Variety hosted the 35th annual Press Play Home Entertainment and Digital Hall of Fame gala at the Beverly Wilshire hotel Tuesday night, where it honored home entertainment leaders, including writer-director Paul Feig, Lionsgate executives Jim Packer and Ron Schwartz, industry veteran Mark Horak, comedian Chris Hardwick and HBO, for their contributions to the expanding home entertainment business.
Feig’s acceptance speech was a call to Hollywood to evolve into a more diverse industry, especially during a period of immense technological emergence that has the potential to reach wider audiences.
“Comedy should be diverse and universal, both on the screen and behind the camera,” said Feig. “We need fresh voices and fresh faces as well as faces and voices that we already know, who up until now haven’t had the opportunity to truly bring their comedy to audiences.”
Feig said comedies should be relatable for all viewers and “reflect experiences of all people, both men and women” before challenging everybody in the room to get outside of their comfort zones and “put out more true diversity.”
“With so many new ways to deliver comedy, we need to make sure that we’re getting all the points of view and seeing it played out by the funniest and most talented people possible,” he said.
Feig also mentioned that he bought his mother a Variety subscription when he moved out to L.A. in the early ’80s to become an actor. She was always up to date on showbiz news and would talk about the industry using the entertainment slang she saw in the magazine.
“She read Variety every day of her life so I can only imagine that wherever she ankled off to in the afterlife 15 years ago, she’s prouder and more excited than you could ever know for this honor you’ve given me,” he said.
Gracing the stage together, Schwartz and Packer discussed the perks of their joint efforts as co-heads of Lionsgate’s worldwide home entertainment department, as well as their personal journeys in the entertainment business. Of the many reasons that the two executives maintain a successful working partnership, Packer cited the biggest one as “we actually listen to other.”
Added Schwartz, “They [Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns] have created a company that embraces change and it’s great to have the freedom to be creative in how we approach our business. It’s like playing in a gigantic sandbox.”
Schwartz also highlighted the humble beginnings of his entertainment career, recalling premature reports of home entertainment’s demise when he entered the industry in the early ’90s.
“The means by which consumers watch entertainment are more varied than ever, but the bottom line is that they’re watching more content across more distribution platforms than ever before.” He then clarified to those skeptics he encountered in his early career, “Not only is home entertainment not dying, but it’s more exciting than ever.”
Former Redbox president and Warner Brothers home entertainment executive Mark Horak stressed the vitality of home entertainment in the industry’s ability to create high quantities of content. The industry vet of two decades also briefly discussed his resignation from Redbox — which was announced on Monday. His only regret about his departure from the company is not having “the opportunity to continue to work with the team.”
“At the end of the day, no matter what position or title you hold [or] how long you hold it, your ability to make a positive impact on the business depends on your ability to connect with others, to see things from different points of view, to find the win-win in a negotiation and to treat people the way you would want to be treated,” Horak said.
Enhancing the comedic presence at the awards dinner was comedian Chris Hardwick, who focused on the importance of the viewer experience and of maintaining a dialogue with audience members. While he questioned if he was deserving of an induction into Variety‘s Hall of Fame, he was certain of one thing: “I want Mark Horak to be my dad.”
Tuesday marked the 35th chapter of Variety’s annual event, which recognizes the influences of home entertainment’s leading players. Proceeds from this year’s event benefited City Year, an organization that brings education and leadership to schools in high-poverty communities across the country.