Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jeffrey's Shifting Strategies

Dow Jones Business News weighs in:

... "I would read [Jeffrey Katzenberg's] blog and get exhausted," says a former DreamWorks production coordinator who left recently. She noticed a pattern: The busier Mr. Katzenberg was, the more off-track the studio's film division--famous for hits like " Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda"--seemed to her and fellow production managers. ...

His peripatetic itinerary reflected a desire to branch into multiple platforms and industries--from television to publishing, theme parks to YouTube, mall attractions to children's toys--to reduce DreamWorks' reliance on the unpredictable returns of two or three films a year. But the company began making creative decisions that left audiences wanting and gave new ancillary businesses little good material to work with. ...

[Katzenberg] has vowed to focus on films--a strategy that got a major boost this weekend with the successful opening of the studio's release, "Home."

Directors and producers who have worked with Mr. Katzenberg say it will be good if his focus holds. Many say he is among the few executives who can cut through development chaos and see broad issues with a feature's plot or characters. ...

I've been through the Glendale campus for a lot of years, and it's not simply Mr. Katzenberg's "lack of focus." Staffers have told me that managers too often kick production cans down the road rather than rendering a crisp decision. And that ends up costing money.

The studio needs to figure out how to make films with a lower production cost. Illumination Entertainment makes its animated features for $79 million. DreamWorks Animation produced the first Shrek, after much stopping and starting (which included the death of actor Chris Farley and director changes) for $60 million. Everything now -- if Box Office Mojo is believed -- costs $130 million and up.

Even Disney managed to make 101 Dalmations for a fraction of the cost of Sleeping Beauty. As a DWA supervisor said to me several months back:

"Production managers don't like to cut through problems. They dither around and money keeps getting spent. ..."

Maybe if Jeffrey's attention is centered on the theatrical features, a lot of the dithering will end.


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