Ed Norton Calls Out Steven Spielberg & Hollywood For Demonizing Netflix

from the out-with-the-dinosaurs dept

Earlier this year Steven Spielberg had a "get off my lawn" moment in demanding that films from Netflix and other streaming services be excluded from Oscar contention. The sentiment isn't uncommon among old-school Hollywood types who see traditional film as somehow so sacred that it shouldn't have to change or adapt in the face of technological evolution. It was the same sentiment recently exhibited by the Cannes film festival when they banned Netflix films because Netflix pushed back against absurd French film laws like the 36-month delay between theatrical release and streaming availability.

You should note that shortly after Spielberg's rant, he could be found hyping Apple's latest streaming ventures, which suggests a dash of... inconsistency in his arguments.

Enter actor Edward Norton, who hasn't been particularly impressed by Hollywood's vilification of Netflix. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Norton takes aim at Spielberg and others for trying to insist that streaming video is killing traditional theaters. For one, Norton suggests that theaters have been pretty successful in doing that themselves by offering substandard product:

"If I had to say the single biggest contributor to people preferring to watch things on Netflix versus going to theaters, it’s that the theaters nickel and dime on bulbs...They are delivering crappy sound and a dim picture, and no one is calling them on it. If they were delivering what they’re supposed to be delivering, people would be going, “Wow, this is amazing, I do not get this at home."

Norton then digs into Spielberg's claims that Netflix is somehow killing movie theaters, noting that Netflix has done a stellar job in distributing titles like Roma that would have had a harder time gaining traction in sequel obsessed Hollywood:

" If I disagreed with anybody, with great respect, it was [Steven] Spielberg [regarding his critical comments about Netflix posing a danger to movies]. Netflix invested more in Roma theatrically—theatrically—than any boutique label at any studio would have by a factor of five. They put a Spanish-language black-and-white film all over the world in theaters. Hundreds of theaters, not just a few; as many as Sony Pictures Classics would have done. They put more money behind it, in a theatrical context, than anybody would have. You can’t tell me there’s a whole lot of people making black-and-white Spanish-language films and putting that investment behind them. And you can’t tell me that there’s a lot of places making five-part documentaries about the Central Park Five.

An important point that gets overlooked is that there's no data to support the familiar claim that Netflix is killing traditional theaters. In fact studies indicate that heavy streaming video users tend to see more movies at the theater in general because they simply like movies. In short, streaming and brick and mortar movie chains can operate synergistically, making a lot of this whining about Netflix causing a traditional film apocalypse little more than grumbly, "get off my damn lawn" style ranting.

Filed Under: ed norton, innovation, internet, new models, steven spielberg, streaming
Companies: apple, netflix


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  • identicon
    Jason, 21 Oct 2019 @ 1:55pm

    They are delivering crappy sound and a dim picture, and no one is calling them on it.

    I actually have been known to mention to the manager (or, more often, the random employee whose attention I can catch) that a movie seemed unusually dark or that the focus wasn't dialed in quite right. But I find problems like that to be relatively rare; I might feel the need to complain once a year, give or take.

    To me the far bigger annoyance about the theater experience is the rest of the crowd. People talking, texting, or playing games on their (usually RIDICULOUSLY BRIGHT phone) through the whole movie.

    If theaters are truly worried about Netflix siphoning off their customers, they should try putting in a little bit of effort to create a theater experience that a person might actually enjoy. Getting serious about throwing people out who can't or won't leave their phone alone for the duration would be a great place to start.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      To me the far bigger annoyance about the theater experience is the rest of the crowd. People talking, texting, or playing games on their (usually RIDICULOUSLY BRIGHT phone) through the whole movie.

      That's exactly why my cinema of choice is the Alamo Drafthouse. People get kicked out if they talk or text, you get served gourmet food throughout the show, and the pre-show content is stuff you actually want to see. They seem to want to make going to the movie theater a fun experience rather than an annoyance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 4:57pm

        Re: Re:

        I do love my local Alamo.

        I think "gourmet" is a bit of an exaggeration. I'd call it "good bar food." Food and beverages are about the same quality, and same price, as what you'd expect from a quality brewpub.

        It also bears mentioning just how many classic and cult movies they show. Over the past couple years I've seen The Wild Bunch, UHF, Horse Feathers, They Live, The Princess Bride, The Lost Boys, and, most recently, the first four episodes of Primal, plus a couple of live riffs with the Mads.

        I like going to the movies. I like watching movies at home, too. Some folks seem eager to play the two choices up as if they're in conflict or competition, but for most people, I don't think that's the case. You can watch movies at the theater sometimes and at home sometimes. Each has its advantages and its drawbacks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 5:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think "gourmet" is a bit of an exaggeration. I'd call it "good bar food." Food and beverages are about the same quality, and same price, as what you'd expect from a quality brewpub.

          Fair enough. I was talking movie theater standards, though.

          It also bears mentioning just how many classic and cult movies they show. Over the past couple years I've seen The Wild Bunch, UHF, Horse Feathers, They Live, The Princess Bride, The Lost Boys, and, most recently, the first four episodes of Primal, plus a couple of live riffs with the Mads.

          Agreed. The Alamo Drafthouse was where I first saw RoboCop and where I saw Spaceballs and Airplane (in 4K!) theatrically! I even saw "bad" movies I liked there, such as Problem Child 2.

          Speaking of the Mads, since "TV's" Frank Conniff lives near me, I see him at my local Alamo a lot to see local cinema (and not just to riff bad old movies!).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2019 @ 2:04pm

    Norton then digs into Spielberg's claims that Netflix is somehow killing movie theaters,

    Even if they are, that does not mean something should be done about it. That would be like banning fridges because they were destroying the business of ice sellers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 21 Oct 2019 @ 2:51pm

    My home theater is superior

    My home theater, with an $800 projector and $400 speakers run by my desktop or laptop, gives me and up to 8 others a theater experience superior to any offered by the mainstream "mall" theaters. No cell phones, no whiny kids (or talking adults), no overpriced crappy popcorn, no focus or bulb problems, and excellent food and drinks.

    It's everything I could want a theater-going experience to be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 3:07pm

    Yes...and...

    Streaming is not destroying theatres. And even if it were, so what? Once again, just a legacy industry trying to milk their walled garden for every penny they can. In the past couple of hundred years:

    • Radio and recorded audio entered an area occupied by the live musician
    • Moving pictures entered an area occupied by stage shows
    • Television entered an area occupied by radio
    • The internet entered an area occupied by public spaces

    We still have recorded audio. Radio is doing pretty well. Moving pictures are no slouch. Stage shows sell out venues. Live musicians can be found all over town. And there's no danger of public spaces disappearing. I will concede the decline of the buggy whip, though.

    In every instance, innovators disrupted an established sector. Later, the progeny of those innovators would become the establishment and the gatekeepers, and the cycle would start all over again.

    To paraphrase Elon Musk, if you're not breaking stuff, you're not innovating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    boba (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 3:24pm

    In fact studies indicate...

    they simply like movies.

    The frau has the Amazon Prime and Netflix subscriptions which she watches every night 2 - 4 hours. I have over the air television and watch about 3 - 5 hours a week in 10 minute peeks at the local news. (With an unhealthy aversion to screens during off hours.)

    She would go to the movies once a week if able, I would go once a decade but only if dragged.

    Both industries can collapse and wither away, I will not miss them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2019 @ 5:16pm

    Too bad that radio, TV, cable, VCRs, DVDs, piracy, and your mom, already killed theaters. They are just really, really old undead, or whatever, with traces of Jason and the archetypal ghost that can't rest until someone finds their killer. They are still around and won't shut up about being murdered repeatedly. Only these are the delusional, lying sorts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MikeVx (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 7:05pm

    Hollywood is killing theaters...

    For the most part, going to the theater has become a miserable experience. Psychotically overpriced concession stands insure that I just do without munchies. Still-frame ads running on the screen anytime the motion systems are idle. Ads of various sorts for several minutes before they get to the movie I've come to see.

    This is why I only go to the theater when friends want to go there. I never go on my own anymore and I never suggest going.

    I get my movies and TV shows on little silver discs. Most streaming services have picked up many of the excremental habits that drove me away from broadcast and cable TV and therefore are failures as far as I am concerned.

    Who do you root for when both parties to the fight deserve to lose?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 21 Oct 2019 @ 8:17pm

      Re: Hollywood is killing theaters...

      I haven't gotten anything from concessions other than soda for years. But a few months ago I decided 'you know what? Nachos. I want nachos.'

      They tossed a single-serve bag of chips and a tiny little cup of cheese into a plastic dish and handed it to me.

      Fuck 'em if that's what concessions have become.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2019 @ 10:39pm

      Re: Hollywood is killing theaters...

      It's strange that in an era where screens are getting smaller and smaller, someone still thinks there is money in shoving different people into a room and force them to all watch the same thing at the same time, at the same pace. Bonus points if obnoxious cinemagoers are in the mix.

      And assuming that everyone is obedient and consciously quiet, the problems don't stop there. The size of the screen stretches to the edge of my field of vision so most of the detail is lost on me, and the surrounding volume often means that there's no deciphering what happens during loud moments. Generally, my friends and I note that they're usually looking at the subtitles trawling the bottom instead of looking at what's progressing on screen. And good luck to you if you're all the way in front and have to crane your neck backwards to get the screen in your field of vision.

      To answer your question, root for Netflix. Both the moguls running Hollywood and broadcast/cable TV deserve to fail.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 7:43pm

    So a big name in an industry that is known for fighting the future tooth and nail (is like the Boston Strangler!!!!!!!!!!!!) decides yet another new thing is the devil.

    Many of the big chains are shitty places to go, imagine people who don't want to call for the jaws of life to pry their shoes off the floor after the movie ends.
    Oh its all horrible blah blah... but then why does Alamo do such good business? The specifically target behaviors that are unacceptable & are strict about the policies. Big chains would rather have their ushers armed with nightvision looking for cammers than making sure that bitch 2 rows up stops texting & talking the entire movie.

    If the Oscars don't want streaming content, fine.
    The streamers can make their own awards, whats one more in the dozens of self congratulatory circle jerks we have now?
    The upside would be the streamers would have a tight show & let people press a button to cue winners up on their to watch list.

    Perhaps they need to admit its time to adapt & focus on that rather than pouring huge cash into efforts that only punish paying customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 12:22pm

      The Crux

      Oh its all horrible blah blah... but then why does Alamo do such good business? The specifically target behaviors that are unacceptable & are strict about the policies. Big chains would rather have their ushers armed with nightvision looking for cammers than making sure that bitch 2 rows up stops texting & talking the entire movie.

      Pretty much this. The Alamo has made going to the movies such a great experience that I'm always looking for an excuse to go rather than an excuse not to do so. It should also be mentioned that the strict enforcement of the "no talking" rule is enforced so much that the only people who ever talk during a movie are The Mads (or a local MST3K-style riffing show).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 21 Oct 2019 @ 8:15pm

    Maybe we should exclude movies with color - or even sound - from Oscar consideration.

    Or HD.

    Or video.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 21 Oct 2019 @ 10:02pm

    Exclusion from Oscar is not "Demonizing"

    Rather it is "Demonetizing" which is the modern, capitalistic secular equivalent and means "forcing to sell their impressionist painting collection".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 5:22am

    "What's Ralph Kramden
    If he ain't yellin'
    At Ed Norton
    What is coke snortin"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 6:25am

    Netflix isn't killing theaters.

    Never once, during my movie watching experience with Netflix, had I had to contend with someone kicking my seat, forcing me to get up for yet another bathroom break, a screaming baby (in an R-rated movie to boot), or the constant fucking flashing of cellphones being turned on during the movie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Max, 22 Oct 2019 @ 9:37am

    I have to disagree with mr. Norton

    I honestly can't remember how many year ago was I in a movie theater the last time. I simply see no upsides at all compared to watching at home. None. Zero. The size of the screen is meaningless for me - I'm either inside the movie while I'm watching it or I'm not; if I am, the "picture" has no "frame", size is irrelevant. Whereas cinemas have so many downsides (most of them related to the other viewers, but definitely not all) it's not even funny.

    You want to know what's killing movie theaters...? The availability of the option to watch something without having to go to one. It's that simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Don Zurley Light, 22 Oct 2019 @ 3:35pm

    Yeah, kids, the major content producers -- which actually make

    PROFITS -- are trembling the more Netflix Ponzi scheme goes on.

    NETFLIX to sell another $2 billion of junk bonds as it braces for onslaught of competition...

    Netflix Tumbles 15% From Earnings Peak As Verizon Hands Out Disney+ For Free

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 8 Nov 2019 @ 10:47pm

    Stream or Movie with Dinner

    Theater experience must offer more than home viewing, a night out that is not plagued by the felling to run to nearest exit. Alamo is getting high marks in this thread, I have yet to go there.

    I did go to a similar theater in Williamsburg, Virginia. I grew up in the crazy mix of Great History, Tourist Trap Hell, and now (redacted) Theme Park. W&M College plus Atlantic Feet annexes. The 10 screen movie-house is 40 minutes out -- nope too painful. So, movie & dinner place 5 minutes out.

    To wrap up this context matters. What was I expecting never happened -- Tourist Trap Hell invented more ways to annoy me. Wait staff normal college kids doing well in some kind of Restaurant/Dinner Theater lack of training and management lacking. A waiter walked across wife's line of sight, blocking screen. I heard much about this theater was on her never again list. (shrug) I noticed movie review team (group of 4) from somewhere yammering bit too loud. I forget the movie's name.

    There are more ways to mess up than get it right.The absolute best way to see certain type of movie is the imax Theater in Air & Space Center by Washington DC Dulles International Airport. The latest equipment and curved screen to reduce vision problems. 3D so good that the one action gag I saw blended in - Wonder Woman when watched on Blu-ray at home was still fun but 3D done right stays in the head.

    The Alamo may be doing it right. I morn the loss of Drive-In Theaters. They were part of a community. Real Estate $$ call the bulldozer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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