Steven Spielberg Has This Message for Streamers on Behalf of His Friends

Steven Spielberg Says Streamers Throw Filmmakers “Under the Bus”
Steven Spielberg on set for 'The Fabelmans'Credit: Universal Pictures
What is the importance of an exclusive theatrical release

It is obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic had a drastic effect on the box office that is still affecting theaters around the nation. 

While some studios attempted to find solutions during the pandemic to release their major films to the world on streaming platforms and in theaters, many filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan heavily criticized the decision, saying that these films are intended for and enhanced by the theater-going experience.

Now, Steven Spielberg joins the conversation regarding the state of movie-going. He says a pivotal moment in his latest film, The Fabelmans, revolves around the theatrical experience. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Spielberg said that streaming services like HBO Max have thrown filmmakers “under the bus” by “unceremoniously” dumping high-profile new releases on streaming and not in theaters. 

“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,” Spielberg said.

Steven Spielberg Says Streamers Throw Filmmakers “Under the Bus”
'The Fabelmans'Credit: Universal Pictures

The Oscar-winning filmmaker is referring to Warner Bros.’ infamous decision to release all of its 2021 film slate on HBO Max the same day it landed in theaters, which was an industry that was still finding its place in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world. 

Spielberg believes that this changed moviegoing habits for adults for the worse. 

“I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn,” Spielberg said. “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… 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.” 

One film that Spielberg believes was able to fulfill the director’s wishes for theatrical moviegoing and give him hope that the box office isn’t dead was Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. 

“[T]here’s no question that the big sequels and movies from Marvel and DC and Pixar and some of the animated movies and horror films still have a place in society,” he said, given their box office returns.

But he also said Elvis proved that original stories can make $151 million domestic gross. 

“I found it encouraging that Elvis broke $100 million at the domestic box office. A lot of older people went to see that film, and that gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the movies as the pandemic becomes an endemic,” Spielberg said. “I think movies are going to come back. I really do.” 

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Spielberg is looking at the benefit of day-to-date releases. People who were afraid to be in a public space with strangers who were more than likely not wearing a mask as they went to the latest release could feel comfortable as they wanted a new movie at home. This also benefits those who cannot leave their home for health reasons or cannot afford the expensive ticket to see a new release on opening weekend and can join the conversation about the latest film release.

I will always support going to theaters when you can to see big spectacles of cinema, but I also support serving movie lovers who cannot access their closest movie theaters. 

Steven Spielberg Says Streamers Throw Filmmakers “Under the Bus”
'The Fabelmans'Credit: Universal Pictures

As for Spielberg, he understands that streaming is important, but the theater will always be there place where a difference can be made when an audience watches a film since “the film had something to say to millions of people, and we were never going to get those millions of people into enough theaters to make that kind of difference,” Spielberg said. “Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.” 

For his latest directorial feature, Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical story The Fabelmans will open exclusively in select theaters on Nov. 11 before expanding nationwide on Nov. 23. 

Do you agree with Spielberg’s take on day-to-date releases? Let us know in the comments below!      

Your Comment

6 Comments

Not only streamers; with 4k and 8k tvs, HDR, and laser projectors at home, you have the same picture quality of the theaters. The only difference is screen size. In the past of the NTSC and PAL tvs, the picture quality was abysmal. You had to go to the theater

November 10, 2022 at 12:50PM

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Javier Diez
Film
587

Sure, if you have 5 to 10k $ lying around, you can have a nice theater like experience, technologically speaking...

November 11, 2022 at 7:49AM

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Oli Laf
15

For a good reason, I stop going to any movie theaters due to my Multi-Chemical Sensitivity ( MCS). I am really very allergic to any excessive use of cleaning agents chemicals on movie theater seats and carpet ( absorb chemical fumes) making unbreathable for me to sit down and watch movies for about 2 to 3 hours causing real stomach pain and respiratory infections.

I surely LOVE the magics of movie theaters preferably the grand movie palaces with very huge movie screens. I ever couldn’t go to any gyms due to excessive use of cleaning chemicals. :( I avoid restaurants using fragrance inside and outside these places. I prefer staying home due to my weakened immune system from diabetes and MCS. Understand, Steven Spielberg?

November 10, 2022 at 1:42PM

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Robert Mason
Audience
1

That is a good case of the home cinema advantage.

That being said, the movie always come to your home. You are not suffering if it isn't on the theatrical release date. Lacking the chance to "join the conversation" is bit of weak argument. If the movie is worth talking about, it won't be a question of days...

Instead of an on-demand simultaneous release, streamers should do a scheduled live projection. Do a scheduled stream parallel to the theatrical. Say 3 nights with 2 projection/night. Then release it two or three months later as an on-demand regular stream.

November 11, 2022 at 8:09AM

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Oli Laf
15

Misguided nostalgia. Theatre is spectacle cinema now, and there is no going back. It can be good and fun, but rarely profound. And it’s way too expensive.

Since box office is the king of all, and the streamers being tight lipped about their numbers, it’s probably harder to negotiate with streamers. Maybe that’s the underlying fear and animosity?

November 13, 2022 at 3:07PM

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Theater companies were almost obliterated due to the pandemic but I don't feel many of them have taken anything away from that. Still charging very high fees for an experience that is often sub-par. I adore seeing movies on the big screen. But I think the theater companies would be well served by protecting the theatrical experience. Bring back the gravitas of seeing a movie on the big screen. Hire better staff / pay better so that those employees feel invested in protecting the experience. Provide more consistent quality in projection. Seriously, I still go to movies and experience issues with glitches on the screen, audio sync, etc. That should not be happening for what I'm paying. Theater companies investing in gimmicks like nicer concessions and entertainment in the lobby is nice but they should start by ensuring quality around the main attraction.

November 14, 2022 at 8:04AM

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Dale Raphael Goldberg
Director / Editor
603