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Netflix Eyes Oscars With 'The Square'



The Square Joins the Oscar Race

The Square Joins the Oscar Race

Following a decade of intense media convergence, with technology manufacturers making everything smarter and content providers migrating online, it was only a matter of time before video on demand services emerged challenged the way films are produced and exhibited. Now it seems the Academy Awards are being targeted by the forerunner of online VoD, as Netflix gives its documentary feature The Square a commercial run to prepare for an Oscar run.

The fact that Netflix are even campaigning a film is a landmark moment in cinematic history, so if it gets nominated this will be an Academy Awards to remember. The rules for documentary feature submissions clearly state that films receiving their first public exhibition in a non-theatrical format will not be eligible, but do not specify how long after the theatrical run a film must wait to be exhibited in other formats. This clears the way for Netflix and other companies to release for seven days in LA and immediately make available for download on their own platform.

Could this be the way forward for cinema? VoD is a booming industry, and the recent Emmy success of Netflix’s own House of Cards proves that critics are taking this medium seriously. If Netflix were to succeed in getting The Square nominated, it would certainly raise a lot of questions over the future of traditional theatrical release strategies. Microsoft and Amazon are also in the process of commissioning original content, with the view to self-distribution, so we could in fact see a return to the vertically integrated frameworks of the old studio era. Only now the mass communication networks are in place to prevent the monopolization of the market.

Whether or not Netflix succeed with The Square, this discussion is inevitable, and is already taking place in boardrooms around the world. It’s only a matter of time before we see our first Oscar winning film funded, produced, and distributed by a video on demand company. And once that happens, we could see a major overhaul of the Oscar rules.

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