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Initially reluctant to get into any discussion that might offend her cinema-chain partners, Fox chairman-CEO Stacey Snider ultimately answered some questions that entertainment lawyer Ken Ziffren posed to her on the subject of movie-watching during a keynote Saturday at the 41st annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium, attended by an overflow crowd of around 600.
“That’s so sneaky because he’s trying to get me to talk about windows and PVOD,” said Snider, referring to potential premium video-on-demand services — the very mention of which can make theater owners apoplectic. But she acknowledged, “I think there will be new ways for people to watch movies at home.”
“We have to expand our thinking to include more choices and more variety,” she said.
That, of course, implies a variety of devices, many of which Snider says she loves. But content is still king. “None of my devices would be as beloved if I didn’t have good shit to watch,” she said.
How does she know what qualifies? Snider harkened back to halcyon days during law school when she thrived as a freelance reader, and she said if she’s chomping at the bit to acquire a script before she’s even finished reading it, that’s a good sign. “I gotta get this! No, I gotta finish it!” is the paradigm the exec described.
That content might end up finding a home at one of the five different genre labels Snider oversees — all of which, she noted, are run by women. (That stands in marked contrast to the panels at this year’s symposium, which several attendees noted were led heavily by white males. The audience was a bit more diverse.)
But even with good material, making movies is tough for several reasons. “Admissions are challenged because … we are facing increased competition for attention. … Digital hasn’t compensated for the money that studios made on DVD [in that format’s heyday 10 years ago]. Disproportionate profit participation [sometimes impairs profits],” said Snider, adding, “Because a studio basically launches a new product one or two times a month, it is by nature a risky business.”
All that, and they’re no longer masters of their own fate, to boot. “We’re driven by the numbers we promised the parent company,” noted Snider. “We expect to be stretched by our parent companies.”
To thrive, she said, “Studios will need to build our own direct-to-consumer capabilities.”
March 18, 7:25 p.m. Updated with additional details.
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