AUSTIN, Texas, March 15, (RTRS): With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” coming out soon on iTunes, the director of the box-office smash said on Monday it was a “nightmare” to think of people watching the big-screen sci-fi adventure on a cellphone.
“Anyone who makes movies will say: ‘Please don’t watch my movies on that,’” J.J. Abrams, 49, the writer-director of the latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise, told a seminar at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin.
“It is the nightmare of every storyteller that people are going to watch something you made on something so small,” he said, adding it was inevitable that people would find it more convenient to watch the movie on a handheld device.
Walt Disney Co’s “The Force Awakens” is the third-highest grossing film ever worldwide. It was made for about $200 million and has taken in more than $2 billion globally. It will be released on iTunes on April 1, and includes extra scenes and a feature-length documentary on its making.
The technology-savvy filmmaker, who produced the indie sci-fi film “10 Cloverfield Lane,” which grossed $25 million over the weekend, added one of the benefits of the proliferation of smartphones was that anyone could make and distribute movies.
He also said the outcry about the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Award nominations served as a wake-up call for the industry and led his production company, Bad Robot, to broaden its list of candidates for films.
He said it would take time but be good for the bottom line in the long run to have more unique stories being told.
“This is about opportunity to give people who might not be the usual suspects a chance in front of, and behind the camera,” he said. “There is no quota. It’s simply about consideration.”
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard confirmed their involvement in Screening Room, saying that the controversial start-up aimed at providing new releases in the home is a way to bring theater owners and studios together.
Backed by Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju, Screening Room rents films for $50 while they are still in theaters. Exhibitors have long resisted any attempt to shorten the length of time between a film’s theatrical debut and its release on home entertainment platforms, but Screening Room tries to entice theaters and studios by cutting them in on a slice of the revenue.
“When we met Sean and Prem last year, it was clear Screening Room was the only solution that supports all stakeholders in the industry: exhibitors, studios and filmmakers,” Grazer and Howard said in a joint statement. “The SR model is fair, balanced and provides significant value for the entire industry that we love. We make movies for the big screen and for as many people to see it. Screening Room uniquely provides that solution.”
Howard and Grazer run Imagine Entertainment, the company behind such hits as “A Beautiful Mind”, “Apollo 13” and “American Gangster.” They are stakeholders in Screening Room, along with such prominent filmmakers as J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and Taylor Hackford.
On Sunday, Jackson released a statement contending, “Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie — not shift it from cinema to living room.”
The company has attracted interest from the likes of Universal and Fox, but so far no studios have signed deals. AMC is believed to be interested in partnering with Screening Room, but some exhibitors, such as Regal, are not participating, believing their business would be harmed.
In addition to the rental fee, Screening Room charges $150 for access to a set-top box that is said to be anti-piracy proof. Parker is best known for his roles in Internet companies such as Napster, Facebook and Spotify. Akkaraju has ties to the entertainment industry from stints as a partner at the electronic music company SFX Entertainment and as global head of operations at Sanctuary Music Group.