Fox's Jim Gianopulos on Working With Jeffrey Katzenberg: 'We're Used to Demanding'
Jim Gianopulos Joins USC School of Cinematic Arts Board
This story first appeared in the Sept. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Every August, Jim Gianopulos, still tied to his parents' homeland, vacations on the Greek island of Antiparos. This summer was no different, but the studio chief had a busier vacation than usual. On Aug. 20, it was announced that Fox would be taking over from Paramount distribution for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation films. Then on Sept. 7, the studio made public an aggressive initiative to reinvigorate the home entertainment market by offering movies for purchase online for $15 three weeks before the DVD release. Gianopulos, who turned 60 in March, has shared the chairman-CEO role with Tom Rothman for 11 years -- a remarkably stable marriage by studio standards. Personable and diplomatic, Gianopulos is a favorite among such filmmakers as James Cameron, George Lucas, Michael Mann and Luc Besson. In a Sept. 4 interview with THR in his spacious office on the Fox lot in Los Angeles, he touched on everything from Hollywood's down summer box office to the fate of Avatar 2. A resident of Brentwood with his wife, Ann, and daughters, Alexa, 9, and Niki, 8 (his eldest, Mimi, 23, is an actress), Gianopulos restores antique cars as a hobby, a passion that led to his driving a restored Jaguar several years ago in the Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile race along the back roads of Italy.
The Hollywood Reporter: With the addition of DreamWorks Animation titles, Fox has significantly increased its footprint in the family space. How did the deal come about?
Jim Gianopulos: Jeffrey and I got to know each other through Motion Picture and Television Fund a decade ago, when I became a board member. A friendship developed, and when it became apparent that DWA was leaving Paramount, it was a no-brainer for Tom and I to do everything possible to bring them here. The rest was the usual working through the needs of both sides.
THR: How were you able to outmaneuver Sony?
Gianopulos: I don't know what discussions took place there, but I do know that we made a hard push for it, and we were able to convince Jeffrey that we were the best home for him.
THR: Will the deal put a strain on Fox's marketing and publicity units, considering how exacting Katzenberg is? (There will be 12 DWA titles released over the next four years, the most ambitious animation slate in Hollywood history.)
Gianopulos: We're used to demanding. We've had some of the most demanding creative and business people in the industry working with us for decades, from James Cameron and Jon Landau at Lightstorm to George Lucas to Arnon Milchan's New Regency. We have the resources to keep the best and brightest people in the world working. It keeps us on our toes.
THR: What is the status of the second and third Avatars? Originally, you hoped to release Avatar 2 in 2014.
Gianopulos: We never really thought it was likely. Doing it right was more important than sticking to a fast schedule. Not only is Jim [Cameron] developing the stories for Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, he is developing the technology and visual imagery that will once again go beyond anything you've ever seen. He's deep in preproduction.