Netflix and Amazon were gunning to break through the Oscar race with their first-ever theatrical dramas, but both must wait another year.
The streaming-video sites released their first original feature-length dramas in theaters last year to qualify for film’s most prestigious awards. Netflix debuted “Beasts of No Nation,” featuring Idris Elba as an African warlord who conscripts child soldiers, in theaters and online simultaneously in October, while Amazon’s “Chi-Raq,” a musical drama from Spike Lee about gun violence, premiered last month.
But Thursday morning, the only nomination between the two of them were nods for Netflix’s documentary features “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” Netflix documentaries were nominated in that category the previous two years as well: “The Square” and “Virunga.”
“It’s disappointing [“Beasts”] wasn’t acknowledged this morning by the Academy but the fact is that people are watching and enjoying the film, around the world, on Netflix,” a spokesperson for Netflix said Thursday, noting that recognition by theScreen Actor’s Guild, the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the Spirit Awards were “major validation.”
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s messages seeking comment.
“Beasts of No Nation” is Netflix’s most high-profile theatrical release so far, and it’s also the first to put movie-industry business standards squarely in its crosshairs. The decision to premiere it “day-and-date” in October rankled many cinema chains, and the four biggest — AMC, Carmike, Cinemark and Regal — refused to book the film.
Amazon is taking a gentler tack. “Chi-Raq” will be available to stream for members of its Prime subscription program two months after its theatrical debut. While that’s shorter than the typical three-month window that most films enjoy before moving to home-viewing options, it hasn’t irked theater owners nearly as much as Netflix.
A pile of television awards and nominations have already rewarded Netflix and Amazon for upending TV business norms. Netflix and now Amazon release all episodes of a season at once globally, and they eschew any reporting of viewership levels. Since the drama series “House of Cards” garnered Netflix its first high-profile Emmy wins in 2013, it and Amazon have recalibrated the calculus of TV awards.
Netflix, for example, had more Golden Globe nominations earlier this year than any other network, and Amazon won the best television comedy or musical category — for the second year running.
The awards miss will have little impact on either company’s business, but the stakes were higher for Netflix in the courtroom of public perception. The “Beasts” nomination miss means Netflix has whiffed on two public measures of a film’s success: Oscars and box office. The movie’s theatrical release was a flop, with its total gross failing to crack six figures. (Without disclosing any numbers, Netflix has said it is pleased with the streaming performance of “Beasts of No Nation.”)