Steven Spielberg has long been a champion of theatrical exhibition, and that hasn’t changed. But post-pandemic, the Oscar-winning director now admits there’s at least one past film of his that he’d consider making for a streamer.
“Speaking very honestly, I made ‘The Post’ [about the Pentagon Papers] as a political statement about our times by reflecting the Nixon administration, and we thought that was an important reflection for a lot of people to understand what was happening to our country,” the “Fablemans” director told the New York 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,” he continued. “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 to make that kind of difference. Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.”
The 2017 film starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep performed well enough, grossing nearly $180 million at the worldwide box office against a $50 million budget, but Spielberg says he sees the value in reaching the widest possible audience with a film like that.
That said, Spielberg no doubt would have insisted on a robust theatrical release in addition to putting “The Post” on Apple TV+ or Netflix.
“I think there has to be a concerted effort on the part of movie directors to demand that the streaming services footing the bill for most of these films give their movies a chance to be exhibited theatrically and not just in four theaters to qualify for awards,” he said elsewhere in the interview “It’s going to have to come from all of us — the WGA [the Writers Guild], the DGA [the Directors Guild] and eventually the academy.”
His comments come as a Netflix film – the “Knives Out” sequel “Glass Onion” – becomes the first from the streamer to play in all three major theater chains across the country: AMC, Regal and Cinemark. That said, “Glass Onion” will only be in theaters for one week, and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos subsequently downplayed the importance of the move as it relates to future Netflix movies, much to the chagrin of theater owners.
Spielberg says he found the box office success of “Elvis” this summer encouraging as it relates to getting adults back into theaters, and affirmed his belief that audiences will come back.
“I found it encouraging that ‘Elvis’ broke $100 million at the domestic box office. 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.”
Spielberg’s comments come as AMC CEO Adam Aron recently pointed to a lack of new movies, not COVID or streaming, as the real threat to the future of movie theaters.
“At this point, there is only one topic that should be on the top of all minds…movie theater operators need more movies,” Aron said.
Spielberg’s next, his personal drama “The Fabelmans,” opens in limited release on Friday, Nov. 11 before expanding wide for Thanksgiving.