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AI Will Be Used to Cut Costs

AI Will Be Used to Cut Costs

Sony Pictures is embracing generative artificial intelligence to cut costs.

Chief executive Tony Vinciquerra, at an investor conference in Japan, said on Thursday that the company is “very focused on AI” and mobilizing to adopt the technology into the moviemaking process to streamline production.

“We’ll be looking at ways to use AI to produce films for theaters and television in more efficient ways, using AI primarily,” Vinciquerra said.

In the backdrop of the comments: Ongoing negotiations between Hollywood’s major crew union and top studios on a new contract, which is set to expire on July 31. Like the actors and writers strikes, guardrails on the use of AI have emerged as a key negotiating point.

Since the resolutions of the work stoppages last year, buzzy AI tools like OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora have created anxiety in Hollywood that they could undermine labor from crewmembers and talent. Union protections have surfaced as the principal barrier to displacement.

Vinciquerra’s comments signal that studios are looking to further deploy the technology and are only constrained by their contracts with unions.

“The agreements that came out of last year’s strikes and the agreements that will come out of the IATSE and Teamster [negotiations] will define roughly what we do with AI,” he said.

Last year, DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted that AI will cut the cost of animated movies by as much as 90 percent as the tech is positioned to disrupt the media and entertainment industries. Pointing to the “good old days” when a world-class animated films took 500 artists five years to create, he said that it “won’t take 10 percent of that three years from now.”

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A study surveying 300 leaders across the entertainment sector issued in January found that AI is killing jobs in Hollywood, with little relief on the horizon. The report said that three-fourths of respondents indicated that AI tools supported the elimination, reduction or consolidation of jobs at their companies. Voice actors, concept artists and workers in visual effects and other postproduction work were found to be particularly vulnerable.

Cinematographer Kathryn Brillhart, visual production supervisor for Fallout, Rebel Moon and Black Adam, stressed AI tools’ potential to streamline VFX. “It’s advancing the craft,” she said at AI on the Lot, a conference on how studios can adopt AI, in May. “I can teach myself skills at a fast rate than I ever have before. I can think about workflows in different ways.”

Sony Pictures is coming off of Madame Web‘s flop at the box office, which wiped out plans for a new franchise. Another Sony Spider-Man universe movie — 2022’s Morbius — was similarly a critical bust, though it managed to earn $170 million worldwide.

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