You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

J.J. Abrams Says Closing Theatrical Window Is ‘Inevitable’

J.J. Abrams loves movies, and he can make a passionate case for seeing them in the theater. But he does not love watching them at a particular theater in his wife’s hometown in Maine.

“There is a theater chain that I’m convinced hates movies,” he told a dinner audience at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday night. “You go there. They’re angry with you. It’s cold. There’s no music. The lights go out when the movie starts — there’s no ceremony. It’s the most uncomfortable seats… You’re convinced there’s something in front of the projector. Meanwhile, most people in that audience have better TVs at home than the image you’re seeing.”

His point was that theater chains should not be surprised if moviegoers would rather stay home. In making those remarks, he was wading into a thorny debate about collapsing theatrical windows and allowing moviegoers the chance to pay a premium for home viewing of first-run films.

“I understand the economic realities of it, and it’s tough,” he said. “At the same time, if they don’t make it worth people’s time, you better not call people to the theater and give them that kind of experience.”

Abrams put in a plug for Screening Room, which is one of several platforms being developed to provide a movie experience in the home.

“People do want to see movies, and can’t always get to the theater,” he said. “It seems like an inevitable thing that movies become available at a premium.”

Abrams spoke alongside Jon Favreau at the dinner panel. Apple executive Eddy Cue moderated, and asked several questions about working with new movie-making technology.

Favreau, who is at work on “The Lion King,” said that he and his crew are using VR modeling to create virtual sets. The trick, he said, is to use advanced technology to create deeper human connections.

“We’re essentially creating a multi-player game,” he said. “My human crew is there with me, in the virtual ‘Lion King’ sets, and we’re there setting cameras and moving cameras in an analog way, and trying to imbue it with a human touch.”

Abrams talked about the challenges of using “previs” technology on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Before the scenes were shot, they created video renderings to show the set designers and artists what they were going for. But he said the result was initially disappointing. The craftspeople created a set that looked “flat and fake” because they were being too faithful to the digital mock-up.

“The set looked horrible,” he said. “It looked worse than any TV set.”

Abrams gave them the instruction to “make it real,” and they fixed it. “It could not have been more real. You could not believe it was plywood.”

“Sometimes the technology can, in the interpretation of the intention, get in the way and be a bit of a hassle,” he said. “Obviously it’s a small price to pay for what it can afford.”

More Biz

  • Bon Appetit at the Chase Center

    Golden State Warriors' New Stadium Boasts the Best in the Bay Area Food Scene

    Don’t expect to dine on pedestrian stadium-style eats at San Francisco’s new $1.6 billion Chase Center, built on 10-plus acres in Mission Bay. Home court for the Golden State Warriors, the arena seats 18,500 and has 37 outlets to serve patrons freshly cooked and seasonal items along with craft brews, intricate cocktails and California wines. [...]

  • California Wines

    Splurge a Little on Choosing the Best California Wines for the Holidays

    California’s bounty of premium wines is prized by home cooks who can present and serve world-class wines without effort to their guests. “One should always splurge for the first bottle,” when serving wine at home, says Doug White of Napa’s soon-to-open Mia Carta collective tasting room. He suggests a rosé or syrah for Thanksgiving or [...]

  • Variety Business Managers Elite honoree Bill

    Variety’s Business Managers Elite Honoree Bill Tanner Looks Back, and Ahead

    As Hollywood business managers go, Bill Tanner of Tanner, Mainstain, Glynn & Johnson is one the most respected, with an impressive list of loyal big-name clients that includes Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” Broadway’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Tanner, also known for his real estate and equity investment skills, is Variety’s [...]

  • Euphoria HBO

    Business Managers Adapt to Generational Change

    A youth movement has swept through most of Hollywood. The digital generation has moved into high-level jobs at a tender age, and young influencers are bursting forth from YouTube to enter mainstream media. Nonetheless, an older generation remains entrenched in the business management community, which often handles the financial aff airs of newly rich baby [...]

  • Alan Horn Disney

    Variety Keynote Speaker Alan Horn Sees Opportunities in Expanded Portfolio

    As Walt Disney Studios co-chairman and chief creative officer, Hollywood veteran Alan Horn oversees the most enviable content portfolio in show business. In step with his co-chairman, Alan Bergman, Horn has command of monolithic brands like Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar — to say nothing of the 21st Century Fox film assets the men added [...]

  • Edward Cheng, Tencent Pictures CEO

    Tencent Results Show Rising Cost of Compliance, Impact of China's Slowing Economy

    Tencent, the Chinese tech giant that commands dominant positions across games, music, streaming and social media, Wednesday revealed third quarter results weighed down by slowing ad sales, slowing PC games and rising costs. Revenues in the July-to-September period showed a 21% year-on-year increase to RMB97.2 billion ($13.8 billion). Net profits dropped 13% to RMB20.4 billion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content