Jason Blum has commented on the Netflix/Steven Spielberg controversy. Blum, whose Blumhouse Productions has been responsible for a lengthy list of hit films since it first opened shop in 2000, has long been a proponent of independent film and the need for filmmakers to maintain artistic control over their projects.
With Steven Spielberg having recently kicked off a growing debate in Hollywood involving Netflix’s perceived advantages in promoting its films versus the methods of traditional studios, it seems like everyone from Oscar-winning Roma director Alfonso Cuarón to Ben Affleck has offered up their opinions. Spielberg maintains that Netflix films like Roma, which are permitted to have a short cinematic run before being streamed, and which have a much higher budget for promotional campaigns than a studio film does, are playing with an unfair advantage that should eliminate them from Oscar consideration altogether. The ensuing debate has become a popular talking point for questions surrounding streaming platforms and whether or not movie theaters can compete.
Given Blum’s emphasis on supporting smaller projects that might not have seen the light of day had they been reliant on much larger studios, it was clear that it wouldn’t be long before someone asked him to weigh in on the Spielberg versus Netflix debate. Variety caught up with Blum at the recent SXSW world premiere of Jordan Peele’s Us and the entire interview can be viewed below. On the subject of Netflix, Blum conceded that, “The future of how we’re going to see movies is mostly streaming, so you can’t stop that.”
In the brief, but informative interview, Variety’s SXSW reporter points out that many people cannot afford to go to the movie theater to see a film, to which Blum agrees. This concept alone is something that Spielberg has apparently failed to take into consideration when criticizing a distribution model that allows films that could screen theatrically to instead stream in people’s homes. What’s more, the distinction - imposed by Spielberg - that a film counts as a “TV movie” simply because it screens in people’s homes also fails to consider another of Blum's points - namely that advancements in cinema have always caused debate, whether due to the advent of sound, color, or home video. Filmmaking has survived all these things and has arguably become richer for it.
The idea that Netflix could spell the end of movie theaters is, at best, an inflated one. For those who can’t afford the prices charged by the multiplex or who have mobility issues which makes the journey bothersome or even for those who just don’t feel like going out, there will always be streaming video. But what Spielberg crucially ignores is that a segment of the population will always go to the cinema and can also appreciate services like Netflix. Blum believes that streaming is the future, and the reason why that future is a bright one is because it offers a variety of affordable films, distributed via a variety of methods, for a variety of audiences - something cinemas don't currently seem willing to replicate.