Steven Spielberg says some filmmakers were “thrown under the bus” by streaming services in favor of raising subscription numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still sounds hopeful for the future of the movie-going experience.
In an interview with The New York Times, spotted by Variety, Spielberg pointed to platforms like HBO Max for drastically changing the theatre landscape. While he sees value in productions made with big streamers, he said “the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic” for older audiences.
“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 told The Times. “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 went on to explain the balance directors, streaming services, and theatres are seeking as people return to in-person outings. When asked about “what kinds of movies people will go out to see vs. what they prefer to stay home” for, the director responded the industry is “trying to figure that out” but he truly believes the classic viewing experience will make a comeback.
Those “unceremonious” film releases Spielberg references are a thing of the past for Warner Bros. and HBO Max. In 2021, the service struck a deal with Cineworld to give theatrical releases a 45-day exclusivity window starting this year. Prior to the agreement, HBO Max packed films originally slated for theatrical releases only into a new, hybrid arrangement that made them available on the platform.
The pandemic took a hefty toll on the cinema experience, leading to the closure of theatre giants like Regal Cinemas. And while streaming may have seen a boon from early pandemic-era growth, the landscape remains complicated with recent Netflix declines and HBO Max library cuts.
Notably, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has explicitly said that direct-to-streaming releases are no longer in the cards for the platform. Batgirl were among the films speculated to be good candidates for an HBO Max release before Warner Bros. Discovery ultimately canceled it.
For more information on the best platforms to watch, check out ‘s State of Streaming Services column.
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Andrea Shearon is a freelance contributor for covering games and entertainment. She’s worn several hats over her seven-year career in the games industry, with bylines over at Fanbyte, USA Today’s FTW, TheGamer, VG247, and RPG Site. Find her on Twitter (@Maajora) or the Materia Possessions podcast chatting about FFXIV, RPGs, and any series involving giant robots.