Robert DeNiro Criminal Justice
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Plus, Jane Ronsethal talks about the Madison Square Garden deal

Tribeca Enterprises made headlines last month when it sold 50% of its stake to the Madison Square Garden Co. Variety caught up with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, who founded the company in 2003, to talk about this year’s festival, which starts on April 16, and if De Niro would ever star in a VOD feature himself.

Bob, when you first started the festival, did you expect for it to get this big?
Robert De Niro: We didn’t know what would happen after the first festival, and happily it’s been going well for all these years. I hope that it stays, and has more of a presence, culturally, as part of New York.
Jane Rosenthal: Part of having MSG with us helps ensure that. It helps to strengthen our own backbone. Other festivals get enormous state- and city-type funding. Doing a festival in the most expensive city in the world, and having to start over every year, is challenging at best.

How long had the MSG deal been in the works?
Rosenthal: We had been talking to them for about a year.

Did they come to you?
Rosenthal: We were looking for a strategic partnership, and it was a combination of working with Evolution Media Capital and LionTree Advisers (that led to us) talking to them.

Do you get Knicks tickets now?
De Niro: [laughs] I’d imagine.

What will be the biggest difference with MSG?
Rosenthal: Tribeca will just get stronger. This will help us stabilize marketing and event planning and the back office. The other thing, (MSG exec chairman) Jim Dolan is really an artist at heart.

How many of the movies in this year’s slate have you seen?
Rosenthal: I would probably say I’m about half-way through.
De Niro: I haven’t seen any. I’m trying to see them now. For me, it’s harder to see the movies.

How has the energy of the festival changed?
De Niro: I wouldn’t know how would describe the difference.
Rosenthal: The first year, the fact that we did it in 120 days, announced it without having sponsorship or movies, it was comical. I remember Marty (Scorsese) standing here and saying, “We’ll have panel discussions.” He turned and looked at me and I nodded. And he took it further and said, “We’ll have restored and rediscovered films.” We had signed long-term contracts with various sponsors, and so we had to do it again. Plus, Bob wanted to do it again.

The business of indie film has also gone through drastic changes.
De Niro: When I was a young actor in my early 20s, the independent films were few and far between. There are so many productions you can work in today if you’re lucky.

As an actor do you get offered more scripts now?
De Niro: No, not me.
Rosenthal: And you’re not going to do every micro-budget movie that everybody would want you to do.

Would you do a movie that was only going to play on VOD?

De Niro: I don’t know. It depends. It all boils down to story, no matter what format.

And, finally, a non-Tribeca question. Where do you keep your Oscars?
De Niro: I think I have them in storage somewhere. I’m going to send them to the Harry Ransom Center. They have the Gutenberg Bible and David Mamet’s work. I send them my stuff.

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