What Spielberg’s deal with Netflix means for Hollywood?
Steven Spielberg has signed a contract to make films for Netflix – It’s yet to know whether the films for Netflix will have a theatrical release first.
Under the terms of the deal, announced Monday by Netflix and Mr. Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, the studio will make multiple new films for Netflix over the course of the agreement. In a joint statement about the Netflix deal, Spielberg praised “this new avenue for our films” as an “amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways.”
Spilberg’s magic will come in handy, especially now, when the streaming giant faces increased competition for talent and content from deep-pocketed rivals such as Walt Disney Co. and Amazon.com Inc. The move is surprising and a sign of the major changes taking place in Hollywood, in part because Spielberg has previously been seen as something of a Netflix skeptic.
In 2019, for instance, the director reportedly urged the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bar day-and-date streaming releases from being eligible for Oscars. Sources close to the director, however, dispute that Spielberg ever tried to bar Netflix from eligibility.
However, it seems that Spielberg has changed his mind about streaming, perhaps because of the pandemic. In a recent interview on the subject, he confirmed his support for the cinema experience, but seemed much more open to streaming.
“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.” – said Spielberg
The Netflix movies do not have any budgetary or genre requirements attached to them. They may also receive some type of theatrical release as have other Netflix pics such as “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” but that will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
What’s interesting is that Monday’s deal did not say whether Spielberg’s films for Netflix would also appear on the big screen first. It looks like the industry pivots from a model that insisted on lengthy, exclusive “windows” for movie theater releases, to one in which major films often appear on streaming platforms simultaneously or very soon after they hit the big screen – or even skip theaters altogether.
Hollywood’s new direction is starting to emerge, where streaming will play an even bigger role than it plays now. Streaming services, already a major priority, fast became the only way most people got their film and TV fixes. Netflix Inc. added 26 million customers in the first half of 2020, a record for new subscribers. And so media companies set aside legacy businesses and learned how to stream.
Warner Media LLC experimented with dropping TV episodes on its new HBO Max service all at once. Walt Disney Co. announced plans for more TV shows based on its Marvel and Star Wars properties, bolstering its approach of spacing out major releases to maximize Disney+ subscriptions. Universal, Warner Bros., and Disney all canceled plans to release major movies in theaters and put them online instead.