Major Studio Heads to Meet With Obama During His DreamWorks Animation Visit

Jeffrey Katzenberg
Jeffrey Katzenberg
 Getty Images

Hollywood’s reigning political kingmaker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invited all the major studio heads and many of their deputies to join him and President Barack Obama on Tuesday at DreamWorks Animation’s Glendale campus, creating what amounts to an entertainment summit with the chief executive.

Obama arrives in Los Angeles on Monday and will travel to a pair of fundraising events at the Beverly Hills homes of Cheryl and Haim Saban and Cookie and Magic Johnson. On Tuesday morning, the president will participate in an invitation-only roundtable discussion with big Democratic donors at the Hancock Park home of Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman before going on to Glendale, where he will tour DreamWorks studios with Katzenberg and meet for an hour with members of the entertainment industry.

Katzenberg, who has emerged in recent years as one of the Democrats’ most consistently generous donors and enterprising fundraisers, dined privately with Obama during the president’s August visit to Los Angeles.

Obama is expected to arrive at LAX shortly before rush hour today and his trip into Beverly Hills will trigger major street closures throughout the area as far as the 405 Freeway. Tuesday’s midday journey from Hancock Park to Glendale is expected to result in traffic disruptions from mid-Wilshire into the eastern San Fernando Valley. The president is expected to return to LAX from DreamWorks by helicopter.

While en route to San Francisco earlier Monday, members of the White House traveling press corps asked principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest why Obama had chosen DreamWorks for the visit. From the pool report on the exchange:

QUESTION: "About tomorrow's event in DreamWorks, can you shed any light on why that studio was chosen? There are a lot of studios in the entertainment industry. Why DreamWorks specifically?"

EARNEST: "I don't have that information in front of me right now, but we can get you something before the end of the day on that."

QUESTION: "And does the White House have any response to people who might question why the president would do an official White House event at the business of one of his biggest campaign donors."

EARNEST: "Listen, as you've heard us say on other occasions, contributing to the president's campaign or being a political supporter of the president doesn't guarantee a presidential visit, but it shouldn't exclude you from one either.

"The fact of the matter is when the president goes to New York to talk about the economy, it's not unusual for him -- for the president to speak on Wall Street. When the president goes to Detroit to talk about the economy, it's not unusual for the president to appear at an auto manufacturing facility. When the president goes to Northern California to talk about the economy, he'll often speak in a venue that highlights the importance of the technology industry to the regional economy of Northern California. And in this case, it shouldn't be particularly surprising that the president is going to talk about the economy and the important drivers of the economy in Southern California by appearing at an entertainment facility."

QUESTION: "Right, but Mr. Katzenberg is singularly one of the largest campaign donors to the president's campaign and also to Priorities USA. The president could go to Warner Bros.; he could go to Walt Disney. There are a lot of studios he could go to, so why is he going to Mr. Katzenberg's business?"

EARNEST: "I'll get you some more details about why we've chosen that business in particular. DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California. And the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg's support for the president's policies has no bearing on our decision to visit there; rather, it's an opportunity to highlight the success of one business and the success that they're having in creating jobs in California. But I'll get you some more granular details tonight."

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