Film's future tense

Web, economy, sequelitis weigh on panelists

Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, on Thursday decried what he described as the consistently negative impact of the Internet on the film business.

He also joined actress Anne Hathaway and writer-director Nora Ephron in slamming Hollywood's obsession with regurgitating old formulas. They spoke in a Thursday conversation about "The Future of Filmmaking," organized by Syracuse University's Newhouse School and led by journalist Ken Auletta.

Auletta asked the panelists about their biggest worry about the future of Hollywood.

"As the economics of it get tougher and tougher, we tend to get more and more cautious" and refer to previous successes, Lynton said. "And that's a very bad pattern to get into … a pattern that we should resist."

Lynton noted that sequels make sense when they are based on quality fare. He also said he tends to focus more on opportunities than concerns.

Hathaway said she's looking to make sure industry folks look at "the merit of the film, not necessarily the bottom line."

She mentioned that her representatives told her Wednesday that one potential movie project won't make money. "That can't be a concern every single time," she said. "People get so hung up on economics."

Ephron argued that "every year we make fewer and fewer good movies, and most are made by independent film companies, not the big studios." And the good movies aren't that good either, she added, earning laughs.

The Web also played a big role in Thursday's conversation. "I am a guy who hasn't seen any good come out of the Internet," said Lynton, a former CEO of AOL Europe and president of AOL International. "It seems to have done damage to every part of the entertainment business."

Lynton called on Washington to draw up rules that would protect copyrighted material instead of only focusing on expanding the availability of broadband across the U.S. Citing the Obama administration's focus on boosting broadband coverage, Lynton said: "Somebody has got to realize that we need some rules."

Asked about the need to change actors' and directors' compensation, especially gross participation, Lynton said as "DVD sales have become very volatile, the old approach just doesn't work anymore."

Ephron took issue with the idea that creatives are overpaid and thus burden the system.

Studios often say they pay actors, writers and directors too much, but "everyone is overpaid, including the executives," and they are less willing to take pay cuts than creatives, she said. (partialdiff)