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Steven Spielberg, Noted Netflix Hater, Gets Roasted Online After Massive Netflix Deal

Steven Spielberg doesn't think streaming service films should qualify for the academy awards.

Netflix has struck a deal with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Partners, and while that’s a big move for the platform, it comes with a history that is less than stellar. The negative side of it is all because of Spielberg’s past comments about streaming platforms and his dedication to removing them from Oscar eligibility.

Steven Spielberg has a history with Netflix. Not a great one! In the past, he diminished movies released on the platform, labeling them as “TV movies” and saying that they should qualify for “Emmy awards” but not the Academy Awards. His reasoning was that the “quality” of the film adjusts to fit a television format, something that is not true, as many Netflix movies are actually also released to movie theaters. But his comments and then dedication to changing the rules of the Academy Awards to combat streaming platform submissions marked a complicated relationship between Spielberg and platforms like Netflix. 

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.” Spielberg’s previous comments were covered heavily by Film School Rejects, who also covered the history of this Netflix “feud” that followed thereafter.

Spielberg made his dedication to changing the rules of the Academy Awards known. It was all in the name of preserving the “theatrical experience,” as if blockbuster movies were not still selling out theaters. (This was in 2019 … you know, the year of Avengers: Endgame.) He continually made little jabs about this. It was so particularly important at the time because Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma was nominated for major awards and was, primarily, a Netflix release.

As IndieWire pointed out at the time, Spielberg had complaints about the theatrical window for Roma and the fact that he could not see it in theaters. Others had concerns about cost, the lack of box office, and more. But while Spielberg perhaps felt that he was coming from a place of trying to preserve movie theaters or that theatrical experience, he ushered in a pretty disgusting commentary on the work directors put into their streaming projects.

Movies like Roma might have been passed up by more traditional studios—and Roma ended up winning Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. There have been several other films since that had Netflix backing and resources. Many of the directors who work on streaming platforms are also creatives of color because those platforms are willing to give them the space and funding they need to create when studios are too worried about the legacy of some, well, “legacy” directors (like Spielberg) to bother opening any doors.

So whether it was Spielberg’s intent, he ended up vocally tearing down a platform that was helping the industry become more inclusive. And directors like Christopher Nolan also joined in on this sort of commentary. I guess I get the fear that movie theaters are going to vanish, but still, even after months of a pandemic, theaters exist, and when I went to see In The Heights, it was relatively packed. So the concern feels less about cinemas and more about “but boo hoo these movies are better than the movies I like or am backing and this is a new system I am not in control of,” so to now see Spielberg making a deal with Netflix is just … interesting, to say the least.

I would love it if Spielberg would do something to clear the air, especially since his reps have pushed back about the meaning of the past quotes and what his perspective was. But right now, it just looks like Spielberg didn’t like that Roma was being nominated against Green Book, a movie he loved but that doesn’t have a great reputation.

The newly announced deal, which means that Spielberg’s company will do multiple films with Netflix throughout the year, is huge shift for Spielberg and perhaps a sign of things to come for Hollywood at large. Does that mean that Spielberg needed the massive Netflix reach or is he now is trying to bring his “big screen” ideas to the streaming platform?

Many people took notice of this new development and mocked the deal.

Between Spielberg’s comments on streaming movies and everything that happened with Martin Scorsese and the Marvel movies, it feels like all these “legacy” directors are angry that cinema is changing for the better after they themselves made great strides for movies. The world changes. It’s constantly shifting, and you either have to recognize that and change with it or stay stuck in the past.

I hope creatives like Spielberg don’t stay stuck in their old ways, and maybe this deal is his way of trying to set everything straight, but I still think he needs to address the fact that he did try to change the rules of the Academy because of Roma, and it’s a horrible look—especially cause he was supporting Green Book, of all movies.

(image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.