Steven Spielberg Says Filmmakers Were Thrown “Under the Bus” by Warner Bros.’ HBO Max Strategy – Hollywood Reporter

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The director discussed the state of the theatrical experience and reflected on films that “were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max.”
By Ryan Gajewski
Steven Spielberg might be open to making a film for a streaming service in the future, but it sounds like he would want it to be on his terms.
The legendary director told The New York Times in an interview published online Wednesday that he felt his fellow filmmakers were thrown “under the bus” by Warner Bros.’ surprise announcement in late 2020 that all of its releases for the following year would be available day-and-date on HBO Max amid the pandemic. Christopher Nolan was among the notable names who criticized the decision at the time.

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“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 publication. “They were paid off and the films were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max. The case I’m talking about.”
Spielberg said he attributes this moment to a shift in how studios plan their theatrical releases. “And then everything started to change,” he continued. “I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn. 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.”
He said that audiences who make the trek out to theaters today tend to feel that the trip was worthwhile if the film is of a certain caliber. He then put the onus on “the movies to be good enough to get all the audiences to say that to each other when the lights come back up.”
Spielberg said he was encouraged by the fact that Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis topped $100 million at the domestic box office this year. Spielberg also mentioned that screening audiences seem to be strongly connecting to his own new film, The Fabelmans, an Oscar contender that hits theaters Nov. 11.
While considering his future decisions, Spielberg said that his 2017 film The Post, which starred Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and was nominated for six Oscars, might have been seen by more people had it debuted on a streaming platform. The director explained that he only recently realized that this might have been a better path for his movie, which told the story of The Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

“I don’t know if I had been given that script post-pandemic whether I would have preferred to have made that film for Apple or Netflix and gone out to millions of people,” he said. “Because the film had something to say to millions of people, and we were never going to get those millions of people into enough theaters to make that kind of difference. Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.”
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to a Warner Bros. representative for comment.
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