Horn keynotes THR Power Lawyers event
Power Lawyers 2010 list
Q&A: Raising the Bar recipient Leah Weil
How to end disputes before they spill into court
The year in Hollywood law
The Harry Potter movies are now the most successful feature franchise in history, surpassing "James Bond" and "Star Wars," with two more yet to come, including "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in November, said Alan Horn, president and COO of Warner Bros. Entertainment in his keynote speech Friday at the Fourth Annual Hollywood Reporter Power Lawyers Power Breakfast in Beverly Hills.
"It's also been a fabulous creative journey," Horn added.
So fabulous, in fact, Horn said he asked "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling if she couldn't write a few more. "She said, 'I think we're done,' " he recalled.
Horn responded, tongue firmly in cheek, that he even had a title for the next one: "Harry Potter and the Golden Years."
"She said, 'No, I'm done,' " added Horn.
But Warners clearly isn't done. As Horn said in remarks that summed up the growth and momentum at the studio during his nearly 11 years as president, working with chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, who sat at the nearby Warner table, "the management of creativity" has kept them going.
"Every time we think we've exhausted the possibilities for growth," said Horn answering a question after his speech, "somebody finds something exciting, something new."
Horn pointed to the reinvention of the DC Comics trove of characters as one place that growth will come from in the future. He praised Warners' president of the motion picture group, Jeff Robinov, for "reviving DC and our creative partnership."
He said while they spend a lot of time before green lighting a movie, there is still "risk in the movie business. ... The truth is not all movies are successful."
He cited as an example of a surprise last year's hit comedy "The Hangover" and, back in 2004, Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby."
Horn recalled that when Eastwood first brought the movie about a female boxer to the studio, they found numerous reasons it couldn't work and turned it down. After Eastwood showed it around town and still didn't get a commitment, he returned to Warner Bros., said Horn, "and told us, 'You really should do this.' "
So despite their concerns, they did and it went on to be a boxoffice hit and win best picture, best actress and other Oscars.
"There's magic to this business," said Horn, adding that Eastwood "saw it and we didn't see it."
While much of his life is about the 23-25 movies a year the studio releases, which last year brought in a gross of $4 billion, Horn noted the studio is also a powerhouse in TV, with 26 primetime series and 50 shows on the air in all. "Our job is to produce value for our shareholders," he said, "by making content" wherever it comes from.
The breakfast event for an audience of the top lawyers in show business, plus top bankers and others, was opened by Hollywood Reporter publisher Lori Burgess, noting this was one of her first events since taking the position. She said that we all recognize the deals being done are a lot more complicated today, and added, "We're here to deliver a product that helps you do that."
Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider introduced Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who then introduced Leah Weil, Sony's senior executive vp and general counsel, whom she presented the Raising the Bar Studio Lawyer Award. "We make the messes," said Pascal, "and Leah cleans them up."
Pascal called Weil "one of the smartest people I know," adding that "we couldn't live without her."
Weil in her acceptance said that as studio lawyers they need to use all of their unique legal skills to help the creative and business team maximize opportunities. "It's not an easy time to be an entertainment media lawyer," said Weil, "but is a very exciting one."