The Netflix vs Steven Spielberg dispute has taken a surreal turn as it’s emerged the streaming giant is planning to buy a historic Hollywood cinema which is home to the 78-seater “Steven Spielberg Theatre”.
It is understood the company could be the next owner of the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, with discussions ongoing with current owner American Cinematheque. This would represent the first foray into a brick-and-mortar cinema for Netflix.
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Revered director Steven Spielberg is working to have Netflix banned from the Academy Awards, arguing their projects should instead be entered into the Emmys, which celebrate excellence in TV.
The Egyptian Theatre was opened in 1922 and was the site of the first-ever Hollywood movie premiere, hosting the debut night of Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks. It has been owned by American Cinematheque, a non-profit dedicated to film, since 1998.
Should Netflix complete the purchase, it would likely improve its standing in Hollywood at a time when sections of the film industry, including brick-and-mortar cinemas, are decrying its ever-growing influence. It’s believed that Netflix would use the Egyptian Theatre to host screenings on weekday nights, while the Cinematheque continues to run screenings, lectures and occasional festivals on weekends “on an autonomous basis”.
While it started as a distribution service, Netflix is now a major film and TV producer and one of its movies, Roma, won three Oscars earlier this year.
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At a gathering of theatre owners in Las Vegas earlier this month, Dame Helen Mirren jokingly yelled “f*** Netflix”, adding “there is nothing like sitting in the cinema”.
Some cinema owners fear Netflix, which as of January had 139 million subscribers around the world, poses an existential threat to their futures through their streaming business model. UK cinema chain Cineworld recently withdrew its support of the BAFTA Film Awards after Roma scooped four top prizes at this year’s show.
Netflix disputes this and argues it allows people without access to theatres to see films. Netflix has been contacted for comment.
With reporting by PA