Ron Howard spent time on stage at Cannes Lions today for a discussion with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell. While he touched on his new Han Solo movie gig, Howard also talked about how Imagine is evolving; the impact of technology on the business; and a trio of Broadway musicals.
While a stage transfer of his 1982 Michael Keaton-starring comedy Night Shift is in the works, there are also discussions about his 1989 pic Parenthood hitting the boards, Howard said. Another one he would enjoy seeing? “I’m looking forward to the day, I really hope when this presidency is dramatized it’s in a lovely Broadway musical comedy called ‘Trumped.'”
He got a huge laugh out of the packed international crowd for that one, and then talk turned to Imagine. Howard was asked about his successful and long-term partnership with Brian Grazer which he said “evolved naturally” from Night Shift, when they thought they “were going to get fired,” to Splash, an even bigger breakout that was “an underdog production that never should have seen the light of day (and) ended up being a big surprise success. We launched our careers together as friends and strong collaborators.”
The pair are entrepreneurs: “Every project is a start-up,” said Howard. The Oscar winner is in town this week as Imagine looks to broaden its business plan. “I’m here because we’ve incidentally done some branded content, but haven’t done it as a business with these kinds of things that reflect our appetite for storytelling.”
Looking at how technology is affecting the entertainment business, Howard called this “an exciting time because you can tell more specific stories to niche audiences and it can be a viable business decision. Creatively, it’s liberating — particularly the subscription models that aren’t driven by ratings and box office.”
Kraft for his part chimed in that “For us, the future is OTT. Being able to target the audience so that the ad dollars are more valuable, but also in how people watch.” In April, Amazon acquired streaming rights to 10 NFL Thursday night games for the upcoming season and Kraft said, “We’ll be very interested to see how our experiment goes with Amazon this year behind the paywall.”
Will one platform emerge atop the heap?, Howard was asked. “I don’t think there’s going to be a winner. There may be a predominant platform — but I don’t think its going to be big screen movies.”
Asked what movie he’s most proud of, the filmmaker said “probably” Apollo 13. “The degree of difficulty was so high. In a way, the irony behind that story — it’s not getting your dream, it’s about surviving disaster that denies you your dream.”
On what he still wants to attempt, Howard concluded, “This is what I’ve always dreamed of. I love to work… But I’m not quite the self-starter that you think I am. I need a little push and then go into a world whether its Formula One or outer space, and now the Star Wars universe. I’d like to work for a long time. There’s no one thing except to do what I’ve been doing and find ways to hopefully do it better.”
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