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'Variety' Hall of Fame Honors Home Entertainment Industry Leaders for 37th Year

6 Dec, 2017 By: Stephanie Prange

The 37th Variety Press Play Home Entertainment & Digital Hall of Fame took place Dec. 5 at the Montage in Beverly Hills, Calif., with the traditional sendups and sentiment about honorees.

The event benefitted the charity City Year.

Chris Meledandri, producer and CEO of Illumination Entertainment; Jim Wuthrich, president of the Americas and global strategy for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; and Walmart online service Vudu were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Fox innovation Lab was honored with the Innovation Award, and Eric Berger, EVP of digital for Sony Pictures Television Networks, and GM of Crackle, picked up the Deloitte Media & Entertainment Leadership Award.

“You know sometimes the good guys finish first, and I’m thrilled that this is happening to Jim,” said Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. worldwide home entertainment distribution, who presented the award to Wuthrich.

“He’s the kind of superhero that we love having at Warner Bros. and that we need for this industry,” added Sanders, teeing up a parody of heroes from Justice League with Wuthrich’s face imposed on them.

“Now you know why I’m on the other side of the camera,” Wuthrich quipped in accepting the award and hailing Sanders as a mentor.

“I’m humbled by those who’ve come before,” Wuthrich said, noting past winners including Warren Lieberfarb, “the father of DVD.”

“When I first came to this business all those years ago, I thought I’d be here two years and leave, but now I’ve been here 19 years, and I love this business,” he said. “It has it all — technology, entertainment — and it’s ever-changing. And the stories we deliver inspire, help people connect and bring joy, and that’s pretty cool.”

Chris Meledandri, producer and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, which created the “Despicable Me” franchise, among other family content, accepted his award by thanking Universal Studios and its home entertainment team and plugging the fact that Dec. 5 was the physical street date for Despicable Me 3.

“In volatile times like these, when it’s easy to lose one’s way, I find it very humbling to remind myself about the power that we all have to positively affect people’s lives,” he said.

He related the story of Peter, a young boy fighting liver cancer, whose mom wrote the producer to tell him how much the boy liked the “Despicable Me” movies and how they made him smile. She asked that a minion be named after her son.

“In Despicable Me 3, the minion Peter made his debut,” Meledandri said.

“It is vital for us to never lose sight of the potential of our films to spread joy, humor and hope, even when people are going through unimaginable hardships,” he said.

In presenting the award to the Fox innovation Lab, Amy Jo Smith, president of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and past Hall of Fame honoree, hailed the “brain trust” at Fox that created it in 2014, including Mike Dunn, Hanno Basse and Danny Kaye.

“The Lab has really had a real impact on stretching the boundaries of bringing content to movie lovers,” she said, noting its work on virtual reality and high dynamic range, among other technologies.

Danny Kaye, EVP and managing director of the Lab, said it was created “to help us redefine the next-generation premium consumer entertainment experience.”

He and Basse accepted the award on behalf of the studio, with representatives of Lab partners Samsung and Ericsson.

Janice Marinelli, president of Disney/ABC home Entertainment and television distribution, hailed Hall of Fame inductee Vudu, a key player in the cloud-based digital locker service Movies Anywhere.

“At Disney, we like to partner with forward-looking retailers, partners who share our commitment to excellence,” Marinelli said. “Vudu is a terrific example of that type of partner.”

Jeremy Verba, VP and GM of Vudu, video games and media at Walmart.com, accepted the award, saying, “Innovation is a team sport, we like to say at Vudu. It takes great partners. We have those in our studio partners. We appreciate the trust that you put in us and that you ask of us.”

“All of us here share a common vision for a world to be entertained without boundaries,” Berger said in accepting the Deloitte Media & Entertainment Leadership Award. “It’s a time of real change in the landscape and to achieve that vision requires a dual focus on innovation, both in terms of storytelling and technology.”

Leadership requires the “facility to embrace change as a constant variable” and finding out “how to reinvent order from chaos,” he said.

About the Author: Stephanie Prange

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