It’s no secret that Stephen Spielberg has been wary of streaming releases. The iconic director has been very vocal about his preference for theatrical releases and has resisted streaming platforms’ effects on the industry.
When Warner Bros made the surprise announcement in late 2020 to release their upcoming films on HBO Max at the same time they hit theaters, Spielberg was amongst the loudest critics to condemn the move.
He is now doubling down on his rhetoric. Spielberg recently sat down with film critic A.O. Scott of the New York Times to discuss his upcoming film, The Fabelmans. During their interview, Spielberg did not mince words about his feelings on HBO Max saying
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.
He is especially worried about older audiences and their reluctance to return to the theaters, saying “I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn. But I really believe those same older audiences, once they got into the theater, the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic.”
Spielberg does believe in streaming platforms’ ability to reach mass audiences much more effectively than theaters can. He points to his own 2017 film The Post an example, saying
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 theaters
His predictions are not all gloom and doom for the theater industry however. He cited the box office success of Baz Luhnrmann’s Elvis as a reason for optimism. The biopic grossed over $100 million, with a heavy chunk of that coming from older adults. Spielberg added “a lot of older people went to see that film, and that gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the movies as the pandemic becomes an endemic. I think movies are going to come back. I really do.”