Did Netflix Disrupt the Theater Industry? Steven Speilberg Thinks So.
How can one man expect to place a roadblock between consumers and the future? Is it possible for one person’s preferences to impede the natural order of technological and societal evolution? If Steven Spielberg gets his way it could mean a different film experience for all of us in the foreseeable future.
Netflix’s recent Oscar darling, Roma, garnered ten nominations and even won three awards including Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. The film is entirely in Spanish, subtitled, and shot in black and white by Mexican superstar director Alfonso Cuaron. Yet, acclaimed director and producer Steven Spielberg, who sits on the Oscars Board of Governors, has clearly made his distaste for streaming services in Oscar contention known. Spielberg has recently been making a case for blocking Netflix and fellow streaming services, like Hulu and Amazon, from qualifying for Academy Award contention in the future. The Forrest Gump director believes that streaming services might deteriorate the theater industry, an industry that makes much of its revenue from concessions and ticket sales, and the filmmaker believes that films in Oscar contention should not forgo a theater run.
Netflix, however, claims that its company is prioritizing equity for both consumers and artists by providing “Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters…giving filmmakers more ways to share art.” It’s sensible and noble that Netflix provides a service for folks who might not have access to the megalith theaters that Spielberg hopes viewers will flock to. Director Ava DuVernay, director of films such as Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, has recently come out in support of streaming services like Netflix claiming that they give minority filmmakers like herself with proper promotion and artistic freedom. DuVernay recently took to Twitter to make her voice heard “One of the things I value about Netflix is that it distributes black work far/wide. 190 countries will get WHEN THEY SEE US. Here’s a promo for South Africa. I’ve had just one film distributed wide internationally. Not SELMA. Not WRINKLE. It was 13TH. By Netflix. That matters.”
There seems to be a paradoxical nature in Spielberg’s argument in favor of bolstering the theater industry while boxing out streaming services. Both offer films for consumers, both aim to provide stimulating experiences for audiences, but the costs attached to each one are in complete opposition to each other. Netflix provides viewers streaming service for as low as $8.99 per month for its basic package, while the price of a movie ticket is usually upwards of fifteen dollars. And, if you opt to purchase popcorn and a soda for the theater experience, well, you might as well take out a mortgage to pay for it. The free capitalist market has clearly spoken as over 100 million people subscribe to Netflix and have often made it their primary source for television and film entertainment. Spielberg’s longing to maintain the theater industry while blocking Netflix is comparable to a horse and buggy operator attempting to impede the automobile industry. The future cannot be denied.
In a recent Twitter post, Netflix shared “We love cinema”. Well, I love cinema too, but I love the Netflix experience a whole lot more.