But a geriatric Luddite who wants to kill Netflix?
His primary beef is not with Netflix, according to the people close to him. Rather, he is frustrated that exhibitors have been unwilling to compromise. The multiplex chains have fought off any effort to shorten the exclusive period they get to play films of any genre, which is currently about 90 days. In January, after “Roma” was nominated for the best picture Oscar, Mr. Spielberg even called AMC and Regal, the largest theater companies, and implored them to play the Netflix film even though it was already available online. They refused.
He has a Netflix account and binge-watches the service’s original programming — some of which Amblin helps produce, including “The Haunting of Hill House.” (Amblin also has series in the works for three other streaming services: “Cortes and Moctezuma” for Amazon, “Amazing Stories” for Apple and a reboot of “Animaniacs” for Hulu.)
“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” Mr. Spielberg said in an email in response to queries from The New York Times. “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 theaters. I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”
Mr. Spielberg, who swings between serious dramas (“The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List”) and big-budget fantasies (“Jurassic Park,” “Ready Player One”), appears to recognize that more is at stake at this moment in Hollywood than awards eligibility. As streaming services proliferate — Disney will roll out its offering on Nov. 12, with Apple, WarnerMedia and Comcast not far behind — movie theaters could become even more reliant on superheroes, sequels and remakes.
Could there soon come a day when popcorn movies like “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” arrive in theaters but more sober films like “Lincoln” go directly to a streaming service? It’s not a far-fetched concern given the film industry’s current trajectory. Moreover, some important new voices whose work has emerged on Netflix — Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”) — have had their films excluded from theaters because the streaming service and the multiplex chains have been at loggerheads.
Asked in an interview at a recent convention for movie theater operators whether he would consider reducing the 90-day period of exclusivity for certain film genres, Adam Aron, the chief executive of AMC, said: “Shocking as it may be, it’s better not to have those negotiations in the pages of The New York Times. Having said that, AMC has a willingness to consider alternatives to the current status quo — if, and it’s a big if, underline it with a red Sharpie — any change would benefit the shareholders of AMC.”