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Netflix Strikes Deal With Filmmaker Steven Spielberg


Under the terms of the deal, announced Monday by Netflix and Mr. Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, the studio will make multiple new films for Netflix over the course of the agreement. The pact with Netflix doesn’t affect Mr. Spielberg’s long-term relationship with Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures where Amblin Partners is based.

Netflix’s signing of Mr. Spielberg, whose body of work includes “Jaws,” “E.T.,” and “Saving Private Ryan,” indicates that the company is keeping a sharp eye in its rear-view mirror. Although Netflix is far and away the most popular streaming service with 208 million members around the globe, its competitors are growing in number and strength.

Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg speak on the set of ‘The Color Purple,’ which provided a breakout role for Ms. Goldberg and a turn away from blockbusters for Mr. Spielberg.



Photo:

Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Walt Disney’s Disney+ has made strong inroads in the U.S. and abroad. Other rivals are also gunning for Netflix. Last month, Amazon acquired the MGM movie and TV studio in a deal valued at $8.45 billion including debt. Among the properties that will now be part of Amazon is the James Bond franchise.

HBO Max, the year-old streaming service launched by

AT&T Inc.’s

WarnerMedia, is also beefing up on its original and acquired content. AT&T’s decision to merge WarnerMedia with

Discovery Inc.

and create a separate publicly traded company will also make for a bigger streaming behemoth.

Netflix has so far resisted making big acquisitions as part of its expansion strategy, choosing instead to focus on wooing creative talent such as

Shonda Rhimes,

Ryan Murphy

and

Adam Sandler

to make TV and films for the platform.

For Netflix, getting content from Mr. Spielberg will further bolster its already prolific movie-production pipeline. In 2021, Netflix is expected to make 60 movies.

Films from Amblin won’t hit the service until later this year at the earliest. The movies and shows have the potential to add more prestige to Netflix, which this year received 36 Oscar nominations for its films. Neither Amblin nor Netflix would comment on the types of films that would be made for the service.

In a statement, Mr. Spielberg said of the Netflix pact, “It was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways.”

Taking a break on the set of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ in 1984 are, from left, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas and Harrison Ford.



Photo:

Paramount/Everett Collection

Mr. 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.” Mr. Spielberg 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.

The Spread of Streaming

Articles about streaming services, selected by WSJ editors

Also, for films to be considered for an Academy Award, they must have a minimum appearance in a Los Angeles movie theater for a week. That condition was waived for the 2021 Academy Awards because the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered movie theaters around the world.

This is not Amblin’s nor Mr. 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 Mr. Spielberg carries symbolic weight in Hollywood. Mr. Spielberg had weighed in over whether films from streaming services should be considered for Academy Awards. In an interview with ITV in 2018, he said films that primarily premiered on streaming services watched at home became TV movies.

“You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” he said.

From left, Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams review a scene on the set of ‘Hook’ in 1991.



Photo:

TriStar Pictures/Everett Collection

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

Netflix has wooed creative talent such as

Shonda Rhimes,

Ryan Murphy

and

Adam Sandler

to make TV and films for the platform. An earlier version of this article misspelled Shonda Rhimes’s last name as Rhymes. (Corrected June 22.)

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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