Los Angeles: Veteran Steven Spielberg has made it clear that in the theatrical release vs streaming battle, he wants to ensure the “survival of movie theaters”. The 72-year-old filmmaker has been in news of late due to his reported campaign against streaming service Netflix, whose film “Roma” emerged as one of the big winners at the 91st Academy Awards.
In a statement, e-mailed to The New York Times, Spielberg said, though he believes audiences should not be restricted from accessing content in “any form or fashion that suits them”, he is on the side of community viewing experience which can only happen in theaters.
“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,” Spielberg said.
“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,” he added.
It was in March when reports started doing the rounds that Spielberg will be speaking with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ (AMPAS) Board of Governors to insist for a rule change that will make films made by streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon ineligible for Oscars. The legendary filmmaker represents the Directors branch of the Academy on the Board.
His statement came on the same day the 54-person board of governors decided to maintain its ‘Rule Two, Eligibility’, which makes it mandatory for a film to have at least a week theatrical run so as to become eligible for the Oscar race.
“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement.
“Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues,” he added.
The demand of the pro-theatrical lobby was to enforce a minimum three months of theatrical run for a film to qualify for Oscars, which goes against Netflix’s business model of releasing films directly on their platform.