Spielberg concedes to Netflix in new deal for the small screen

Once Spielberg saw Netflix as a kind of gremlin. Now the little beast has grown so large, he has partnered up. In a dignified kind of way.

Steven Spielberg has been a symbol of changing times for most of his working life, but now he has to add another iconic role to his collection. He is the gracious old man conceding to the upstart thugs who appeared at the edge of the forest and let their pigs loose in the village. 

Let’s explain. Spielberg is the absolute master of mass emotions. He taught generations of surburbanites how to feel and what to feel about. He shaped the sentimentality of a nation. From Jaws to Schindler’s List, Poltergeist to E.T., he burrowed so deep into American feels it was never the same again. 

He also understands the power of television, and his company Amblin has produced a stream of high budget visceral series like The Pacific, Band of Brothers and The Borgias.  Bur he does object furiously to the way in which streaming companies erode big-screen exhibition. 

He is famous for defending the cinema in cahoots with Martin Scorsese and the great and good of Hollywood in The Film Foundation, which is busily restoring iconic movies. He has a visceral attraction for the medium, like anyone who has had the privilege of working with 35mm.

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He is quoted as saying, ‘I like the smell of film. I. Just like knowing there’s film going through the camera.’ Film of course means the cinema.

‘I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience. I’m a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.’

He has been involved in a push to ensure that all Oscar entries have a four-week window of cinema release before they go to a streaming company, around the time when his friend Scorsese organised just that for The Irishman, a film that did not flourish in the cinemas but is a staple on Netflix to this day.

Spielberg’s production vehicle has done a deal with Netflix. For multiple pictures per year, so the feelmaster’s venerable affection machine will become a bit of a factory.

Now the trades are happily reporting that Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg’s production vehicle, has done a deal with Netflix. For multiple pictures per year, so the feelmaster’s venerable affection machine will become a bit of a factory.

Especially since the company has recently renewed its association with Universal to guarantee a stream of cinema releases. Film journalists will notice that Universal and Netflix are deep in competition. Both of them are likely to run pics that the old master and his best pupils create in the cinema first, and then into living rooms around the world. And mobile phones.

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.