Hall of Fame Honors Gewecke, Ratner and Digital Players10 Dec, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange
"Variety's" 34th dinner honors past and future of home entertainment
With a nod to the past, and an eye to the future, Variety held its 34th annual Hall of Fame dinner at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif., rechristened Press Play: Variety Home Entertainment and Digital Hall of Fame.
The melding of the past and future was apparent in comments by the speakers and honorees: Brett Ratner, director and producer; Thomas Gewecke, chief digital officer and EVP of strategy and business development for Warner Bros. Entertainment; Alex Carloss, head of YouTube Originals; and, accepting for Amazon.com, Michael Paull, VP of digital video.
“Rest assured, I know what a clamshell is,” said honoree Carloss, referring to the classic video packaging.
“Everyone has to innovate to stay relevant,” said 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn, who introduced the Innovation Award for digital retail and streaming pioneer Amazon.com — as a drone hovered onstage. “Even tonight, I think we used to call this the VHS cassette mom-and-pop dinner.”
Ratner credited home entertainment for sparking his interest in directing.
“This is the first laserdisc I bought, The Silence of the Lambs, Orion Home Video,” he said, holding up the disc. “I think I watched and listened to the director’s commentary a hundred times, with Jonathan Demme. … Little did I know that eight years later, I would be directing the prequel, Red Dragon.”
He lauded the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into creating making-of content for discs, recalling his own interest in Lambs extras.
“Because of this laserdisc, I was committed to home video because I knew the influence it had over me,” he said. “To actually hear the filmmaker talk about the process … was incredibly inspiring.”
Ratner also called attention to the Father of DVD, Warren Lieberfarb.
“I heard through the grapevine that Warren Lieberfarb received this award,” he said. “I remember when I was a kid he was like the genius of home video and then the next thing you know he was unemployed. I’m worried about receiving this award.”
Gewecke called on the home entertainment industry to look to the future. His division supported the groundbreaking 2013 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the “Veronica Mars” movie. The director and writer of that film, Rob Thomas, introduced Gewecke, giving him credit for backing the project.
“My experience working with you [and the rest of those from the film] was one of the absolute highlights of my career,” Gewecke said.
He applauded the home entertainment industry for its innovation.
“The one constant is continuous change,” he said. “The thing that I’ve always come back to is how that change presents an incredible opportunity.”
He said, “I think we’ve done a fantastic job of listening to our consumers [offering more product] to more consumers, more often, in many more ways, with almost unlimited choice, than ever before.”