Universal Chief Jeff Shell: Jeffrey Katzenberg Is Wrong About Future of the Movie Biz

Shell rejects DreamWorks Animation CEO’s argument that the film industry is no longer growing

Universal film chief Jeff Shell rejected Jeffrey Katzenberg‘s assertion earlier this week that the movie business is no longer a growth industry. Speaking Wednesday at the same event, the Milken Institute’s Global Conference, Shell argued the film business will be a “tremendous growth business” because of the international appetite for movies and emerging digital businesses.

“Domestically, sure, ticket sales are flat and the market has matured, but internationally most markets are growing like crazy from the theatrical perspective,” Shell told the crowd. Foreign markets contributed 70 percent of box office grosses in 2013, a stat Shell was quick to trot out.

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New devices and services, such as Netflix and Amazon, will also provide additional revenue. Electus’ Ben Silverman and Lionsgate’s Michael Burns debated this subject on an earlier panel, expressing concern that their push into original series might siphon revenue from TV and film companies.

Some have speculated Netflix, which already commissions original TV series, will be making its own movies.

“I hope they do it,” Shell said. “We make a lot of lower-budget movies to, and we’re often looking for places to put them when they are not worthy of wide release.” CBS CEO Les Moonves echoed Shell, dismissing any concerns about Netflix’s cannibalization of the TV business’ profits.

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“So what?,” Moonves said, noting that there are always new competitors. Companies such as Amazon and Netflix have also helped attract new viewers to broadcast television. “Under the Dome,” a CBS show that debuted last summer, was available on Amazon Instant Video while still on the air. CBS also scored a major international deal, which obviated any concern about ratings.

“Going in, if it did a 0.1 on the network we’d be okay,” Moonves said.

The CBS chairman took his own jab at Katzenberg, referencing a statement Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes made on the Time Warner earnings call Wednesday morning.

“Maybe for your films there’s no growth,” Moonves relayed.

“The future is extraordinarily bright.”