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Monday, April 06, 2020

Is The Internet Up to the Task?

One of the overlooked benefits to cinemas is that the internet does have capacity limits and it may be reaching those limits now!

Data use is up 27% amid social distancing and there is growing concern from the ISPs that the 'broadband pipe' and infrastructure is reaching full capacity. U.S. homes usage of the internet rose to 6.3 gigabytes or 41.4% in January alone.

Is this going to be the 'new' normal as more and more people stay at home for remote office work and virtual schooling instead of going to coffee houses, bars, restaurants, and other social events, opting for streaming hi-def and 4k video instead.

Netflix, the premier user of the web-pipe, expects streaming usage to be up 61% during February. While Facebook doubled its server capacity over the last two months to power its messaging applications as users placed more voice and video calls on its platform.

There is now widespread concern by Regulators in the U.S. and Europe that social distancing will "break" the internet. The European Commission on Internal Market and Services has already requested that Netflix stream its content in standard vs. 4k HD format. Netflix did agree to reduce its streaming bitrate (for the time being) lowering its usage by 25%.

"This is going to be an enormous stress test for our communications networks," stated Blair Levin of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The FCC gave Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular access to the 600 Megahertz spectrum through April, providing extra wireless capacity for data connections.

There is heavy reliance that the ISPs will be up to the task in providing for the huge increase in usage?  CMG doesn't think it is.

I'm sure you've already experienced slower logins, longer data retrieval times, reduced availability of 4K/Ultra HD video streams, and more frequent 'come back later' notifications - all to the benefit of movie theaters. It is becoming very apparent that going to the cinema is really the only way to view a film in high def with great sound.

This unexpected problem of internet capability and capacity is only going to get worse and as it does it provides opportunity for movie theaters.

Note: I had several infographics for this post but Google couldn't connect blogspot to my PC - requested I 'come back later' - it's already started.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Bernie? "I hardly knew Him"

"Bernie WHO? I hardly knew the guy." This is what's being said throughout t Hollywood, Belair, and Beverly Hills today.
Weinstein as he left court upon sentencing of 23 years.

From the top of the Hollywood heap to the rank dampness of Rikers Island that's how far Bernie Weinstein has fallen. And Bernie will be rising damp for the next 23 years.

Sentenced in New York State Superior Court today by Judge James Burke, a jury had previously convicted Weinstein of one count of sexual criminal assault and one count of 3rd degree rape.

Although his defense pointed out to Judge Burke all of Bernie's charitable works, his age (67) and poor health it all fell on deaf-ears. as the Court imposed the 23 year (basically, life) sentence. Weinstein's legal woes; however, are not over. He still has to appear in Los Angeles where he is facing 5 more counts of criminal sexual charges.

CMG believes that this may be the end of the 'casting couch' by moguls in the film industry - as the price to be paid is too great and the #metoomovement is not over.

Jim Lavorato


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Finally The Verdict: Weinstein 'Busted'

Is the casting couch dead?
CMG has been following the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault lawsuit for several years. We watched as Harvey finagled and postponed the process every way he could - changing his law team three times, promoting health issues and a heart condition to gain more time and jury sympathy, and contending that all charges against him were false as all of the sexual acts were consensual.

Finally, all of the legal maneuvers and court manipulations ended on Monday when Harvey was convicted on two of four indictments in a NYC court. The first count carries 5 years while the second (3rd degree rape) up to 24 years, his sentencing will be next month. As one would have expected, right after his conviction, Harvey complained of chest pains and was sent directly to the Rikers Island Prison hospital.

After his sentencing in New York, Harvey will be extradited to Los Angeles where he faces five more counts of sexual harassment and assault.  Old Harv could wind-up with over 175 years, if convicted. After Monday's sentencing Weinstein's attorneys made a statement that their client "took it like a man" and "was completely shocked by the verdict".

The #metoomovement was the force behind Weinstein's conviction and we may well be witnessing the end of the Hollywood 'casting couch'.

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What Do Viewers Want

Bold and binge-friendly 'cinematic-look' content that is edgy and gripping - these are the new criteria consumers are looking for and producers striving for in content delivery. Content must be smart, well-written, and perfectly executed. The content game is upping the ante every day for writers and directors.

While broadcast and basic cable must still answer to advertisers who may be unhappy about risque' content, it's clear provocative content is becoming the norm throughout the entire spectrum from cinema to regular broadcast.

 X Football League : Getting the viewer involved.
The entertainment landscape is changing. It is getting wider, deeper, and much more competitive. Players in the arena range from Verizon to Twitch and everything in-between. From movies to eSports it's all about getting consumers to watch, and (now) participate in (ie. the new XFL U.S. football league) and become engaged with.

Tiered admission pricing must be given great consideration!

Cinema has been entertaining the 'masses' for over 100 years and I see no end in sight for this 'viewing' venue. With the tsunami of content being produced there is no shortage of product for 'cinematic' viewing. The trick is that cinema exhibitors must embrace a wider variety of content sources and choose which best 'fits' their local audience. Screening movies from a handful of Hollywood studios will spell doom for movie exhibitors. They must partner-up with ALL of the content providers in the expanding entertainment landscape.

Additionally, the issue of tiered admission pricing based upon the movie must be given great consideration. Charging different admissions for different movies is a sound one with lots of retail marketplace precedent, and which fits in perfectly with the offering of a wide variety of content from various sources.

For cinema exhibition to remain viable and profitable operational change is required. 

Jim Lavorato, President, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Academy Museum: Sort of Opened

It is only fitting that I write a follow-up on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on the day of the 2020 Oscar presentations.

Museum as it now stands.

Located at the junction of Wilshire and Fairfax Boulevards in L.A., I've been following the progress of the Museum for several years, highlighting one issue after another that postponed its opening - not the least of which was a funding shortfall of several hundred million dollars. Finally, on Friday, it was opened for a press tour - no official opening has been announced.

Just six months ago, construction was halted and plans redrawn to make the facility smaller due to a lack of funding. A campaign to raise the "new" budget requirement of $388m to complete the 'downsized' project was met as $368m was received in pledges and cash.

Construction on the Museum began in October of 2015 and was originally  scheduled to open by the end of 2016. Fast forward to 2020 and five years later it is scheduled to open by year's end.

 The Museum will feature a 1600 seat auditorium where 35mm, 70mm, and digital films will be screened. A smaller 288 seat aud will also screen content and run exhibit features on the history of the cinema. The Museum's main feature is a large, death-star shaped atrium/lobby, ample exhibition spaces, a restaurant, and retail space are also included.. Admission pricing has not been announced.

Jim Lavorato, Founder 4M Performance

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

#OscarsSoWhite : How'd That Work Out

Oh, how soon they forget. Remember the big movement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to 'diversify the Oscars' because they were too white, too straight, and too white-man dominated.

The Academy confronted its lack of diversity by adding thousands of new members of color, female,  and bringing in hundreds of filmmakers hailing from outside the U.S. - that was 2019.

Enter 2020. Diversity is hard to find at the Oscars. Of the 20 acting nominations, only one is a person of color. So even with thousands of new 'diverse' voting members  we're back to square one as these new members didn't vote based on diversity but on merit - as is should be.

There are two disruptive trends going in the movie business:

First, that there is a tremendous amount of production going on with both the studios and the streamers pumping out content like there is no tomorrow.

Second, it is getting less and less costly to produce a feature film. All that is required is a decent script, a bit of grit, and an iPhone.

2019 was the hallmark of the low-budget indie film. Whether this is sustainable is anyone's guess. It appears that the digital effects-packed films garner the majority of  cinema admissions. This all forces the award-givers, like the Academy, into a quandary: embrace inclusion or go for engaging entertainment?

One man's disruption is another's breakthrough. The tide is turning back to the relevant vs. the must-dos. The social cause makes for poorly viewed content. Most thinking folks are aware of the social and environmental issues and they don't need constant reminding. What they seek is high-quality, engaging entertainment.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Movie Theaters Will Survive

Movie theaters have fought and survived the introduction of the TV and the DVD.  It is now under siege by online content streaming. This current battle may well be its toughest but in the end will come out the victor - here's why. 

The End of Cable TV

Cable TV operators know their future lies in providing the internet pipe and all the benefits it will gain as 5G becomes the norm. Consumers have been cable-cutting for some time as they move to the internet for all of their in-house and mobile entertainment viewing (some 6.2 million are expected to cable-cut in 2020).

This year is pivotal, as subscription service providers (Netflix, Disney, Hulu,  CBS, Amazon, and all the others) will need to outlay billions on new content, placing a great strain profits. This will necessitate that advertising be introduced to streaming content to support static subscription fees.

Additionally, cable TV operators have begun to embrace streaming on their own by aggregating content. Comcast, for example, added Netflix and Hulu, to its 'XI' pay TV platform and recently launched FLEX, a free service for broadband only subscribers. that bundles free streaming apps with high-speed internet access.

Pressure to control costs is driving two significant trends: globalization of content and advertising becoming a permanent part of the streaming content viewing experience.

Adding Ads to Streamed Content
The subscription service universe is becoming very crowded.

TV remains the most efficient and best way to get a message out quickly to large audiences.  However, TV ad load is declining as advertising moves to social media and streamers - which is expected to reach $25 billion by 2024 with $17 billion of that going to subscription based platforms.

Consumers clearly like the choices offered by the streaming world but surveys have shown that 42% of those 18-49 are finding that managing the complexity of all their online subscriptions presents a problem and they are not willing to spend huge sums on these services. Therefore, streamers are experiencing consumer resistance to higher monthly fees and the continued addition of more channels by users.

Content streamers came to market with very aggressive pricing and now are coming to terms with the economic realities of producing content and turning a profit. Pressure to control costs is driving two  significant trends: globalization of content and advertising becoming a permanent part of the streaming content viewing experience.

4M Performance - Coming Soon

Movie Theaters: The Winners

Let's recap.

- The content streaming industry is getting very crowded.
- There will be a lot of inferior content produced as the cost of quality content rises.       
- Streaming subscription fees cannot be raised to cover increasing costs of production
- Consumers are saying they are limiting their subscriptions to $44 per month at 3.6 services.
- Subscription based channels will need to raise revenue through advertising and product placement.
- The broadband service providers have already begun to offer aggregated content packages to offset
    the impact of cable-cutting.

Given all of the above, it is not a stretch to infer that movie theaters will continue to be the venue in which to view the very best, highest quality content in the very best way. And, it is not unwise to believe that the studios see movies as their best way to distinguish themselves as the providers of top quality content.

The cinema will survive the current battle against the streamers and may, quite likely, come out on top as the best place to experience top quality, ad-free content (sans pre-feature ads).

Jim Lavorato, Founder
Entertainment Equipment and 4M Performance

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Cinemas as Wedding Destinations

Saying 'I DOs' at the Alamo Cinema - 'Star Wars' style
Whatever gets butts into seats. Your cinema as wedding chapel.

At least that is what the Alamo Drafthouse movie chain recently did with two 'Star Wars' themed wedding ceremonies at their cinema in Austin, TX.

It seems both couples have viewed 'Star Wars' films over the years at the Alamo - so the thought was to celebrate their fandom and love with an exchange of vows at the cinema.

Certainly not in the cards for most CMG readers, but it did get people into the cinema (which also catered the events). The weddings featured mini Oscar place cards, macaroons instead of cake, and a special screening of  'Spaceballs'.

It appears that Alamo has discovered a new, be it off-beat, revenue stream by being offering wedding planning and related services - including receptions, rehearsal dinners, and post-wedding to-dos.

Whatever it takes,

Jim Lavorato
Founder, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

How Cinemas Survive The Next Decade

 The debate over theatrical release vs. online streaming of films has every player is the entertainment industry choosing sides. CMG, is taking a different tact. 

Online competition is fierce, but cinemas will survive
We believe the theatrical experience of movie viewing is highly desired by consumers and content providers (studios and streamers) alike. Viewing of movies on the silver screen with proper sound and proper scale is a requirement for enjoying great entertainment the way it was meant to be viewed. Yet, for many consumers, the convenience of watching a film on a PC, tablet, or phone is the only way to view it.

So the answer to the debate, from CMG's viewpoint, is that all content providers are needed  as the studios alone can't produce nor finance enough quality content to quench the consumers' thirst for quality entertainment - the Netflixs of the world are needed. There is no logical reason why cinemas can't screen the streamers original content in addition to studio generated films.

Entertainment Equipment
Humans communicate through stories and movies are a great storytelling medium. We need cinemas as the conduit to see what artists have to say about our society, our culture, our world in a provocative and entertaining way.

Cinemas provide the venues for great stories to be told by great artists and it is not only the high-impact action super hero films but all types of films.

This is not an either/or issue it is about providing cinemas with a steady stream of good 'big screen' content of all genres from all sources.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2020 - A New Year or Perfect Vision

2020 - a new year or the benefit of perfect vision, perhaps both, at least in regards to my prognostications.

Trend-predicting is always fun but few get it right; otherwise, everyone in HWD (or for that matter anyone in the film industry) would have bet-the-farm on streaming 15 years ago. But, I am not deterred that easily and I'm going out on the proverbial limb to predict the following for 2020.

- The streaming war will continue. Disney, Apple, AT&T, TCM, and others have entered the fray to dethrone Netflix - more will join them. How many platforms consumers will subscribe to is anyone's guess but we do know cable-cutting in on the rise. 

- Oscar fatigue will continue and the Award Show's audience will continue to shrink. Prediction: the Show will go 'hostless' once again.

- The lion will be gobbled up in 2020. MGM will be sold and at a very high price - don't discount the 'Bond' franchise.

- Disney Plus will introduce original streamed content from Marvel in an effort to lock-in an older demo from the Mouse's animated, ie. younger audience, content.

- The streamers will lock horns with all of the major unions and guilds. Battles with the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild are foregone conclusions. The battles will be over higher compensation and larger piece of the residual pie. Look for mid-year strikes and the streamers and the studios cutting different deals.

- The film studios, sans Disney, will increase production of sequels, reboots, and spinoffs. The day of the one-off film is dead for the time being.

- Entertainers, on all sides of the political spectrum, will be spouting their views regarding the 2020 Presidential election. Fence-sitting will not be an option - it's going to be an all-out donnybrook.

- Baby Yoda and Baby Sharks will dominate the screen for all age levels and all classes.

That's it. Go forth and place your bets.

Jim Lavorato, Founder
Entertainment Equipment Corp.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Film-maker Sues: Has Free Right To Film In Natl' Parks

Gordon Price, an independent film maker, was prosecuted for filming on public lands without a permit and is now counter suing the U.S. Government. The premise of Price's suit is that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to charge fees for commercial filming in national parks. 

The current law states that the Departments of Agriculture and Interior have the right to require a permit and establish reasonable fees for commercial filming activities on Federal lands and violations carry criminal charges.

Price is basing his case on 'free speech' as the permit system is akin to paying a license fee for speaking and the First Amendment to the Constitution does not allow the government to make money by "taxing expressive activities".  Additionally, Price's attorneys are arguing that the permitting and fee process restricts the use of federal lands and is no more harmful than a news report or still photography.

CMG believes that unlike a tourist taking photos or a reporter doing a news story, the filming of a for-profit movie should carry a fee for the use of a National Park setting.  The fees are simply a cost of doing business and the expense incurred in maintaining the Parks. All National Parks charge an admission fee as do most public museums, art galleries, and other cultural sites and venues.
The Agencies managing the Parks are not restricting Price's use of his 'free expression' but he needs to pay-to-play in the Parks.

Nuff said,
Jim Lavorato

Monday, December 09, 2019

Where Have All The Studios Gone? Ex: Disney

Disney is killing-it at the boxoffice. It recently became the first studio in history to surpass the $10 billion worldwide boxoffice, crushing its previous record of $7.6 billion in 2016. Question is: where are the other studios?

Disney's achievement is even more glaring given the final chapter in the 'Stars Wars Skywalker' saga - scheduled to screen on 12/20 - will be another $1billion buster. Also the $10 billion figure doesn't include  "Ford vs. Ferrari' or 'Dark Phoenix' and other titles Disney picked-up with its purchase of the Fox studio - if included the number goes to $11.9 billion.

Additionally, the Mouse-house hit another mile-stone as it had six films breaking the $1 billion mark thus far: 'Avengers:Endgame', 'Aladdin', 'Toy Story 4', 'The Lion King', 'Captain Marvel', and 'Frozen'. 'Star Wars' will make it seven!

Coming in 2020
So, what happens when Disney has an off-year, as it certainly will.  Can the other studios, whose films have essentially seen no-shows at the admission window, pick up the slack? Or will they leave it up to the streamers and view content on mobile devices vs. going to the cinema.

The Disney dominance is not a good omen for cinemas. It's great that they are bringing moviegoers into auditoriums but it's not a sustainable (or healthy) phenomena for the movie distribution or exhibition industries.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato, Founder - Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Netflix Gets Into Exhib Business

Netflix to screen at Paris Theatre
Yesterday, Netflix announced that it inked a deal to lease and operate the Paris Theatre in NYC.  The single screen cinema is one of the country's oldest and Netflix plans to use it to showcase its original content and "other events and screenings". The Paris has been in operation for 71 years - principally screening art and foreign films.

Netflix to screen content at the Egyptian
Netflix has similar plans for the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood - which it is currently in negotiation with.

This blog had urged exhibitors to team with Netflix on screening their content while it streamed the same content day-and-date. Our rational was that some of Netflix's original content was first-rate and would screen very successfully at 'big screen' cinemas - that notion, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.  Now Netflix is going to screen and stream on it own.

Last year, rumors abound that Netflix was in acquisition discussions with Landmark Cinemas, an independent cinema chain with 56 locations; however, Netflix decided it was not interested in managing a movie circuit.

There is still time for exhibs to team-up with Netflix for content. They should view the streamer as just another studio that can supply them great content for their movie patrons.

Jim Lavorato, Founder & President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, November 25, 2019

3rd Party Ticket Sellers Hit The Skids

I've reported that the future of 3rd party movie ticket sellers (ie Fandango) was doom and gloom.
Google Assistant Goes to the Cinema

This prediction materialized when the large cinema circuits began to offer ticket sales via their own websites. Now, putting move pressure on 3rd party ticket sellers, Google has decided to streamline movie ticket purchasing for online searchers by use of their Google Assistant.

Google Assistant will pop-up when searching for a movie and offer users a series of overlay images on top of a theater chain's website. It will include asking the purchaser for showtime select, number of tickets, and choice of seat (optional). Assistant then uses this info to auto-fill the data required by each ticket vendor's website (this would include Fandango, MovieTickets, and the large cinema exhibs.).

Google Assistant is based upon a technology called Duplex, which uses AI to interact with 3rd party services. Duplex's ability to mimic the sound of the human voice (complete with the occasional 'humm' for realism) is uncanny.

Google wants to use Assistant in many other online purchasing scenarios, including car rentals and hotel reservations.

Well Fandango, there you have it. What value do you bring to the ticket purchasing process?  None. Fandango is now just a 3rd party that has no unique selling proposition.  Game Over!

Jim Lavorato
President, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Netflix Pushes Studios on Image Enhancement Rules

With an estimated 160 million subscribers worldwide much of what Netflix streams is viewed on tablets or  phones, where image quality is compromised.  This issue is not new and one widely recognized by cinematographers. Therefore, last week, Netflix made it a requirement that all of their original content be captured in HDR, or high dynamic range. 

HDR is a technique which improves the range of color and contrast in a digital image vs. the use of standard digital imaging.

For example, in the days of film, dailies were screened at the start of each production day - offering a chance for the director and other members of the 'key' crew to review freshly printed footage shot the previous day to help them evaluate image quality and spot and correct technical problems.

Now, dailies are streamed to separate crew member's tablets or phones, where slow wifi on remote locations means they are not seeing a meaningful representation of the footage. Worse still, producers back at the studio often see digital dailies on non-calibrated monitors in bright rooms and complain that the images are too dark.

The other issue Netflix wanted to address was the concern over whether Digital Imaging Technicians should be present on set during filming to advise on workflow, camera settings and image manipulation. Many producers do not want to budget for 'on-set' DITs.  This lack of imaging expertise, on the set, makes the work of the cinematographer very difficult.

I think Netflix is ahead of the curve on this issue. Times have changed and many consumers don't view content on large screens at home but are on the go and oft times view via a tablet or other mobile device. HDR is here and it will become the standard for digital image capture.

Jim Lavorato, President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Weinstein, Just Won't Go Away

Kelly Bachman
Last Wednesday it was comedy night at 'Downtown Bar NYC' and Kelly Bachman was one of the headliners. Before taking the stage, Bachman eyed Harvey Weinstein in the audience and she decided she could not perform without calling out Harvey.

"I'm a comic, and it's our job to name the elephant in the room, do we know what that is? It's a Freddy Krueger in the room if you will. I didn't know that we had to bring our own mace and rape whistle to an Actor's Hour (the sponsor of the event)".

In a subsequent interview, Bachman stated that after 'spotting' Weinstein in the audience her reaction was, "Are you kidding me. Weinstien is not in jail? I freaked out and debated whether to go on stage or not. Then I thought, I'm going to have to say something. It is better to speak out than not to speak."  Bachman went on to say that she "thought we had all agreed that Weinstein was a villain, so why should I still find myself in a venue, in so-called progressive Manhattan, where young artists are welcoming him."

Well Kelly, that's a question CMG can answer. Money! Actor's Hour got paid a lot for reserving space at their event for Weinstien. And, young and up-and-coming comedians and actors are so driven for acceptance that they won't to anything that may be controversial or harm their move up the latter of success.

Good for you Kelly. You deserve accolades and kudos from all corners of the entertainment industry, bar none. There is no forgiveness for Weinstein. No contrition. No atonement, He needs to be punished and ostracized forever. Time shouldn't heal Harvey's crimes nor should they be forgiven.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, October 03, 2019

NATO Takes D-Cinema Tech Requirements

It was announced on Tuesday (10/1/19) that NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) was taking the lead in setting requirements for any new digital cinema technology - which is cinema-speak means d-cinema tech is no longer important.

NATO's executive board approved a resolution that details how d-cinema technology will be evaluated going forward. It has always been that the exhibition side of the movie business was the primary consumer of  the technology so going forward exhibition will test and evaluate which, if any, upcoming technologies will work best for cinemas.

Heretofore, the major studios ran technology advances through the Digital Cinema Initiative which set the standard architecture for d-cinema systems across the world. The NATO board stated that it initial findings would be announced at the NATO annual meeting in 2020.

CMG believes that giving NATO this responsibility means that the studios are no longer interested in d-cinema. The status quo will do. Otherwise they would have kept control.  NATO has no power is the cinema industry. Movie exhibitors are reactive to the moves of the studios and now content streamers. NATO is a step-child within the movie industry family.

Jim Lavorato, President
Entertainment Equipment Corp

Apple & Disney : What Could Have Been

If Steve Jobs' untimely death at the age of 56 hadn't occurred he would be running Disney right now and it would be a totally different company.

So says Bob Iger, current Disney CEO, in his new book, "The Ride of a Lifetime". Apple and Disney wound-up having a great relationship. Iger explains that he had a very close relationship with Steve Jobs. That relationship took some work on Iger's part as Jobs' relationship with Michael Eisner, Iger's predecessor as CEO of the Mouse-house was very dicey, at best, after Eisner ruined Disney's relationship with Jobs by destroying Pixar's partnership with Disney.

Iger rebuilt the Apple/Disney trust and in October 2005 both Jobs and Iger stood on stage to announce that five Disney shows - including two of the most popular TV shows, 'Desperate Housevives' and 'Lost', would now be available for download on iTunes.

Jobs and Iger became close friends

The relationship grew, and a few years later, Disney purchased Pixar from Apple for $7.4billion and Jobs took a seat on Disney's board of directors. That seat was passed on to Laurene Jobs, Steve's widow, upon his death.

I believe Disney would be a different entity if a merger between the two companies had taken place. Jobs would have been CEO, as Apple is a much richer company than Disney, and he would have taken the new Apple/Disney into the streaming content industry, perhaps even acquiring Netflix.

Disney would have been a piece of the much larger entity where innovation is paramount to continue prosperity - which is the Apple (Jobs) credo.

Jim Lavorato, President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

MoviePass: The Resurrection

The 'Pass' is dead, long-live the 'Pass'
'Movie Pass: The Resurrection',  sounds like a bad sequel and that's just what it is.

That's if Ted Farnsworth, the former top-dog at the crashed & burned MoviePass, has his way - I don't think its second-coming is in the cards.

Says Farnsworth,  "MoviePass is something that we can reshape and rebuild. It will take time, but I think we can revitalized the whole brand." Ted, there is no brand. There is nothing to save and resurrect!

MoviePass is the ill-fated movie admission subscription service which allowed members to view a movie per day for $9.99 per month.
Theory: more people in cinemas - sell more concession - make more profits which are shared between MP and exhibitor.
Reality: a colossal conceptual failure from the get-on.

CMG and ScreenTrade Magazine predicted, from MP's outset, that it was based upon a false premise and was doomed to fail and would never, ever work. After burning through $329 million (according to the bankruptcy filings) it shuttered its doors.

There was bad dealings on all sides of the MP scheme, as many of its members 'gamed' the company by using the MP app to buy tickets and resell them at a discounted admission price. Management couldn't see this flaw in their strategy?

But even after all of this nonsense, Ted Farnsworth says, "There's an opportunity here. We were a lot like Uber and what it did to the taxis." Someone should clue Ted in on the fact that Uber has never made a profit either. What's the definition of insanity?

Jim Lavorato, Founder/President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Playing The Content Game

Golden Age In Now!
As the options for content distribution grow, money is pouring into production - you just need to have a global mindset.

The current trend is to let the content be the brand and not the production studio or filmmaker. The demand for good content is huge - from cinemas, streamers, TV, the internet, and even video gaming - the appetite is insatiable.

The game in the viewing entertainment business is to tell your story on as many platforms as possible. Cinemas than streamer than TV and perhaps a segue into a video game - it's the vertical strategy that's in play.

Lots of options Worldwide

The demand is vast, global, and varied making this is the real golden age of entertainment for both the content maker and the viewer/user.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.
Cinema Mucho Gusto blogspot

Docus Go Wide, and Their Right

Docus get it right
Fueled on by streamers and the boxoffice documentaries have never had it so good. At this year's Toronto Fest, for example, there were 850 docu entries which had to be whittled- down to 25.

It seems politics and global issues are driving the genre - and it's not about Trump for the films with the most impact. The current theme, and rightly so, is about politics in third-world nations - election manipulations, corruption, fake news/propaganda, and democracies on the brink of failure.

Wide and growing/Docus reveal 
Documentaries about post-Soviet Russia, the resurrection of Imelda Marcos and how the 90 year old exiled dictator and son (through graft) was allowed to return after 32 years and won seats in the Philippines congress.

Today documentary filmmakers see themselves as the real truth-teller in the industry and strive to present an accurate, non-partisan version of history.
Whether about Armenia, Russia, or the Philippines exploring the corruption and extortion of leaders that have and still do hold many countries from becoming prosperous democratic societies is what needs airing and action.

Look for the introduction of 4M Performance
the online business accelerator via your social
media platform - coming in November.

Dictatorship has superseded democracy in many cases. U.S. politics and its daily churn can be seen all day, every day on a wide variety of media outlets. It's the smaller, non-reported and often propagandized events that are occurring around the world in many countries that impact vast numbers of people in a detrimental way and go unreported by the international press. Documentary producers are trying to fill the void and draw attention to these much more significant issues.

I don't think most of us care about Kristen Stewart wanting to play a gay superhero, or Debra Messing crying out that black Americans who support Trump are mentally ill. What matters is the much larger issue of where the world (or most of it) is headed, and how this message gets to normal people in major democracies because where much of the world is headed is not a good place.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.
Cinema Mucho Gusto blogspot

Saturday, August 31, 2019

CA Puts Movie Tax Credits Increase On Hold

A tax credit to attract film and TV production in CA as a counter to those states that enacted anti-abortion laws - has been tabled.

The CA initiative (termed: the 'Share Our Values' bill) would provide for $50m in additional credits each year for the next five years.  The proposal was widely reported last month with many kudos from the liberal press, but got no traction as the bill was tabled by the CA Senate Appropriations Committee.

CA has been losing out as a production venue for some time as the expense of doing business was so much more in CA vs. other States and countries. Currently, the CA Film & TV Tax Credit program has a yearly allocation of $330m, which has tripled since 2014 to help compete against the very lucrative credit programs of New York, Georgia and some of the other southern States.

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However, Georgia recently approved anti-abortion legislation and many content producers, including Netflix and Disney, vowed to cease production of future projects in Georgia, due to this more restrictive abortion law. This put CA in a very good position and figured because of this turn-of-events they would not be required to increase the Film & TV Tax Credit program at this time.

Politics and art. Who ever said they were separate and distinct social determinants. 

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Netflix & Exhibs .... Will The Twain Ever Meet

'The Irishman', a film by Marty Scorsese, includes a star-studded cast of gangster favs: Pacino, DeNiro, and Pesci. It will premiere on opening night at the New York Film Festival September 27th and is already rumored to be a strong Oscar contender.
Love the 'de-aged' effect

When Scorsese brought the idea of the film to Paramount, the studio balked at the estimated $159m price tag, so Marty went pitching to Netflix who embraced the project. Now the film is in the middle of a battle between the big cinema chains and the world's foremost content streamer. The conflict has dragged on for months and there appears to be no compromise in sight.

Scorsese has been pushing for a national release and Netflix is negotiating with AMC and Cineplex for a wide release; however, the chains want the film for 90 days before available for streaming. Netflix's focus is on it ability to deliver prime content to its 150 million subscribers and does not want to adhere to "old-style movie business habits". For 'The Irishman' Netflix was willing to go out 21 days before streaming - but no deal so far.

An example of  de-age special effects

Under Academy rules, to be eligible for an Oscar, a film must have a seven-day run at a commercial cinema in L.A. county but it can be screened simultaneously on another platform. This is the right scenario. CMG has always pushed for a day-and-date release to the Netflix/exhibition controversy.

Note: Scorsese used a new special effects technique called "de-age" in the making of 'The Irishman'. It takes the actors actual faces makes them look younger and then ages them gradually throughout the film. Also of note, Joe Pesci can out of retirement to star in the film as a favor to Scorsese.

Jim Lavorato, President & Founder
Entertainment Equipment Corp.