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Netflix Signs Multiyear Deal for Films From Steven Spielberg

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(Bloomberg) -- Steven Spielberg, the father of the modern movie blockbuster, signed a multiyear deal to provide films for Netflix Inc., promising a stream of new pictures for the online video leader.

The multifilm agreement with Amblin Partners builds on an existing relationship, the parties said Monday in a statement. They’ve already teamed up on last year’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and the Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” which is in preproduction. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Netflix is the dominant paid streaming service, but it’s seeking more hits that can attract subscribers and help it stand out in a crowded market -- especially as media giants such as Walt Disney Co., AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia and Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal debut more of their biggest films online.

In Amblin, Netflix gets access to a legendary filmmaker and a studio whose recent hits include the Oscar-winning “Green Book” and “1917.” The 74-year-old Spielberg, who directed “E.T.,” the Indiana Jones series, “Jurassic Park” and “Saving Private Ryan,” serves as Amblin’s chairman. The studio will continue to work with Universal and other partners, he said.

“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,” Netflix Co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos said in the statement. “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.”

Not long ago, Spielberg looked like a Netflix critic. After the Oscars in 2019, he reportedly argued the streaming service’s films and shows should be relegated to Emmy Awards -- which honor the best TV programming -- rather than competing for the movie industry’s highest honor. Netflix’s “Roma” was considered the front-runner to win the best picture Oscar that year, but “Green Book” took the prize instead.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” an Amblin spokesperson told IndieWire at the time.

Netflix fired back in a tweet, saying it loved cinema but also wanted to give filmmakers “more ways to share art.”

“These things are not mutually exclusive,” Netflix said.

But the clash may have been overblown. A New York Times story later said the director didn’t lobby for Oscar changes. In that piece, Spielberg emphasized his support for the theatrical experience, while expressing frustration with cinema owners that had banned Netflix movies.

“Big screen, small screen -- what really matters to me is a great story and everyone should have access to great stories,” he said.

(Updates with 2019 comments on Netflix in sixth paragraph.)

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