Oscar Roundtable: 6 Top Studio Executives Reveal the Perks and Pitfalls of Hollywood Power
Sony's Michael Barker, Lionsgate's Rob Friedman, Fox's Jim Gianopulos, DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, Universal's Donna Langley and Paramount's Rob Moore gather for a candid discussion of what life is really like when you're a movie mogul.
THR: There are enormous changes occurring in the business. What will it look like in 10 years?
Katzenberg: They haven't even begun. I think that 10 years from now, almost everything changes. All the stakeholders are going to be rearranged. Movies are only growing in their popularity, and I think that the power of this is going to more than just transform the consumption of movies -- it's going to revolutionize them. Today, about 100 million people will see a movie and pay $10 on a blended basis. Ten years from now, 2 billion people will pay $1.50. Some people will watch it for 65 cents on this [holds up cell phone], some will watch it for $2 on a TV screen, some will go to state-of-the-art theaters where you'll have a meal and a great experience there. They'll pay $50. But it all changes. Now I don't know if that's 10 years or 15 years, but it's coming.
THR: Does that mean fewer people will go to an actual movie theater?
Katzenberg: Just the opposite. It's like sports. Sports have never been more popular than they are today. You go back 30 years ago, and if you lived in Los Angeles and you wanted to see the Lakers, you actually had to go to a Lakers game because they would black it out on television. And so in the same way that sports has been completely transformed and now is very broad, highly popularized and you can experience it on so many different levels and price points, that's what's going to happen to us.
THR: Why do you think it hasn't happened with the music business?
Katzenberg: Because the music business did the opposite of what we've done in the movie business, which is that I think greed got the better of them.
Gianopulos: They also have a very different model. The first thing that happened was, one day there was no Napster, the next day the cataclysm was there. And so it caught them completely off guard. Jeffrey's right: They were greedy, and so every time that the sales of CDs went down, they took the price up because customers realized that it just didn't seem right. And apart from that, their business model is different in the sense that their first exposure of their creative content is free. It's on the radio. Our first exposure is in the best setting possible and at the highest price.
Friedman: From a psychology perspective, the consumer always felt they were getting it for free.
THR: Many of you are in favor of releasing films on premium VOD either day-and-date or shortly after they appear in theaters. Are theater owners softening to the idea?
Gianopulos: We've been having ongoing conversations with theater owners, and they're starting to come around. The average life of a movie in a multiplex is 3-1/2 weeks. The video window is about four months. So you have three months of darkness. We'll call it "the dark zone." Three months at the time when consumers and audiences know the most about a movie, but when there's no place to get it. So that doesn't mean that they don't get it. That means they either resort to piracy, or they stay home and watch something else. So how do you do something about that? We've started that process by moving the window of availability of the digital download up a little bit, but that was a small step. We're hoping that we can gradually get theaters around to that idea.
Moore: I have three teenage sons who are now in a place where they expect to be able to watch things when they want them on whatever device. And they are oddly as comfortable watching a movie on their iPhone as they are watching something on a big screen. They view them as not exclusive experiences, but they are different experiences. There are times when they want to go with a group of people out to a movie theater; there are times where they're hanging out and want to spend 20 minutes watching something on their phone.
THR: What is the one film that means the most to you?
Katzenberg: Here's the problem with that question: Everybody's going to answer the same movie -- Lawrence of Arabia.
Langley: Probably the most influential film for me -- sorry, because it's not necessarily my favorite film -- but the most influential film was The Red Shoes.
Gianopulos: I'd have to go back to the second Godfather. That's what I thought Jeffrey was going to say. (Laughter.)
Friedman: As a kid, I lived in an extraordinarily small town, and the film that I remember most vividly is The Ten Commandments. We got out of school and we went and watched it.
Moore: See, mine is The Godfather, so Jeffrey is right: Jim and I, at least, are on the same page. Mine actually was the first Godfather.
Katzenberg: I'm just older than all of you. That's all. (Laughter.)
Barker: I think Rear Window is it. It tells us why we do what we do as a viewer, as a practitioner, as a storyteller.
THR: If you weren't studio executives, what would you do?
Moore: Well, my dream when I was a kid was to become a sports announcer.
Friedman: As a kid I wanted to be a marine biologist, but then I realized you had to go to school, so that didn't really work out too well. But philanthropy is very exciting to me now, and I'm very active when I'm not 100 percent working. I also have four children, so that keeps me busy too.
Langley: My husband is an interior designer, so I think I would love to develop a high-end hotel with properties around the world. Sounds interesting. … I think I might even text him that now. (Laughter.)
Barker: I was one of those people that maybe strived to be an artist but knew there was no way I was going to pull that off. So what I would do is serve the artist. And that's always been fulfilling for me. But I think for a lot of us, when we were kids, the movies provided something for us. Maybe we didn't like ourselves so much, we found life a little boring, and these films kind of enlarged us and made us into bigger people. We didn't want to be diminutive or common, and to me that's how it all started when I was a little kid, when I went to see Rio Bravo when I was 5.
Gianopulos: Well, I started out wanting to be a musician at one point, and also a fireman at one point.
Katzenberg: I wanted to be a fireman! Honestly. I was 6 years old, and I had a fireman hat.
Michael Barker, Sony Pictures Classics
Rust and Bone, Amour, West of Memphis, Smashed
Rob Friedman, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group
The Impossible, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Jim Gianopulos, Fox Filmed Entertainment
Life of Pi
Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation
Rise of the Guardians, Madagascar 3
Donna Langley, Universal Pictures
Rob Moore, Paramount
Flight, Not Fade Away, Rise of the Guardians, Madagascar 3
Watch the full uncensored roundtable below.