‘Movie business is not over,’ super agent Ari Emanuel says

THINGS certainly look rough for movie theatres these days, with ticket sales still well off their pre-pandemic highs and 1 of the largest chains filing for bankruptcy.

But Ari Emanuel, co-founder of 1 of the world's largest talent agencies, strongly disagrees with folks who think cinemas will disappear.

"Anybody that says to you, and I won't name names, that the movie business is over are fools," Emanuel said in a recent appearance on The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg TV. "The movie business is not over," he said. "It is just an expanding world."

Emanuel, the 61-year-old chief executive officer of Endeavor Group Holdings, has diversified his company over the years, taking it from its roots representing Hollywood actors, writers and directors, and adding sports stars, ownership of live events and more recently, a sports-betting technology company. Endeavor is projecting operating profit of at least US$1.13 billion on sales of US$5.24 billion this year.

Emanuel said he's been guided for years by George Gilder's 1990 book Life After Television, which argued that the computer age would expand the ways in which people consume and interact with content. Cinemas have survived challenges from broadcast TV, cable and DVDs, Emanuel said. Now streaming video is the perceived threat.

"The theatrical business is as important as it's ever been," he said. "Is it gonna be a US$9.3 billion business? No, maybe it'll be an US$8 billion business. I'm not sure. But it's not going away."

Comscore, which collects data on cinema ticket sales, projects the domestic movie theatre industry will end this year with revenue of US$7.5 billion, still down 37 per cent from 2018's record of US$11.9 billion.

A fitness buff who gets up before dawn for workouts, an ice bath and meditation, Emanuel said he's also come to terms with the super-aggressive character, Ari Gold, which was modelled after him in the HBO series Entourage.

"I didn't like it at the beginning," he said. "There were some things that were for sure not true and then there were some things that I hated seeing that were true."

Now, however, he's realised the benefits of the exposure. "It's for sure opened a lot of doors." BLOOMBERG

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