In the cinematic world, few things have changed in the last decade quite like the advancement of streaming services. Sites like Netflix and Hulu are no longer just hosting classics, but have also made great strides in generating their own original content that now compete with the major studios. As a result of this monumental shift, there is a huge lingering question about the future relationship between these services and movie theaters - and legendary director Steven Spielberg recently took time to make a call to action, and express his desire to see a long future for the big screen experience:
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. I’m a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.
That quote, a very clear reference to the "conflict" between theaters and streaming services, comes from a speech that Steven Spielberg delivered while receiving the Filmmaker Award at the Cinema Audio Society’s annual CAS Awards - according to Variety. He added that he admires the work being done on the small screen, and the brilliant filmmakers creating it, but, speaking directly to the room, he also noted that nothing can quite match everything that comes with going to a movie theater to watch a new film.
Steven Spielberg's comments come at a time when many genius filmmakers - including Martin Scorsese, Paul Greengrass, Alfonso Cuaron, and the Coen brothers - have started making movies directly for Netflix, so one can understand why he might be concerned about the future of big screen cinema. After all, if those major names are content making material for televisions and computers, we could get to a point where all writers and directors feel the same way.
The good news for the cause, however, is that the big screen experience is coming off an extraordinary year. While Netflix put out more original movies in 2018 than it ever has in its history, the year also saw U.S. theaters earn record-breaking numbers in box office revenue - fueled by 13 films that managed to make more than $200 million, and 34 that made over $100 million. Clearly audiences are just as excited as ever to go to their local multiplex and check out the new releases; what's really key is just production of content that will continue to put asses in seats - which does circle back to Steven Spielberg's point.
Film historians will point out that this isn't the first time that the industry has faced a crisis like the one presented by modern streaming services. The same kind of fear was going around in the 1950s as televisions became more prolific, and panic was also abound with the advancement of home video and VCRs. Obviously the movie world survived, and the same will be true in this case. The necessity is simply adaptation instead of stagnation.
Sites like Netflix and Hulu aren't going anywhere, and the good news is that neither is film - so long as the medium continues to properly change to fit the new world and a new audience. Part in parcel with this good news is that there is still plenty of demand out there for Steven Spielberg movies on the big screen - as referenced by Ready Player One's $582.9 million global take - and whatever he decides to do next.