George Clooney on Why the Movie Industry Will Continue to Survive

George Clooney on Why the Movie Industry Will Continue to Survive

To make sense of all that has transpired in 2020 and what it portends for the media and entertainment sectors going forward, Variety spoke with a cross section of industry leaders about the broad theme of change. For more, click here.

We shot a movie [“The Midnight Sky”] that was designed to be shown in theaters. The first thing I said to the Netflix guys was “I don’t want anybody to ever say, ‘Stay home from school, don’t go out for dinner, but definitely come to see my movie.’” There’s no reality in it. So the movie is going to come out on Netflix. We told them we’d shoot it in 65mm because it’s night and day when you see it on a giant screen. This particular film is made for that. But if you can’t, you can’t. There are a lot bigger issues in the world right now than that.

And let’s be clear that in 1950 everybody panicked that the movie industry would be done because of television, and then it was VHS, and then it was DVDs. The truth of the matter is there’s always going to be a great space for cinema. People have to get out of the house. I can’t keep saying to my wife, “Let’s watch TV tonight.” What [streaming] has done is provide thousands and thousands of new jobs for actors, writers, directors and producers who are making some really interesting content. It’s given new filmmakers, young people and minorities opportunities to work, so there’s nothing but good that comes out of this.

The movie industry is going to continue to carry on. Has it created some different viewing habits? A little bit. But you know the film industry survives these things; it always does. And part of it is because we need a collective experience and it’s still a great date night. Dinner and a movie is still pretty great. And kids still like to get in the dark with whoever they’re seeing. They want to get away from their parents. So young people are still going to go to the movies.

We should be giving federal aid to the theaters. The movie industry, Hollywood, which everybody loves to crap all over, is one of the largest exporters of original product in the United States. I would make the argument that they should be subsidizing the theaters and keeping everybody afloat.

[On the whole], it was a terrible year. It started with Kobe Bryant dying and went downhill from there. I remember when Chadwick Boseman died. I didn’t know he was sick. No one knew he was sick, and I remember that gut-punch feeling like this year is just designed to test our mettle and make us wonder when is this going to stop.

There was that moment after George Floyd where [the atmosphere] was really electric. I went to companies and said this is the time for you to be donating money to these [diversity and inclusion] causes, and corporations were so clear that they needed to be more involved, and they jumped. You could feel it, a real intent: “OK, we have to get a higher level of minorities in decision-making positions.” So you did see the commitment to it. Now the question is about the follow-through because the follow-through is very different from everything happening in the heat of the moment. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to continue to force that argument … and hold people’s feet to the fire as much as possible and to keep pushing these people in positions of power to be more inclusive.

The white heat of protest has gone away for now, and sometimes the eye gets taken off the ball. So let’s hope that there are things we can do to keep the eye on the ball.

I think the good news is, starting with the election, and with the vaccines — really brilliant labs in record time have come up with what looks like some real vaccines that will get us back out and congregating again — suddenly there’s this ability to reach back and breathe a little bit and say, “OK, well, we mishandled this virus terribly, but we now have hope that we can at least overcome it.” And that’s saying quite a lot. It would be a miracle — a moon shot.

We are now in a moment where that light at the end of the tunnel is really clear.

As told to Claudia Eller

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