Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg: Movie industry ‘ready to embrace’ at-home viewing and theaters

Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg said Friday he doesn’t think the movie industry has to choose between releasing movies on the big screen or debuting them on streaming services. 

“I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive,” the co-founder of DreamWorks Animation said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” 

In fact, Katzenberg said he believes the film industry is “ready to embrace” the idea that a healthy movie theater business does not have to come “at the exclusion” of access to movies at home. “Maybe not day-and-date, but certainly close to it,” he argued.  

Katzenberg’s comments come at a time of disruption for the film industry due to the coronavirus. Movie theaters across the country have shut down, causing studios to adjust their release lineups.

Disney on Friday announced a series of changes to its slate, for example. “Mulan,” which had been set for a March release, will now debut in theaters on July 24. The release of the much-anticipated ”Black Widow” has been moved from May 1 to November 6

“Artemis Fowl,” by contrast, will now debut on Disney+. It had been scheduled for a theatrical release in May. 

Katzenberg used a sport analogy to describe where the movie industry was headed, arguing the embrace of in-person sports and TV broadcasts has been successful despite hesitancy decades ago. 

“To fill up a stadium with 55,000 people you don’t have to black out 8 million people to have a successful business,” said Katzenberg. “I think sports found a way to embrace both a live experience. There’s nothing like going to a live sporting event but also to have a very robust experience for a broader audience.” 

To that end, Katzenberg said he thinks the industry will continue to embrace at-home viewing while maintaining an “out-of-home” experience for “high-end, big broad entertaining movies.” 

“I think there’s a place for them today and there will be a place for them tomorrow and I think there will be a place for them 5 or 10 years from now,” he said. 

Launch of Quibi

Katzenberg’s latest venture is Quibi, a mobile-focused video streaming service that is set to debut Monday. Katzenberg is launching the service with former HP CEO Meg Whitman. Whitman is Quibi’s CEO

The service is set to cost $4.99 per month with ads or $7.99 per month for an ad-free version. But in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Katzenberg said the service will initially be free for 90 days. 

There was discussion about delaying Quibi’s release but the company decided against it, Katzenberg explained. 

“Our decision was, this is a moment in time in which people actually may really need a distraction,” he said. “To provide a little laughter, a little entertainment, a little break from the hard things we’re dealing with, our timing actually might be in many ways an opportunity.” 

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