Only 17 Days?


Here we go again. DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg is in the news with some remarks made at the Milken Institute Global Conference that have sparked controversy among other entertainment giants at the confab. This editor believes that motion picture theatre executives will enter the fray shortly.

During the conference, Mr. Katzenberg said that business and technological changes are happening so fast that DreamWorks Animation has to innovate to survive. He then continued, “The traditional business of making movies is especially challenging right now. It has changed dramatically and it continues to change.” If he stopped there, most people would agree, but he went on to say, “It’s not a growth business.”

Katzenberg qualified his statement by adding, “What is growing is digital and short-form content and new ways to make, market and distribute. The stakeholders are entrapped in an enterprise that can’t get out of its own way. The fact is, movies have never been more popular, watched by more people around the world than ever, but for it to really grow it needs to break out of these windows that existed for a long time.” He speculated that it will probably take 10 years to see change, and when that comes, movies will stay in theatres for about 17 days, or three weekends, and then become available on every other form of distribution, on all devices immediately. “What will happen, and it will happen, I think, is we will actually kind of reinvent the enterprise of movies,” he declared.

Although exhibition had not responded at the time of this writing, they certainly cannot be happy with Mr. Katzenberg’s prophecy. The amount of money being invested in the infrastructure of theatres, with digital projectors, immersive sound, 3D and lasers, is staggering, and the thought of having an exclusive window of only 17 days is not only very disconcerting but could be catastrophic. Since 10 years is a long time, and no one really knows what will happen, people who make movies need to encourage exhibitors to upgrade and improve the theatrical experience and protect them because of their investment.

Also at the conference, Jeff Shell, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group CEO, took exception to Katzenberg’s remarks, stating that movies are “a tremendous growth business.” Shell said that “the distribution of films on digital devices makes movies a growth industry, as does the popularity of American movies abroad. Seventy percent of Universal’s movie revenue comes from international markets, most of which are growing like crazy.”

“The future is extraordinarily bright for producers of content,” noted Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, who appeared on the same panel with Shell. “Anybody who says I’m not producing content and it’s not a growth area I think is sorely mistaken, because we’re seeing growth all over the place.”

No one refutes Katzenberg’s observation that the bulk of box-office business in the movie theatre industry for a specific picture is customarily three weekends. But what about films that become super-popular and run in theatres for six or seven weeks? And what about the smaller independent theatres? It just seems to this editor that these statements by Mr. Katzenberg are irresponsible and we wonder what could possibly be his motive for incurring the wrath of so many. We will continue to watch how this plays out over the next several months.

Fighting Bigotry
Not only is he one of the most famous and respected movie directors of all time, Steven Spielberg is also one of the great humanitarians. In a recent interview with NBC News’ Maria Shriver, Spielberg emphasized that while filming Schindler’s List he came to believe that his true purpose is to tell the stories of genocide survivors and educate people about the danger of hate.

“This is something that I was put on this Earth to do—not just to make movies, but to tell this truth to people, especially to young people,” Spielberg declared. He talked about his Shoah Foundation that he established with the proceeds from Schindler’s List, which has videotaped the stories of 52,000 survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Nanjing and Rwanda. He also shared what he hopes to accomplish through the foundation’s IWitness program, designed to use these stories to teach students about acceptance and empathy.

Spielberg revealed that he was bullied when he was younger and his ultimate goal in educating students about hatred is to get them to end that behavior. It seems that every day there is a story in the news about some young person taking the lives of others, whether it be in schools, theatres or marathons. This behavior has to end. This behavior is not acceptable and we applaud Mr. Spielberg’s efforts to help put an end to these wanton killings.

Landmark Rising
Neil Campbell, COO and partner of Landmark Cinemas of Canada, heads up the second-largest cinema circuit in Canada. With the acquisition of Empire Theatres last year, his circuit now spans most of the Canadian market. Mr. Campbell is a big believer in exhibition and is very bullish on the growth of the motion picture industry.

He is also a strong supporter of ShowCanada, which this year is being held May 28-30 in Whistler, British Columbia. ShowCanada has become an important event for our northern neighbors and is getting wonderful support from the major studios.

The upcoming June edition of Film Journal International highlights the convention and its activities and features an in-depth interview with Neil Campbell. We trust you will find it interesting reading.