Steven Spielberg discusses the impact of streaming services on films

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On the eve of his latest theatrical release, Steven Spielberg weighs in with an even-handed take on the impact of streamers. 

We’ve heard Steven Spielberg bemoan the state of cinema before. All the way back in 2013, he and George Lucas criticised the snowballing blockbuster model, predicting a vast migration of content to video-on-demand and hey, he wasn’t wrong.

Still, the maestro hasn’t always been spot-on though. He sounded off a few years ago about the evils of streaming before being indirectly rebuked by filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, who pointed out that not every director was afforded the same opportunities as he was. For some filmmakers, she argued, streaming was the only viable way to get their stories told.

Whether you agree with his points or not, Spielberg’s status guarantees that a conversation is bound to happen whenever he ventures an opinion on the matter. With his latest film, The Fablemans about to hit cinemas, the filmmaker has opened up once more on the topic, this time with a more rounded view. Speaking to The New York Times ,Spielberg began by throwing a few barbs in the direction of HBO Max, stating that “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. 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. I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn.”

However, despite throwing a little shade in the direction of HBO Max and to a lesser extent, all streamers, Spielberg concedes that as a form of exhibition, streaming is something that even he would consider under the right circumstances. Using 2017’s The Post as an example, he added that “I made The Post as a political statement about our times… 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. Because the film had something to say to millions of people, and we were never going to get those millions of people into enough theatres to make that kind of difference. Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.”

That last sentence right there seems to mark a conscious acknowledgement on the part of the director that yes, this is something of a climbdown in comparison to his past comments. Rather than this be an open/shut case of Old Man Yells At HBO Max-shaped Cloud, Spielberg has clearly softened his stance towards streaming platforms. By acknowledging the place of streamers in the exhibition ecosystem however, does this mean we’re moving irreversibly closer to the extinction of cinema as we know it, a prediction that he and Lucas famously made back in 2013?

Perhaps not. Spielberg seems to have softened on that front too, using Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis as an example that if cinemas can even lure hesitant older audiences back after a pandemic, things are probably going to be okay.

We should also point out that Spielberg and Lucas predicted back in 2013 that we’d be able to programme our dreams within ten to fifteen years. The clock is ticking on that one, Mr Spielberg…

Image: BigStock

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