HBO VP gives Common Hour talk
If you are interested in something besides sex and violence,
you may be disappointed by what's showing at your local Mega-Plex. In
his common hour lecture last week, Kary Antholis '86, vice president of
Home Box Office (HBO) films, explained how quiet dramas and lyrical romances
are being disregarded in favor of the extravagant blockbusters as studios
and theater chains push to maximize box office figures.
Antholis discussed how marketing trends have largely eliminated
the opportunity for "film-artists" to express themselves in
major motion pictures, but he did offer hope to independent-film lovers
as he explained how he felt HBO balances commercial interests while still
allowing artistic integrity.
Upon joining HBO in 1992 as the director of documentary
programming, Antholis oversaw some of HBO's most touching and important
documentaries, including Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock, The Broadcast
Tapes of Dr. Peter, and Educating Peter. He took a brief respite from
pay television to produce the syndicated television series "The Cape,"
and to direct the Academy Award® winning Holocaust documentary "One
He rejoined HBO in 1997 as a consultant for Tom Hank's documentary
on the Apollo Space Program, "From Earth to the Moon," and was
quickly promoted to Vice President in 1999. Antholis explained how HBO
ascribes to the same philosophy of yesteryear's major studios: "Rather
than focusing on opening weekend receipts, HBO is concerned with "the
aesthetics of story-telling," he said. Such an attitude allows the
network to show movies, such as Antholis's Emmy-award winning Wit,
that would never make it to the big screen.
"I became aware of films during an era that gave us
movies like The Godfather and The Deer Hunter - the last
time corporate decisions were made by a small handful who based their
decisions on things like artistic credibility and the chance that it would
be a good movie."
That mentality changed with the arrival of blockbusters such as Jaws and Star Wars, and "green-lighting" a film was determined by its marketability instead. "When a film becomes a property, it ceases to be art," Antholis said.
The role of artistic film creation then fell to television, but after
T.V. networks noticed the success of shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
and Survivor, television has moved away from movie-making.
"Where does the artistic filmmaker go?" Antholis asked. "To
pay cable television."
HBO, he explained, is able to make profits while still allowing artistic
expression by marketing the channel as one product, instead of marketing
individual shows. "Even if a show does not attract a large audience,
it might still add to the overall product by garnering awards, adding
to the 'Tiffany' image," he said.
HBO, according to Antholis, proves that artistic integrity can successfully
coexist with a capitalist system, and the popularity of shows like The
Sopranos and movies like Wit support this belief.
Antholis admitted that if he were not able to work at HBO, he would probably
not be in the entertainment industry at all because he said he saw no
hope in the near future for films to return to their previous, albeit
less profitable, glory.
However, Antholis said he is fortunate enough to work in an environment where he does not feel as though he has to undermine the artist for the sake of the all-mighty dollar - an example he hopes the rest of the entertainment industry will follow.