Shmuger, Dossett Speak on “Web and Hollywood” Panel at TheWrap’s Launch Party

Yahoo’s Jeff Dossett and Marc Shmuger, chairman of Universal Pictures, spoke about challenges and opportunities the web presents for Hollywood at a panel during TheWrap.com’s official launch party at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles. Before the panel, more than 200 industry pros mingled with TheWrap’s staff to toast the three-week-old site. Sharon Waxman, TheWrap’s founder and editor in Chief, moderated the panel, called “Hollywood 2.0: Transformation as Opportunity.”

Last Updated: February 19, 2009 @ 6:38 PM

VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF THE PARTY HERE.

“If you create an amazing movie," Jeff Dossett, senior vice president of U.S. audience at Yahoo, said Wednesday night, "the collaboration of the traditional movie industry and the Internet is really all upside. If it’s not a great movie, people find out really quickly and it’s hard to market your way out of that.”

Dossett was speaking about challenges and opportunities the web presents for Hollywood at a panel during TheWrap.com’s official launch party at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles. Before the panel, more than 200 industry pros mingled with TheWrap’s staff to toast the three-week-old site. A show of Neal Preston’s intimate photos of Hollywood and rock n’ roll icons was on display.

TheWrap’s founder and CEO, Sharon Waxman, moderated the panel, called  “Hollywood 2.0: Transformation as Opportunity,” and featuring Dossett and Marc Shmuger, chairman of Universal Pictures. The two titans of technology and entertainment chatted freely about how new media is influencing old Hollywood.

Shmuger said the reach the web offers is both a blessing and a curse. One troublesome trend is that audiences are texting their opinions of movies while they’re still watching the film. “Some movies are literally attracting just horrible word of mouth during the experience itself,” he said.

While studios are publicizing films aggressively on the Internet, Shmuger noted, Universal’s exit polls show that trailers and TV ads are still more effective when it comes to getting audiences into theatres. “We haven’t cracked the code of how to make [Internet advertising] be as effective as opposed to the older media,” Shmuger noted.

Not surprisingly, debuting movie trailers online has become one of the most successful convergences of new media and traditional Hollywood.
 

“The efficiency and the reach associated with the Internet is quite phenomenal. When a movie is coming out, people will consume somewhere between one to five million views of a trailer,” Dossett said.

Dossett also said he expects that within four years, viewers will feel comfortable watching feature-length movies on their computer screens, as they increasingly do with TV shows.

As for what Hollywood can learn from the Internet community, Shmuger discussed the difficulty for studios of gathering information about their customers that they might put to future use, as companies like Yahoo do. The challenge, Shmuger pointed out, is that studios don’t own the theaters or the stores that sell movie-related merchandise.

Both executives agreed that a good marriage between the film world and the Internet ecosystem is still a ways off. However, both are optimistic about the unlimited possibilities.

Shmuger concluded, “We will approach it with excitement for what might be possible, rather than fear of what might be changing. When we do that, we will be successful. We always have been.”

The launch event was sponsored by British Airways, The Four Seasons Los Angeles and Martin Miller’s Gin, St. Germain.