Streaming debate rages on in Hollywood

On this day: July 13
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1923: The Hollywood Sign is officially dedicated in the hills above Hollywood, Los Angeles. It originally read "Hollywoodland," but the four last letters were dropped after renovation in 1949.

The streaming debate rages on in Hollywood, with industry heavyweights continuing to weigh in about its impact on movie theaters.

In the latest take, Tom Bernard, the Sony Pictures Classics co-founder and co-president, tells CNN he does not believe that the boom of streaming services will completely obliterate the classic moviegoing experience.

“What happened back in the ’40s? Television showed up and the movies survived. Then it was cable; HBO showed up and the movies survived. Then there was VHS and the movies survived,” Bernard told CNN last week at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “Maiden.”

“I don’t think there’s an issue. Movies on the screen (in theaters) will always survive. That’s an experience you can’t make on TV. It’s a preference, and I think if the movies are good and they’re on the screen, people are going to go.”

He makes a fair point. Just last month, “Avengers: Endgame” had the biggest global opening in film history, with $644 million at the worldwide box office.

Robert De Niro’s message to Hollywood’s Netflix critics

But Bernard’s sentiments differ vastly from those of Steven Spielberg, who has been at the forefront of the debate, especially when it comes to whether films that premiere on streaming services should be eligible for an Oscar.

It came to a head with last year’s Netflix mega-hit “Roma,” which was nominated for 10 Oscars. The film won best director, best foreign-language film and best cinematography.

Spielberg, a member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has reportedly spearheaded discussions about qualifying rules regarding streaming service films. Since then, the academy has confirmed that it received a letter from the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, warning the organization against implementing rules that would potentially exclude films from companies such as Netflix.

But there are other top names in Hollywood who are charging ahead, such as Robert De Niro, who recently spoke to CNN about his decision to premiere his highly anticipated film “The Irishman” on Netflix.

“A lot of opportunity has come out of the Netflix thing,” De Niro said. “It’s not so simple and I agree we have to have the theater format, it’s so important. But I don’t know; things move on in ways that we can’t foresee.”

Bernard agrees with De Niro.

“We are into theatrical first, and we’ve been that way for 31 years,” he added. “There’s always room for more. More ways to make money with a movie and we will see if we look back 10 years what was there and if you look ahead to 10 years what will there be?”