You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Chris Meledandri: Event Films Are Cannibalizing Each Other

Too many tentpoles, not enough training for storytellers, minion maestro tells VFX Summit

Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri said Saturday that the feature film business has entered an unprecedented period of volatility and that it is losing — or has already lost — the next generation of potential moviegoers.

“Everybody’s familar with the broad issues, wheether it’s the continued contraction of the DVD marketplace, the disappointment in the domestic sustainability of audience interest in 3D. Things are coming at us from all sides,” Meledandri told the Visual Effects Society Summit in Hollywood. “The thing I worry about the most is the competition for young eyeballs. We’ve got so many other competing forms of media and entertainment and content.”

Meledandri cited his own experience with his sons, who are 14 and 23. “I observe in them is a very different relationship to the cinema than I’ve ever seen in previous generations. Simply put: They don’t have to go to the movies. I worry about a generation growing up without that habitual commitment to the movie theater.”

One major issue facing the industry, he said, is the number of “event” films being released. “If you look at what’s happening with animation right now, it’s quite similar to what’s happening with live action event films, which is the industry releases too many of them and there’s not enough room for them. They’re unquestionably going to cannibalize each other and we’re starting to see that. As our films continue to aspire to be films that speak to all audiences, we’re also competing against the live action event films.”

“Now more than ever as an industry we have to be diligent about doing things that will strengthen and further us rather than contributing to some of the problems we face.”

Meledandri, spoke in a keynote conversation at the W Hotel. Though Illumination’s “Despicable Me 2” is set to surpass $900 million at the box office, he said that he’s never seen another period when it was so hard to project the future of the business. “The only thing that’s certain is we’re in a period of uncertainty.” He said quality storytelling “is our only safety net,” but noted that there is little formal training for storytellers within the feature business.

“Television is a writer-driven business,” he said. “You have writers training other writers, having their work challenged by other writers. It’s a natural evolutionary process, where the film business is a very solitary business for writers.” It took him 20 years, he said, including much trial and error and failures including “Titan A.E.,” to feel confident about his own storytelling skills.

Meledandri ended by telling the gathering this era demands entrepreneurship. “Even in this volatile period, or maybe because of this volatile period, I find it’s a very exhilarating period, because we can’t look backwards to chart our path forward. It doesn’t work. And there’s something very liberating about that.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content