Guber sizes up big picture

Content rules, he tells large-format film industry exex

Size doesn’t matter as much as you think, Mandalay chairman Peter Guber told an audience of large-format film industry execs Thursday.

What really matters, Guber said, is content.

Guber said the key to making large-format films financially successful is to create “raving fans” — audiences who leave the theater with their expectations having been exceeded. “Repetitive, avid customers” are not created by film size alone or by things coming at you in 3-D, Guber said.

Guber, who’s been a force in the large-format business as well as a traditional film producer, was delivering the keynote address to the second annual gathering of the Large Format Cinema Assn. at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

The 2-1/2-day conference, which is being attended by roughly 300 members of the large-format film industry, includes seminars and panels on 2-D and 3-D large-format films as well as screenings of large-format films.

Referring to all the “Godzilla” billboards around town, Guber questioned whether size really is enough.

“For too long, we’ve relied on size alone,” he said. “The three most important ingredients are story, story, story,” Guber stressed.

Guber challenged the industry to break free of the old models and look for new ways of making large-format films more economically viable.

Guber repeatedly emphasized content as being crucial. He pointed to “Everest,” the fastest-grossing large-format film to date, as an example of a film that emotionally connects audiences with characters and story.

Guber also touched on the economic hurdles involved in getting more large-format films made, a subject that sparked some controversy in an earlier panel discussion. To up the gross, he said, it’s imperative the films open in multiple theaters nationwide, as is the norm for traditional movies.

Guber, who was chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment from 1989-95, spearheaded Sony’s venture into large-format film with the Sony Imax 3-D Theater at Lincoln Square in N.Y. and its San Francisco counterpart, which will soon open at the Sony Metreon entertainment center.

He also facilitated Sony’s leap into large-format 3-D film production with “Wings of Courage” and “Across the Sea of Time.”