Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Is Steven Spielberg softening his stance on Netflix?

The director misses Oscars ban meeting and appears to offer olive branch to the streaming giant

Director Steven Spielberg will be collaborating with Apple TV+. AFP
Director Steven Spielberg will be collaborating with Apple TV+. AFP

Steven Spielberg missed last night’s meeting of the Oscars governors to discuss the eligibility of streamed films, a meeting that was in large part spurred by his own apparent anti-Netlix campaign, amid signs that his stance on the streamer may be softening.

The official line was that Spielberg, who is currently the governor of the Academy’s directors branch, was out of town for the meeting. Ironically, a look at the director's diary suggests he was otherwise engaged, speaking at an event to launch the forthcoming Apple+ streaming service, which the director is set to work with.

He has come in for a lot of criticism for his stance on Netflix movies, and apparent hostility towards this year’s 10-times nominated Roma, from both movie fans and figures in the industry. Last night he appeared to try to clarify his stance via an email to the New York Times.

“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” he told the publication. “Big screen, small screen, what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.”

He then 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 theatres. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”

Spielberg is clearly a great lover of the cinema experience, but he does slowly seem to be moving round to Netflix’s stance. When the director first sparked the Oscars controversy in March with a statement through a spokesman that said: “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation. He’ll be happy if others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”

Netflix’s response to the March statement won plenty of support online.

There’s doubtless still plenty to come in the Spielberg v Netflix saga.

Updated: April 24, 2019 05:46 PM

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