Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Steven Spielberg surrenders to Netflix, signs streaming deal with Amblin

A guy who tried to stop Netflix from winning any Oscars at all might help it win a lot more

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

In 2019, shortly after Netflix received its first-ever Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards (for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma), Steven Spielberg joined a coalition of Academy members who tried to convince the Governor’s Board to enact permanent rule changes that would classify streaming films—i.e., stuff in Netflix—as TV movies and not as real movies. In other words, Spielberg was part of a group of filmmakers who wanted Netflix movies booted from the Oscars, mostly due to the fact that Netflix was spending a ton of money on buying Oscar buzz and because the miniature theatrical runs it would organize for its movies actually came from renting out theaters rather than licensing films like Roma for regular screenings (meaning Netflix would keep all the money from ticket sales for itself).

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But then COVID happened a year later, and the Academy had no choice but to temporarily suspend all of its rules against streaming films anyway (rules that impacted things so much that the eligibility window for next year’s Oscars is now slightly shorter than ever). Those rules will be changing, but that’s not all that’s different in 2021: According to The Hollywood Reporter, even Steven Spielberg has now surrendered to the mighty Netflix machine, signing a new deal with the streaming company through his Amblin Partners production label.

In a statement that we’re just going to assume was in no way coerced, Spielberg said that it was “abundantly clear” once he started talking to Netflix boss Ted Sarandos that working with the streaming service would be “an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways.” He also casually referred to the platform as a “new avenue for our films,” which seems kind of telling since he didn’t say “TV movies that are not real movies.” As for what Amblin’s slate of Netflix films will look like, THR says there are “no restrictions regarding budget or genre” and that Amblin’s existing deal with Universal is still intact. That means some Amblin movies will still go to theaters through Universal and some will go to Netflix, but there’s no specific rule in place (as far as anyone knows) to decide what goes where.

All that matters to Sarandos, presumably, is that Netflix will eventually be getting exclusive Amblin movies—and maybe even Spielberg Amblin movies. That’s potentially huge, just based on the clout that Spielberg and the Amblin name carry in Hollywood, but also THR points out that Amblin had a producing hand in recent Oscar-beloved films like Green Book, 1917, and Netflix’s own The Trial Of The Chicago 7. That means Steven Spielberg, who wanted to stop Netflix from ever getting any more Oscars just a few years ago, might help it get more Oscars and maybe even its first-ever Best Picture Oscar. We’re not saying he was definitely replaced by a pod person, but we are saying that it would be dangerous to immediately dismiss that possibility. (On a related note, if someone could check on Christopher Nolan and see if he’s exhibiting any odd behavior, please let us know.)