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Movie mavens see healthy signs for industry

Future of Film Summit 2011

It’s unlikely that many will look back on the state of the economy in 2011 and affectionately croon, “It was a very good year,” but as Endgame Entertainment CEO Jim Stern prepares to take the stage for the State of the Film Industry panel at the Variety Future of Film Summit, he’s confident about the health of the business.

“But I would’ve been confident about film in the 1930s when there was a depression going on and film was thriving,” Stern says. “I’ve always cast a jaundiced eye when someone says, ‘We’re in a worse quarter than we were last year, therefore the market is going down.’ Well, possibly, but it’s also because the movies aren’t as good. So it’s due more to quality than change in consumer habits.”

The industry got some good news last week when it was reported that the number of spec scripts sold in October — 18 — is the highest monthly tally in two years, and the 86 sold so far this year is more than 2009 and 2010 combined.

“It shows that buyers are loosening their purse strings, but it also means that writers are writing what they want to write, as opposed to what they’re being commissioned to write, which I think will mean a highly quality level of scripts,” says panelist Rick Nicita, Morgan Creek co-chairman and COO.

At the same time, Hollywood has been digesting the economic crisis in Greece, which is threatening to destabilize the entire European Union.

“Several years ago, when there was a big (economic) hiccup, many overseas distributors went bankrupt and movies that were profitable films fell into the red because people weren’t getting paid,” Stern points out. So, today, “when films are financed with a strong point of view of what people are going to get back overseas, it’s a serious concern.”

But the biggest question for panelists might be, with DVD revenues foundering, is there a chance VOD and streaming will be riding to the rescue any time soon?

“I think we’d all love to say video is done and VOD is in,” says panelist David Glasser, COO of the Weinstein Co. “It’s not that way as of yet, but hopefully that’s where we’re headed.”

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