Studio Heads Describe Private Meeting with Obama as 'Love Fest'

Barack Obama Dreamworks Speech 1 - H 2013
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Barack Obama Dreamworks Speech 1 - H 2013

On his visit to DreamWorks this week, the President praised Jeffrey Katzenberg and spent more than an hour talking with studio heads about piracy, Obamacare, Iran and other issues.

When President Barack Obama addressed Hollywood’s major studio heads at the DreamWorks Animation campus Wednesday, he touched on a subject dear to Hollywood when he expressed hope of bringing the studios and Silicon Valley together on an effective remedy for digital piracy.

Nonetheless, an executive in attendance saw no reason to hope that antipiracy legislation will be on the agenda anytime soon.

Still, one of the 15 invited executives, who asked not to be identified, described the whole session to The Hollywood Reporter as a “love fest.”

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For industry insiders following the online piracy legislative wars, there was an interesting subtext to the event: It’s still DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg -- whose company is not part of the Motion Picture Association of America -- who holds the key to White House access.

In January 2012, as rumors spread that the White House would oppose key aspects of the industry's favored antipiracy legislation, MPAA head Chris Dodd was forced to call Katzenberg to inquire about the administration's thinking. Although the president went out of his way to single Dodd out several times in his remarks during the meeting, one guest says there is still no getting around the fact that Katzenberg had convened the meeting and extended the invitations.

"There's no question that Jeffrey's wired there,” this person said, referring to the White House. “He has a very close relationship with the President and that’s important.”

The President also addressed issues related to the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the controversial nuclear arms deal with Iran, but the focus of his 45-minute remarks was Hollywood and its concerns.

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Much of Obama’s address was an expression of admiration for the economic and cultural power of film and television as an American export. When it came to the contentious piracy issue -- which divides his entertainment-industry supporters from his backers among the digital firms -- the President mused on whether legislation is the best course of action, or whether Hollywood and Silicon Valley can resolve the piracy problem between themselves.

He offered his support to Hollywood and said his opposition to the failed piracy legislation had not been based on principle but on the fact that the measure had flaws. There was an extended discussion of the role search engines play in facilitating the piracy that is gnawing at the studios’ bottom line.

Obama’s remarks, which were followed by a brief question-and-answer session, were preceded by a tour of the DWA, including a drop-in to a taping session with Steve Martin.

Apart from Katzenberg and the MPAA’s Dodd, those in attendance included: Jon Feltheimer, CEO, Lionsgate Entertainment; Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO, Twentieth Century Fox Film; Robert Greenblatt, chairman, NBC Entertainment; Mellody Hobson, chairman of the board of directors, DreamWorks Animation; Alan Horn, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios; Bob Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company; Michael Lynton, CEO, Sony Entertainment; Ron Meyer, vice chairman, NBCUniversal; Leslie Moonves, president & CEO, CBS Corporation; Rob Moore, vice chairman, Paramount Pictures Corporation; Amy Pascal, co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Anne Sweeney, president, Disney/ABC Television Group; Kevin Tsujihara, CEO, Warner Bros.; Peter Rice, chairman and CEO, Fox Networks Group; and Jeff Shell, chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment.