Steven Spielberg had harsh words for some decisions made in Hollywood during the worst phase of the pandemic, specifically that of not releasing films in cinemas.
From Common to Disney, several studios released films directly on streaming or, in some cases, simultaneously with the theatrical release, but Spielberg specifically highlights Warner Bros.’ decision to release all of its 2021 films on HBO Max, namely “Suicide Squad,” “Dune – Part 1” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”
“Pandemic created the opportunity for streaming platforms to increase their subscriptions to record levels and also to run over some of my best filmmaker friends as, unceremoniously, their films were not released in cinemas,” he said in an interview with The New York Instances (quoted by Selection).
“They got paid and the films were suddenly relegated, in this case, to HBO Max. The case I’m talking about. And then everything started to change,” he clarified.
“I think the older audience was relieved not to have to step on sticky popcorn. But I really believe that that same older audience, when they walk into a room, the magic of being in a social situation with a group of strangers is a tonic,” he argued.
“It’s up to the films to be good enough to make all audiences say that to each other when they turn on the [living room] lights,” noted the filmmaker.
Spielberg highlighted Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” to justify his optimism about the future: “There’s no question that the big sequels and Marvel and DC and Pixar movies and some of the animation and horror movies still have a place in society […] I think it’s encouraging that ‘Elvis’ has passed $100 million at the domestic [US] box office. A lot of older audiences went to see that film and it gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the cinema as the pandemic became endemic. I think the movies will come back. I really do.”
Despite his advocacy of the cinema experience, the director acknowledged in the interview that he is more open to the possibility of releasing streaming-only films, recalling one he made in 2017 with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
“I made ‘The Submit’ as a political statement about our times, reflecting [US President Richard] Nixon’s administration, and we thought it period an important reflection for a lot of people to understand what was happening to our country. If I had been given that post-pandemic argument, I don’t know if I wouldn’t have preferred to have made that film for Apple or Netflix and reached millions of people. Because the film had something to say to millions of people and we would never have been able to get those millions of people into enough cinemas to make that kind of difference,” he explained.
“Things have changed enough for me to say that,” he concluded.
“The Fabelmans”, the director’s new film, hits Portuguese cinemas on December 22.