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Universal’s Ron Meyer on Paul Walker, Piracy and Studio’s Future

Ron Meyer has guided Universal’s film operations for 21 years, through six different parent companies, and was promoted to vice chairman of NBCUniversal in 2013. He talks with Variety about responding to the tragic death of Paul Walker, the threat of piracy and his future at the studio.

How is Comcast as an owner?
They’re completely invested in us. With the other owners, we’ve always been for sale. There were good things they contributed, but because they weren’t willing to make that same kind of commitment, it always impacted long-term thinking.

What’s the biggest issue the movie business faces?
Piracy costs are a major issue. There are a lot of initiatives and a lot of people exploring ways to combat it, but we’re not far enough along. You’ve got to do everything you can to let consumers know that people’s livelihoods are impacted by this.

What was Universal’s biggest accomplishment this year?
How we handle the bad times is the most significant to me, and I would use the Paul Walker tragedy as an example. When he died, everything stopped. All that really mattered was Paul and his family. The last thing this studio thought about was the movie. Fortunately there are people in his life that will benefit from the film having been made.

Do you believe release windows need to be shorter?
Theater owners are our most important partner. Exhibition has to come first for us. “Beasts of No Nation” probably worked for Netflix because they have a really good film that’s going to qualify for Oscars, but the numbers for a studio would be catastrophic if you don’t have their model.

Your contract expires in 2017. Do you plan to stay on?
They haven’t asked me yet, so I’ll see. I love this job, and I love being in this place.

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