Even while promoting his futuristic, high-tech new movie, Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg is revealing his traditionalist streak., questioning the level playing field between theatrical features and films launched on Netflix and other streaming services.
During his five-decade directing career, as innovations from DVD commentary tracks to digital cameras and projectors have arisen, the filmmaker has often questioned the need to veer from the classical approach. There are positive results of this reverence for tradition, including Spielberg’s work on a range of preservation causes and other efforts to strengthen the legacy of Hollywood. But the latest target of his skepticism is feature films that launch on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. (His views, and those of fellow filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, are not new but are getting fresh attention as he makes the publicity rounds.)
In an interview with ITV News (see video below), Spielberg noted that the movie business has never faced more of a challenge from television, especially given the rise of streaming. While there are benefits from that to the overall culture, he said features launched on streaming platforms should not be allowed at the Oscars.
“I don’t believe that films that are given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for Academy Award nominations,” he said. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, you deserve an Emmy. But not an Oscar.”
Movie studios who once took chances on fringe, indie fare they discovered at film festivals, he said, are focused on branded tentpoles. And filmmakers are able to find willing buyers in the SVOD world, fundamentally changing the game. “Television is thriving with quality and heart,” he said. “But it poses a clear and present danger to filmgoers.”
Reflecting on his previous film outing, he expressed no regret. “I’ll still make The Post and ask an audience to please go out to theaters and see The Post and not make it for Netflix,” he said.
Here’s the full, 8-minute-plus interview–the discussion of television and Netflix titles vis-à-vis film starts at around the 4:25 mark.