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Sunday, June 25, 2017

'Wonder Kitty'

The Japanese love cuteness, and what is cuter than 'Hello Kitty', the ubiquitous Kitty that is recognized globally. So, it's natural that, for the first time ever, Hello Kitty will be promoting a movie - that being the new 'Wonder Woman'.

The 'Wonder Woman' and 'Hello
'Hello Kitty' Wonder Woman outfit.
Kitty' tie-in is for the scheduled opening of the movie in Japan on August 25th. Sanrio, the owner of 'Hello Kitty', designed a custom superhero costume for Kitty - with red, blue, and gold detailing, high-boots, and a Lasso of Truth.

'Wonder Woman's' director, Patty Jenkins, is a big fan and collector of all things related to 'Hello Kitty' and approved of the collaboration as did Warner Brothers, Wonder Woman's production studio and distributor.

Tickets have already gone on sale in Japan, and each advanced ticket purchaser will receive a Wonder Woman and Hello Kitty rubber key-chain or limited edition reproduction of the first Wonder Woman comic book which appeared in 1941.

In Japan, the movie's promotion and trailers are playing up Wonder Woman's innocence and pureness which are all part of the movie's promotion and, of course, Kitty's traits.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Cinema SCOOP by Seymour Flix

Media Giants Form Alliance to Fight Piracy
Big Media's new ACE coalition


Normally fighting tooth-and-nail, a group of entertainment content producers have joined forces to fight a common enemy - piracy!

The new global coalition (comprised of 30 entities) has been dubbed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) with the goal of reducing the prevalence of online piracy. The group plans to conduct research, work with law enforcement, and engage with companies responsible for the internet ecosystem, such as Google and other ISPs.

ACE brings together a group of companies which normally compete fiercely with each other: Amazon, the BBC, Bell Canada, CBS, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, MGM, Netflix, Universal, Fox, and Disney to name several of ACE's participating members.  The group brings a level of cooperation as yet unseen between these diverse content producers and distributors.

Content piracy has been rampant and getting worse, despite great efforts to stem its growth by such groups as the Motion Picture Association of  America.  In 2016, internet users streamed over 100 billion pirated productions.

Hollywood Goes GREEN with PEACH and PEAR
Hollywood's Green Initiative


It was a busy week for acronyms in tinsel-town, as in addition to the ACE coalition, in a show of unity to foster its goal to cut carbon emissions, the major movie studios teamed-up to form the Green Production Guide (GPG).  All of the studios were front and center for this green initiative: Amblin, Fox, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony, and Warners are all committed to collaborating with GPG.

Now, the GPG includes the Production Environmental Actions Checklist (oh yes, PEACH).  The goal of PEACH is to have movies and TV shows be awarded the Green Seal, which denotes the productions level of  "green-ness".  This Green Seal is given based upon the Production Environmental Accounting Report (you guessed it, PEAR), a carbon calculator which computes a production's carbon emissions.

On their face, both PEACH and PEAR appear to be good initiatives because, as we all know, movie and TV production has not been very environmentally friendly here-to-fore. Good luck Hollywood.

Yours,
Seymour

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Going To The Movies" - What Does It Mean To You

The phrase 'Going to the movies' is uniquely American yet global in use.

People, in the U.S., don't go to the movies as frequently as they once did as many have turned into homebodies.  TV technology and content streaming to all manner of personal device have given rise to viewing only the cream-of-the-crop at the megaplex.

To counteract this trend cinema operators are upgrading seating, improving and expanding concession offerings, and exhibiting the best in viewing entertainment with big screens and big sound. In turn, the studios have morphed into generators of  big budget and big risk blockbuster sequels, prequels, and reboots.

The megaplexes of the '80s and '90s are becoming passe' - huge structures that demand a continuous volume of product to fill their screens. Fully reclining seats and table service at your seat of food and drink is the new megaplex normal.  But, one must keep in mind, that there ain't no home screen wide enough, and there ain't no home sound big enough to ever replicate the full sensory immersion of 'going to the movies'.

'Going to the movies' is a ritual that has been honed over the decades. Most people can remember the first movie they viewed at a cinema - it was a coming of age event. In many cases, 'going to the movies' was one of  the first venues that many parents allowed their children to frequent without them.

'Going to the movies' is still the universal 'first date place'.  It is also the place where our inner likes and dislikes play themselves out - horror movie devotee, superhero addict, rom-com watcher, tear-jerker aficionado - there is a film genre for everyone.

 People go to the movies with others to have a shared experience - that can be discussed and debated. 'Going to the movies' is still exciting - the sharing of concessions, the dimming of the lights when the movie starts, the anticipation of being swept away into a story.

There is nothing like 'going to the movies' and that experience is here to stay. It's unique because it is personal yet communal and enjoyed by all.







Sunday, June 11, 2017

Great Medical News For Cinemas

Yes, the word from the medical industry (at least some in it) believe that Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other entertainment content internet streamers should come with a health warning label.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) , if you are staying up way past you normal bedtime because you wanted to get through a season of your favorite TV series you are putting your health in peril.

Binge-watchers that fail to get enough sleep are in danger of suffering deteriorating "mood and cognitive abilities" stated the AASM last week.  In very bad cases, sleep deprived viewers are at risk of being "in a workplace accident or drowsy-driving crash!"

This is great news for cinemas. No binge watching there. And no 2am showings. The AASM recommends that adults get, at least, seven hours or more of sleep nightly.  The AASM, whose members comprise sleep professionals and doctors, said it's unwise to scrimp on getting the adequate amount of sleep no matter how compelling the entertainment.

You can stream your favorite shows in moderation. "responsible binge-watching is the way to balance your personal entertainment with you health and well-being" recommends the AASM. The group gave the following tips for binge-watching:

- Set an episode limit each night
- Take a break between each episode to get out of the "auto-play loop"
- Download episodes on your smartphone to control how many you watch at once
- Schedule time on the weekend to catch up on your favorite shows
- Minimize brightly lit screens by using screen settings that filter blue light after sunset

Binge viewings is bad! Nuf said.  Movies in cinemas are good for your health. Ok, we won't get into the concession part, but dang, going to the cinema is exciting, uplifting, and a healthy form of entertainment.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Theatrical Release Window Under Siege

The exclusive release window for movie theaters is under siege - and from all quarters.

Last week Redbox, which operates the red DVD kiosks seen in supermarkets, malls, drug stores, etc. inked a deal with Warner Brothers whereby all Warner movies will be available for rental at all Redbox kiosks just seven days after their retail sell-through date.


Despite the decline in overall DVD sales, Redbox movie rentals are still very much in demand.  This year it plans on installing 1,500 new kiosks across the U.S. which will bring its total 'rental boxes' to over 40,000!

Prior to this deal, Warner Bros. movies were on a 28 day delay before Redbox was permitted to rent them.  Currently, Lionsgate and Paramount have a 16 days deal. Redbox has no current deal with Sony or Disney and must purchase their DVDs in the open market. Redbox charges $1.50 per day for a regular DVD and $2 for a Blu-ray rental.

Outerwall, the parent company of Redbox, was purchased last fall by Apollo Global Management for $1.6 billion.  In addition to Redbox, Outerwall consisted of Coinstar and ecoATM.  

Redbox has carved out a niche for itself in the movie distribution business and has been very successful, thus far.  Although content streamers like Netflix and Amazon have been very successful there are still millions of people who don't subscribe and still rent out DVDs. Redbox has no really competition in the DVD rental business.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The SCOOP by Seymour Flix

What We View During The Day


Netflix just completed a six month analysis which studied the viewing patterns in 22 countries - showing that audiences worldwide view comedies, dramas, thrillers, and documentary shows during specific times each day.

The study found that viewing preferences change as the day goes on. People prefer comedies in the morning, dramas during midday, thrillers in evening primetime, comedies (again) in late-night, and documentaries in the wee-hours.

As more and more viewers free themselves from the shackles of  cable and broadcast TV schedules their choice of what and when to view movies and shows varies greatly by country and time of day.

The study found that viewers start the day with comedies. At 6am they are 14% more likely to watch a comedy vs. any other genre. By noon thru 2pm they favor dramas by 47%. During the evening the trend shifts again, and by 9pm thrillers are the content of choice. By 11pm, viewers swing back to comedies, and from 1am to 6am documentaries are most popular.

The study also found that peak viewing periods vary by country. For example, primetime in India is 5pm while in Argentina it is 10pm (that goes for Mexico and Singapore as well).  Japan is the only country where Tuesday is the highest viewing day of the week, while Brazil boasts the highest lunch-time binge viewing of any country. Netflix based the analysis on six months of content data by 77 million subscribers in 22 countries.

Could this data be used by cinemas? Should cinemas be screening comedies during the early hours of the day and switch to dramas in the afternoon and thrillers in the evening. It is worth a look-see.

The World of Avatar Opens


Last Wednesday, Pandora: World of Avatar officially opened within Disney Land, in Orlando, Florida. Both Bob Iger, CEO of Disney and James Cameron the creator of the world of Avatar were on hand for the opening.

Inspired by the blockbuster movie, 'Avatar', the new attraction is the largest in Disney's history. Iger commented, "At Disney we have a 'how did they do that' standard. I can't think of a better example of that than what we're standing in front of right now."  The 'avatar park' has floating mountains and uses advanced technology to create a one-of-a-kind theme park experience. Iger and Cameron thanked the "imagineers" who conceived and executed the project.

In addition to the floating mountains, are a first person 3D ride called Avatar Flight of Passage, a ride that takes you through a bioluminescent forest,called Na'vi River Journey, and the exotic Valley of Mo'ara.  Disney wants park-goers to have an emotional experience by entering a world that will astonish and delight and it sounds like they did just that.

Google To Buy MGM?


David Krane, the head of Google Ventures, the arm of Google that invests and purchases various companies, was last week appointed to MGM's Board of Directors.

The privately held MGM recently reported substantial declines in both revenue and earning and it appears that the studio needs more money to ensure it has viable content in the future - and certainly Google can provide this.

The purchase of MGM makes sense for Google as it provides a functioning movie studio with a formidable archive and great cache. MGM would be a prudent purchase for Google and fit into its strategy of delivering high quality content as it completes with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Apple.  

CMG predicts Google will invest funds (if not purchase outright) MGM in the near future.

Best,
Seymour Flix



Thursday, May 25, 2017

CMG's Picks: Best Movie Posters at Cannes Festival

For the last several years, CMG has selected the best film posters from the wide array of entrants to the Cannes Film Festival.  This year the selection was hard as Cannes grows each year in terms of everything, including submissions. For example, 9 films out of a total of 4,843 submissions were selected to complete for the Short Film Palme d' Or Award.  There are literally thousands of submissions to the festival in the various award categories.  This makes the selection of the posters that much harder, although not all submissions have the poster budget.

Called one-sheets, in the trade, movie posters have been used to advertise films since day-one.  Over the years it has in itself become an art form, and the Cannes Festival brings out some of the best. Here's our 2017 selections:

A documentary which uses Grant's own narrative, follows the movie idol during his 30+ year film career.  Working with the best directors of his day and with the best actors (male and female) Grant starred in straight dramas, comedies, historical pieces, thrillers, and romcoms. 'Becoming Cary Grant' starts at the beginning and follows the star throughout his career. A great poster which shows how Grant became Grant.


Story of a aging, depressed man (Vania) living in a small Bulgarian village (played by, the great, Gerard Depardieu) whose granddaughter wants to buy him a dog for companionship. As dogs cost too much she buys him a pig instead - with the idea that eventually they will eat the pig. However, as time goes on, Vania has other ideas. A great story for family moviegoing. And a poster that says it all.













A poster for a film entitled, 'Sangamithra'. A so-called Tollywood film, which are Indian films released in the Telugu or Bengali language, for which there is a current trend within India. Poster is emoji of stylized happy face.










A horror film by Michael O'Shea tells the story of Milo, a teenager who believes himself to be a vampire - although there is doubt that he is one other than in his own mind.

Milo, kills and drinks blood but beyond that he is normal - can walk in the sun, eat garlic, but can't turn into a bat. The story progresses from there. No since giving out the end. This poster depicts Milo and his sinister shadow.











First released in 1982, 'The Last Horror Film' made a comeback at Cannes this year - but as expected did not get any traction. However, this film has become semi-cult.

The story centers around a 'fanatic' who is obsessed with a starlet who is promoting a movie at the Cannes festival. A great-stalker film where the bad guy leaves lots of carnage in his wake, 'The Last Horror Film' is a good view.  The poster says it all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hollywood Up For Ransom

It's not just State secrets and industrial espionage but hacking has become a big business for entertainment content.  This past Monday, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney Corporation dropped a bombshell when he informed his senior staff, at their weekly meeting, that a copy of the new 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead  Men Tell No Tales' had been hacked and stolen.

Although Iger made no mention of the amount, he did say that the hackers were "asking for a large bitcoin payment to keep the movie under wraps."  The hackers threatened to release the entire film in five minute snippets if payment was not forthcoming. For his part, Iger vowed that Disney would never pay ransom for any stolen content.

This hacking  episode is very similar to the recent leak of Netflix's 'Orange Is The New Black' series.  In that case, hackers had breached the security of a Hollywood  post-production facility that Netflix uses for its original content.  The hackers targeted Netflix with ransom demands which were denied. Subsequently, ten new and unreleased episodes of the series were released on 'Pirate Bay', an on-line bit-torrent site.

Entertainment content hacking and ransom is fast becoming the new means for making lots of money illegally. It appears to be easily accomplished and the culprits can't suffer any consequences given that they are, most likely, offshore in different countries.

How many hacks have there been is unknown. In many cases, unlike Disney and Netflix, the hackers have been paid and the victims never reveal the crime for fear they may not be used for future business.

CMG believes entertainment content hacking and ransom will become more prevalent as there appears to be no way to prevent it. Self-named, 'TheDarkLord', hacker(s) have thus far not extorted any money from Disney or Netflix but the press TheDarkLord is getting could help it in the future especially against smaller firms which would not want their clients to know they have been hacked.

TheDarkLord also targets other industries. For example, just last week they hacked three major healthcare companies and released data on thousands of medical patients.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The End of Paid TV

Cable TV is dying and this time it's for real. Consumers have finally realized that they don't need 200+ channels - most of which they never view.  Now, only content on-line streamers, such as Hulu, which offers 30+ TV channels for only $40 per month, are needed to satisfy the average TV watcher.
Cable TV going the way of the dinosaur 

With over 6 million TV cable/satellite users which have "cut their cable" since 2014 the numbers are now to big to ignore and cable company stocks have suffered big time as pay TV's best days are probably behind it.

Cable TV is going the way of the dinosaurs and no longer can cable or satellite providers relie on 'big bundle' services with associated 'big' fees.  Netflix streams 250 million hours of content per day, while YouTube users consume 1 billion hours of content on a daily basis. To counter this, cable TV operators are beginning to offer 'skinny' bundles of service for less money, but it is too little too late.

More and more consumers feel they don't need cable TV to satisfy there home entertainment demands and are totally fine with on-line subscription services which are becoming more TV-like each day.

On-line heavy weights Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple are all on board with offering first-rate content, as is Netflix.  Hulu and YouTube are but two others offering TV rebroadcasts and original content as well. Apple sees the downfall of pay TV as its gain, "Where cord-cutting has been happening on some kind of basis, we think it's accelerating massively.  The trajectory is under debate, but we are going to play in this space", stated Tim Cook, Apple CEO.

CMG agrees - it's only a matter of time before cable and satellite TV operators drastically change their business models to survive.  You are going to see much smaller monthly cable bills, fewer, but viewer selected, channels, and many more cord cutters.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The 'SCOOP' by Seymour Flix


Gold Star Wars Mask

A Darth Vader mask made out of 24k gold can be yours for a mere $1.4m. The mask, designed by Ginza Tanaka Jewelery, is 10"w x 11.8" h and weighs 33 lbs. Although not wearable the mask is expected to be sold quickly.

Beer-to-Film

The non-profit group 'Women In Film', now in its 32rd year, is accepting applications for grants - with 8-12 grants being awarded this year several valued at $100,000.

For the first time, Stella Artois, the beer company, will be providing funding for four $25,000 grants. WIF provides grants for films by and/or about women across a wide-range of movie genre - from dramas to documentaries.  This year, strangely, emphasis will be placed on films whose central theme is about water conservation -the perfect match for Stella. The combination addresses its commitment to both social action and gender equality - a two birds with one stone concept. Sounds a bit suspicious.

WIF  grant applications will be accepted through June 30, with recipients announced in November.

Pope's Movie
Pope with Film's Director Rodriguez


Pope Francis's new film, 'Beyond The Sun', will make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Pope Francis, who appears as himself in the movie, requested that the film be a movie for children that communicates Jesus's spiritual message. This will be the first time a Pope has appeared in a feature film. The film was written and directed by Graciela Rodriguez.

All proceeds of the film are being donated to two Argentinian charities, El Almendra and Los Hogares de Cristo, which provide aid to at-risk children and young adults. The film was financed and produced by Ambi Pictures. 

The Cannes festivities kick-off on May 17th.

Best,
Seymour


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Changing Blockbuster

Action Movie Genre Is Changing
In the last post to CMG I discussed why TV is still not good enough for movie viewing.  The studios are aware of this, so to maintain the upper-hand, made for cinema movies are the way forward. Hollywood must continue to dial-up the action blockbusters which are the core of the global box-office.

Movie audiences today represent the hardest critics ever.  Today's moviegoers know exactly what they want and what they expect and those movies that do not meet expectations face a very difficult time at the box-office.

Today's moviegoer is very savvy.  There is very little in movies that hasn't been done before, so film-makers have to be very creative and inventive.  The high-impact, action movie of today, which dominate the box-office, represents a genre where repetition and sameness will not be tolerated.  So, the current game for scriptwriters and directors is to ramp-up the genre to prevent boredom.
For example, the Fast and Furious franchise's latest episode, 'The Fate of the Furious', which as now grossed over $1b globally, needed not only over-the-top action and special effects (which everyone expected) but the inclusion of an A-lister (in this case Charlize Theron) to play the ultra-baddie. Also, adding new twists to the storyline, such as the idea of hacking the electronics of self-drive cars and turning them into lethal weapons added drama by using a new product concept and adding a 'what if' scenario for the viewer.

There is no doubt that the action scenes in movies are more graphic and in-your-face and there is no apology for the hard 'R' ratings these movies earn.

The new Hollywood action movie is a genre in flux. High-impact, action movies are becoming a mix of special effects, stunts, narrative, and personalities in a blend that audiences relish.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

TV - Still Not Good Enough For Movies

The tech pushing home entertainment has exploded over the past five years - but the TV still can't compete against movie theaters. TVs equipped with 4k, HDR, 3D, and direct streaming are still not the best way to view movies.

Making a movie today is all about time and money - and the more you have of each the better the movie gets for playback at the cinema. Today's special effects are far superior than those just five years ago and they are advancing in realism each day - but, it's also the 'look' of a cinema movie.  TV images have gotten very sharp and the color resolution very distinct, perhaps too sharp vs. the slight fuzziness of an on-screen cinema image. This has reached a point where TV show producers and directors are requesting that made-for-TV content use a 'film filter' when shooting, thus imitating the 'look' of a cinema movie.

This gets us back to the issue of movie distribution timing.  If you release a movie within a short period of time to streaming or pay-per-view (or worse, day-and-date release) you run the risk of losing the magic of cinema movie viewing - especially for big budget blockbusters which should be viewed at a cinema before any other medium because that's where it 'looks' best.

TV is still not good enough for movies and perhaps never will be.

Just saying,
Jim

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Clash of the Titans: Apple and Disney To Merge?

First there were rumors that Disney was looking to buy Netflix. Now the scuttlebutt is that Apple may buy Disney.

In what would be a mega-deal costing Apple upwards of $230 billion, the purchase is not that far-fetched and would result in a tech-entertainment giant valued at over $1 trillion.

Apple and Disney have had a close relationship ever since Apple sold Pixar to Disney. Steve Jobs sat on Disney's Board of Directors and was the largest shareholder of Disney stock. Upon his death, his wife, Laurene Jobs, took over his board seat.  Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, sits on Apple's Board. So, it's already one cozy, comfy relationship.

The combination of Apple/Disney makes sense. First, it would create an instant competitor to the content streamers, particularly Netflix and Amazon. Second, there would be a solid link between Apple tech and Disney theme parks, and third, there would be instant global streaming for ESPN sports content (both live and recorded). Disney needs Apple's distribution - Apple needs Disney's content. Apple had been in talks with Time-Warner right before AT&T launched their $85 billion bid for TW. and backed out. But for Apple, Disney merger would be far better.

Apple is waiting for the Trump administration to lower the corporate tax rates so as to be able to repatriate offshore cash which could be used to fund the Disney purchase. As it stands, Apple has approximately $225 billion in cash sitting in overseas accounts. Wall Street analysts say that an Apple/Disney combo would be accretive - increasing the earning per share of the combined entity by 15-20%.

CMG believes that mega-mergers in the media/tech space are going to be the norm for awhile.  Tech needs content and the major studios need distribution. It's quite simple really.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Getting High On Pot Programming

PROHBTD Media, draws about 1 million visitors to its on-line cannabis inspired channel each day, and says that its programming is geared toward a mainstream audience.
Snoop & Martha on set of 'Pot Luck Dinner'

Launched in 2015, PROHBTD has a number of original content shows and is zeroing-in on getting emerging talent to do scripted and unscripted content.  Programming has a comedic bent and is sourced from all over the world. For example, an original show called 'Spanish Supper' is filmed in Barcelona and features a different weed-infused menu and stoned chef for each episode. Another show, entitled 'Edibles' is very popular, as is 'Braized & Confused' , a food and travel series.

Drake Sutton-Shearer, co-founder of PROHBTD told CMG, "In the short-term our goal is to create original content, both serious and humorous, with new talent and build around that talent, as did the Food Network. We want to build a dedicated audience so that PROHBTD will be seen 24/7 by a global audience."

Pot Programming-A Hit
Cannabis focused programming is big on the web. A channel called 'Merry Jane', co-founded by rapper Snoop Dogg, focuses on editorial content and the business and politics of pot.  'Merry Jane' produces original content for themselves and other networks, such as MTV and VH1. producing such shows as 'Martha & Snoop's Pot Luck Dinner' featuring Martha Stewart.

It is hard to gauge the future of cannabis-branded entertainment but so far there appears to be a stable and growing audience. 'Merry Jane', for example, has put considerable effort into reaching out to the professional sports community. Its 'Cannabis in Professional Sports' that aired during this year's Super Bowl highlighted the benefits of cannabis use among NFL players - was a huge success. 'Merry Jane's' claim being that pot helps with pain relief and training and is much safer than opiates and other prescription medications.

We think both PROHBTD and Merry Jane are on to something and may be toking their way to higher things.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The SCOOP by Seymour Flix


Another Worry For Cinemas
Big Switch by Biggest Cable Operator


Comcast, the largest cable TV operator in the world that also happens to own NBC, Universal Pictures, a big slice of MGM studios and a slew of other media outlets and networks, plans to roll-out a new TV cable service in the U.S.

To be re-branded as a 'skinny bundle' the stripped-down cable package will start at $15/month which would include all of the major broadcast networks and HBO.  For $40 they'll throw in ESPN and children's programming.

Available only to Comcast broadband subscribers with no set-top box requirement this is a huge step in the cable business revenue model. Comcast's objective isn't all altruistic in that it wants to lower cable subscribers' monthly cable bill in an effort to make it easier (less expensive) for subscribers to buy more premium pay TV offering.

The 'skinny bundle' pricing concept has been extensively tested by Comcast in the Boston and Chicago markets and its new revenue scheme has had positive results - with major increases in premium pay-per-view buys more than off-setting the loss in cable subscription revenue.

This is good news for all cable subscribers as other cable operators will have to follow Comcast's lead. Unfortunately, once again, cinemas have to take note. This is another move to get eyeballs away for both cinemas and internet streamers, such as Netflix and Amazon.

Oscar's New Rules


Last week, with little fanfare, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced two major rule changes for those questing an Oscar.

First, all documentary films that are released as a series or mini-series, for example, last year's Oscar winner 'O.J. Made in America', would no longer be eligible for an Oscar. This puts a real crimp in many of the projects being made by Netflix, Amazon, and other Hollywood usurpers.

Second, nomination in the 'Animated Feature' category will now be open to anyone in the Academy willing to join a nominating committee. This is a huge switch from all the other movie categories whereby members of the separate branches are charged with determining nominations. The Hollywood studios lobbied hard for this change as they felt the animation committee favored the smaller indie producers, which have, of late, dominated the category.

Best,
Seymour Flix


  

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Cinema - An Expose'

What is the cinema's future? And who is going to lead the major studios in this era of the changing Hollywood business model?  Yes, the box office has grown year-after-year in the U.S. and globally but, if you pull back the curtain, the view is that of an industry under siege.

Paramount, Sony, and Fox all removed or replaced their top executives last year.  Warner Bros., Disney, and Lionsgate also had shake-ups in high management positions. Yes, consumers are still going to the cinema but less often, instead staying at home to view premium TV, stream media, or play video games.

To be fair, the cinema has survived other periods of technological upheaval and disruption - the end of silent movies, the introduction of television, the invention of the VHS tape, the VCR, and DVDs. Yet, all of these cinema killers proved to be victims themselves while the cinema survived. Now, emerging digital platforms and mobile technology are fostering new anxiety regarding the life of the silver screen. It is only blockbusters and franchise films coupled with higher admission pricing  that has kept the cinema in the black as admissions remain static.

The job of managing a major Hollywood studio has become very difficult. For example, last year only Disney made any real money. According to Cowen Co. an entertainment consulting group, total profits for the seven major studios declined by 15% or $700m vs. 2015. Paramount lost $445m and Sony took a $1b write-down on its movie business.  According to Cowen the problem is audience behavior - people are going to the cinema less frequently, and when going, they all go to see the same movies.

Today, for a film to be successful it must have a global audience. It must have over-the-top visuals and  totally engaging sound. This type of movie is not only expensive to make but to market. Studios routinely spend $120-150m to market a potential blockbuster.  When these high-cost movies flop, the studio heads feel the pain. Hollywood releases lots of what I call 'marquee fodder' or to phrase it differently, 'get-around-to-movies' - those movies that people don't get around to watching until its on home pay-per-view or one of the movie streaming services.

To make matters worse, the studios have lost a great portion of DVD sales - which have declined by 50% over the last 10 years. This shrinking home video market has forced the major studios to reassess movie distribution to an on-demand generation. Pushing studios to rethink the theatrical release window timetable.

Not all is bad and scary for the movie business. Admissions, while static, are constant and people still enjoy going to their local cinema - if it is comfortable, clean, and its on-screen presentation first-rate. For their part, the studios have only to look at Disney, which has bet, big-time, on its brands - Marvel, Pixar, and LucasFilms - and got huge payoff.

The cinema will survive the current onslaught but it will be different. Much more customer-centric and much more inclusive in the content it screens. Cinemas must use the latest image and sound technologies and lure moviegoers with showmanship and inclusiveness.




Monday, April 03, 2017

MasterClass - Great Cinema Alternative Content

Internet training courses, to my knowledge, have not been 'sold' at cinemas. However, that opportunity may be possible with MasterClass. MasterClass is an educational platform that offers affordable online courses. Each class is 2-5 hours long but can be split into two or more sessions.

MasterClass offers courses starring celebrities and other known professionals. With 16 courses now on its roster, MasterClass plans on doubling that number in 2017.  The current courses include: Acting w/ Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, Film-making w/Werner Herzog, Screenwriting w/Aaron Sorkin, Cooking w/Gordon Ramsey, Singing w/Christina Aquilera, Country Music w/Reba McEntire, and Tennis w/Serena Williams. These on-line courses cost $90 to view.

CEO and co-founder of MasterClass, David Rogien tole CMG, "Its been greatly received, much better then our expectations. We're delivering on our mission to provide knowledge from the world's great Masters to everyone."

From CMG's perspective MasterClass offers a great opportunity for cinemas, especially smaller, independent exhibitors. Although available on the internet, the camaraderie of viewing and discussing the courses with others is a clear benefit and a cinema is the perfect venue. MasterClass is the exact revenue enhancer a cinema could benefit from.

Cinemas should contact MasterClass to see if a financial arrangement can be worked-out. www.support@masterclass.com or 855-981-8208.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cinemacon 2017 - What I Learned

Disney Played It Close To The Vest


Coming off its roughly $7b box office take of 2016, Disney played it very safe in previewing its 2017 roster of movies. It gave attending movie exhibitors at CinemaCon a very short, sneak-peek of its upcoming films that lasted only 12 minutes!

The major studios attend Cinemacon, the movie exhibition industry's annual back-slap, to showcase their upcoming, big-screen product with trailers, A-listers, and full-length previews - but not Disney.

This year, Disney's dog-and-pony was a recap of 2016, referencing its unrivaled box office performance and renewing its commitment to producing a few big blockbusters from its Marvel and LucanFilm offspring, coupled with product from its in-house animation arm and Pixar.

Disney's goal is, "To deliberately engage audiences with branded product from the greatest storytellers alive. We give audiences what they want", Dave Hollis, Disney Distribution Head, told the Cinemacon attendees.

Exhibition 'Biggies' - Is That The Way To Go?


Of the top 35 global movie theater chains only four are U.S. circuits. Boxoffice Magazine compiled the ranking and it was hands down dominated by China, with 19 of the top 35 spots.

For the U.S.:
 - Regal Entertainment Group, ranked 2nd in size globally with 7,310 screens (all located in the U.S.).
 - CineMark ranked 4th with 4,542 screens but unlike Regal has cinemas in not only 41 U.S. States but in 15 Latin American countries.
 - National Amusements earned the 26th slot with 924 screens.
 - Marcus Theaters at 29th with 875 screens.

And that was it for the U.S.. China's Wanda Group was 1st with 14,040 screens spread across China, Europe, and the U.S. Beijing New Film Association took the 35th slot with 655 screens. Now, one may think that this ranking by screen count is bad for the U.S. but it isn't, in fact, it bodes well for the U.S. Think about it.

The top four largest U.S. circuits represent only 13,651 screens out of a total U.S. screen count of about 42,000. Meaning that the smaller cinema circuits and independent theater operators are well represented and point to a robust and very diverse cinema exhibition industry.  This is good news for the U.S. moviegoer. Unlike China, where it's all about big chains screening big box office bruisers, U.S. exhibitors offer-up independent films, documentaries, art house fare, alternative content, film fest entries, retrospectives, and yes,the big bruisers. Go U.S. exhibitors.

New Tech for Cinemas
QSC's DPA-Q Amps come in 4 and 8 channels


CinemaCon's trade show and product demonstration suites showcased cinema sound. Power amplifiers were the big news. The 2 channel amp for cinema sound is going the way of the DVD player, replaced by multi-channel amps boasting 4, 8,24, and even 32 channels.  Cinemas are entering a new era in sound. Sound which cannot be replicated in the home.  Spurred on by the Dolby Atmos system the days of the 5.1  and 7.1 channel cinema sound systems will become extinct.

QSC Audio, now QSC Cinema, recently purchased Ultra Stereo Labs.  This is a prudent and wise move for QSC as it broadens its product line with a brand that is well known in the cinema industry for manufacturing excellent and useful products of high technical quality.

Also very noticable was the large number of seating manufacturers all pushing plush auto-recliners. Again, the idea is to make movie-going a unique sight and sound experience coupled with comfort food and seating. Retrofitting existing auditoriums with new comfy recliners lowers seat count but the trade-off in customer satisfaction is well worth it, as is the expense.

All the best,
Jim






Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cannes 70th

I always look forward to the official poster the Cannes Festival puts out - they are, by far, the best graphics of any festival.

Celebrating its 70th year, the 2017 poster is a standout.  It is a 1959 photo of a dancing Claudia Cardinale against a stunning red backdrop with gold lettering and highlights. The poster makes a great statement and puts forth an image of a vibrant and modern event but one rooted in history.

The 12 day Festival will run from May 17-28.

The list of Award nominees has not yet been issued but the Cannes roster of films is usually a blend of the exotic and commercial spiced-up with the political and controversial. We look forward to selecting our favorite Cannes movie posters which has become a CMG annual to do.

Monday, March 27, 2017

In Cinemas and On-Demand

It is Monday morning.  I'm packing for the trip to Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. This year will be most interesting as the battle for day-and-date movie releases is really starting to ramp-up.

Several of the majors, led by Universal (owned by Comcast) and Warner Bros. are pushing hard to shorten the exclusive theatrical release window that movie exhibitors now have. Their opening proposal was for cinemas to have exclusive screening rights for 7 days, after-which the movie would be made available via on-demand streaming for $50 - a portion of which would be shared with the exhibitors.  This option was DOA with the exhibitors and the other major studios thought the $50 fee was too high.

Next, Fox and Warner Bros. proposed making films available between 30 - 45 days after debut, but at a  $30 rental fee. At $30, the studios feel consumers wouldn't cringe at the price. Universal (which is the most aggressive of the studios) doesn't like the 30-45 day rule and wants the time to be, at most, 20 days.

For years, CMG has asserted that it was only a matter of time before movies would be made available day-and-date across all platforms so it should come as no surprise to exhibitors what the studios are proposing.  The studios are searching for ways to replace their lost DVD sales to internet streamers Netflix and Amazon - but this is a losing battle for them.  We are in the throngs of a massive change in the way consumers obtain their entertainment.  People want to be able to access content whenever they want, on whichever device they choose. Sitting home and watching a film for a one-time charge of $30 or $50 is not satisfying that need.

For their part, Lionsgate, Paramount, and Sony have been in discussion with the major U.S. cinema circuits on a new proposal. Disney, standing alone, has no interest in shortening the release window because their films tend to have long runs in cinemas and are of the size and scope that exhibit really well at cinemas with their large screens with big sound.

Under current Federal Anti-trust Law, the studios cannot negotiate (collude) together on a release window proposal.  They have to negotiate and reach agreement with each participating exhibitor.
So, no deal is imminent. Exhibitors are particularly concerned that movies are offered to consumers too early and at too low a price prodding them to stop visiting their local cinema.

Exhibitors are firm on one point. They want to be assured the studios agree to keep the release window for lesser films (non-blockbusters) at 90 days and that the current model of distribution be kept in place for between five to ten years.

Given the fact that at some point movies will be released day-and-date, and not be beat a dead horse, but exhibitors must, must have their movie presentations in top-order and use showmanship in connecting to the local community, selling concession, and promoting films. It's the only way they will survive.

All the best,
Jim





Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cinema Stats For 2016

I know we are well into 2017 but a quick look-back to last year's box office performance is worth a glance.

The global box office reached $38.6b in 2016, with the U.S. and Canada's share totaling $11.4b. The number of screens rose 8% to 164,000 worldwide - due entirely to growth in Asia.

Admissions were 1.32b in the U.S. and represented 246m people who purchased a movie ticket. Frequent moviegoers (those that visit the cinema one or more times per month) accounted for 48% of ticket sales.  This group, coincidental, owns more electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles) than any other group.

The number of films released in the U.S. totalled 718, 579 of which were released by independent filmmakers. 3D films generated $1.6b representing 14% of the total box office. The average ticket price was $8.65 up 22 cents or 3% over 2015.  For a family of four the average price of admission was $34.60, which compares very favorably with other forms of group entertainment. For example, admission to a theme park would have averaged $233, a major league baseball game - $124, an NFL game - $372.

Demographically, Hispanics had the highest level of movie attendance as a group, purchasing 21% of all admissions while only 18% of the population. Women attended the movies more than men, with 52% of ticket sales. The 25-39 age group purchased the most tickets with 23% of all admissions.

For 2016, the top grossing 25 films accounted for, a huge, 52% of the total box office - with the top 5 films grossing 18% of the total.

In summary, 2016 was a static year for the U.S. cinema industry. Growth came exclusively from foreign markets, principally the Asia/Pacific region and Hollywood continues to base its survival on but a few blockbuster films. This trend will continue into the future and competition from home theater and mobile devices will intensify.

Data per the Motion Picture Association of America 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

The SCOOP by Seymour Flix

FilmOn Gets Hammered By 9th Circuit Court

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected FilmOn's concept of streaming broadcast TV and movies over the internet free from paying for the content but charging a user subscription fee.

FilmOn argued that it should be allowed to stream broadcasted content free or for a nominal fee under an exception to the Copyright Act of 1976 - the 9th Court didn't buy it.

The three judge panel ruled that Congress did not envision that the exception to the statute would apply to internet-based distribution and reinstated a copyright claim against FilmOn overturning a lower court ruling.

The plaintiffs in the case: Fox, NBC, CBS, and Disney were very relieved.  The Court had deferred to the U.S. Copyright Office, which has consistently found that "internet-based services do not qualify as cable systems under the law".  Therefore, FilmOn can not distribute TV or movie content without permission from and full payment to the content owners.

FilmOn currently streams licensed content which it will not be able to do going forward.  This essentially puts FilmOn out of business. To counter, FilmOn issued a statement saying it would continue two similar cases one currently before the D.C. Court of Appeals and another before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. If losing in these cases, it intends to appeal to the Supreme Court.

CMG believes this is a losing battle for FilmOn as their actions essentially boarder on content piracy. It will lose in both the D.C. and 7th Circuit and if they do go to the Supreme Count the case will not be heard and the three Appeals Court rulings will stand.

Netflix's Quest for Day-and-Date Distribution with Theaters
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings


According to Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, "movie theaters haven't innovated beyond popcorn in the last 30 years." In an interview at the company headquarters in Gatos, CA. this past Tuesday, Hastings didn't mince words regarding the "cinema's need for a new distribution model that could do for movies what cable networks and online services have done for TV shows. Netflix wants to unleash films. It's about growing the movie business."

He pushed back on the idea that Netflix's goal is to bypass the theaters' exclusive release window for new movies and stated Netflix has struck a deal with iPic Entertainment, the small, exclusive dinner theater chain that will screen Netflix produced films day-and-date with their online release.

This does two things for Netflix: first, they enjoy their day-and-date movie release and second, those films can now qualify for Academy and other awards' consideration.  So, their tie-in with iPic is a win-win for Netflix.  iPic, for their part, is pissed-off at the major studios and large cinema circuits because they say they are shut-out of screening the openings of first-run movies, particularly block-busters, because of collusion between the studios and large chains (CMG has previously reported on this non-compete practice and it is true).

CMG believes, and has stated for years, that eventually all content will be available on a day-and-date release basis. Netflix's deal with iPic is just the beginning.0


Best,
Seymour Flix

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fandango's FanShop: A Bit Too Late

As it looses its grip on the movie ticketing service, Fandango is searching for new ways to keep its game. Facing competition from both the major theater chains (which now boast their own sophisticated on-line ticketing and concession services) and from upstarts like Atom Ticketing and others, Fandango is scrambling. One way Fandango believes it can make up for lost ticket sales is to market movie related products such as T-shirts, posters, and other paraphernalia through a newly launched e-commerce site called the FanShop.

The problem with FanShop, is that it is going against giants in the e-commerce space, notably Amazon and Walmart, which both sell film-based swag of all sorts. CMG believes that although Fandango intends to differentiate FanShop from others in the retail space, by offering unique products and services, it is a losing endeavor.

Fandango has been trying to bolster it ticket sales business by transforming itself into a hipper, edgier entity catering to a younger consumer. Last year it purchased Rotten Tomatoes, the movie rating service, Flixster, a social media and ad site for "all things movie", and Movieclip, the YouTube movie channel.  These are all nice on-line sites but are a bit yesterday. Rotten Tomatoes has been around since ever, Flixster has uber-competition, and Movieclip, well, join the crowd.

FanShop's core products will be apparel and collectibles (no great shakes) but it will also be marketing special celebrity meet-and greets and movie premiere events. Now, these services would place FanShop in a unique space - but these specialized services must be executed precisely and efficiently. Geared for the rabid fan who is willing to spend the requisite bucks for a personal meet with their favorite celeb or for those movie fans wanting to attend a debut screening - there is a new, and developing market for these services. But, is there enough demand to turn these services into big-dollar generators?

CMG believes Fandango has no choice but to expand is services to the moviegoer/consumer but it is in a long-term losing battle. It's on-line ticketing business is being hammered, movie apparel and collectibles are everywhere, entertainment-based social media sites are ubiquitous, and all moviegoers are instant film critics to their friends, family, and acquaintances.

Just saying,
Jim