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Last year’s awards buzz for Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix film Roma rocked the boat in Hollywood for a number of reasons. One, because it started a kerfuffle between Netflix and theater chains about their 90-day exclusivity window. Two: it began a conversation about whether films produced by streaming services should be eligible for Oscar nominations and also sparked the alleged “Spielberg vs. Netflix” conflict.
According to legendary E.T. director, the latter has been blown out of proportion in the media in recent months. Steven Spielberg penned an email to the New York Times to clarify his comments on streaming services. Take a look:
I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them. Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories. However, I feel people need to have the opportunity to leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place where they can sit in the company of others and have a shared experience — cry together, laugh together, be afraid together — so that when it’s over they might feel a little less like strangers. I want to see the survival of movie theaters. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.
Steven Spielberg also noted that his gripes weren’t with Netflix specifically about producing movies for home viewing, but the various theater chains who have turned the streaming giant away from showing their original films because of the 90-day exclusivity window theaters have been sticking to. He’s advocating for the continuation of the theater experience more than anything, though his comments have previously been characterized as an attack on Netflix and streaming as a medium.
When major chains AMC and Regal rejected the idea of showing Roma in their theaters because of the fact it would be available to stream before the three month period, the filmmaker actually called them up and asked them if they’d make an exception and they refused. Spielberg is only opting for streaming services, theater chains and traditional studios to work together to preserve moviegoing over couch-potatoing. Here’s some of his comments from his infamous speech in February that was part of the “conflict”:
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.
It was said that Spielberg was heading to a board meeting with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday night to change the rule about the current eligibility of streaming service films to be nominated for Oscars, the filmmaker did not attend and no amendments to the rules were made.
While Steven Spielberg has been vocal about his ongoing intentions to preserve the theater experience, his production company Amblin is working on three television series with streaming platforms: Amazon Prime’s Cortes and Moctezuma, Apple’s Amazing Stories and Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot. He is also a Netflix subscriber himself who has binged original content such as The Haunting of Hill House.
The ongoing conflict here seems to primarily be between streaming services and theater chains. Recently reports that Netflix may buy its own theater (The Egyptian on Hollywood Boulevard) could signal the start of an expansion in the way the platform does business and makes their films accessible.