February 19, 2019

Steven Spielberg Will Not Netflix and Chill Into That Good Night

Spielberg vs Netflix
Hollywood’s biggest old school name takes on Hollywood’s newest superpower. Get out your popcorn because titans are clashing!

According to Indiewire, Steven Speilberg continues to make no bones about his views on the theatrical experience and the at-home alternative.

“I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience,” Spielberg said. “I’m a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.”

Is that REALLY true? It seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I think filmmakers can probably do more for the world, even just in terms of entertainment, than force people to continue to go to movie theaters, and I say this as a lover of the theatrical experience.

Like, maybe #1 on this list should be “make good movies.” People have to spend a lot of money one way or another to see most movies, maybe making the movies good is more important as a contribution than getting butts into theaters.  

Last year Spielberg also held nothing back when claiming that movies from platforms such as Netflix shouldn’t be up for the same awards,

“I don’t believe that films that are just given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nominations,” Spielberg said at the time. “Fewer and fewer filmmakers are going to struggle to raise money, or to compete at Sundance and possibly get one of the specialty labels to release their films theatrically. And more of them are going to let the SVOD [Streaming Video On-Demand] businesses finance their films, maybe with the promise of a slight, one-week theatrical window to qualify for awards But, in fact, once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie.”

What’s wrong with filmmakers not having to struggle to get money or be seen? By expanding avenues available there is less oversight, more niche content, more diverse points of view.

Spielberg is also ignoring how many more opportunities are created through these new business models that make room for new voices.

Maybe Spielberg doesn’t want that many new voices heard? Maybe he’s just out of touch. Future generations are not going to be flocking to theaters, they’re already deeply plugged into YouTube.

Spielberg is showing his age, his fear of change, and his attachment to outdated business models. Does he not want to have to compete with the likes of Roma for awards?

Doesn’t he have enough money and enough accolades? Shouldn’t a man in Spielberg’s position look to expand opportunities for new voices rather than close them off or minimize their cultural impact?

It’s hard to see what positive spin one can put on Spielberg’s reasoning for going up against more content on more platforms that are available to more people for a lower cost. 

That’s a win for creatives and a win for audiences.     

Your Comment

16 Comments

Spielberg has some some solid points, I wouldn't dismiss him so easily. We are experiencing over-saturation and mediocre films drowning out those with merit. The theatrical viewing experience is no where near what you get at home. People watch with distractions at home, they have open conversations, they do their taxes while watching a movie with terrible speakers on an uncalibrated screen. They even... watch on their phones -good God help us all. If that doesn't upset you that is frightening. The product can't be consistent on Netflix. If you spend the time mixing in surround or grading don't you want people to experience that? Theatrical is important and without it I can't shake the feeling that I'm watching content that is not quite on that same level. I think streaming is fine for indie low budget stuff sure, but bigger movies that can afford it should absolutely do theatrical and as a filmmaker you should be seeing movies theatrically on a regular basis. The guy made Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Indiana Jones etc -he may be worth listening to. You? Well, I haven't seen your movies.

February 19, 2019 at 6:44PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1653

Agree. Movies die when theatrical dies.

February 19, 2019 at 8:48PM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

I think the worst part of it all is that it's made movies disposable. Films used to be an event. A special experience you waited for and sought out. Now it all comes to your home with as much fanfare as turning on the faucet. Scarcity drives up value. A glut (what we have now) makes things virtually worthless.

February 19, 2019 at 9:28PM

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Batutta
197

I wonder how often spielberg sees movies in theaters (other than his own).

I agree that theaters with audiences are the best way to see movies,
But both movie makers and viewers benefit from the new technology.
More people get to express themselves and reach a wider audience.
If the academy becomes more restrictive, it will only serve to make them even more out of touch.

February 19, 2019 at 10:08PM

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Ironically..... Ready player One only worked in the cinema because it was a cgi fest, it was a poor movie catering to fans of games.... i found both Roma and Velvet Buzzsaw to be both better and more interesting movies.

Spielberg is becoming an old fart that fears change. And things will continue this way wether you like it or not.
Same bs as when people start talking about the immense better quality of film over digital. No one gives a hoot.... really. The audience cares about either a spectacle or a great story and they also care about price and convinience. Work under those premises...

February 19, 2019 at 11:52PM, Edited February 19, 11:54PM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
908

I agree with him. A reason why some films are produced by Netflix and don't go in cinema theatres is that they are BAD. There are two acceptable films distributed by Netflix (and they didn't produced it): Roma and At Eternity's Gate. The rest is so disappointing! Each time I'm excited about a film released on Netflix, each I'll come up very disappointed. Like for Velvet Buzzsaw. Netflix makes good tv, good series, but it's not cinema. They show what others don't wanna show because it's not good enough (although 99% that comes out of Hollywood is bad too).

February 20, 2019 at 4:07AM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
303

Is he creating spaces for new filmmakers? Cause unless he is helping that is a snobbish POV. Is not that I completely disagree with him but he is not a starving filmmaker without connections, so the way he thinks is not the way most of us do. So while I do agree that theatrical releases are important and it is great to watch a film in the theater that is a completely different thing. Most of us the only way we get to watch our work on a giant screen is if and when we get into a film fest or we pay a local theater to play it for one night, so we absolutely need the streaming and we do need the various Hulu, Netflix etc. as they also give us hope for our work to be picked up.

February 20, 2019 at 9:40AM

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Paolo Mugnaini
Director/DP/Editor
156

I'm on the fence. I personally make an experience out of the movies I watch whether I stream it on my laptop, watch it on my tv, or go to the theater. I can't often watch a movie (or pass fair judgement) until I've *seen* it, literally, beginning to end. I've never watched a Tarantino or Kubrick movie on a theater screen, and I cannot say the works suffered for it. However, by the time I saw Isle of Dogs on a massive IMAX screen, I suffered some serious uncanny valley weirdness. That's not supposed to happen to me because I AM a stop motion animator lol.
I saw Mandy at my local arthouse theater- the place was PACKED. Sure, the speakers were... not AMC quality, there was a run on the projector screen, but the film was all the more powerful because of it. At one of the high points of the film, the audience went nuts *cheering* as Nick Cage fought his way to the end.
Movies are an experience for me. The screen size won't take that away.
I do tend to think that movies made for streaming platforms are typically of a lesser stature... but then in all seriousness... Hollywood disappoints me too.
It's a toss up. I think Spielberg is damagingly out of touch and has been since the early 90's.
The theater experience is important, but it's not the end-all be-all.

February 20, 2019 at 11:03AM

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Cadmus Rimbeaux
Director/Writer/SFX/Stop Motion
11

This from a director who started in television? I Iove his work but I am afraid he has indeed shown himself to be out of touch and showing his age. From silent films to talkies and Black and White to color, film has evolved and will continue to do so. Please get out of the way Mr. Spielberg.

February 20, 2019 at 7:15PM

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Jeffrey Adorno
Camera
8

Idk but I will agree Spielberg more.

Streaming services provide a way for us to reach audiences but they should remain separate from films intended for theatrical releases. I sense that is his gripe. The content is for Netflix but play it a theater for a couple days to qualify for the Academy is weak. I get it, we all would love some recognition from the Academy no matter where our work lands but it’s a vibe being in a theater.

February 20, 2019 at 10:42PM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
212

Spielberg's best days are long gone, his latest movies are mediocre at best and nothing you need to go to the theatre to watch. He lives in the past and is saddened that cinemas and Hollywood lost most of it's glory, while at the same time he and a lot of his buddies (Lucas, R. Scott etc.) paved the way through a shitload of cgi madness movies that offer visual spectacle but not touching anyone and won't ever turn into pop cultural references as Indiana Jones and Co. No way that I and most other people want to get back to the pre Netflix/Prime days.

February 21, 2019 at 8:30AM

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Gerard M.
1324

Steven, I'm with you 100%.
Here's a thought...How come Broadway shows aren't streamed?...Who in their right mind would want to watch (fill in your favorite Broadway show) on a f***ing IPhone.
For me, the only way watch a movie designed for theatrical release, is in a movie theater.
End of story!

February 21, 2019 at 11:30AM

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Lee Albright
Owner-Albright Films
204

I'm completely with you (not!). That means the hypocrite Spielberg should never release his flicks on DVD/Blu-ray, let them play on TV, planes, ships and of course not the devil's own outlets called prime or Netflix, right?

February 21, 2019 at 2:32PM

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Gerard M.
1324

can’t believe I’m reading this article on a film dedicated website. With “film” on the title…

Spielberg is not the biggest Old school name. He his the biggest name/ filmmaker ever.

Yeah it is REALLY true what he said. The most important part of film is the theatrical experience. Since this is a filmmaker website … I’m not gonna say anything else.

He can not FORCE people to “continue” go to theather’s… What are you talking about? Force???

Yeah, I believe that making good movies is the #1 on the list. And Spielberg has made some of the most loved movies ever in history and all over the world. (you?)

Of course there is nothing wrong with “filmmakers not having to struggle to get money or be seen?” He said that we will have less theatrical experiences if this continues. And that should indeed be something to considered.

“Maybe Spielberg doesn’t want that many new voices heard? Maybe he’s just out of touch. Future generations are not going to be flocking to theaters, they’re already deeply plugged into YouTube.”

Did you just used theaters and youtube on the same sentence as if they’re in the same family? As if they have ANYTHING in commun? And actually make a point to your case, with it? ….

He doesn't want new voices heard???? Are you serious? No other film Director has ever helped so many new filmmaker’s get their start (and continue) This is beyond…

It’s not hard to see what positive spin one can put on Spielberg’s … what’s really hard to believe is that I read this in a filmmaker website...
This would be like going into a musicians site and some guy, that no one has ever heard of, writes an article bashing the biggest musician that ever lived (and that helped more musicians)

“Why his he saying that playing live for an audience is important. I can just use my crappy headphones and listen to songs. He is old… “

I’m going to stop now… I’m truly sorry I wrote this…

But please think 5 times before going after someone personally like this. Someone who’s a Titan. And respect your elders.

February 24, 2019 at 1:19PM

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All spielberg said was that laptop/tv movies should have separate recognition than theatrical ones. And this George edelman thinks speilberg doesn't want young people to make movies. What are you so scared of, Mr. Edelman? Why are you so narrow minded? May be you are jealous? May be you wanted to be spielberg and you failed? (See, that's how it feels when you make random judgements about a person you don't personally know)

Movies will not have aura that they currently enjoy if not for the theatrical experience that we have had for a century. Academy awards earned their recognition because of decades of brilliant work meant for theatres. If you want oscars' glory and you are not happy with emmy, then Netflix/Amazon should start their own ceremonies. If you don't have guts to take risks and release in theatres or you are not concerned about theatrical experience, then you don't deserve the accolades that theatrical movies enjoy.

By the way, I am in 20s. So, I am not saying this out of nostalgia. I like to stream movies and go to threatres, but they are different and we need both.

February 25, 2019 at 8:50AM

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Raghu
8

Quote of the article :
"What’s wrong with filmmakers not having to struggle to get money or be seen? By expanding avenues available there is less oversight, more niche content, more diverse points of view.

Spielberg is also ignoring how many more opportunities are created through these new business models that make room for new voices."

I'm sorry Sir, but you are all wrong.

The economical model of Netflix is dangerous for indy creators because it won't allow an independent filmmaker to exist and have the opportunity to raise money as an outsider and make something great. This can only happen with an unit sale model.
Take a look at the video game industry. For the moment, it does not have a sub model, even though some editors want that to happen. If there were a subscription model, some games would not have been created. No Witcher 3, that made CD Projekt extremly rich and independent, so they can make their next game the way they want, no Star Citizen (even if the game is not finished yet, that's not the point, the point is that they raise more than 200 M dollars on their own) no Elite Dangerous, the list could go on and on.

Netflix model is dangerous because one day, there will be only these streaming platforms and nothing else and THEY will choose which voice gets to be heard. That's VERY dangerous.

Furthermore, the economical model of Netflix implies that each of the film or serie on their platform has a value close to 0 $ (0,00000....something..$)
Why is that ? Because you pay like 10 dollars / month to have access to ALL of the content, content that you won't be able to watch in your entire LIFETIME.

When you bought a film or a serie on SVOD or on Blu Ray or DVD, you'd buy it with your money but also with your time, you were giving your time to the creator that made them. As we can't exchange time per see, that is why you'd pay more in a unit sale model. Now with sub streaming, you don't "pay" with your time for a specific content, you pay for all the content, even the content you won't see because you don't want to and the content you won't have the time to see anyway.

Sub streaming is a deadly economic model for creators AND for the audience. No room for indy creators to express themselves and therefore nothing really interesting to see for the audience.

Frankly, on Netflix, I've only seen 5 series, that by the way were not original creations. I will buy them on blu ray to support the creators. But there is one question remaining : Why does this model work ?

Well, if you take a step back, you can see that in every modern country right now the middle class is being destroyed, people have less and less money so they can't buy content on a unit sale base anymore, that's the why and this should concerns us all.

March 2, 2019 at 9:03AM, Edited March 2, 9:03AM

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John Dureuil
Director
92