Steven Spielberg Criticizes Shift Away From Theaters And Toward Streaming

Spielberg says the pandemic led movie execs to throw filmmakers under the bus and "relegate" their movies to streaming.

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Steven Spielberg has weighed in with his thoughts on the shift away from theatrical releases in favor of streaming. Speaking to The New York Times, Spielberg said the pandemic created an opportunity for media executives to throw filmmakers under the bus and then pay them off to help promote their upstart streaming services.

"The pandemic created an opportunity for streaming platforms to raise their subscriptions to record-breaking levels and also throw some of my best filmmaker friends under the bus as their movies were unceremoniously not given theatrical releases," he said. "They were paid off and the films were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max. The case I'm talking about. And then everything started to change."

Spielberg's comment about filmmakers being paid off is presumably a reference to how Warner Bros. cut deals with filmmakers and stars after people like Christopher Nolan (who made Tenet for Warner Bros.) criticized the decision to move films to HBO Max.

"I think older audiences were relieved that they didn't have to step on sticky popcorn. But I really believe those same older audiences, once they got into the theater, the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic," Spielberg said.

He added: "Those audiences, I believe, left the theater if the movie was good and said aren't you glad we went out tonight to see this picture? So, it's up to the movies to be good enough to get all the audiences to say that to each other when the lights come back up."

Spielberg went on to say that the movie Elvis breaking $100 million at the domestic box office was good news and gave him hope that the movie theater business is coming back. "I think movies are going to come back. I really do," he said.

The Oscar-winning director added that he hopes filmmakers will come together and make a "concerted effort" to demand that any film made for streaming also gets a window in theaters. That's exactly what's happening with Netflix's Knives Out sequel, which is coming to theaters before streaming.

"When you're first starting out, and a streaming service gives you a chance to direct your first movie, of course the streaming service is going to call the shot, but I don't know anybody that wouldn't like their movies to be shown on a big screen," he said. "I don't know anyone that would say, 'No, I'd rather it be shown on an iPad or in a living room.'"

Spielberg recently directed a Marcus Mumford music video shot on an iPhone. He also directed The Fablemans, a film about his own life, with Gabriel LaBelle portraying Spielberg himself. The film releases on November 23.

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