Steven Spielberg Clarifies Position on Netflix, Wants "Survival of Movie Theaters"

The 'Jaws' director wrote in an email to The New York Times that though he seeks to preserve the traditional theatrical experience, “I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them.”

Steven Spielberg has broken his silence on his reported plan to ask the Academy's board of governors to vote for a new rule that would combat simultaneous awards-contender releases on streaming platforms and in movie theaters, saying in a statement that he wants everyone to have access to great movies but also that he wants to see movie theaters survive. 

“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” Spielberg said in a written statement sent by email to The New York Times. "Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories." He added, "However, I feel people need to have the opportunity to leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place where they can sit in the company of others and have a shared experience — cry together, laugh together, be afraid together — so that when it’s over they might feel a little less like strangers. I want to see the survival of movie theaters. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture."

The Times reported that, as The Hollywood Reporter wrote on Monday, Spielberg would not be attending the Academy's annual rules meeting on Tuesday night to present a proposed rule that Oscar contenders play a four-week exclusive engagement in theaters (a film currently only has to play a one-week exclusive engagement and can release simultaneously on a streaming platform). According to a Times source, Spielberg is currently in New York working on his upcoming remake of West Side Story and will not attend the meeting.

Times sources additionally said that Spielberg felt his views on Netflix were being "overstated" in the media and that he was primarily concerned not with Netflix, but with exhibitors who have rebuffed efforts to change their exclusive 90-day period to play films. AMC and Regal both did not play Netflix's Oscar hopeful Roma as part of their best picture showcases this year, which Spielberg wished them to play, sources told the Times. Spielberg wishes for exhibitors, studios and streaming services to come together to save "the motion picture theatrical art form," according to those sources.

Spielberg's comments come after The Hollywood Reporter reported that Spielberg and Netflix chief Ted Sarandos were spotted dining together at the San Vincente Bungalows after reports surfaced about a potential four-week exclusive engagement rule.

The Jaws director previously said to iTV News a year ago, "Once you commit to a television format, you're a TV movie. You certainly, if it's a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don't believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination." in February, at the Cinema Audio Society Awards, Spielberg added, "The greatest contribution we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience. I'm a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever."