DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talks about Shanghai and making films in China (Forbes)

8 August 2012 18 h 38 min Comments Off

On 7 August, Hollywood film studio DreamWorks Animation and

its Chinese partners formally set up a joint venture film studio in Shanghai and unveiled plans for a $3 billion entertainment complex in the city called the “Dream Center”.

Forbes talked with DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg about China. Some excerpts below:

Q. There seems to be a lot of questions about the financing of the Dream Center)
A. Well, we’re moving 100 miles a hour right now, and certainly there are those questions to be answered, but everybody seems pretty optimistic that the financing will come together on this. That is the thing that is so exciting about China. When there is something like this that clearly has value for the entire city of Shanghai, for the people of Shanghai (and) will have a great business return on investment over time,  the ability to get that kind of financing is unique here in China.

Q. What drew you to Shanghai as opposed to Beijing for the investments?
A. It’s an amazing city. It is truly one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s got vitality and vibrancy, and a creative community that has this amazing can-do optimism. That enthusiasm has translated into unprecedented support for this kind of creative enterprise.

Q. How will these two projects contribute to the revenue of DreamWorks itself over the next 5-10 years?
A. They are both long term. So these are things that in the short term — meaning the next 12-24 months — that won’t have any impact on DWA, the public company. Long term, I think potentially they will create blockbuster value. In both instances, you’re looking at two different enterprises, both of which have time horizons that are measured in 3-5 years, and so the investment cycle is a long one, but the payoff at the other side of that can be very, very meaningful. The one that we feel most confident about – the most knowledgeable about — is the making the animated movies. We’re very confident that we can build a studio here and make state-of-the-art animation.  (There is) really no doubt in our mind about that.

Q. How did you bring all of this about in such a short time compared with Disney’s longer term efforts here?
A. I think the difference here is this is not about bringing somebody else’s culture to China. This is actually about creating culture in China. This is very much of a Chinese destination. It’s very much designed to serve the community of Shanghai. We think it will be a tourist destination also, but first and foremost, we think this will be a huge draw for residents here. Think about it the way (you think about) Broadway. Broadway is both the heart and center of New York City, but it’s also a phenomenal tourist destination. I lived in New York for years. This will be the same.

Q. Is it fair to say that this kind of project would have a hard time getting funding right now in the States?
A. I don’t think this project can happen anywhere else in the world. First of all, the land doesn’t exist. I don’t know of any great city in the world in which you have — right at its center — such an amazing piece of land, great infrastructure (and) roads. There’s a subway stop right at our doorstep.

Q. You’ll have 800 people here (at Oriental DreamWorks). How many do you have in the States?
A. Right now we’re at a total of about 2,400 people in DreamWorks Animation. It’s the largest animation company in the world. The new studio here in Shanghai when it’s is fully operational will have about 800 people. We’ll grow from there, but that’s the operational first plateau that we’ll get to.

Q. How important is China to Hollywood, generally speaking?
A. It’s invaluable. It’s already the second-largest market in the world and in five or seven years, it will be the number one market in the world.  So if you don’t pay attention to it, I would say that would go down as a blundering missed opportunity. I think it’s been very clear and evident to us for some time. That’s why we been so aggressive and ambitious about coming here and trying to get it going.

Source: Forbes (07/08/2012)

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