Spielberg Says HBO Max Threw Directors 'Under the Bus'

He says it changed moviegoing habits when films were 'relegated' to streaming services
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2022 11:54 AM CST
Spielberg: Streaming Services Threw Directors 'Under the Bus'
Steven Spielberg arrives at the premiere of "The Fabelmans" as part of AFI Fest, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Steven Spielberg's new movie The Fabelmans opens in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles Friday ahead of a Nov. 23 nationwide release—and he has a lot of sympathy for fellow directors whose movie didn't get theatrical releases. In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times this week, Spielberg discussed the uncertain future of the cinema, saying the pandemic "created an opportunity for streaming platforms to raise their subscriptions to record-breaking levels and also throw some of my best filmmaker friends under the bus as their movies were unceremoniously not given theatrical releases." They "were paid off and the films were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max," said Spielberg. " And then everything started to change."

He was referring to Warner Bros.' decision to release its entire slate of movies in 2021 on HBO Max, Variety notes. Some of them had theatrical releases on the same day they appeared on the service. Spielberg, 75, said that while older audiences might have been relieved "they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn" to see a film, they missed out on something larger: The "magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic." He said it's "up to the movies" to be good enough to make people feel glad they went out to see a film. Spielberg said directors and industry organizations should 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."

Spielberg said he doesn't know anybody who would rather have their movies seen "on an iPad or in a living room" instead of a big screen—though he feels that for one of his own films, 2017's The Post, release on a streaming service might have been a better option, because it was making "a political statement about our times by reflecting the Nixon administration" and he would have liked to get the message out to more people. Spielberg said he rarely watches his own movies in cinemas, but his wife insisted he watch The Fabelmans—a semi-autobiographical movie about a Jewish American family—with an audience at the Toronto Film Festival. "I was terrified, but the movie plays to a big audience of 2,000 people, and in the funny parts, it played like a big comedy," he said. (Read more Steven Spielberg stories.)

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