While a sit down with a bunch of suits from the major studios might not seem like the most ideal way to spend an hour, that perception will definitely change when you think how much they have to talk about, from the Sony hack, to issues of diversity and equality, to what the industry is thinking about the return of “Star Wars.” The Hollywood Reporter has done just that, managing to get Donna Langley (chairman of Universal Pictures), Tom Rothman (chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group), Rob Moore (vice chair of Paramount Pictures), Stacey Snider (co-chairman of 20th Century Fox), Alan Horn (chairman of Walt Disney Studios), and Rob Friedman (co-chair of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group) to carve out time from their busy schedules to discuss the state of Hollywood.
Starting with pay equality, it quickly becomes apparent that the issue isn’t so cut and dried in studio boardrooms. “I don’t think it’s as simple as just saying, ‘OK, let’s get everybody commensurate with each other.’ If you went around the table, each of us would say equality is always top of mind with any minority group. It’s part and parcel of the bigger issue of films geared toward women and films that are more masculine-driven,” Langley said. “As tastes shift around the globe and there are more roles for women, there are more women who can participate. Salaries will go up and be commensurate.”
However, Rothman counters Langley’s suggestion that there’s still a gender divide at the box office. “There’s a myth in the business that young males drive the box office. Maybe a decade ago or so that was true. I don’t find that true now at all. I actually think women drive the box office,” he said. “I’m very proud of the fact that right now we have five movies —two that are actively shooting and three that are actively prepping— with female directors. They are not “typical female” subject matter, and we have for the first time a woman directing the new ‘Underworld‘ movie [Anna Foerster]. We have a Hispanic directing ‘Miracles From Heaven‘ [Patricia Riggen], and Jodie Foster‘s just done a thriller for us, ‘Money Monster.’ So there is growing diversity. More needs to be done. And there is a certain cynicism that needs to be overcome. When we announced an ‘all female’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ we actually didn’t say it was a female ‘Ghostbusters.’ We announced that there were four women, and then it immediately became ‘female Ghostbusters.’ Having seen it, it’s a fucking hilarious ‘Ghostbusters.’ So, that’s what it is. It’s the all-funny ‘Ghostbusters.’ “
Pivoting to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” most of the execs are concerned about what effect the movie will have on the marketplace as a whole —will anyone go see other movies at the multiplex, or will it just be the ‘Star Wars’ show? As for Disney honcho Horn, he’s mostly concerned about trying to calm the over-inflated expectations surrounding the box office haul.
“It would be a shame if our picture went out with —I’ll pick a number, $1.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.5 billion [in worldwide gross]— and people are disappointed,” he said, while teasing that whatever the numbers turn out to be, he believes audiences will be very satisfied with what’s coming. “….having seen four or five cuts of it, I think J.J. Abrams did a sensational job. I really do. It’s like playing a hand of poker and knowing before you sit down what your cards are. Because I’ve seen it, and the folks at Disney have seen it.”