The roaring debate between films getting released in the cinema and heading straight to streaming may eventually end with a whimper with audiences’ preferences basically forcing more films to hit streaming sooner and streaming services becoming bigger and bigger players in Hollywood, but that’s not going to keep the old guard from yelling a bit. Steven Spielberg is not a fan of films being made for streaming, and he let the audience know at the recent CAS Awards.
“I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.”
He then continued on, “I love television. I love the opportunity. Some of the greatest writing being done today is for television, some of the best directing for television, some of the best performances [are] on television today. The sound is better in homes more than it ever has been in history but there’s nothing like going to a big dark theater with people you’ve never met before and having the experience wash over you. That’s something we all truly believe in.”
The director has also previously come out saying that Netflix movies that get cursory runs at a few cinemas shouldn’t be up for Oscars, basically calling out Roma this year as a “TV movie.”
Overall, I kind of agree with him, but not really. Roma is a movie that desperately needs to be seen on the big screen. Cuaron did not shoot that for TV at all but Netflix only gave a few people a chance to see it in a theater. In cases like that I’m all for what Spielberg is saying, these films deserve more theater time because the theater experience is different. With more and more top-notch directors jumping over to the streaming services we’ll have less and less chances to experience great movies on big, gorgeous screens with the best sound possible.
However, that’s not the future, and who even knows if we would have gotten Roma if not for Netflix. Theatrical distribution is a big, bulky monstrosity that keeps films from getting made because they won’t be profitable enough to warrant it. We’re supposed to ignore one of the greatest films ever made just because we watched it on a smaller screen in our pajamas? That doesn’t make sense. The walls of media are mashing together and screen size, location, and presentation don’t matter as much. Streaming services are providing films at the same level and quality as a theatrical release so why shouldn’t they be considered as films? The medium is not the product.