‘Birdbox’, ‘Stranger Things’, ’13 Reasons Why’… sound familiar? Welcome to Netflix, the streaming website that is slowly taking over the world. Originally a DVD rental service in the United States, Netflix quickly realized that the Internet is the newest entertainment delivery trend and hopped on the streaming bandwagon. They halted their DVD rental services and created an online streaming site for movies and TV serials. It quickly became a hit as people were able to watch their favorite shows and movies anytime, anywhere, with the help of their smart devices and an internet connection. They could enjoy entertainment services without being at home and without the use of a television. In recent years, apart from distributing different content, Netflix has also broadened their ventures and began creating their own content, known as Netflix Originals. This content included original serials, sitcoms, specials (including stand-up comedy specials), miniseries, documentaries, and films. This might seem like good news for creators who can release their content to the world through the Netflix streaming network. However, it is a causing a stir in the filmmaking industry.
At the Berlin Film Festival held this April, protests surround one of the films nominated “Elisa y Marcela”, a film distributed on Netflix that was not released in cinemas. Protestors claimed that it was a cinema movie festival, not a streaming festival and the film was therefore not applicable for the competition. Some protestors even filed an official complaint, accusing Netflix of using film festivals as a means of marketing and “diminishing the positions of cinema as a place of culture”. Similar complaints were also raised at the Cannes Film Festival, which banned Netflix from their competition. The 2018 Venice Film Festival, on the other hand, chose to ignore protests and screened the Netflix streamed production ‘Roma’, by Alfonso Cuaron. It was also this year’s Oscar nominee.
|▲ Protestors at the Berlin Film Festival, claiming that movies from streaming sites are "downgrading cinema culture". (Photo from Hollywood Reporter)|
|▲ 'Roma', a Netflix Original film and also this year's Oscar nominee, proving that even films from streaming sites that have never been shown on a big screen can be of award-deserving quality. (Photo from NarniaWeb)|
As a movie buff and arts student myself, I personally disagree with the accusations and complaints made towards Netflix. People are claiming that films should be screened in cinemas, on a big screen, to be considered as a “film” and that Netflix will one day cause chaos in the filmmaking industry and for cinemas. However, a study commissioned by John Fithian, from the National Association of Theatre Owners, clearly shows that people who stream a lot, also watch a lot of movies. 57% of users who watch at least 15 hours of streaming content each week also went to the cinema at least 6 times a year. This proves that instead of negatively affecting the business of cinemas, Netflix creates a positive association with movie-watching. I think that it is unreasonable to state that streaming is affecting cinemas when the data proves otherwise. If people are interested in the content, they will stream it and continue to support films in cinemas. For example, a lot of fans and users claimed that they re-watched the entire Marvel series on Netflix before watching the latest movie, “Endgame”, on the big screen.
Apart from that, Netflix is also providing more opportunities for foreign filmmakers and writers, giving them a platform to showcase their work internationally. Recently, Netflix picked up their first Egyptian show, “Paranormal”. By boosting their cooperation and investment in Middle East production, they can show quality Egyptian and Arabic drama to the rest of the world. According to a survey by YouGov, these shows have also boosted the image of Arabs and Egyptians, since their countries were always portrayed or associated with “poverty” and “terrorism”.
Netflix is having a positive effect on minor production companies and new filmmakers and has created a positive environment for all types of content. It is a platform for us to explore and expand our views, accessing content that might never be aired on regular TV because of different restrictions and censorship. This streaming site is connecting us to different cultures and different languages by showing content from different countries, bringing us on a trip at a reasonable and accessible price point. These are things that television and movies are limited in doing. Hence, instead of blaming the streaming and subscription services, I think major ‘big-name’ companies should consider its’ positive effects and reflect on themselves in the hopes of realising why people are switching over to Netflix.
Not everyone has the opportunity or the funding to create content with a major company and advertise on billboards. I think that Netflix is a good starting point for new filmmakers and this might create a boost in the industry as well. These films deserve to be credited and rewarded for their work and should be allowed in film festivals. It is a stretch to state that Netflix is taking over cinemas. I believe that there is a spot for everyone, a different type of content for all consumers. The world has changed and Netflix is not going away soon, so I hope the film industry will be more accepting of this network and instead, adapt to this new trend.
|▲ Netflix creating a platform for us to share and understand different cultures and languages, especially from countries like Egypt or Arab, which most people are not familiar with or have misunderstandings about. (Photo from Medium)|
Mak Hao Yang firstname.lastname@example.org