Speaking to the New York Times, Spielberg said moving theatrical releases to streamers in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 may have changed the film industry forever.
“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,” Spielberg said. “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.”
He took particular aim at Warner Bros. and its HBO Max streaming service, which released its entire 2021 slate in theaters and on the streamer at the same time. But he lamented the loss of a special experience if theaters are permanently shuttered.
“I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn,” Spielberg said. “But I really believe those same older audiences, once they got into the theater, the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic…it’s up to the movies to be good enough to get all the audiences to say that to each other when the lights come back up.”
Spielberg did point to signs that going to a theater still has some legs.
“I found it encouraging that ‘Elvis’ broke $100 million at the domestic box office,” Spielberg said. “A lot of older people went to see that film, and that gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the movies as the pandemic becomes an endemic. I think movies are going to come back. I really do.”
Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans will be in theaters for Thanksgiving.