After Jeffrey Katzenberg’s keynote at the 3D Entertainment Summit, we caught up with him for a one-on-one conversation expanding on his onstage remarks.
YOU MENTIONED THE LACK OF LIVE-ACTION FILMS IN 3D. HAVE YOU TALKED TO PEOPLE AT THE OTHER STUDIOS ABOUT THAT?
Katzenberg: I talked till I was blue in the face last year and at the beginning of this year, and then I just felt the results will speak louder than anything I have to say. Hopefully, be more meaningful and more impactful on people that are in a place to make these decisions. you only have to see the results to realize what’s going on. That’s why I think Jim Cameron’s “Avatar” will be the watershed moment; it will break the dam. It will show the live-action side of the business that it has the same value and opportunity we’ve seen with results on a worldwide basis for our product.
To me, most importantly it’s a tool for filmmakers, it’s a way to enhance their ability to tell their stories. If you look over the last 30 years or so, filmmakers that have embraced and utilized new technology as it has come along, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Bob Zemeckis, Jim Cameron, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay…they are the filmmakers who’ve seen technology as an asset. They have seen over the horizon.
I believe “Avatar” will be to 3D what “The Wizard of Oz ” was to color. It was a seminal moment. If you go back and look, not only did “The Wizard of Oz” use color it used it in such an exciting and compelling way, that’s where the floodgates opened.
WE’RE HEARING A LOT AT THE SUMMIT ABOUT HOW EXHIBITORS NEED TO REINVENT THEIR BUSINESSES.
Katzenberg: Listen, this is in my opinion a moment in time in which exhibition has an opportunity to reinvent its business and the degree to which they are innovative and entrepreneurial and think about their customer, they end up with a phenomenal new business. The degree to which they don’t, and stay entrenched in old models, is they will lose, the enterprise will slip right out of their fingers. It’s a very critical and very important time for exhibition. There’s some great leadership there… and there are some people who are jurassic in their thinking. They will be extinct. Those who don’t change will miss it, and it’s the ultimate penalty.
EXHIBITION HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN THE BIG POINT OF FAILURE FOR 3D. SOME OF THOSE ’50s MOVIES HAD PRETTY GOOD 3D.
Katzenberg: It was much more of a gimmick though. Mostly they were for exploitation, which is once again what you’re seeing in the market. There’s actually nothing in the middle. You either make a $200 million event movie that’s embracing 3D or an exploitation films that are embracing 3D. There’s nothing in the middle right now. Ultimately I think we need to see some change occur, and that’s something Hollywood is responsible for, not exhibition.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING ABOUT THE ROLLOUT?
Katzenberg: What’s surprised me is how much our customers love it. I shouldn’t say I’m surprised because that’s what excited me. I went to the Imax 3D theater at The Bridge and saw ‘The Polar Express.’ I was dazzled. It was the most exciting theater experience I had had. I found it so exhilarating. And to now here we are years later, and to see these new tools and this new platform and the technology put in the hands of good storytellers, and be able to deliver that experience in the films, and to have people reacting to it now, today, as I did in that theater years ago, is exciting. When you look at how, in probably the most stressed economic times in our lifetime, people have chosen to take the premium experience and not only choose to sample it, but having sampled it come out and say this absolutely worth paying an incremental cost for it. We’ve seen it everywhere in the world.
So that’s the thing that is most pleasing, that we’ve excited our customers about something new. And to have moviegoers, who have a thousand other choices, excited by and even coming back to the theater experience over another choice is incredible.
SOME PEOPLE ARE STILL SAYING IT’S A FAD.
Katzenberg: We did the most extensive exit research on any movie I’ve ever done in my career on “Monsters vs. Aliens” in 3D. It literally polled thousands and thousands of people all over the world. 88% of people who saw the movie in 3D and paid a premium for the experience said they enjoyed the experience and it was better than they thought it was going to be going in. It was a better-than-anticipated, the experience of seeing it was greater than they thought going in.
There’s nothing that anybody can say that is more compelling than that. To exceed your customers’ expectations? There isn’t a business in the world that doesn’t get up every day and light candles and pray that it is delivering a product that exceeds expectations and that they tell you they believe it was worth the incremental charge you gave them. You can’t ask for anything more compelling than that.
DO YOU THINK WE’LL GET TO MAJOR RELEASES BEING SHOWN IN 3D ONLY SOON?
Katzenberg: I do think that will happen but it’s a couple of years away. I would have loved to have been there for “Shrek” but there’s just not enough theaters.