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During The Hollywood Reporter‘s Power Business Managers event on Tuesday, top industry dealmakers discussed the state of talent negotiations in the age of the pandemic box office and day-and-date streaming releases. The virtual event coincided with the publication of THR’s 2021 Power Business Managers list.
Ziffren Brittenham co-founder Ken Ziffren, WME chief operating officer Dan Limerick and Lionsgate president of business and legal affairs Patricia Laucella offered their insights in a conversation with THR senior business editor Ashley Cullins. They all noted that transparency is what is most necessary for negotiations within the current Hollywood ecosystem.
“What I have noticed in making deals, is that people didn’t understand, including internally, how money flowed through the model and how we could be convincing to talent that we are trying to be equitable partners,” Laucella said. In the pandemic, Lionsgate sold once-theatrically bound movies like Run to various streamers, while other films like the Janelle Monáe starrer Antebellum went to PVOD.
In terms of the metrics used to mark a project’s success in the streaming age, Ziffren offered: “In the feature world, the box office is more important than it used to be.” He noted that for an average theatrical release prior to the pandemic, home entertainment grosses accounted for more earnings than box office receipts. Now, when movies head to the studio streaming services, that visibility is lost and it is difficult to decipher what would be the gross for those post-theatrical revenue streams.
Said Ziffren, “The issue is then can you, in effect, negotiate an arm’s-length arrangement with the streamer so that you have an equivalent chance of making more money and, in default, will end up with box office bonuses that should approximate not only what would happen in theatrical but what happens in home entertainment and television.”
Limerick added that “one of the bigger issues we are navigating today is about the data.” He noted that each company’s measure of success varies, including elements such as subscriber acquisitions, streaming minutes or audience retention. And talent wants access to those metrics to understand personal performance and “where they are resonating,” said Limerick.
When asked what can happen in the industry that could bring about greater visibility, Ziffren offered two possible paths to data transparency. “One is through collective bargaining from the point of view of the guilds and that is what may happen in 2023 when all the three guilds’ contracts expire and residuals will be focused on,” he said. The second option is a third-party tech company that can deliver data to both the studios and talent.
Also at the event, Andrew Meyer was awarded the 2021 THR Business Manager Icon Award, which was presented to him by longtime client Ellen Pompeo. “As we were building, we thought, ‘Maybe we can do something a little bit differently,’” said Meyer as he accepted the honor, of the ethos behind Freemark Capital, which he founded with Steves Rodriguez.
THR editorial director Nekesa Mumbi Moody and Martha Henderson, executive vp entertainment banking at presenting sponsor City National Bank, gave opening remarks at the virtual event.
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