Digital Debunks Tradition
Digital streaming services understand and have responded to the new ‘age of the consumer’, their latest movement into feature film distribution has proved successful for both its audiences and commercially for the companies, in particular for Amazon.
There has been an influx of Netflix and Amazon shows being nominated at prestigious award shows in the last few years. Netflix has successively picked up awards for the show’s they create: this year The Crown picked up a Golden Globe for Best Series, Master of None picked up an Emmy in 2016 and both Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey won Golden Globes for their performances in House of Cards in consecutive years, 2014 and 2015.
Netflix tried to step it up a level and introduce feature film distribution into the streaming services offer. Netflix bought the rights to Beasts of No Nation in 2016, after it’s screening at the Sundance film festival, however it got no nominations at the Academy Awards despite its release into traditional multiplexes. Some critics claimed the film lost out to nominations due to its theatre release only being an unusually short period of two weeks. The two week theatre release was seen cynically as a move just to be in the running for nominations during the awards season. The focus for Netflix was to get nominations, they additionally spent a lot of money on advertising, but ultimately their goal was to share it ‘exclusively’ with it’s paying audience. However Amazon seem to have been able to shake things up in this years’ Academy Award nominations.
Amazon has made history, it is the first streaming service to be nominated for Best Feature Film for Manchester by The Sea. Amazon brought Manchester by the Sea in 2016 paying $10 million for the distribution rights. Amazon played the distribution game a little differently to Netflix, by being more Hollywood friendly and releasing the film to theatres. The nomination for Manchester by the Sea shows that, for now, if you are willing to distribute the film in a traditional way you are working well enough within Hollywood boundaries to be seen as an acceptable competitor.
Clearly though this can be observed as the first steps into an interesting new film distribution era. If streaming services are starting to be seen in the same light as a traditional distribution company we may witness streaming services becoming as equally important to the makers of film, more popular to the audiences able to view films when and where they want, and ultimately game changers when it comes to film innovation. One thing’s for sure, with both Amazon and Netflix already having brought additional feature films at the Sundance Film Festival we are sure to see further rivalry between the two platforms, which can only be a good thing for the consumer.
Another non-traditional and exciting Academy Award nomination for 2017 is that Google received a nomination. In a further, unusual step it is for its virtual reality film, Pearl. Pearl is nominated in the short film category and tells the tale of a father and daughter road trip. The film can be viewed in 2D format, however in the 3D version it is as if the viewer is sat alongside the duo on the road trip, truly immersing you into their world.
What we are seeing from these progressive nominations, is that the power is moving to the consumer; a “see it now on your own time and terms" shift, you can even be part of the movie’s narrative. This indicates that whilst Hollywood may still be slightly stuck in the past, other companies making and distributing films are following the directive that we must react to the age of the consumer.