CinemaCon 2022: Career Achievement in Film Award – Martin Moszkowicz, Producer and Chairman, Constantin Film

Photo Credit: Mathias Bothor

By the time he hit his early-20s, Martin Moszkowicz knew that he loved film–he was a regular at a theater in his hometown of Munich, where he would go multiple times a week to see old movie classics. But in 1982, something shifted. Young Moszkowicz (somehow) got a ticket to see the premiere screening of E.T. at Cannes. “It was this incredible atmosphere,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Movies can do something like this,’ where people are crying and laughing and the whole theater was in turmoil. There was so much emotion going on. It was one of those goosebump moments, you know.”

Moszkowicz was hooked. He started off in the 80s as a production manager before graduating upwards, eventually switching to the corporate side of the business with Constantin Film, a producer-distributor with a strong international presence. During his tenure at Constantin, where he currently serves as chairman and producer, Moszkowicz has been involved in over 300 films, including two—Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and Monster Hunter–which got theatrically exclusive releases in North America during a time when cinemas were hurting for content.

To honor Moszkowicz’s career and his dedication to the theatrical experience, the executive is set to receive the Career Achievement in Film Award at this year’s CinemaCon.  “Throughout his illustrious career, Martin Moszkowicz continues to make his mark on the global box office having overseen the production and release of hundreds of successful feature films,” says CinemaCon Managing Director Mitch Neuhauser. “It is our honor to recognize his undeniable prowess in the international film industry by presenting him with this year’s CinemaCon ‘Career Achievement in Film Award.’” Moszkowicz will be on-hand to accept the award at CinemaCon’s International Day Award Ceremony on Monday, April 25; he will also participate in the “Blockbusters or Bust?” Monday morning panel on the need for non-tentpole films.

You started off as a production manager, is that correct? You knew from the get-go that you were interested in the production side of things.

I started in physical production, yes. Production manager, line producer. My own little company was doing movies all over the world. I joined Constantin [Film] in 1990, so it’s been over 30 years. I’m very, very proud to get this award. It’s really something very special, especially when it comes from peers in our industry.

It’s fitting, especially now–Constantin worked on two pandemic-era film, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and Monster Hunter–that didn’t bypass theaters, didn’t even go day-and-date.

Actually, our production business has been incredibly solid throughout the whole time. At the very beginning of the first wave, we had a couple of weeks where we closed down. But then we were pretty much producing throughout all of the pandemic. The problem, of course, was theatrical releases, as it was so unclear what was happening. We’ve been successful, actually, in Germany with some of our releases and also with some of our international releases, even though the numbers are lower than you would expect due to the pandemic. The business model is changing. Exhibitors, as much as distributors, are flexible. Our business is healthy and can adjust–we’re not sticking to old hats just because they’re old hats.

The movie industry has been adjusting at least since I can remember. It’s always been changing. I think it’s a good sign that we are able to do that. But we will have to get adjusted to it. It’s never going to be exactly the same as it was before. There will be, possibly, some people–hopefully not a lot–that will never go back to theaters, because they feel uncomfortable. But there’s new generations growing up, and they might have a different view and enjoy the theatrical experience. With all of the years that it has, [cinema is] a young business that is very flexible.

That flexibility is the big thing going forward. We all have to be a little bit more flexible. That is true for exhibitors, producers, distributors. I think this is one of the most exciting times in our business. I’m very much looking forward to the next couple of years.

Boxoffice Pro is a 101-year-old publication, and I love going through our archives. One bit of editorial that really stuck with me is something to the effect of, “All these people getting radios is going to kill the movie theater industry.”

There are so many of these! There is an article in Variety from 1925 or 1926 which basically says: “Now, with the start of sound movies, that’s the end of the business. There will not be a movie business after a couple of years.” Of course, that didn’t kill the business. Then there was television and then video. The good thing is, as long as we are able to tell incredible, outstanding special stories that make people want to see what we’re doing…as long as that’s happening, there’s going to be a need for great storytelling. That’s really what it’s all about at the end.

I love theatrical movies. I love to go to theaters. I love to see a film in a big theater. I think it is an incredible experience, very special, and very different to anything else that’s out there. There’s going to be adjustments in how we exploit our films. But overall, as long as people are excited to see a film, then there will be a business that comes with it.

Do you remember the first film you saw in a theater? Or is there an early film that sticks in your mind?

The first film that I was allowed to go to by myself–I think I was 12 years old or so. It was Tora! Tora! Tora!, a Japanese-American war movie. My parents actually didn’t want me to go. It was, I think, R-rated in Germany. I was begging my parents so much to be able to go. That was the first “real” movie that I saw, other than children’s movies, Disney films, animated movies. That was the first one I really remember. It was so exciting, I could hardly watch it. I was, I think, more under the seat than above it! But before that, of course, I saw all the Disney classics and animation that we went to as kids.

Something about that, when you start going to movie theaters by yourself or choosing your own movies to see, it’s just such a cornerstone for so many people. It definitely was for me.

[Growing up,] I was already very much into movies and [was going] basically every day or every second day to a theater that played older movies out of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, in Munich. It was one Euro—or, at that time, one Deutschmark–to enter, and you could see all these amazing  movies.

When I was a little bit older, I was in Cannes. I went there without any money. I was sleeping in my car in Cannes, and I went to see the first screening of E.T., and it was this amazing screening. Many people have written about [how] Jack Lemmon fell on his knees. It was this incredible atmosphere in the theater. I really think that was something that hooked me for good. Because I thought, “Movies can do something like this,” where people are crying and laughing and the whole theater was in turmoil. There was so much emotion going on. It was one of those goosebump moments. And I was a young kid! I don’t even know how I got a ticket to that event. From then on, I was hooked on films and movies and cinema. 

What led you to become a producer?

My father was a director–theater, and also a lot of television and some feature films. He actually didn’t want me to go into this business at all. “Be something that makes sense and not a part of this craziness.” But I grew up with actors and artists in a very artistic family. It was pretty clear that I don’t have the talent to write or to direct. I was always interested in bringing people together. For me, the producer is a little bit like a coach, in the best of all senses. We manage creativity, if you want, to a certain degree. That’s something that we’re very proud at Constantin, that we have very strong relationships with artists and creative people.

Originally I was working as a producer for many, many years, also at Constantin. I did a couple of movies there. And then I slowly went more into the corporate side of the business. Still, today, producing is what I love the most in this business. We’re a fantastic team. We’re doing a good job at maneuvering this small company, Constantin Film, through the shallow waters of an ever-changing business landscape..

Making a film, producing a show is something very special. And you can see what you’re doing. Most businesses today, you don’t see the results of what you’re doing. [In movies, it’s like you’re a] carpenter. You have a table, and either it works or it doesn’t work. If one leg is too short, you see it immediately, because that table doesn’t stand. In a movie, it’s very similar. If it doesn’t work, not enough people will go to see it, or it doesn’t have the feedback that you would like.To see the result of the work and its reception  is the most satisfying part, for me at least.

But, altogether, it’s about the people you work with. It’s such a big variety. We’re meeting people on every movie, new contacts, new creative input. So it’s always a new endeavor. It’s not like a conveyor belt where you push [a button]. That’s, a little bit, the difference between movies and all the other stuff that [Constantine does] today–you know, streaming gigs and series. That is much more an industrialized process. Making movies is very much a manufactured thing, where you do it by hand, one by one, and every movie  will stay with you all your life.

When somebody asks me, “So, when did you do this or this or that?” I say, “Well, this was the year we shot this or this or this movie.” It is my whole life, in films. That’s something that shows a little bit how important it is to me to be part of this incredible business that is able to touch people’s hearts and feelings. Nothing else can do that.

People outside the film industry–even, sometimes, people within it–tend to overlook the exhibition side of things. For a lot of cinephiles, it’s “Oh, all this creative, wonderful stuff goes into making a film….. and then they put it in theaters, I guess, whatever.” Over the course of your career, how hands-on have you been with the exhibition side of Constantin releases?

It’s the interesting part of the job, especially when you’re doing theatrical movies. The marketing, how to position it, the dating–these are really, really important things. And without theaters, we could not do that. So we’re bound together by destiny. There’s no movies without theaters.

There’s also stuff that you can see on a tablet or wherever. But all the amount of work that goes into the research, the marketing, is really important. One of the reasons why Constantin is as successful as we are is because we basically copied the business model of the big studios on a smaller scale. We’re doing everything. We’re doing development, production, distribution, exhibition, and home entertainment. But the branding happens when the film hits the theaters. And that is so important. Let’s say you’re a streaming subscriber. You’re paying whatever monthly fee you pay anyhow. You can see what you like to see. And what you don’t like to see, maybe not so much. But to spend $12 or $15 or $18 on the box office to go see something that you want to see now? You don’t want to see it in two months or in six weeks or even in 30 days. You want to see it now, first weekend. That is so important. Creating it with the movie you’ve made is at least as important, for me, as development and production. Of course, it all comes from there, so you have to have the right elements and the right people. 

At Constantin Film, we really have such an incredible team. You have to adjust the roll-out  all the time. You don’t put a movie out, and that’s it. You adjust the campaign. You see that it works in some areas and not others. That trailer that you thought was great isn’t really working as well as you needed it to. You constantly make adjustments. It’s a huge process, at least as much work as making the movie.

For us, being producer and distributor, [the release strategy] is hugely important. In the 50 years or so that Constantin Film has been around, there has always been some advisor , “Let’s get rid of the distribution. Let’s get rid of the production.” It’s all rubbish, to a certain degree. The only thing that works is if you do it all together. You create the movie, and you created the marketing of the movie.

When you go into test screenings, you see your audience for the first time seeing a show that you made. These are incredible things that you learn so much from. Even today, we haven’t had one single test screening that was like any other. It’s always been something new, and I give that [advice] to all our directors. I say, “Be open to it.” This is the first time people will see your movie. Listen to what people say and how they react to it.

That’s important, especially for us, as we do mainstream commercial movies. I love every kind of movie. I can watch a Japanese black-and-white movie from the ’50s as much as I like to watch a Marvel film. But the real problem in today’s environment is to make a movie that works commercially. Especially in Germany and Europe, there’s this separation between arthouse movies and mainstream movies.. I don’t agree with that categorization. I think movies are movies.

There’s a range. And there’s nothing wrong with any point in that range.

Absolutely. The big problem today is not to make a movie that is niche, because everybody can do that somehow. The big problem is to make a movie that works over a wide variety of demographics. It’s the hardest thing. In Germany, we do a lot of comedies, because that is the local language genre for theatrical exhibition. It’s the  one genre that works really well, but it’s the hardest thing to do. It’s so hard to do a comedy that really, really works. I see it all together: The development, the choosing of the subject matter, getting the screenplay in shape, the choosing of the cast and crew, and then the production and distribution and marketing.

You want films to work across demographics, but also–though I imagine this isn’t the case with the local-language comedies–you want them to work across cultures. It’s fascinating how the industry has become much more global since the ’60s, with European and arthouse films having such an effect on Hollywood. And then, leading up to now, the importance of the Chinese audience with films like Monster Hunter.

Absolutely. But there are many challenges out there with respect to some of the major markets. 

Things have gotten even more complicated lately, because you have certain markets recovering at different rates, and that of course affects the release calendar. Do you see the pandemic causing any long-term changes to the global film marketplace?

First of all, making international movies for an international audience is even harder than making them for a local market. We are a German company, obviously, and we do English-language movies for many, many countries around the world. When we started to do, for instance, [2002’s] Resident Evil, we had a hugely diverse cast. It was basically because we were aiming at all these audiences. We had actors from South America, from the Middle East. German, European actors. Asian actors. But it wasn’t done because “we wanted to be diverse.” It was really more out of the necessity to be attractive to all these audiences all over the world.

At the moment, one of our issues–obviously, China is complicated to get movies into. And even if they get into the country, it’s hard for them to be successful. Often they  don’t get a lot of play time in the theaters. It’s really hard to release, let’s say, a non-Chinese movie at the moment in that market. 

You kind of just have to roll the dice and pray, right?

And then on top of that, there is the issue now with Russia, which has disappeared as a market. Not to talk about Ukraine, which is even more terrible. These are top theatrical markets: China, Russia, and even in America it’s hard for independent movies to get distribution, because a lot of the smaller distributors are gone. P&A is prohibitive. It’s so expensive to release a movie in the U.S.

And you have streamers going around to festivals buying things up and dumping them online.

Exactly. The business model for the streamer is different from a business model where you need audiences actually to come [to the theater], and not just [spend money on For Your Consideration campaigns] and make business out of the award. It is a little bit difficult at the moment, but I think we’ll adjust, and hopefully things will get better. It is a very challenging environment at the moment, for theatrical movies.

At Constantin Film we’re not going to change our strategy. Even while Covid was raging, we discussed at length how to cope with that crisis. But honestly, I think that we’re not going to change our strategy, period. We’re going to make theatrical movies. We will do, of course–and very successfully–series for broadcasters and streamers. More than half of our revenue is that segment. But we are not going to give up on theatrical movies. On the contrary, I think we’re going to take it as a challenge. “Well, now we have to be twice as good in order to get people to go to the movies.” I think we will be able to do that.

Give other people “E.T. at Cannes” moments to look back on fondly.

Yes, yes. Goosebumps moments. I still get that in theaters sometimes. But it’s something that you can’t get at home. It’s something that you could get only at the movies, only when you’re in the theater with a couple of hundred other people, to get the feeling of the room. A good, well-run theater is something spectacular. It’s such an incredible place of worship for movies. I know that a lot of the exhibitors, not just in NATO, but also all over the world, are really dedicated and very closely connected to their audiences. They know their audiences very well. They do a lot of local PR for the movies, they have viewing groups and so on. Whenever I come to L.A. and can go to those incredible theaters, it’s such an experience. It’s really a celebration of films.

Photo Credit: Mathias Bothor
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