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Roger Ebert says Netflix has stopped buying indie films

The famed film critic laments that the movie rental company has "largely stopped buying streaming rights" to independent films. Netflix denies this.

'The Artist,' this year's Oscar winner for Best Picture is an indie film coming to Netflix.
The Weinstein Company

Roger Ebert, perhaps the country's best-known film critic, has posted a note to Twitter that says Netflix has "largely stopped buying streaming rights to indie films."

Ebert, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who was also part of the long-running TV show "Siskel and Ebert and The Movies," began tweeting about Netflix's lack of independent films on Friday. Ebert's Twitter posts were first spotted by Hackingnetflix.com.

The first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, Ebert is well-sourced in Hollywood, but he did not offer any other details to support his claim. In response to questions from CNET, Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, responded to Ebert's Twitter post this way: "Not true. Not true. Will get back to you with specifics."

Swasey responded more fully this afternoon.

"Netflix continues to license films from more than 100 independent studios and filmmakers," Swasey said. "While we can't license everything, our acquisition team that's dedicated to indies continues to acquire streaming rights to movies like Best Picture Oscar winner 'The Artist' and others like 'I Am Love,' 'Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey,' and 'Bill Cunningham New York,' in addition to thousands of foreign, documentary and U.S. indie films. In all, indies comprise about 40 percent of the Netflix streaming catalog."

Netflix announced a licensing deal two weeks with The Weinstein Company, the firm founded by indie-film legends Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The agreement will bring "The Artist," to Netflix. We also know that some indie filmmakers have been critical of the money they see from Netflix.

Ebert made his statement at a time when there's slim pickings at Netflix's streaming-movie library. The company is unable to license movies from most of the six top Hollywood titles and the service has begun concentrating on offering TV shows.

On Friday, Ebert began his lament about the lack of indie films on Netflix this way: "Sadly, Netflix is tending to ignore indie filmmakers in favor of blockbusters," he wrote. "What's special is its indie and foreign choices."

He then followed that with his claim that Netflix having stopped licensing films, which he called a "mortal blow."

Update 12:44 p.m. PT: To include comments from Netflix spokesman.