Over the weekend, in a speech at the Cinema Audio Society’s CAS Awards, director Steven Spielberg reminded listeners yet again that he’s specifically dedicated to a theater-based cinematic experience as “a firm believer that movie theaters need to be around forever.” Accepting the Filmmaker Award at the event, Spielberg said, “I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience.”

Spielberg’s comments may seem innocuous — there’s nothing controversial about a director who’s largely made his name on big, expensive Hollywood blockbusters stating that he likes big-screen movies and wants to see the format last — but his comments have been taken as a pointed slight against streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. And they come at a contentious time in the industry, as perceived streaming upstarts challenge big studios for audiences and official recognition. Netflix’s first run at an Oscar for Best Picture, with its original film Roma, has prompted a renewed debate about the relative place of theatrical releases versus streaming releases.

In the face of that debate over what makes a release qualify as a movie, Spielberg seems to be on the side that feels that streaming-service releases shouldn’t be eligible at big awards shows because, regardless of length or storytelling mode, they’re primarily intended for a home viewing platform. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” Spielberg told ITV News in an interview last year. “You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Spielberg echoed a similar thought at the CAS Awards, emphasizing that, for all the high-quality content streaming services are producing and regardless of the quality of people’s home theater setups, “there’s nothing like going to a big dark theater with people you’ve never met before, and having the experience wash over you.”

It does seem strange that Spielberg would be so against the idea of outlets like Netflix and HBO funding personal, non-commercial films like Roma, though, given that he’s expressed urgent concerns over the current studio model and how it’s more focused on big-budget blockbusters that leverage popular franchises at the expense of smaller films.

Back in 2013, Spielberg discussed his fears for “a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal — and even maybe historical — projects that may get lost in the shuffle” in today’s Hollywood, as studios focus on big event films with potential billion-dollar paydays. Spielberg predicted an “implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground.” At that same event, filmmaker George Lucas worried that increasing film costs and suffering studios would drive up theater ticket prices: “Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150.”

But while Spielberg is concerned about the future of theaters, he also seems to be objecting to recognition for the alternative channels that are enabling small- to mid-scale movies. In the same ITV interview where he lamented that a Netflix-style “TV movie” shouldn’t be nominated for an Academy Award, he also noted, “A lot of studios would rather make branded, tent-pole, guaranteed box office hits… than take chances on smaller films. And those smaller films that studios used to make routinely are now going to Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.”

These two concerns — that studios are shutting out small movies and that streaming services might be getting too much recognition for small movies — appear antithetical. But Spielberg’s argument seems to emphasis categorization above all else: it seems that, no matter how worthwhile a film may be (and as he noted in his CAS speech, streaming services’ “TV” films do feature some of the top work in the industry right now), “TV movies” undermine theaters, even if those films spend some time there first. That seems like a strangely backward philosophy that puts presentation above content.

But he authentically seems to mean it not as a swipe against the streaming industry, but as an expression of anxiety for theaters. Currently, the numbers do show some cause for concern. The Motion Picture Association of America’s annual box office numbers show box office takes as comparatively equitable over the last 20 years, despite steadily rising ticket prices. But it seems highly unlikely that industry recognition for a film like Roma would really have any effect on people’s willingness to head to the cineplex for the latest Godzilla remake or superhero film. It may simply fall on concerned, respected industry leaders like Spielberg to come up with creative solutions to the problems they see as dominating the industry. If Spielberg doesn’t like big studios focusing on big films and big paydays or small streamers earning attention for daring personal projects, what does he want to see happen in the industry?