The DVD revenue from movies is down and the money to be made from new media is not yet making up the difference, which has increased the importance of the initial release of a film, producer and executive Harvey Weinstein said Saturday at the Produced By Conference.
“It’s become much more of a theatrical business because the movie has to work in theaters,” says Weinstein, who appeared by satellite before a full house on the first day of the annual conference put on by the Producer’s Guild of America, held on the Disney studio lot in Burbank.
Weinstein made the comment in reference to his efforts to develop a sequel to Rounders, which grossed a modest $23 million when it was released by Miramax in 1998. He said it went on to make an astounding $70 million, not in gross but in actual dollars returned to the distributor.
Weinstein notes that Matt Damon has since become a much bigger star and Edward Norton has built a reputation as a fine actor. “The video has gotten such awareness,” says Weinstein. “I never make sequels but it’s something I’d like to revisit.”
Still, he recognizes that the film will have to work better in theaters this time because of the changes in the marketplace. “It’s working without a net right now,” says Weinstein, “until VOD and the Internet situation matures. (At present) they are not working like DVD did.”
In the future, Weinstein said later, he believes VOD and the Internet will be more important, and part of that will be streaming services. “I have to admire Netflix,” says Weinstein, who praised the company for really being interested in the movies and not just seeing them as a product like other Silicon Valley companies that get into new media.
When asked what made him successful, Weinstein smiled and said, “I think everybody knows my charm,” which brought a big laugh, after which he said it was the quality of “tenacity.”
Producer Mark Gordon, who was on the stage in Burbank asking questions and holding a dialogue with Weinstein said he agreed that tenacity was a key: “If you stick around long enough and if you have a little bit of talent and a lot of drive, it’s better than a lot of talent and a little bit of drive.”
Weinstein said his management style has gotten better because of what he has learned as a father. “The term ‘mellow’ means you are the father of four daughters,” quipped Weinstein. “It’s sort of a karmic payback because (in the past) the word mellow and me won’t be found in the same sentence.”
Gordon and Weinstein talked about recently working together on the movie The Details, which Gordon produced and Weinstein’s company acquired for distribution earlier this year at Sundance. They said they had been working together on improving the narration at the beginning and end of the movie to try and make the central character, who commits adultery and murder, more sympathetic.
Weinstein praised Gordon as a producer, and said he wished he had been as successful in television as Gordon, whose shows include Gray’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds, both produced with ABC Studios.
Weinstein told Gordon whatever they were paying him, “It isn’t enough.”
Gordon insisted they had been generous with him, even though everyone always wants more.
Then in a reference to his own checkered history with Disney, which bought Miramax but eventually forced him and his brother Bob out, Weinstein said, “If it’s Disney making it, it’s definitely not enough.”
One thing Weinstein and Gordon agreed on was that when making movies, it is not the producer’s job just to help the director fulfill his vision, or to support the cinematographer, editor or anyone else. “Your focus as a producer has to be on the movie,” says Weinstein, “not on any one department, including the director.”
Gordon cited a professor he had at NYU Film School who told him, “If you put the movie first, you can’t make a mistake.”
Gordon says it is often the producer who spends years developing a movie before bringing on the director. “We’re supposed to say now it’s your baby? Wrong!” exclaims Gordon. “It’s a collaboration. Often the producer has the best perspective as to what is best for the movie.”
Weinstein, often criticized for interfering with his directors over the years, happily agreed.