Netflix Up for 35 Oscars in Year of Nomination Domination

Netflix's David Fincher film 'Mank'
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix earned 35 Academy Award nominations on Monday, more than any other media company this year, up by 11 nods year over year.

David Fincher’s Mank earned Netflix 10 nominations, including one in the best picture category. Also included in the best picture category are Netflix films The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods earned one nomination for best score.

Netflix’s Oscar nomination domination isn’t a surprise. The pandemic forced movie theaters around the country to close for the majority of 2020. In April 2020, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences made a one-time-only concession, permitting films scheduled to be released in theaters to still be eligible if they debuted on streaming services. Previously, movies needed to have a minimum week-long theatrical run in order to qualify for consideration.

In the most influential Oscar campaign yet for video streaming, Amazon walked away with 12 nominations combined for Sound of MetalBorat Subsequent Moviefilm and One Night in Miami.

Searchlight Picture’s Nomadland garnered six nominations, including one for director Chloé Zhao, the first time a woman of Asian descent received a nod in the category. In all likelihood the majority of people who have seen the critical hit watched it on Hulu, where the film is currently streaming. 

Andra Day, star of Hulu’s The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, received a best actress nod. 

Warner Bros’ Judas and the Black Messiah, which debuted day and date on HBO Max, garnered six nods. The historical drama debuted in theaters and on HBO Max in February along with the rest of the Warner Bros. slate. 

And Disney Plus received nominations for Onward, Mulan, Soul and The One and Only Ivan.

And Apple garnered its first nominations--one for best animated feature, Wolfwalkers, and another best sound nomination for Greyhound.

For the last several years, Netflix has tried to make inroads with the Academy, especially in the coveted Best Picture category. The streaming service spends considerable funds on limited theatrical releases for all the films they have qualified over the years. In 2019 the service put The Irishman in theaters for 26 days before placing it on television during the Thanksgiving weekend.  But the Academy’s suspension of its rule requiring theatrical releases, put to bed -- at least this year -- the debate over films made for television versus true theatrical films.

Back in April, Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement that organization was “unchanged and unwavering” about their commitment to the theatrical experience.

A bold statement given the fact that streamer services and their subscribers are increasing by the day. To say that films released on streaming services aren’t theatrical film seems a bit silly at this point. 

Three years ago Steven Spielberg caused a ruckus when he questioned the validity of films released on streaming services, “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” Spielberg said in a 2018 interview with ITV News. “I don’t believe that films that are given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

But after 2020, when all of the nominated films were predominantly watched on TV screens it seems clear that the Academy will have to adjust to the changing times.

The 93rd Academy Awards air Sunday, April 25, on ABC.