×

Jeffrey Katzenberg: ‘We Blew It on 3D’

Dreamworks Animation CEO reflects on future of Cinema at CineEurope

BARCELONA — Jeffrey Katzenberg may be standing down from his top job at DreamWorks Animation. He was still, however, the star at the first day of Barcelona’s CineEurope, where he talked on a panel addressing The Future of Cinema, and then showcased DreamWorks Animation movies, which excerpts from “Trolls” and “Boss Baby,” both unveiled last week at Annecy.

Katzenberg did not mince his words. “Unfortunately, we blew it on 3D,” he said.

“It was a game-changing opportunity for the industry. When you gave them an exceptional film that artistically, creativity embraced and celebrated the uniqueness of that experience, people were happy to pay the premium,” he recalled with a note of sadness, citing “Avatar,” “Monsters vs. Aliens,” and “Life of Pi.”

But other producers had “taken the low-road and gimmicked it. Instantly, we lost good will.”

Some of that may be made up by “Avatar 2,’” he added.

The world had 74,561 3D screens in 2015, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory. But worldwide box office from 3D films was $7.8 billion, 20% of the total, according to analyst David Hancock, at IHS Technology.

Popular on Variety

On a farewell tour, Katzenberg bade goodbye to CineEurope and received only its second lifetime award on Monday. Talking at the panel, however, his mind was on cinema’s future.

“Audiences have told us loud and clear, bigger is better, large format is clearly moving people because they want a bigger experience in terms of large screen, great sound, great projection” and “will pay a premium for a premium experience,” Katzenberg said.

Big screen is “not a gimmick,” he added, saying it can benefit even “small intimate movies” and citing the example of how the sports business has been able to offer a premium experience to spectators. “Attendance at sports has never been as high,” Katzenberg commented.

Whether bigger can be better for all of Europe is a moot question, however.

There’s a move towards premium large formats in cinema exhibition in the U.S. and Asia, said David Hancock, at IHS Technology.

But “In Europe, we have a different market segmentation, including arthouse cinema, which isn’t so much part of the North American market.” So Europe also needs to pursue premium small format solutions, “a feeling of exclusivity, luxury, service comfort which doesn’t necessarily revolve around a big screen.”

Held on the first day of CineEurope, The Future of Cinema round-table also inevitably took in Netflix and other digital operators.

“People who love movies, love movies. There was a piece of research [cited] at CinemaCon last year that showed that people who have the most digital devices are actually those who attend the movies the most,” said Jan Bernhardsson, CEO of the Nordic Cinema Group, the largest cinema operator in the Nordic and Baltic Regions. NCG has a subscription-based product. 70% of its clients also subscribe to Netflix.

But, Bernhardsson argued, in such a fragile business, exhibition companies should not abandon cinema release windows until they know another economic model was in place.

Katzenberg went much further, pointing out that sports, despite spiking attendance, has never been more viable on every single device.

“Protecting that [movie] theatrical experience does not succeed by denying customers access,” he said.

Panelists — who also included Odeon Cinemas’ CEO Paul Donovan and Carmike Cinemas’ David Gassman — also suggested that traditional market strategies should be re-examined, taking a leaf out of the books of digital operators and incorporating big data.

“The reason that Amazon knows better than my wife what I want on my birthday is because of big data,” said moderator Michael Gubbins, at London-based consultancy SampoMedia, suggesting bigger exhibition companies could make better use of it.

Nordisk Film and Cineplexx International founder Christian Langhammer will be honored with the Independent Film Award and International Exhibitor of the Year Award respectively. Rodolphe Buet, head of Studiocanal intl. distribution and marketing, will receive the international distributor of the year award.

CineEurope 2016 runs June 20-23 at the CCIB (Barcelona’s International Conventions Centre) and is organized in collaboration with Prometheus Global Media.

More Film

  • SAG Awards 2020: What You Didn't

    SAG Awards 2020: From Charlize Theron to 'Parasite,' What You Didn't See on TV

    Brad Pitt made a crack about his marriages. Robert De Niro got political. And Jennifer Aniston talked about appearing in a commercial for Bob’s Big Boy. Those were just some of thing that happened on stage at the SAG Awards that were broadcast on TNT/TBS on Sunday night. However, Variety was inside the Shrine Auditorium [...]

  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star

    'Bad Boys for Life' Triumphs on MLK Weekend With $73 Million Launch

    “Bad Boys for Life” has given a jolt to the North American box office, blasting past forecasts with a $73.4 million opening over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The third iteration of the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence action comedy franchise will finish the Friday-Monday as Sony Pictures’ biggest R-rated opening ever and the industry’s [...]

  • Laurene Powell Jobs

    Laurene Powell Jobs Invests in Davis Guggenheim's Concordia Studio

    Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim and Jonathan King are launching Concordia Studio in partnership with Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective. Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, founded social change organization Emerson Collective in 2004. Emerson Collective became the majority owner of the Atlantic in 2017 and made an investment in 2018 in Reese [...]

  • Jumbo

    Noémie Merlant on Sundance Player 'Jumbo,' Feature Directorial Debut 'Mi Lubita'

    French actor Noémie Merlant plays a young woman who falls in love with a funfair ride in Zoé Wittock’s “Jumbo,” which is screening in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Variety spoke to her about the film, and her debut feature as director “Mi Lubita.” Merlant is viewed as one of the most promising actors of [...]

  • Under the Stars of Paris

    Claus Drexel on 'Under the Stars of Paris,' and Prostitution Documentary 'The Amazons'

    One of the widest-selling titles at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous, a showcase of French cinema that wraps Monday, is Claus Drexel’s “Under the Stars of Paris.” The French-German speaks to Variety about the pic and his upcoming prostitution documentary “The Amazons.” “Under the Stars of Paris” centers on a homeless woman – played by Catherine Frot [...]

  • Farewell Movie 2019

    Why 'The Farewell' Flopped In China

    “The Farewell” has flopped in China with a dismal $261,000 opening weekend gross, and a cumulative of $580,000 so far, once again proving the difficulty of creating content that resonates equally on both sides of the Pacific — even when a story is set in China, features Chinese talent, and unfolds primarily in Mandarin. Although [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content