A week after announcing that it’s purchased the marketing and distribution rights to future “Indiana Jones” movies from Paramount, Disney says it will be at least two to three years before the archaeologist goes on his next whip-cracking adventure.
“We haven’t done anything,” said Alan Horn, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios while speaking at Variety‘s Dealmakers Breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on Friday. “We don’t have a story. We need a story.”
Horn said it didn’t make sense for Disney to move forward on making more Indiana Jones movies until it fully owned the rights to upcoming films.
“It didn’t make sense to produce the movie at Disney and then have it be distributed and marketed by Paramount,” Horn said.
In fact, Lucasfilm will release a new “Star Wars” sequel or spin off every year, Horn said, starting with 2015′s “Star Wars: Episode VII.”
George Lucas, who Disney bought Lucasfilm from for $4 billion, remains on board as a consultant to the sci-fi franchise he created. “We are proceeding as the folks who own the company, but he’s George Lucas and I’m sure we’ll be in conversations with him” as new movies in the series are developed and produced, Horn said.
Horn, who was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios in May 2012, after having run Warner Bros., initially said “how hard could it be? I’m going from bunny to mouse.” But Horn found Disney chairman Bob Iger who he called “an impressive fella,” “too compelling to resist,” as well as the opportunities to work with such brands as Pixar and Marvel, who are helping deliver six to eight tentpoles to Disney’s release schedule each year.
Since taking the job, Horn has often talked about the different cultures between the various brands at Disney, and the company itself, saying when walking the halls of Warner Bros., you saw images of Gloria Swanson, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington. “At Disney, it’s Dumbo and Cinderella and Walt, himself,” Horn said.
Horn largely lets executives at Marvel, Pixar and now Lucasfilm produce the films they want.
These guys have earned the rights to follow their creative vision,” said Horn, who is often asked what his plans for Marvel are. “I plan to bring them coffee,” he joked.
Still, Horn said movies must meet two requirements when greenlighting projects: “Do I have to see it now and do I have to see it on the big screen? If the answer to both of those questions is no, then we have a big problem. My paycheck has a mouse on it and I take it very seriously.”
Horn called the decline of homevideo “painful,” and that Disney, along with most studios, need to “embrace technology” and foreign territories to make up for lost revenue. ”The future is about territories and technology,” Horn said. “We need to embrace technology and make technology our friend.”
But that’s also meant balancing the type of films that get made.
“The international market wants (to see films that have) size, scope and scale,” Horn said. That often means making big-budget movies. “It drives us to support the tentpole philosophy.”
Horn said that while it’s challenging to do business in many international territories, China can’t be ignored because “one of every five people on the planet is Chinese. We have to be there. These international territories translate into revenue streams for us that makes being in the movie business worth it.”
With budgets escalating to $200 million or more, “you have to put a period behind every word: It’s. 200. Million. Dollars,” Horn joked. “Relating to this stuff is hard, so I often say it’s 600,000 dinners at your favorite restaurant for four with your favorite bottle of wine.”
While Hollywood and Disney have toyed with the idea of narrowing the current distribution windows, Horn said Disney is “committed to the windowing we now have,” but said it’s up to the exhibition biz to improve the experience of watching movies in theaters. “It’s incumbent on exhibition to make the experience as exciting as the movies.”