Netflix Inc added acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg to its roster with a joint announcement on Monday of a deal for his Amblin Partners production company to supply multiple movies a year for several years.
The Academy Award-winning director of big-screen classics such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” will continue to direct and produce movies for Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures under a separate agreement.
The new arrangement brings a high-profile name to the list of talent working with Netflix at a time when a host of competitors including Walt Disney Co and Amazon.com Inc are competing for streaming audiences.
Spielberg had been at odds with Netflix in recent years when he argued that movies seen primarily on television should be eligible for Emmys and not Oscars. He has spoken out about wanting to preserve the experience of seeing movies in theatres.
“My entire life has been spent trying to give audiences something in a large, large forum,” Spielberg told Reuters in 2018. “I love the whole feeling of social interaction outside … Those are the kinds of audiences I like to talk to.”
Netflix, which plans to release more than 70 movies this year, sends some of its films to theatres for limited runs. The company operates the world’s largest streaming service with nearly 209 million subscribers worldwide.
In a statement, Spielberg said discussions with Netflix Co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos showed “it was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways.”
Amblin produces several movies beyond the ones that Spielberg directs himself.
Recent Amblin projects included 2018 best picture winner “Green Book” and 2019 World War One drama “1917,” both distributed by Universal. It is possible Spielberg could direct some of Amblin’s movies provided to Netflix.
Financial terms of Amblin’s deal with Netflix were not disclosed.
Spielberg initially formed Amblin Entertainment in 1981, and the production company went on to produce some of the director’s most iconic films, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and other 1980s cinematic hallmarks such as “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future.” He restarted the company in 2015 after his previous venture, DreamWorks Studios, ran short on cash. After renaming itself as Amblin Partners and raising an initial $800 million in equity and debt, the company has since made films such as the Oscar-winning “Green Book” and “1917.”
Although Amblin will be making movies for Netflix, that doesn’t mean the films couldn’t also have a theatrical release. Netflix has increasingly shown it is willing to put its films on the big screen as a way to further woo talent.
This is not Amblin’s nor Spielberg’s first foray into streaming. Amblin has made shows for Netflix, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and others. The Amblin movie “The Trial of the Chicago 7” was originally developed for ViacomCBS Inc’s Paramount Pictures, which ended up selling the property to Netflix, where it became a big hit and received multiple Oscar nominations.
Although Amblin has worked with streamers, the agreement with Spielberg carries symbolic weight in Hollywood. Spielberg had weighed in over whether films from streaming services should be considered for Academy Awards.