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Ron Meyer, President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Studios, conducted a session at the Savannah Film Festival earlier this week that ended up being a Master Class in Hollywood candor.
While speaking to a group of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) students, public attendees, and select media, Meyer answered questions about the film industry and Universal’s role in the current entertainment landscape. He responded to each inquiry with a refreshing honesty rarely seen from studio executives. Perhaps that’s why Meyer’s comments are raising such ire.
When asked about Universal’s decision to back off of an experimental video-on-demand release of Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist, a choice that was influenced by the negative reactions of national theater chains, Meyer admitted, “Obviously the theater owners didn’t want us to do it; we were led to believe that might work, but I think eventually we will get it to work in conjunction with theater owners. … I think there are a lot of people who won’t go to the theater and are happy to pay a premium price — whether $66 is the right price, or it’s more or less. I think there are people that would be willing to pay that price to not have to leave their house and be able to watch that first-run movie while it’s still in theaters, on whatever size screen you have at home. I think we have to be better about it, the studios, and the theater exhibitors have to probably be a little more accepting of what we want to do. We’ll have to find a way to do it together.”
The quote comes from Movieline’s Jen Yamato, who was in attendance at the Savannah session and documented Meyer’s comments about the studio’s more-recent, high-profile flops. “We make a lot of shitty movies,” Meyer said. “Every one of them breaks my heart.”
He went on to criticize such Universal films as The Wolfman with Benecio Del Toro, Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost, and Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens. At the same time, he thought Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim deserved a larger audience, and he expressed pride in the fact that Universal backed Paul Greengrass on United 93. I wholeheartedly agree.
As it turns, I’m on the ground in Savannah covering the fest (though I missed Meyer’s presser). However, I can tell you that it’s still the hot topic of conversation around town. Be sure to read the piece in its entirety. Meyer goes on to explain why Uni passed on At the Mountainss of Madness and Ron Howard’s planned, elaborate Dark Tower adaptation. Several people I’ve spoken with here in Savannah are shocked that a studio head would speak so honestly about his film. Me? I’m sad it doesn’t happen more often.