It’s not often you can get some of the most powerful Hollywood executives on one stage to agree on anything. But when it comes to the future of marketing and distribution, it all comes down to quality content — and the studios are hungry to compete for it.
Grill moderator and Wrap Sharon Waxman challenged seven studio presidents at the conference on Tuesday over the glut superhero movies and sequels. She cited a recent Wrap interview with director Barry Levinson saying that no studio would make his 1989 Oscar-winning “Rain Man” today.
Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production at Warner Bros., objected strenuously. “We are making those movies,” he said. “About people. Maybe that’s what Barry is talking about.”
Silverman cited the studio’s “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey, Jr. opening this weekend as an example of the studio’s commitment to character-driven drama, comparing the film’s emotional experience to when he saw “Rain Man” in theaters.
“If anyone has a script like ‘Rain Man,’ seriously we want it,” said Silverman.
Then Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Pictures motion picture group, chimed in: “We will pay more for it.”
“We will market it the very best, I promise you,” inserted Josh Goldstine, president worldwide marketing at Universal Pictures, to general laughter.
For the first time TheGrill, TheWrap’s Media Leadership Conference, brought seven studio presidents together to spar over everything from getting character-driven films on screen to casting talent based on social media presence in the panel entitled “President’s Roundtable: The Future of Moviemaking, Marketing and Distribution.”
Panelists included Sean Bailey, president, Walt Disney Studios motion picture production; Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Pictures motion picture group and president of Columbia Pictures; Bill Bromiley, president, Saban Films; Josh Goldstine, president worldwide marketing at Universal Pictures; Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and international distribution at Warner Bros. Pictures; Greg Silverman, President of creative development and worldwide production at Warner Bros.; and Marc Weinstock, president of theatrical marketing at 20th Century Fox.
Said Silverman: “We believe you can make movies about real people, real stories, about emotion, movies that intimate that can still play as a theatrical experience.”
“It’s a very interesting moment at this point in time,” added Kroll. “We make movies that are meant to be enjoyed in the theatrical experience. … ‘Annabelle,’ ‘Gone Girl,’ people went out to see those movies.”
“You have to want to be a part of that crowd, said Weinstock. “You know everyone in that theater is going to be ready for that experience.”
“Quality is the best business model,” said Bailey, quoting Disney’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter.
Of course, the quality of the content outside of the movie theater is creating competition for audience attention and their dollars. The recent deal between The Weinstein Co. and Netflix sparked a conversation over whether day-and-date releases would disrupt the theatrical business model.
“You have to create a different experience in the theater,” said Kroll. She noted that she thought “The Judge” was an emotional journey best experienced in the theater, it will still play well on smaller screens.
“We’re always going to make those kinds of movies,” said Kroll.