Peter Schneider for “Pearl Harbor”

Schneider is the Chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group which means he basically is in charge of greenlighting all the films Disney & Buena Vista put out. Aside from Michael Eisner and Roy Disney, he’s arguably one of the most powerful people in the company.

Question: Was letting Newsweek’s David Ansen see the film early considered a risk?

Answer: “I think everything you do in promoting a movie is a risk, in terms of who you give access to, what you trade off to get certain things and when you start any marketing campaign you say can you position the product in one of the two major national newspapers/magazines – Time or Newsweek, and they’re very small circulation. They’re not overwhlemingly large, and you say to yourself is it worth getting a cover to go early with because is the review important or the coverage important? And I think because we felt the cover was important three weeks ago or two weeks ago to start the crescendo we want to happen, to get people excited about going to the movie. We have great competition, and I think in the end result we were happy we had done what we did”.

Question: Would “Pearl Harbor” be considered critic proof anywayv?

Answer: “I think its a different question which is are movies critic proof – I don’t know anymore. I think that if you look at the diversity of our media, and there’s so much of it, I am glad critics play a lesser role in the support for destroying of art…Lets look at the Broadway market, the theatre market – it used to be the New York Times could kill ya. In terms of one person could go to your show and says ‘outta here’ and you’re gone. They can’t do it anymore. They can take a show and make it go up, but they can’t kill ya anymore and for that I’m grateful…should movies be critic proof? and I would say they certainly are critic proof if the idea is strong enough, if the spectacle is strong enough, if the star is strong enough, if the marketing is strong enough, yes – the opening weekend will not be affected by those critics. What effects the long term health of a movie is critical response, which is by and large usually personal response”.

Question: So, do critics matter anymore?

Answer: “The written critic is always the most interesting critic because they have the most amount of space…with the advent of TV, and I’m not criticising TV journalism, its much more sound bite, its much more popular, its done in 30 seconds, its much more visual: ‘Here is Ben Affleck, Here is Josh Hartnett, The movie was not very good, oh I am so great’ is the kind of thing you may get. so the advent of the popular press, the USA Today, the sensation of critical writing has made critics less profound in their writing, because the audience has changed. They don’t want to read hard reviews”

Question: Did “The Mummy Returns” opening weekend of $68 million make you feel under pressure?

Answer: “No…what is the highest grossing original movie on Memorial Day weekend? Mission Impossible 1 with $54 million. My sidebar is if the movie does better than $54 million I would be thrilled. We’ve got three shows a day, Mummy has six shows a day, I’ll be thrilled if it does between $45-55 million dollars…Mummy was an exception, Mummy is one of those things that happens. It had no competition in the market place, nothing else was doing business”.

Question: Now, what about the budget?

Answer: “We went in at $135 million and came out at $137-138 million. Never lost a day of shooting, never went over budget, nothing went wrong”.

Question: How’d it compare to the making of “Armageddon”?

Answer: “‘Armageddon’ was not as smooth, the post was rushed, there was lots of things going against Armageddon. But this didn’t happen, Michael had enough time to post the movie…we shot Pearl Harbor first so ILM could go to work on it while we shot the rest of the movie, they had time to do their thing, it was planned brilliantly”.

Question: Your particularly proud of the upcoming “The Princess Diaries”, how come?

Answer: “He [Director Garry Marshall] has delivered a perfect Disney movie with Garry Marshall sensibilities. Its sweet, uplifting, emotional – it’s very girl so I’m not sure if it’ll crossover to any of the boys, some boys maybe. Its very hip with a beautiful, beautiful girl called Anne Hathaway, and Julie Andrews who is…she comes on the screen you go ‘Julie Andrews is back!'”