Steven Spielberg once seemingly debated the eligibility of films made for Netflix when it came to the Academy Awards, so it comes as something of a surprise that the powerhouse filmmaker has signed a multi-year deal with the streamer through his production company Amblin Partners.
The pact will see Amblin produce several new features for Netflix every year, for an undisclosed number of years, with Spielberg expected to direct some of them, at least.
Speaking of what it means to have forged such a partnership with the legendary director, Netflix boss Ted Sarandos said in a statement, “Steven is a creative visionary and leader and, like so many others around the world, my growing up was shaped by his memorable characters and stories that have been enduring, inspiring and awakening.
“We cannot wait to get to work with the Amblin team and we are honoured and thrilled to be part of this chapter of Steven’s cinematic history.”
For his part, Spielberg said, “At Amblin, storytelling will forever be at the centre of everything we do, and from the minute Ted and I started discussing a partnership, it was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways.”
“This new avenue for our films, alongside the stories we continue to tell with our longtime family at Universal and our other partners, will be incredibly fulfilling for me personally since we get to embark on it together with Ted, and I can’t wait to get started with him, Scott, and the entire Netflix team.”
Spielberg was once seen to be opposed to movies that were made for streaming being eligible for nomination at the Oscars, following Alfonso Cuarón’s 2019 victory with Roma. It was widely reported that the Saving Private Ryan director felt that Netflix films should only compete at the Emmys seeing as, for one thing, movies made for the streaming platform don’t respect the Academy’s 90-day theatrical window.
“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. Certainly, if you’re a good film, you deserve an Emmy. But not an Oscar,” he said at the time.
The filmmaker later clarified his comments in an email to The New York Times, in which he explained, “I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them. Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.
“However, I feel people need to have the opportunity to leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place where they can sit in the company of others and have a shared experience — cry together, laugh together, be afraid together — so that when it’s over they might feel a little less like strangers. I want to see the survival of movie theatres. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”
With the success of films such as Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Netflix has since established itself as a breeding ground for prestige — and Oscar-worthy — content. In fact, the platform took home seven of the coveted statuette’s at the 93rd Academy Awards, beating out all of the traditional studios.
Spielberg’s decision to partner with Netflix likely comes down to the way audiences’ viewing habits have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With movie theatres around the world being forced to temporarily close, studios have had to re-think how and when they released their premium titles. For a creator as passionate as Speilberg about ensuring everyone has access to remarkable entertainment, it makes sense that he would do what is necessary to see that his fans can enjoy his latest offering at home, while still championing the irreplaceable experience of attending a cinema.
The director is currently working on an untitled, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film with Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams and his big-screen adaptation of West Side Story will land in theatres on December 20th, 2021.