Will Rogers Foundation’s Pioneer of the Year Award
Though he spends much of his life at the cinema, Jim Gianopulos is not one for movie snacks. “I can’t do the popcorn,” he says.
As CEO and chairman of Twentieth Century Fox, Gianopulos still enjoys the experience of seeing a movie in a darkened theater, concessions or no. And he knows that he’s not alone.
While a large contingent of the industry fretfully wrings its hands over the proliferation of Netflix and other home theater technology, Gianopulos refuses to see those entertainment options as a funeral dirge for cinemagoing. “You’ll never change the fact that people like to be together in a communal setting and get off the couch once in a while,” he says. “It’s not about how many things they have to do at home, it’s about how much fun it is to go to a movie.”
In fact, Gianopulos sees the competition as healthy, arguing that it “just gives them greater access to creative content, greater interest in it. It flows money back to people who are taking creative risks and investing their personal talents and financial investments in creating talent. It just keeps the ecosystem vibrant.”
This kind of optimism is what earned Gianopulos the Pioneer award. Under his guidance, Fox had a record-breaking year at the box office in 2014 to which Gianopulos humbly attributes to “really great people and great filmmakers, a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.”
His innovative spirit puts him in the same league as past honorees Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck and Jeffrey Katzenberg. “I look at the list of past honorees and think, ‘OK, who doesn’t belong here?’ It’s humbling,” Gianopulos says.
— Marianne Zumberge