Steven Spielberg Says HBO Max Threw Directors ‘Under the Bus’
Even before the pandemic, movie theaters weren’t in the greatest of shape. Then along came a novel coronavirus, one that was particularly transmissible in enclosed spaces packed with lots of people. Theaters were shuttered for months, and when they reopened it was with strict rules on crowds, cleaning, and masks — all necessary for safety, of course, but not exactly conducive to a relaxing night of escapism.
While theaters were closed, some studios sold off some of their titles to streaming services. Others used their unreleased productions to bolster their own streaming sites. Warner Bros., for example, released all of their 2021 big-screen titles simultaneously in theaters and on its own HBO Max streaming service. Subscribers were delighted, but many filmmakers were displeased that titles they had made to be watched in theaters got dumped on streaming.
In probably the most famous example, Christopher Nolan — who had worked with Warner Bros. for years — responded to Warners’ HBO Max plan by making the public statement “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio, and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”
Steven Spielberg mostly stayed quiet through the kerfuffle, but with a new movie opening (in theaters) this month, he weighed in on the controversy during an interview with The New York TImes. As he put it:
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. The case I’m talking about. And then everything started to change.
Spielberg added that while he thinks some prefer the streaming model, for many people “the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic.”
Count me amongst the latter. Spielberg’s The Fabelmans opens in theaters in limited release this week and expands to more screens on November 23.