from the out-with-the-dinosaurs dept
Earlier this year Steven Spielberg had a “get off my lawn” moment in demanding that films from Netflix and other streaming services be excluded from Oscar contention. The sentiment isn’t uncommon among old-school Hollywood types who see traditional film as somehow so sacred that it shouldn’t have to change or adapt in the face of technological evolution. It was the same sentiment recently exhibited by the Cannes film festival when they banned Netflix films because Netflix pushed back against absurd French film laws like the 36-month delay between theatrical release and streaming availability.
You should note that shortly after Spielberg’s rant, he could be found hyping Apple’s latest streaming ventures, which suggests a dash of… inconsistency in his arguments.
Enter actor Edward Norton, who hasn’t been particularly impressed by Hollywood’s vilification of Netflix. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Norton takes aim at Spielberg and others for trying to insist that streaming video is killing traditional theaters. For one, Norton suggests that theaters have been pretty successful in doing that themselves by offering substandard product:
“If I had to say the single biggest contributor to people preferring to watch things on Netflix versus going to theaters, it’s that the theaters nickel and dime on bulbs…They are delivering crappy sound and a dim picture, and no one is calling them on it. If they were delivering what they’re supposed to be delivering, people would be going, “Wow, this is amazing, I do not get this at home.”
Norton then digs into Spielberg’s claims that Netflix is somehow killing movie theaters, noting that Netflix has done a stellar job in distributing titles like Roma that would have had a harder time gaining traction in sequel obsessed Hollywood:
If I disagreed with anybody, with great respect, it was [Steven] Spielberg [regarding his critical comments about Netflix posing a danger to movies]. Netflix invested more in Roma theatrically—theatrically—than any boutique label at any studio would have by a factor of five. They put a Spanish-language black-and-white film all over the world in theaters. Hundreds of theaters, not just a few; as many as Sony Pictures Classics would have done. They put more money behind it, in a theatrical context, than anybody would have. You can’t tell me there’s a whole lot of people making black-and-white Spanish-language films and putting that investment behind them. And you can’t tell me that there’s a lot of places making five-part documentaries about the Central Park Five.
An important point that gets overlooked is that there’s no data to support the familiar claim that Netflix is killing traditional theaters. In fact studies indicate that heavy streaming video users tend to see more movies at the theater in general because they simply like movies. In short, streaming and brick and mortar movie chains can operate synergistically, making a lot of this whining about Netflix causing a traditional film apocalypse little more than grumbly, “get off my damn lawn” style ranting.
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