Spielberg: Filmmakers Were Thrown “Under the Bus” by Warner’s HBO Max Strategy

The director discussed the state of the theatrical experience and reflected on films that “were suddenly relegated to HBO Max.”


Spielberg might be open to making a film for a streaming service in the future, but he would want it to be on his terms.
The 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’s 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.
The Fabelmans Premiere

“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.”

Spielberg said he attributes this moment to shift in how studios plan their theatrical releases. “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.

He also mentioned that screening audiences seem to be strongly connecting to his new film, The Fabelmans, an Oscar contender that hits theaters November 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. He explained that he only recently realized that this might have been a better path for his movie that told the story of The Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.