Obama's Make-or-Break Moment
Uber-democrat Jeffrey Katzenberg's palatial $35 million new home in the Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills will be the site of a major fund-raiser for President Barack Obama, an event some already are calling a make-or-break moment in the incumbent candidate's turbulent relationship with Hollywood. While precise details are being worked out, the DreamWorks Animation chief will host the president and an array of A-list contributors -- Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, J.J. Abrams, Tom Hanks and a number of DreamWorks execs are likely to attend -- in the spring, according to Katzenberg's political consultant, Andy Spahn.
Katzenberg has emerged as the Democrats' major giver and fund-raiser in this election cycle. The event will come at a crucial time, just before both parties' summer nominating conventions, and will give the president an opportunity to reassure Hollywood artists and executives that he has their interests in mind in the wake of his opposition to key parts of the proposed SOPA anti-piracy legislation.
"People in Hollywood are upset with Obama," one longtime industry activist tells THR. Heading into the current campaign, the activist explains, "there was a level of disillusionment" with the president to begin with because of his positions on everything from the environment to closing the Guantanamo Bay internment camp. "Then SOPA happened," says the activist. "People were very confused over why the White House got involved. I think the average person in Hollywood thought it was a stupid political move." Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit town Jan. 30 to help allay industry fears that the Democrats have gone soft on piracy, but Obama's outreach will be crucial.
While the president will be in L.A. on Feb. 15 for two fund-raisers at the home of producer Bradley Bell and wife Colleen (Will Ferrell and wife Viveca Paulin are co-sponsors), the Katzenberg event is seen as the key Hollywood gathering for Obama to mend fences and convince high-level fence-sitters to open their wallets. Ticket prices will most likely be set at $35,800, in accordance with campaign finance laws. Anyone who hasn't maxed out by then can expect a hard sell.