Jeffrey Katzenberg's verdict on Hollywood movies: They're terrible
It's been hard to tear myself away from the riveting Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking melodrama, especially after witnessing the spectacle of Murdoch and his son James before Parliament on Tuesday, essentially acting as if they were completely oblivious to all the sordid antics of their News of the World hacks. In terms of a PR move, it was pretty canny stuff. As Alex Heard, the editorial director of Outside magazine, put it: "What a small [lying] hole they're successfully running through. Too dumb to know this was hap'n'ing; smart enuff to still run the biz."
At least in Hollywood, they mean what they say and say what they mean. Exhibit A: Jeffrey Katzenberg's fascinating interview with Fortune's Andy Serwer, conducted in front of a Brainstorm Tech audience, where he beefs about the bad 3-D movies being pawned off on the public, blaming the downturn in U.S. 3-D movie attendance on "a singular and unique characteristic that only exists in Hollywood, greed."
Katzenberg is peeved because a 3-D slump is especially bad news for DreamWorks Animation, which makes all of its movies in 3-D, as opposed to rival studios, who still release only a small number of 3-D films each year. But Katzenberg is equally blunt about something else--how bad movies have been this year. In fact, it was especially striking to see someone who has spent almost his entire career in the film business acknowledging that, when it comes to quality, today's movies can hardly hold a candle to the kind of artful storytelling that occurs in modern-day television.
Katzenberg said his favorite TV show is AMC's "Breaking Bad," which he dubbed "remarkable" as well as "quirky, and unique, and that's what's exciting about it."
As for movies, Katzenberg asked for a show of hands of people who "would say the last seven or eight months of movies is the worst lineup of movies you've experienced in the last five years of your life." Apparently a lot of hands shot up in the air, because it emboldened Katzenberg to add: "They suck. It's unbelievable how bad movies have been ... right now today it's a particularly dreary moment."
I'll have more to say about this in a future column, because I think it's not uncommon for people to believe that the movies of their era represent a new low in filmmaking. But it's intriguing to see someone of Katzenberg's market savvy so openly critical of the movies at the heart of the marketplace, since he's clearly not complaining about fringe indie or art movies. He's obviously pointing the finger at the mainstream movies made by the major studios, films like "Green Lantern," "Mr. Popper's Penguins," "Bad Teacher," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Hangover 2" and, dare we say it, "Cars 2."
With the dregs of late summer soon upon us, there will soon be more movies to add to the list. But it has to be bad news for the movie business when one of its most loyal champions can't think of anything nice to say about its product.
Photo: Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Sun Valley Conference earlier this month in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Credit: Julie Jacobson/Associated Press