Fox Gets the Message: It’s the Artists, Stupid

Something unusual at the Fox CinemaCon presentation on Thursday: they gathered James Cameron, George Lucas, Ridley Scott  and Tim Burton to say how much they all love working at Fox

Last Updated: April 26, 2012 @ 5:23 PM

Fox Co-Chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman showed an unusual reel in the middle of gianpulos and george lucastheir presentation to movie exhibitors in Las Vegas on Thursday.

They gathered legendary directors James Cameron, George Lucas, Ridley Scott  and Tim Burton to say how much they all love working at Fox.

“You go where they’ll treat you best, and where they believe in you,” said Lucas.

“The lifeblood of a studio is the creativity of its filmmakers,” said Cameron.

Tim Burton appeared on screen to say that no one would take a chance on “Edward Scissorhands,” but Fox did. 

Why would they do that?  Because Fox has had a running image problem in the creative community, and clearly the moguls are fighting back.

Last fall, TheWrap wrote about the exit of production executives from Fox and noted: “With fewer films being made, an over-emphasis on sequels and reboots and relentless penny-pinching, Fox has become a less appealing workplace.”

Also read: What's Behind the Exit of Production Execs From 20th Century Fox

TheWrap quoted former Fox executives who said that the frugality makes their jobs drawing topang lee talent and projects to the studio that much harder. And last year’s slate of reboots and sequels bore that out.

While the testimonials are great, the bigger sign that Fox may have gotten the message was its film slate for 2012 on display.

“Prometheus” by Ridley Scott had the menace and drama of his best work. The clip from “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” looked interesting and far from predictable. I’m not sure if “Neighborhood Watch,” a comedy with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill will work (Rothman described it as a “Ghostbusters” for the new millenium), but I’m definitely glad they tried it.

At least one Walden movie has gutsy female characters and actresses with the fire to bring them to life — Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as two moms fighting to take back their kids’ failing public school in “Won’t Back Down.”

And finally, Ang Lee’s breathtaking “Life of Pi” looks to be one of the most artistically ambitious projects to arrive in years. As TheWrap wrote earlier today, Lee has taken the tools of 3D to a new level, weaving a poetic story of a young Indian boy stranded on a boat on the open sea – with a Bengal tiger.

Also read: Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' Stuns CinemaCon Audience With 3D Visual Poetry

To see the 20 minutes or so of footage is to totally believe this young boy’s journey and to be immersed – at times underwater – into an epic drama, as Lee called it, “of adventure, hope, wonder, survival and faith.”

Now that’s what movies should be.

If Fox has heard the criticism from the creative community and responded, let’s hope it sticks. All of us – the talent, Fox shareholders and the moviegoing public – will be the beneficiaries.