s movies is to attract viewers to its online service.

The U.S. Department of Justice stepped into the fray earlier this month, telling the film academy that rule changes could violate antitrust regulations. Of course, the agency wouldn’t have bearing on decisions in the U.K.

The Baftas have become an important stop on the way to the Oscars, and the voting bodies share many members. The British academy has increasingly clashed with theater chains over the streaming issue.

Cineworld Group, which owns the Regal Entertainment chain, withdrew its support from Bafta after the wins for “Roma.” That means members of the U.K. academy can no longer get free access to its theaters.

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