Spielberg responds after Netflix’s key win for Academy recognition

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Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Steven Spielberg attends the 55th Annual Cinema Audio Society Awards at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Netflix and other streaming platforms solidified their stature in the film industry Tuesday when the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts and Sciences voted to maintain their eligibility for the Academy Awards. The Academy voted to keep a rule that allows any film that has at least a seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles theater to be considered for an Oscar.

The anticlimactic vote seemed to close a chapter on a reported feud between the tech giant and legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. But a New York Times report suggests Spielberg’s antipathy for streaming services like Netflix was overblown.

“I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” Spielberg told the Times in an emailed statement. “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.”

Netflix made its award-winning film “Roma” available to theaters leading up to the event, but still rubbed some theater-owners the wrong way by refusing to honor the traditional exclusive 90-day window before releasing the film on its own service.

While Spielberg says he is concerned for the future of movie theaters and the experience of watching films, the Times reported that the director feels that his view of streaming platforms has been misrepresented, according to people close to him. The sources told the Times that Spielberg is actually more frustrated with theater owners who have refused to compromise on the 90-day exclusivity rule to play films like Netflix’s “Roma.”

AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas shut “Roma” out of its showing for best picture contenders leading up to the Academy Awards even after Spielberg asked them to play the film despite it already being available on Netflix, according to the Times.

Spielberg’s production company Amblin Partners and the talent agency representing him did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC. Netflix also did not immediately return a request for comment.

Read the full report at The New York Times.

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