Steven Spielberg has spoken: The prolific director believes that streaming services threw many filmmakers “under the bus” during the height of the pandemic by putting their films on the platforms and not releasing them in theaters. In this case, he is referring to Warner Bros.’ decision to release its 2021 film slate both on HBO Max and in theaters on the same day.
“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,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “They were paid off and the films were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max. The case I’m talking about. And then everything started to change.”
Older audiences may have been relieved not “to step on sticky popcorn,” but said they also lost some of “magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic.”
Spielberg said it falls to the movies to be “good enough” to get audiences to come to the theater, noting that the “industry is trying to figure that out right now.”
He said it was encouraging that Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis broke $100 million at the domestic box office.
“That gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the movies as the pandemic becomes an endemic,” he said. “I think movies are going to come back. I really do.”
He believes there needs to be a “concerted effort on the part of movie directors to demand that the streaming services footing the bill for most of these films give their movies a chance to be exhibited theatrically and not just in four theaters to qualify for awards.”
For first-time and experienced directors alike, everyone would love to see their movies shown on the big screen.
But, Spielberg concedes he’s not opposed to his future projects being released on streamers.
“I don’t know if I had been given that script post-pandemic whether I would have preferred to have made that film for Apple or Netflix and gone out to millions of people,” he said. “Because 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. Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.”
Spielberg’s recent interview with the Times’ A.O. Scott was pegged to his new film, The Fabelmans, which opens in select movie theaters Friday before expanding nationwide November 23.