What Brad Bird Learned From Steve Jobs on Improving the Moviegoing Experience

TheGrill 2020: “The Incredibles” director joined “Training Day” filmmaker Antoine Fuqua for a discussion on the future of the big screen


While writer-director Brad Bird was working on “The Incredibles” at Pixar, he spent a lot of time with studio co-founder Steve Jobs, and he believes some of the things he learned from the late Apple mogul are lessons that movie theater owners should take to heart with moviegoing in crisis. “We were talking about merchandising and he said, ‘Fewer things, better things,’ and he was dead on,” Bird said Tuesday during a panel on the future of theatrical movies at TheWrap’s virtual edition of TheGrill. “The studios’ focus has always been about the number of screens and not the quality of screens. On opening day, it’s possible to see a $300 million movie on the terrible, Coke-stained five-foot screen with 10 seats, and you should not be able to see a big movie on its opening in those kinds of conditions.” Bird discussed the state of movie theaters in this turbulent period with Antoine Fuqua, director of “Training Day” and the “Equalizer” films, as well as Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor, Warner Bros. head of international distribution Andrew Cripps, and Skydance President/COO Jesse Sisgold. The panel was moderated by Greg Foster, an entertainment industry consultant and former CEO of IMAX Entertainment. Bird also recalled Jobs’ creation of the now-iconic Apple stores, known for their sterile aesthetic and wooden tables. Bird said that Jobs got the idea after being frustrated with how his company’s computers were being sold at electronics stores. “He said that there’s nothing enticing about the experience,” Bird recalled. “He wanted to control how people see his stuff. We’ve got to make going to theaters an enticing experience. We need to separate it from the home and we can’t let people think when they go, ‘My home sounds better than this.’ That should be impossible.” Fuqua agreed with Bird, reminiscing about how nights out at the movies were so important to him and his family when growing up in Pittsburgh. He said that it was important to give audiences “a full experience from the car to the theater.” “We have to look at all the angles of the movie experience, from the theater to the sound to the options we present to them to see a film,” he said. “There is nothing like a movie experience. It’s a shared place where we discover that we have the same sense of morals and things that make us laugh. We have to protect that. It’s a contract…it’s spiritual.” For over a decade, TheWrap’s Grill event series has led conversations on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age. This’s year’s event is a digital-first experience that focuses on the future of theatrical, streaming revolution, building inclusion from within and the growth in podcasting and gaming. Attendees will have access to keynotes, panel conversations, roundtable discussions and virtual networking. Watch the full panel above.

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