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Jeffrey Katzenberg to Hollywood: Use Movies to Fight Hate

George Lucas Mellody Hobson Jeffrey Katzenberg ADL Dinner - H 2013
AP/Invision
George Lucas, fiancee Mellody Hobson and Jeffrey Katzenberg

The DreamWorks Animation chief, in accepting the Anti-Defamation League's award before an industry crowd, cited Warner Bros.' and Legendary's "42" as an example of how "frame by frame, change happens.”

Hollywood movie and TV shows are the greatest megaphone in the world for fighting intolerance, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told an audience jammed with Hollywood luminaries at the Beverly Hilton Wednesday night as he accepted an honor from the Anti-Defamation League at its Centennial Entertainment Industry dinner.

Samuel Goldwyn once said ‘if you want to send a message call Western Union,’” said Katzenberg. “I’m afraid I have to disagree with the great Mr. Goldwyn. While it is not our obligation to send a message, it is an opportunity.”

Katzenberg, who cited a range of films to illustrate this point -- from D.W. Griffiths' 1916 film Intolerance to Warner Bros. and Legendary's spring 2013 hit 42 -- insisted that while people who make movies should first entertain, they also should understand the medium has the power to help transform the world in positive ways.

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“Every movie should be at least aspire to be about something,” said Katzenberg, citing messages of how parents and children relate and the need to learn to adjust to change in his studio's most recent hit, The Croods. “Audiences may show up for laughs, but they come away inspired and motivated. In this way, frame by frame, change happens.”

The dinner, with the theme “Imagine a World Without Hate,”  celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ADL and raised over $1.1 million from an audience that included Twentieth Century Fox CEO Jim Gianopulos, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, producer George Lucas and his fiancée Mellody Hobson (who is a Chicago investment banker and chairs the DWA board), Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer,  former Disney executive Dick Cook, producer Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, his actress wife and co-producer of the hit History Channel series The Bible. Actress Sarah Chalke and actor and comedian Rob Riggle served as masters of ceremony.

The night also featured a video appearance by President Barack Obama, who praised the ADL and Katzenberg, saying, “Anti-Semitism has no place in a civilized world."

The ADL Entertainment Industry Award is given to individuals for leadership and extraordinary innovation in the entertainment industry locally, nationally and internationally. Past honorees include Bonnie Hammer of NBC Universal, director and producer Steven Spielberg, actor Rob Lowe and Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh, who was in the audience at the Beverly Hilton.  

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"When we choose honorees, we look for people whose work and ideals reflect ADL’s message of respect, inclusion, acceptance and courage to stand up to evil," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, as he presented the award. "Jeffrey has made exceptional contributions to the well-being and security of the Jewish people, and has shown unwavering commitment to help the community at large.”

In accepting, Katzenberg noted the ADL is not called “the Anti-Jewish Defamation League. It’s simply called the Anti-Defamation League. From the very beginning, ADL wasn’t content to speak just for one group but rather for all groups. For a century, ADL has been looking out for every one of us.”

Actor, philanthropist and humanitarian Kirk Douglas, 96, introduced the dinner and kicked off the ceremony. In accepting the award, Katzenberg told the crowd he can't wait to step onstage in four years to help Douglas celebrate his 100th birthday -- and added that he expects both of them to be around in 2113, to ring in 200 years for the ADL.

Turning to Douglas, Katzenberg added, “I look forward to seeing you for that event.”

More information on the ADL and the award to Katzenberg is available on their web sites www.adl.org and www.adl.org/LA.