March 1, 2019

Steven Spielberg's Heated Issues with Netflix Grow Stronger

It may be time to phone home. 

Following up on a previous news story, Steven Spielberg's growing beef and concerns with Netflix continue. 

It's no secret that the uber-popular filmmaker has long had issues with the streaming service's model to break (or at the very least, disrupt) mainstream theatrical exhibition. That has only grown with the success of the distributor's foreign language title, Roma, that went on to win three Academy Awards last Sunday night.

Roma had a minimal (but ultimately, awards-qualifying) theatrical run that scared traditional distributors about the future of their industry. Spielberg held concern for the future of moviegoing.

Should Netflix films be eligible for Academy Awards or Emmys? Both? Is a Netflix production a product of television or a product of cinema? Unfortunately, it stands as a product either way.

Now the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will listen to Mr. Spielberg's concerns. "Awards rules discussions are ongoing with the branches," the Academy has announced, "and the Board will likely consider the topic at the April meeting.”

As first reported by Indiewire, a spokesperson for Amblin Entertainment said, “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”

What will ultimately be the straw that breaks the camel's back? More to come this spring.      

Your Comment

29 Comments

He should demand that all screeners be banned if he's being honest. How many awards has he won from judges who watched his movies on a DVD etc. (sent by the Academy) to private homes? This is hypocritical to the extreme. Like Letterman, I worry Spielberg has totally lost his footing during his sunset years.

March 1, 2019 at 1:52PM

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Nonsense. The academy awards already turned into some yellow press /mainstream politics show, but if Spielberg succeeds, it's gonna lose the last bit of relevance for the art it was initially created (or at least posed) representing. Spielberg additionally show how little he knows about today's people's entertainment habits, he reached meaninglessness a long time ago and now works on destroying his dignity. He should've done what Lucas already did and just STFU.

March 2, 2019 at 2:25AM

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Gerard M.
1317

IG Farben anybody? Bring down the monopolistic World TV streaming conglomerate.

March 2, 2019 at 3:48AM

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Matt
173

I watched one of my short films in a movie theater last year and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Night and day compared to watching it on TV. That's why I support Mr. Spielberg. Nothing against the quality of their films but if Netflix wants to have their movies on the big festivals, they should release them theatrically. Otherwise, I fear that in the future we will only have the option to watch super hero movies on the big screen.

March 2, 2019 at 5:25AM

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Rod P
175

I've had the pleasure to watch one of my shorts on a big screen, and it is indeed a wonderful experience. But HOW a person experiences a film shouldn't dictate whether or not that film is recognized for its artistic achievement by the most prestigious (albeit hopelessly flawed) award.

What if they said, "Only movies shot on film can be recognized?" Or only movies shot on 35mm film, none of this square-ish 4:3 stuff that Wes Anderson likes to do? Better yet, really, only films that truly take advantage of theatrical release and are shot in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. 16:9 films are not real "films."

Technology will continue to evolve and change how audiences enjoy the cinema. The value of their method of presentation should not be conflated with the artistic value of the film itself.

March 3, 2019 at 10:00PM

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Ron Dawson
Managing Editor | Frame.io Insider
282

He is right in some way, 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 go on and on. Netflix model is dangerous because one day, there will be only these streaming platforms and nothing else. 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 ones you won't see because you don't want to and the ones you won't have the time to see.

Sub streaming is a deadly economic model for creators AND 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 5:34AM, Edited March 2, 6:03AM

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John Dureuil
Director
92

What the actual F ..... You could not be more wrong. Indy creators have the most opportunities they have ever had to get their films sold, distributed and seen. In 2018 the majors ..ie: Amazon, Netflix, Disney, HBO, HULU and Time Warner spent something over 50 BILLION on original content. Comparing Movies to Games ..what? .... "the middle class is being destroyed" ... WTF

March 2, 2019 at 10:31AM

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Thank you for your lack of arguments, this was very interesting.

So, I will answer to you :

1) Netflix said itself that its main competitor was Fortnite, a video game, so I may not be so wrong to compare the both.

2) I compare this 2 industries as they are both entertainment industries and I could have put also the music industry (where you have people complaining that they don't earn enough money now because tours don't compensate the lack of revenue created by the streaming companies like Spotify and else....)

3) You say : "Indy creators have the most opportunities they have ever had to get their films sold, distributed and seen. In 2018 the majors ..ie: Amazon, Netflix, Disney, HBO, HULU and Time Warner spent something over 50 BILLION on original content"

You are wrong, completly wrong. First they don't buy indy movies, they buy films from people already in the industry for a long time, Netflix and Co are the new Gatekeepers and Indy creators don't like Gatekeepers, they have never been friends. That's why these filmmakers want to be INDEPENDENT.

When Netflix & Co actually buy indy films, they do it at the lowest price possible, you have an example of a indy film (500K budget) that receiveid an offer of 2 000 $ to be on Netflix exclusively on large period of time with no royalites what so ever, so what exactly are YOU talking about when you say that indy creators make money out of it ? You clearly are miss informed here.

4) I compare again video game industry and our industry because in video game you have a unit sale model which is BETTER for indy creators, you know, they need MONEY in order to make FILMS. Not like 2 000 $, like way more.

I compare the two because in the VGI you can really be indepedent, you can crowdfund your project on a large scale, they have many more examples than us, again, Star Citizen (200M), Elite Dangerous, and so many more. I wish a filmmaker could raise 200 MILLIONS dollars on its own for a film or a show, but it's not possible because people are now use to see them on Netflix, oh sorry, "consume" them, "binge" , anything you want, but clearly not "see" or "watch". It seems they don't pay attention anymore. And they do this in order to forget their lives that are more and more stressful because they have less and less money..

So finally, yes the middle class is being destroyed, cost of life is rising higher and faster than wages and this since the 80's, thus the success of streaming models, because people have less and less money, haven't you see what is going on in France right now with the Yellow Vest protest ? People don't have money anymore, what do YOU have to answer to that ?

You did not answer on the value of the creation related to time available of the audience, which is very important to understand why this streaming model is dangerous.

March 3, 2019 at 2:13PM

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John Dureuil
Director
92

Good article shared by steve. Steve thanks for write and share this article.

I am an essay writer on pay to do my research paper.

March 2, 2019 at 6:10AM

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Football teams in the uk started to complain when attendance dropped. Prices were to blame for a large part £50 per ticket £100/150 if you bring your kids for a event lasting the same as a movie. Of course if you pay your players millions, it has to come from somewhere. How much does Spielberg earn? £15 -£20 per cinema ticket. It’s simple economics mr Spielberg and Co. not everyone is rich a lot are poor, but we get lots of film stars jetting around (to the oscars for example) in designer clothes, cars, jets, nannies. Come talk to me about artistic merits of film and creativity when you organise your own house. And pay your crew proportionately. He has no argument.

March 2, 2019 at 7:02AM

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Chris
185

The most important part of watching a film at the theater isn't the size of the screen, it's watching with other people. And I'd even go one step farther and say that it's sharing an experience with *strangers* and establishing a connection and/or shared experience.

March 2, 2019 at 2:15PM

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I think this is very overrated and wishful thinking. Netflix and Co are thriving as hell because people love watching movies when they want and with whom they want.

March 2, 2019 at 3:10PM

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Gerard M.
1317

This is literally the reason I hate going to the theater. Hell is definitely other people in this case. If I wanted some sort of "shared" experience, I wouldn't be sitting a dark room where I'm not supposed to be interacting with anyone the entire time.

March 9, 2019 at 4:46PM, Edited March 9, 4:46PM

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Kris
86

So are awards won based on the content of the film? or the location/format of where it was seen? We are living in different times now.

March 2, 2019 at 3:13PM, Edited March 2, 3:13PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
819

There are many, many, many facets and nuances to this topic --- and you gotta admit, more straw-man arguments than you can shake a scarecrow at --- but after some thoughtful consideration I must completely agree with Spielberg. Netflix and other streaming platforms ARE television, and should compete for the Emmy.

Netflix wants to play smallball but at the same time qualify for the big prize. Nah.
If you play flag football, even if you play amazing-world-class-awesome flag football, you don't get a Lombardi Trophy.

I'm saying this as a movie fan. I desperately want more movies that have huge scope, that swing for the fence, that scale the spectacle, and take the risks that television (almost) never does. Those movies are already rare, and I DON'T want studios, producers, directors, and all the other professionals associated with motion pictures to be DISINCENTED to go big. I want moviemakers to be ALL IN. And I believe that means aiming for a theatrical run as the primary viewing experience.

I am also a fan of television. I watch a lot of it. I'm not saying TV is lower-level entertainment, or a lesser art form, the way some people view comic books as lesser than novels. I'm just saying it is fundamentally different. And the rewards, therefore, should be different.

Anyway, nobody has to care what I think. But I think movie theaters are magical places. And I do hope that a hundred years from now, there are still movie theaters, and strangers still congregate in dark rooms to be transported, via the art of filmmaking, to other times, other places, other worlds.

March 2, 2019 at 11:10PM

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Oh, wow...so much nonsense...

There was a time Cinema and TV were clearly separated by shooting formats, content, actors and whatever else.

Nowadays the quality level of "TV" formats are super close to the movies. Even worse, an insane amount of big budget movies are so badly made they could qualify as direct to DVD trash.

Movie theatres being "magical places"!?! Why not call them holy places of wisdom and longevity? This is embarrassingly hyperbolic...

March 3, 2019 at 9:56AM

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Gerard M.
1317

By that logic why not pose stricter rules for movies to qualify ?
such as only shot on Film ?
why not factor in ticket sales then ?
how many movie theatres is considered "enough" and for how long ? Only domestic ones or also international ?
You see the more questions are posed the more irrelevant it becomes to what actually counts .... the actual movie itself, if it's worthy for an academy award or not ...

March 5, 2019 at 8:12AM

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Sherif Francis
Director, Director of Photography, Editor
25

You wrote:
"...and take the risks that television (almost) never does. "

With all due respect, that comment right there negates your whole argument. As Gerard M. already pointed out, the quality of "TV" today is super close to movies (and I'd go as far as to say many "TV" shows exceed most movies), and there is a bunch of garbage in theaters.

You say TV is fundamentally different? Tell me how the best battle scenes from Game of Thrones is "fundamentally different" than LOTR? How is the drama and emotional engagement of shows like "Big Little Lies" or "Better Call Saul" fundamentally different than "Can You Forgive Me". How is the comedy on Insecure fundamentally different than "What Men Want" (oh wait, it's actually better).

Not to mention the actual breadth, scope, and beauty of actual features made for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. You want to argue that the cinematography in Roma is not worthy of Oscar consideration, JUST because Netflix made it and released it day and date? Wow!

Lastly, I agree with you that the experience of watching a film in a theater vs at home on a UHD screen, a computer, or even an iPad is far superior. But the quality, acknowledgment, and honoring of those art forms should not be based on whether or not the makers had the money, connection, and/or luck to get theatrical distribution. And it's a pipe dream if you think make Oscar consideration stricter is going to increase the theater going experience.

IMHO, ALL films should be eligible, regardless of how they are distributed. Have a separate technical award for theatrical presentation if you want, but this idea that movies made for Netflix, et. al., are less-than, is so categorically and empirically ludicrous, I'm actually surprised in today's day and age it's a debate.

March 8, 2019 at 1:05PM

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Ron Dawson
Managing Editor | Frame.io Insider
282

This is very Simple. Don't mix Awards with Distribution. A good movie is a good movie. Period.

March 3, 2019 at 1:49AM

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Joshua Mwesigwa
Director/Editor
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The comical irony of this debate is that the overwhelming number of Academy members watch the movies they vote for on screeners! So they're watching them on their TV sets anyway. And hell, many Academy members vote for movies they never see, but their friends are in. It's extremely hypocritical to penalize films of artistic merit just because they are released day and date (ESPECIALLY when there is soooooo much garbage that comes out theatrically.)

March 3, 2019 at 10:04PM

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Ron Dawson
Managing Editor | Frame.io Insider
282

Spielberg's point is quite simple and valid : don't let the Moviegoing Experience be destroyed. But I guess now 10 Spielbergs won't be enough to stop the new avalanche. So long classic theatrical exhibition, so long film projectors. Digital has benefitted many of us independent filmmakers in many ways, but on the other hand it has damaged the way we used to experience films. The End.

March 4, 2019 at 4:44AM

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I laugh as the centralized entertainment and broadcast journalism oligopolies have their pie cut into a million slices. They've gotten away with a business model allowing for a small number to create product and control it's distribution via a few theater chains/networks as the proper delivery method. People no longer need to wait for a Green Light by the gatekeepers for production or distribution, and the monopolists are not pleased with these developments because they see the trajectory.

March 4, 2019 at 3:36PM, Edited March 4, 3:38PM

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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
537

Next up
1 -Only songs released on vinyl should be nominated for the Grammies
2 - Only movies shot on Film should be nominated for cinematography at the Academy awards - none of that Alexa stuff
3 - Only animation that was drawn by hand should be nominated for best animation

The point is if the movie was fiilmed with the same standards and quality as movies released in theatres then why is it any less of a movie ?

Movie Theatres or platforms in general shouldnt be the qualifying factor on the quality of a movie - especially if movie distribution is a very difficult matter for small studios

Also for those that claim that movie theatres are open about the ticket sales - when was ticket sales a factor ? by that logic Marvel movies would dominate the Oscars !

March 5, 2019 at 8:05AM

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Sherif Francis
Director, Director of Photography, Editor
25

Saying that Spielberg is "attacking" Netflix, or "trying to disrupt" or not recognizing their right to make movies, etc., is just as misleading, as if you were claiming that Netflix is trying to stop Spielberg from making movies.
This is about THE AWARDS, nothing else. Netflix is closer to TV than theatrical features, therefore they get EMMY'S. They shouldn't get Emmy's AND Academy Awards, any more than Spielberg's theatrical films should qualify for Emmy's.

March 8, 2019 at 12:38PM

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Matt Pacini
Writer/Director/Composer
92

I, for one, agree with Steven! It’s already enough that filmmaking has turned into digital print-making. If a movie is to be eligible for the AMPAS Awards, then it needs to released in an actual public movie theater within the calendar year!

March 8, 2019 at 12:43PM

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Jim Hayes
Screenwriter, Producer
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If the Academy changed the rules so that a wider cinema release was required - where is the problem here? That opens up a Netflix film to an audience who don’t have Netflix (they do exist) and makes the point that the film isn’t just “made for TV” (I.e. Emmy-worthy). I don’t think Spielberg is trying to prevent Netflix funded films winning awards but just challenging the way they currently exploit the system (and, to be fair, why wouldn’t they?).

Roma was obviously worthy of awards. Most other films I’ve seen made by Netflix (“BirdBox” for example) is of a much lower standard.

Alongside this all is the question of whether the Netflix model will actually survive. They are losing massive amounts of money. Ridiculous amounts. If they don’t expand at the rate they need to it could all sink. Hollywood regularly ditches projects when they lose money - check the last instalment of the Divergent Series when part 3.1 didn’t make enough money 3.2 has been relegated to a TV movie! - but Netflix just pumps masses of material into the giant menu void and occasional gems float to the surface... what is the future for this model I wonder?

March 8, 2019 at 1:22PM

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Matt Jamie
Film Maker / Photographer
179

Mr. Spielberg does not have to unfairly put restrictions on who is eligible for the Oscars. The number of theatres is limited, and the number of screens in this digital era is unlimited. If you do not like the competition, step aside.

What is this condescending attitude towards the Emmys now? Besides, Netflix is not television. It is a whole new delivery platform, and others like this one will combine and that will overtake theatrical in every way in the not too distant future. Cinema is becoming democratic and egalitarian finally.

So what if Roma won so many Oscars? Jealous that some of the digital only boys got together and beat you at your own game? That's a laugh, a holler and a hoot, giving this silly reason to leave them out of the Oscars, just because they do not necessarily need a big theatrical release.

Why do you sell your movies rights to television and digital platforms worldwide then? So you can make more money through those media! It is all part of the same ecosystem, Mr. Spielberg. Don't make it an egosystem now. You are far too respected to want to get slammed like a petty little schoolboy. Hold your head high and keep quiet with respect.

March 8, 2019 at 1:27PM

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BalaSenthil Kumar
Screenwriter
4

"They (Netflix) are losing massive amounts of money. Ridiculous amounts."
So I take it you are on the Netflix board (because you know these "facts"). So if not, you will respond with "everyone knows this" , "it's a known fact". How else would you know these things ?
Sorry Mr. Spielberg, your argument just doesn't hold much water. (And I'm an older codger than you). But please - get of your soapbox. The times they are a changin' & you can't do doodly - squat to change them Steven. Not no way, no how. Regardless of how valid a few of your points may be.

March 8, 2019 at 6:15PM

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Hi there ! Just a 2 cents. (first, question, second, my thoughts).

Question: Does anyone know if it is true that Netflix would only pay a dismal amount of money for an indie filmmaker's film to show on it (and let's say a Bigger budget film, like in 100-500,000$ budget), that they pay something like 2000-5000$ compensation tops 'to be on their platform' no matter the size/work/budget of your film?

I think, if it is the case, and don't want to pay more than that; then, I don't see any reason to put your film there (unless you have a wish 'to starve'), because, if true, that is probably the biggest joke ever. I understand they may not be 'that rich' to pay 'all the indie filmmakers whom Also Want to be on their platform'; hence, can only give so much (and if they were to give such small amount - then, it can mean they are cheap (dirt, to the extreme), they don't have the funds to pay huge money, they receive a Ton of indies whom want Their film on their platfrom Too. So what are they suppose to do...they can only offer what they can (from their finances). And, it 'seems' that they have Plenty of indies going for/to them..as such..why would they give more money..no need...the indies come 'from themselves'..It's not Netflix running after indies; it's the inverse. Thus, most likely, 'too much demand' and 'too little money to offer'. Reasonably speaking, I thought Netflix would pay something like 500,000$ or something to have the priviledge of having the movie, a least a few hundred thousands; not sub-10,000$ (a joke). Me thinks, it's the inverse, the indie 'gets the priviledge on being on our platform'..no matter if their film costed them 150,000$ to make; they will give you a 'consolation prize'.

If Netflix is like that, then I am really saddened (thinking I was going there..later for my film..like most indies, but if it's crumbs we get..why then?...might as well try in theater...which apparently, is even worse now, since Netflix as eroded the cinema'hold' of viewers...now people which convenience and speed/don'T wanna bother 'going to movies' (and so many crazies out there..prefer watching safely at home), I, like many here, am from the old days ando ld tradition of going to the theater..but lately my mind has 'warmed' to the idea of Netflix being our future (and it is); so what can we do to make a better co-existence of both..because that is what matters I think. Cinema's should no dissapear..but in business, most business die if they do not Offer Something More/Value than the other 'new one' (Netflix). That is the way 'to compete' still, and remain in the game against online streaming movie viewing. I am super happy about this streaming technology, though I understand it hurt the cinema theaters' bottom. But, things change, thus cinema must adapt (or perish, I'm not for that..and like many here, being a cinema is an experience like no other...something to cherish and to show to new generations...but it seems the interest is dwindling and streaming 'is taking over'.)

If Netflix pay chumpchange for indie/blockbuster film makers they will skip them...I'm saddedn now because I was pumped for both theatrical realease And Netflix release (but now I think Netflix buys 'total exclusivity right' so you don't show your film in theater...although I could be wrong, we would have to make a contract that allows both, not just Netflix exclusivity).

I want to end by asking I heard that Netflix pays a certain amount depending on how many times the streamers views your film, like that 'advance (upfront payment of 2000$ (weep)) + the money's from number of times film seen). So if no one watches your film on their platform you make no money (just like in theaters, you must seel those tickets; here you would need 'views = cash'; Netflix would recognize that your film is popular/recommend it and so you would earn on 'those millions of online views' of your film (say 99cents a view? or something.. x 1milllion views).

I can imagine Mr.Spielberg's worry and he has a point, I sympathis with him but he is going all-out on this/too much a bit, but Netflix is going to survive/stay and I don't have a problem withe their films winnings Oscars/Academy Awards..the more the merrier, Academy is adapting to new reality that's good, cinema theaters have difficulty adapting it seems/stuck in old traditions (because it'S 'a (cinema) tradition' (aka unadaptable it seems))...as some said, they are different 'mean'/'media' and just as valuable/important (yes, despite the whole 'you reduce cinema theater money and destroy cinema theaters/their livelihoods/their very existence....debacle'.)

Just a 2 cents.

March 8, 2019 at 8:17PM

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