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Exactly one month to the day after releasing a statement backing Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju’s Screening Room — the proposal designed to offer movies for $50 at home the same time they open in theaters — filmmaker Peter Jackson walked the red carpet outside Parker’s Bel-Air residence.
Parker, the tech billionaire best known as a co-founder of Napster and Facebook’s first president, opened his gate and the grounds around his home (also known as the A. Quincy Jones-designed Brody House once owned by Ellen DeGeneres) for a glamorous launch party on Wednesday to celebrate his just-announced Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
Parker donated $250 million for the initiative that brings together six top academic cancer centers while hopefully breaking down the bureaucracy that has dogged progress in fighting the disease.
Stopping to talk to The Hollywood Reporter while making his way to the dinner, Jackson said he’s known Parker “for a reasonably short amount of time,” but that they’re close enough that he made the quick back-and-forth trip from New Zealand specifically to attend the event. And as far as VIP black-tie galas go, Parker’s gets points for the diversity of its invite list that included emcee Tom Hanks, presenters Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn, co-hosts Governor Jerry Brown, Marc Benioff, Orlando Bloom, Katie Couric, Jack Dorsey, Ari Emanuel, Lucian Grainge, Ron Howard, Jimmy Iovine, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Katy Perry, Marc Ronson, Anne Wojcicki and performers Lady Gaga and John Legend.
Jackson praised Parker’s PICI, saying “immunotherapy is the closest we’ve ever come to the so-called magic cure for cancer,” and therefore he supports the cause and likens it to a major movie franchise. “Putting together the best cancer specialists in the country is sort of like creating superheroes of cancer specialists,” said Jackson. “It’s like The Avengers of the cancer-fighting world.”
Speaking of movies, the visionary behind the Lord of the Rings franchise also had words about the Screening Room, opening up for the first time at length to THR about why Hollywood needs to let go of fear and embrace “the inevitable.”
You were one of the first filmmakers to speak out in support of Sean and the Screening Room. What feedback did you receive?
I’m in New Zealand, so I don’t get any feedback from anyone (laughs). I’m in a silent, little bubble down there. I think what has to happen with Screening Room is happening now. … Look, it was leaked. We weren’t ready to roll it out as we were still working on it. We were caught unawares a little bit, which is why we’ve been a bit slow, but when people actually get to see it and view the presentation and hear what the security measures are, they will understand it a bit more.
in probably 12 years.””]
What is the source of the misunderstanding do you think?
We are all human beings and we always leap to the most scary scenario and the most terrifying scenario. In the industry, we are very fearful of piracy and cinemas closing and losing that incredible magic of going to the theater. It’s not going to be that. Fifty percent of Americans did not step into a movie theater last year, and of the 50% that did go into a theater, 95% of them went to one or two films. That’s the people we are trying to target. The Screening Room is trying to target the people who are stuck at home because of their careers or because of their young families or they can’t get out to the cinema. They used to be film buffs when they were teenagers, they would go every single week but now they just can’t. If we can add them to the box-office tally, that’s a really healthy injection for the whole industry.
It sounds like your investment is significant. How much have you invested in the Screening Room?
It’s more time at the moment. I’m sort of helping with security advice and various things. It’s something that I believe in and something that is going to happen. It’s inevitable. Everyone keeps saying that day-and-date is going to happen, but they are still terrified of it. What we are trying to do is not make it scary and make everyone a winner in such a way that there is no fear involved and everyone comes out of it with a positive result. We’re spending a lot of time on security and anti-piracy measures. Everything that everyone is worried about we are putting serious work behind. It’s robust.
During this week’s CinemaCon in Las Vegas, several studio heads, including Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, spoke out saying they didn’t want any new services to take away from their business. Have you talked to Kevin about this?
Yes, I’ve spoken to Kevin. Look, when people actually see the presentation and understand it and look at the economics, they will see that very robust economics have been built around this. It’s not a subtractive thing at all. It’s an addition to their business.
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