Amblin Partners and Netflix have forged a partnership, one that will see the company headed by Steven Spielberg produce multiple new feature films for the streaming service every year. The pact gives Netflix access to one of the most legendary directors in the movie business at a time when competition in the streaming space is growing fiercer with the launch of Disney Plus, HBO Max and other challengers.
The move is surprising and a sign of the major changes taking place in Hollywood, in part because Spielberg has previously been seen as something of a Netflix skeptic. In 2019, for instance, the director reportedly urged the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bar day-and-date streaming releases from being eligible for Oscars. Sources close to the director, however, dispute that Spielberg ever tried to bar Netflix from eligibility. He later clarified his position in a statement to the New York Times, in which he denied he had tried to prevent Netflix from winning Oscars. He also reaffirmed his support for the theatrical experience, while stating, “I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them. Big screen, small screen — what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories.”
Amblin will continue to maintain offices on the Universal lot, where the company also has a production pact. Under the deal, Amblin is expected to produce at least two films a year for Netflix for an unspecified number of years. It is possible that Spielberg may even direct some of the projects. Netflix is expected to provide financing for some of these productions. That likely won’t include his next film, an untitled, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story with Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams, which is expected to land at Universal.
The Netflix films do not have any budgetary or genre requirements attached to them. They may also receive some type of theatrical release as have other Netflix films such as “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” but that will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos and Netflix Original Films head Scott Stuber, who previously worked closely with Spielberg when he was an executive at Universal, played key roles in hammering out the deal. CAA advised Amblin Partners on the negotiations.
“At Amblin, storytelling will forever be at the center of everything we do, and from the minute Ted and I started discussing a partnership, it was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways,” Spielberg said in a statement. “This new avenue for our films, alongside the stories we continue to tell with our longtime family at Universal and our other partners, will be incredibly fulfilling for me personally since we get to embark on it together with Ted, and I can’t wait to get started with him, Scott, and the entire Netflix team.”
Amblin and Netflix have worked together in the past. Amblin produced “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which was originally set up at Paramount before being sold to Netflix during COVID. That film received six nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including a nod for Best Picture. Amblin and Netflix are currently collaborating on Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein film, “Maestro,”which is in pre-production.
“By deepening our ties with Netflix via this new film partnership, we are building on what has for many years been an incredibly successful working relationship in both television and film,” Jeff Small, Amblin Partners CEO, stated. “The global platform they’ve built — with more than 200 million members — speaks for itself, and we’re extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work closely with Scott and his amazing team to deliver Amblin’s iconic brand of storytelling to the Netflix audience.”
Under Sarandos and Stuber, Netflix has made a point of working with major auteur filmmakers, many of whom made their mark creating films for the big screen. Those moves have come at a time when major studios have grown more risk averse, forgoing more personal or idiosyncratic films in favor of superhero movies and franchise fare. In this atmosphere, directors like Spike Lee (“Da 5 Bloods”) and Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) have set up shop at the streaming service after studios balked at their movies’ budgets, while David Fincher recently signed a multi-year deal with the company. But Spielberg, with his resume of Oscar-winners like “Schindler’s List” and blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” towers over all modern directors.
“Steven is a creative visionary and leader and, like so many others around the world, my growing up was shaped by his memorable characters and stories that have been enduring, inspiring and awakening,” Sarandos said. “We cannot wait to get to work with the Amblin team and we are honored and thrilled to be part of this chapter of Steven’s cinematic history.”
For his part Stuber stated, “Amblin and Steven Spielberg are synonymous with incredible entertainment. Their passion and artistry combine to make films that both captivate and challenge audiences. We look forward to working with Steven, Jeff and the entire Amblin family on a new slate of films that will delight generations for years to come.”
Amblin’s recent films include “Green Book,” “1917,” and “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.”