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Sunday, January 14, 2018

THE 'SCOOP' by Seymour Flix

Sundance Fest Clamps Down On Misbehavior
Park City during Sundance Festibal


Because of increasing assault and sexual harassment incidents the Sundance Film Festival, the Festival's Directors decided to introduce new conduct rules to protect festivalgoers.  In partnership with Attorney Generals Office of Utah a new 24 hour hot-line was established to report any violations of the law.

This year's Fest run from January 18th -28th in Park City, Utah.  The Sundance Institute, which oversees the Festival (which was  founded by Robert Redford) stated that it is 'committed to allowing attendees to experience the Festival free of harassment, discrimination, sexism, and threatening or disrespectful behavior.'  It further stated, that it, 'reserves the right to revoke, without notice or refund, credentials or access to Festival events and venues for those who engage in such conduct.

So, if you attend the Festival and experience or witness any such behavior call 801-834-1944.

'SHAZAM'

Warner Bros. DC Comics will bring out new superhero 'Shazam' next year. This year is all about 'Black Panther' and 'Aqua Man'  But next year Warner's is betting on Shazam as the next big superhero idol.  Shazam is an acronym of the ancient gods and historical figures; Solmoman, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus. Achilles, and Mercury.

Wonder Woman, which grossed over $800 million w.w., will debut a sequel next year with a release date of 11/1/2019 and is looking to repeat the first film's gross.

AMC Slapped With Lawsuit

AMC Entertainment was slapped with a class action law suit last Friday, charging that the planet's largest movie exhibitor, misled investors about the seasonal nature of box office trends.

AMC, stated in court papers that 'our business is highly seasonal, with higher attendance and revenues generally occurring during the summer months and holiday seasons".  But the plaintiffs claim the AMC disclosure  disclosure is "materially inaccurate" because AMC's newly acquired international operations experience lower attendance during the summer months.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New York states that AMC misled by failing to disclose prior to its acquisition of Carmike (a smaller theater circuit).  AMC did not comment on the lawsuit; however, its shares are down more than 50% over the year.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

ALL IN THE FAMILY - The Golden Globes

Hollywood - Back in Black
The Scene: The Golden Globes Awards Show. The audience dressed in black to signify the death of sexual perversion in Tinseltown that has been going on since the concept of the film studio was conceived.

The Goal: To demonstrate to the world that H'wood has put the issue of sexual misconduct within its ranks to death.  Although no names of the most recent sex perverts were mentioned during the long diatribes doled out by the Award recipients we can all rest assured that all is right in the world of make-believe. 

With gross admissions down domestically 6% I would have thought that the mourning would have been about last year's poor cinema performance - which is even worse given the fact that higher admission prices 'pushed' the boxoffice to that record decline! I truly believe that filmmakers and actors have no concept of what profound changes are taking place within their industry.

Instead of apologizing for the long-term abuse against women what we got was a confession and absolution by the glitterati  for themselves.  All topped-off  by a semi-political speech by Oprah that was an obvious deflection needed to shield the H'crowd from a true coming clean of the ingrained perversion within the industry.

Until H'wood's old guard is replaced (along with its ideologically biases) the U.S. box office will continue to falter and gravitate more and more to a few (very few) movies making the bulk of the ever withering box office.

It's ironic to note that the top three grossing films of 2017 all featured a female lead - 'Star Wars - The Last Jedi" - Daisy Ridley, 'Wonder Woman' - Gal Gadot, and 'Beauty and the Beast' - Emma Watson. 

Hollywood not only needs but is begging for new blood among its creative types - filmmakers who understand the wants of today's moviegoers. The old guard directors and actors have shown time and time again that they just can't cut it any longer.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato





Tuesday, January 02, 2018

2017 Box Office: 'OUT With A BANG'

After a dismal summer and lackluster fall the winter was stellar and the 2017 box office went out with a BANG!

Led by Disney, and 'The Last Jedi'  (which tallied over $1 billion worldwide in just three weeks after its release) the domestic 2017 box office ended at $11.1 billion. This performance was only 2.3% off  2016 record results. Internationally, the box office was up 6% over 2016, and generated huge numbers, led by the Chinese cinema.
2018's Aquaman will be box office superstar.

I am optimistic about 2018 which will see a new 'Avengers', 'Solo: A Star Wars Story', 'Aquaman',  'Fantastic Beasts', and others there is plenty for movie theaters to feel good about. However, cinemas must began in earnest to diversify there product mix.  They must deliver-up a varied mix of content and not just rely on Hollywood produced films.

The need for delivering an experience is essential. Plan for the inevitable day-and-date release of movies and devise content programs that are varied.  Hollywood movies, indie products, TV content, and original product from the streamers via deals with the likes of Netflix and Amazon is the only way for cinemas to prosper and not just get by.

The days of increasing your box office take by raising ticket prices is over, as is, the pushing of concession to ridiculous price points. It is all about volume now (and  in the future) - it's about filling seats for all screenings and making the 'experience' of going to your cinema at the top of peoples' recreation list 

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Disney/Fox Deal A Sea-change For Movies

The combined company, 'New Disney', will boast a collection of top-tier franchises from 'The Simpsons' to 'Alien'.  This leaves the other studios looking anemic and much less powerful competitors as against the 'Old Disney or Fox'. Leaving Paramount (Viacom) and, to a lesser extent, Columbia (Sony) up against it and perhaps they are contemplating a merger/combination?

Universal, owned by the mega conglom Comcast, can hold its own. On the other hand, Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner will have to merge or be bought out.  AT&T (Verizon lost out on its bid for Warners) is now vying, awaiting approval from the Justice Department. Regardless, it appears that more combinations/buyouts of Hollywood is inevitable because they will need to compete against the Apples and Amazons which are turning their attention to becoming big media, as well as, big tech companies.

Impact of Movie Theaters

Disney had already been putting pressure on movie theaters by demanding a higher percentage of gross ticket sales for its films - the Disney/Fox combine will give Disney even more of an excuse to demand more from the exhibitors.  For 2017, Disney and Fox released a total of 30 major features and it is unlikely the combine will release as many going forward.  That gap however, I believe, will be filled by the silicon valley players.

Movie exhibition will be forced to add the likes of Netflix and Amazon to its roster of product deliverers for the big screen.  Exhibitors, large and small, will need to get creative and start to use their cinemas with a more diverse and inclusive product line.  On the flip side, Fox was very aggressive regarding the shortening of the exclusive theatrical release window, while Disney argued for a 90 day or longer exclusive theatrical runs.

CMG believes that anyway you slice it Disney just got a lot more formidable in the battle against all comers for entertainment craving eyeballs.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato


Saturday, December 09, 2017

EAT OR BE EATEN

There has been a take-no-prisoners war going on between content providers vs. content distributors for some years now.  The battles being pitched between the Hollywood studios (content) and digital domain stalwarts (distributors).

The Hollywood studios have, by and large, been the victims - gobbled-up by the likes of Comcast (Universal), Sony (Columbia), Fox (20th Century Fox), Paramount (Viacom), Time Warner (Warner Bros. cum Verizon).  Only Disney and MGM (privately owned) remain as intact old-line studios.

The war has raged within the digital domain as Amazon and Netflix maneuvered to take ownership of internet distribution of mass media content, particularly motion pictures.  Not only distributing Hollywood produced content but producing their own high-quality content.

Given this scenario, Disney's only play was to eat or be eaten. My own prediction was that Disney would be purchased by Apple (that could pay cash for Disney) as they have long had close relations so that fit would be the least painful for Disney

It now appears that Disney has decided to 'eat' and what it wants to consume is a big hunk of the Fox media empire.  Rumor has it that Disney will be offering Fox $74 billion for the 20th Century Fox film and TV studio, the FX Networks, National Geographic Channels, and 22 regional sports networks. Fox, it appears, wants out and views its assets as being at their peak value.

Disney is betting big that becoming significantly larger will one, prevent (or at least make very difficult) their own takeover, and two, become a much larger player in content production and distribution - the buzz word being 'scale'.  Disney would be the one old-school studio with the muscle to battle the social media giants.

Only time will tell if Disney has made the right decision.

Stay in touch,

Jim Lavorato





Friday, December 01, 2017

The Perversions Pile Up

It didn't take long, in fact - no time at all - for the accusations to start piling up against pols and entertainment fat-cats in the aftermath of the Weinstein sex scandal.  The avalanche of accusers pointing out sexual misdeeds has widened to include over 200 perverse individuals including Lauer, Hoffman, Ratner, Spacey, and Segal. Weinstein's accusers now number over 90 and growing!

Hollywood attorneys say their phones are ringing and vibrating (no sexual connotation implied) non-stop. Shawn Holley, a showbiz  litigator told CMG that, "Almost all of the women I've spoken with are still trying to figure out what, if anything, they want to do. They are exploring civil, as well as. possible criminal remedies." 

Women working in the entertainment industry, at all  levels, are coming forward with horror stories in numbers never imagined.  And journalists are chasing tip after tip pointing to claims of abuse, sexual impropriety, and far-reaching cover-ups. Talent agencies, studios, networks, and law firms are being scrutinized for their roles in enabling, concealing, and even participating in the perverse behavior.

One question being asked of the women accusers is: Did you tell your agent, and what did he or she do about it?  Actress Rae Dawn Chong stated that her agent, CAA, would send her on auditions where sexual harassment would take place. "Did I call my agent and tell him what happened and say how violated I was? Yes. And did CAA take the position of 'We'll protect you?' No. It became, 'Rae Dawn Chong's difficult'. And it did impact my career. Obviously, I left CAA promptly, because it was like a pimp situation."

Women and men who feel victimized are now much more comfortable sharing their experiences with supervisors and HR departments. We'll see how long this cleansing acts will continue but at the moment it appears their is no stop in sight.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bad Auditorium Sound - It Could Be The Audience

People impact the sound at a cinema
Sound tests and room equalizations are performed in unoccupied auditoriums. That, however, is not how the sound within the auditorium would be heard, because having an audience can make a huge difference in the sound.

It is debatable as to how much the audience impacts the sound but it does impact it. As the sound in an occupied auditorium is different than one unoccupied. 

First, there are acoustic changes due to the sound absorption introduced by the audience.

Second, there are transmission changes to the sound patterns (direct and reflected) caused by the audience absorption and associated temperature and humidity changes.

Third, ambient noise increases due to the audience itself and the accompanying chatter, movement, laughing, eating, etc.

Although all of these affects are known, there has been little written or discussed about them within the context of cinema sound issues.

People are very sound absorbing. How much they absorb is open to debate as it depends on the activity and posture of the person, as well as, if they crowded together or spread throughout the auditorium? Also a group of occupied seats in one auditorium will not sound the same in a second auditorium. It's also a fact that people absorb more mid and high frequency sounds than low  - particularly when sitting in upholstered seats.

So, it is easy to see that the introduction of large sound absorbing objects (people) will have a big impact on the sound within the auditorium. Introducing an audience into a space has a complex affect on the sound in terms of reverberation and reflection.

The next time your viewing a movie in a crowded auditorium it will sound very different if you viewed that movie two weeks later is a sparsely attended screening - and that difference will be substantial.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cinemas Turn On The Lights

How does a cinema determine when to turn the auditorium lights off and on when screening a movie? Do cinemas have any appreciation for the film when deciding when to flick the on/off light switch? Or are they just robotic in their care for the nuances of each movie they screen.

By law, cinemas must have adequate lighting for moviegoers to see where they are going within an auditorium - pre, during, and post screening. Most cinemas have lights up until the trailers start then they switch to half-up, when the feature starts lights, normally, go off except for aisle and exit lights.

Now, the vast majority of cinemas have automated lighting and dimmer systems interfaced to the projection system, so rarely does a human exercise discretion over the lighting on/off or dimming.
There is a credits off-set time on the actual hard drive the movie arrives on and which is ingested into the projection server.  The cinema places a cue in their automation system, which will bring down or up the lights at a precise moment in the presentation.

No two lighting systems are going to be the same from cinema to cinema and when many of today's films have med-credit and post-credit sequences when to bring up the lights is iffy.  For example, Marvel movies feature multiple post-credit sequences which set-up the next sequel in the superhero series. Many comedies have blooper scenes that run after the feature is over. However, lights will normally come-up automatically for those moviegoers wishing to exit the auditorium right after the feature ends.

So far as I know, no cinema has separate lighting policies for different genres of film - they simply set the cue according to their on-going practice. It is the policy of each cinema, guided by law, that set the lighting rules.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, November 05, 2017

What's Next? For the Movie Industry

The third 'Thor' killed it, with a $118m opening as the first 'holiday hit' and broke the box office slump which only had 'IT' to look back on.

'Thor:Ragnarok', a Disney/Marvel product was welcomed by moviegoers with open arms and Disney must be credited with excellent pre-promotion of the film - which hooked in fans. Hoorah!

As we're all aware, there are profound changes going on in the movie industry as it tries to find itself. In the throngs of a diminishing release window and competition from all sides the movie industry, particularly exhibition, knows that what worked in the past is no longer of value today. Compounded by a lack of big name blockbusters and Hollywood sexual revelations the U.S. box office is down over 5% from last year.

What is needed is good product to 'draw them in' and an engaging experience once at the cinema. Disruptors, like Netflix, plague the industry by not only buying new product for their platform but also producing there own content. So, if you can't beat'em join 'em. Movie exhibitors should consider deals with Netflix to screen day-and-date with Netflix releases.

In addition, cinemas should be considering:

- Hooking-up with Netflix on their serial productions. Screening an episode each week of the most popular Netflix originals.

- Work with the studios on tiered pricing for films. Charging more for the 'biggies' ala 'Star Wars' or 'Thor' and less admission for marquee fodder. The day of the one-price-fits-all movies is OVER.

- A monthly admission is also worth exploring.

-There are still many engaging genre films but they are not promoted properly. Concourse Media's new Mediabill and Playbill in partner with exhibitors is a good first-start and should be expanded upon. This is particularly true for Horror films which have always been good grossers.

- It's not a question of not enough product it's a question of promotion (the studios) and fulfillment (the cinemas). Consumers need to be engaged- the need for entertainment must turn into a want to go to the local cinema

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

AR & VR How Do They Impact The Movies

Concourse Media's developed Moviebill, an Augmented Reality (AR) based Playbill for the movie industry, is hawking its new wares to exhibitors.  Regal Entertainment, the second largest circuit in the U.S., has signed up and will began to use Moviebill next year.

How It Works

Each Playbill under the Moviebill moniker will promote one feature film in an AR experience -sharing behind-the-scenes footage, games, talent connecting, etc. Concourse is planning for Moviebill to debut in early 2018.  Regal would market this as a service to its moviegoers.

According to Regal spokesperson, Ken Thewes, "Moviebill provides an experience for moviegoers that helps bring the movie to life and promotes a deeper connection to the movies we exhibit. We believe Moviebill will help our goal of enhancing the moviegoing experience, providing movie fans more of what they want."

If it's experience moviegoers wish, Moviebill may be the enhanced preview (trailer) that will gin-up interest in any given film - it certainly can't hurt. No numbers were given as to the cost for Moviebill to the exhibitor, so we'll have to wait and see if the benefit at the box office out-weighs the cost.
This also presupposes a lot of movie fans have the required AR eyeglass to view the Playbills.

AR vs. VR What's The Difference

AR- Augmented Reality, takes current reality and adds something to it. It does not 'transport' the user to any other presence. Requires special AR glasses.

VR - Virtual Reality, transports the user to another place visually using a headset. VR is immersive while AR is not.

The VR business hasn't taken off as predicted by its stakeholders but it is progressing.  VR is available on gaming consoles and via mobile phone-based headsets.  Several companies have exited the VR business, such as Nokia, which halted development of its VR OZO camera system. Nokia cited, "slower than expected development of the VR industry".

According to Concourse Media, all of the major studios are working with it to provide exclusive AR experiences for the Moviebill scheme. 

Stay in touch,
Jim

Sunday, October 29, 2017

'Code of Conduct' for Oscars Academy

In light of the Weinstein scandal, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has decided to institute a Code of Conduct for its members.

The Academy expelled Weinstein, only the second member to ever be expelled, two weeks ago and has now issued a statement that its full Board of Directors (which numbers 57) will address the issue of having a code of conduct at its December and January monthly meetings.

"We have no intention of functioning as an investigative body or moral court" stated Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy, " but we are concerned about sexual harassment and predatory behavior in the workplace, especially in our own industry. To the end, we are taking steps to establish a code of conduct for our members, which will include a policy of evaluating alleged violations and determining if action regarding membership is warranted."

The Academy is consulting experts in law and ethics to gain an understanding of what they should institute. The goal is to maintain clear standards of workplace behavior for all of its members.

It's high-time the Academy had a conduct code, given all of the past decades of transgressions by its members. Hopefully it will not be too little too late but be a code that is strict and quickly enforced if violated.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, October 22, 2017

HORROR - The Genre of NOW

Horror may save the Cinema
Horror films are the truest example of escapism because unlike rom-coms, musicals, message dramas, historical pieces or even, high-impact action movies, horror as escapism reflects the traumatic times that are NOW.

Artificial terror is what the current moviegoer may be hankering. 'IT' may reflect the mood of the times - serving up oodles of fear and trepidation. A real symbol of the NOW, horror impacts all of us. Real or made-up it reveals a distorted, but related look into humanity as it now exists.

Horror films have always been known for their low risk/high return potential. With broad demographics and simplistic storylines the horror genre is about to save Hollywood and the cinema exhibition business. Easily adopted to sequels and reboots, horror has box office power.

As President Trump lamented during the campaign, "Make American Great Again", horror may be just what the local cinema needs to be great again.  Like America, horror movies are filled with baked-in fear and terror but in a perverse way are nostalgic and familiar.

So, go to the local cinema and scream, scream a lot for more horror.

Stay in touch,
Jim  Lavorato

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hollywood - Killing The Golden Goose

Weinstein: Hollywood's Avatar
I guess you can't write a blog about news and commentary regarding the cinema industry and not address the recent and on-going Weinstein sex crimes scandal.  Unfortunately, Hollywood's problem runs much deeper and is changing the way the average moviegoer views the people that control and star in films.  More importantly, I believe, people are going to address their displeasure by not going to view films at cinemas, and will simply stay at home and very selectively pick and choose the films or TV shows they wish to see.

Everyone who is anyone in Hollywood knew of Weinstein's sexual predator conduct over the last 30+ years and to say otherwise shows how corrupt they really are.  Hollywood has become a nepotistic, greedy, cruel, and false place run by megalomaniacs - and everyone knows it.  The veil has been lifted regarding the totally corrupt, self-centered, misogynistic egos of this privileged, filthy rich caste that is now called Hollywood - tacitly endorsed, I might add, by many of the top females in the industry.

Birds of a Feather
Pontificating on political and social issues while living in compounds and estates, constantly presenting each other with awards and accolades, and living in a world so remote from the average that their only concerns are stroking their egos, buying homes, cars, jewelry, and over-the-top what-evers. Sex, drugs, overdoses, rehabs, reinvents, remakes, it's all about second chances, and re-finding yourself for the glitterati.    From Streep to Clooney, from DeNiro to Lawrence and all the way to Weinstein the whole thing stinks.  And it has got to change for it to survive.


Harvey Weinstein is the perfect avatar for Hollywood. A fat, sloppy, self-indulged, 'Aqualung' figure. A pig of a man who used his position, wealth, and cruel cunning to feed his sexual needs at the expense of young women and their naive view of the perverse Hollywood culture.

The Hollywood elite have it made yet they are traveling down a road of self-destruct.  Killing the goose that laid their golden egg they quickly need to reassess and shed their facade of phony liberal do-gooderism and address their dark-side and inner demons. If they don't they will loose their audience and not only them but the local cinema will suffer - and that is what I care about.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.





Sunday, October 08, 2017

'SONIC' Goes Large

'Sonic The Hedgehog'
Any video gamer knows the game 'Sonic The Hedgehog' and Paramount Pictures thinks Sonic deserves a place on the big screen. The Sega video game franchise, of the same name, was launched over 26 years ago and has sold more than 360 million copies including digital games on consoles, tablets, and mobile.

For those of you non-gamers, the game features a hedgehog named Sonic who is on a quest to defeat Doctor Robotnik, an evil scientist.  The game has been enormously successful and established the Sega Genesis console player.

The film will be a combo live action and animation and will be Sonic's first film. CMG predicts that 'Sonic The Hedgehog' will be a big box office hit upon release.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fandango: Getting Scalped In Ticketing

In the September issue of ScreenTrade Magazine, an article/analysis, of Fandango, the on-line cinema ticketing service, by CMG entitled 'New Fanbase', detailed why Fandango was in a downward spiral and destined to become a much less significant player in the cinema industry.

To bolster my analysis, I stated that Fandango's purchase of Rotten Tomatoes, the on-line movie critics service, was too little too late, as RT was no longer relevant given consumers use of social media and their own, instantaneous, reviews of movies.  It seems that this viewpoint has been validated as a recent study, conducted by the University of Southern California, and reported in last week's issue of Variety Magazine, found out just that!  The article in Variety, 'Rotten Tomatoes Scores Don't Impact Box Office', debunked the notion that Rotten Tomatoes had an influence on box office performance.

The study, conducted at the University's Entertainment Technology Center concluded that RT scores have a very small, if any, role in determining box office performance - good or bad.  "There is virtually no difference between Rotten Tomatoes' critical scores and audiences' scores and the more successful the film the smaller the difference" stated Yves Berquist, Director of the Technology Center, "which means that audiences are becoming experts at smelling-out bad films." To wit: they don't need Rotten Tomatoes for movie ratings and its use will eventually be rendered irrelevant.

For the full analysis go to the CMG post entitled 'Fandango's FanShop: A Bit Too Late' 3/18/17'

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Theatrical Window Closes A Little More

Last week, Michael Burns, V. Chair. at Lionsgate Studios predicted that all of the major film studios would reach a deal with cinema exhibitors on the launch of a premium video-on-demand window for new theatrical releases within a year!

Speaking at a conference in NYC, Burns stated, "some level of PVOD offering will be available to consumers within 12 months once details, such as pricing and the length of time between a film's theatrical release debut and the early home entertainment offering are hammered out."  Burns went on to say that Disney would be the only studio that would opt out of the deal.

Under the proposal, the current 90 day window between theatrical and home releases would be shortened to 17 days - giving exhibitors three weekends for exclusive screening of any film.

CMG has always been of the mind that eventually all movies would be released day-and-date across all distribution platforms.  This deal moves the bar closer to CMG's inevitable prediction.

Cinemas, large and small, MUST prepare and ensure that their operations are running at max-performance.  Investment in high sound quality and best on-screen image is without question a must-do.  Showmanship and moviegoer engagement are requisite.  It is only in this way that the local cinema will survive.  In many cases, this will entail investment that cannot be fueled by on-going operations but from outside sources, such as loans or leases.

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fox Goes Family

Not to be outdone by a faltering Disney, 20th Century Fox is dialing-up the number of family films it produces. The Fox strategy is to produce and distribute a major animated film each year with several sub-majors during the year.

Up to now, Fox has not been producing any family-friendly animation but has been distributing pictures from DreamWorks, that deal is ending as DreamWorks was required by Comcast, which also owns Universal Pictures, severed the relationship.

To counteract this situation and to accomplish their goal of producing their own animated films, Fox has entered into a long-term co-production and development deal with Locksmith Animation.  Fox, which owns Blue Sky Productions, the makers of the 'Ice Age' films, plans on augmenting Blue Sky's slate of films.

Three projects are currently in development with the plan being Locksmith's first film with Fox will screen at cinemas in the fall of 2020.  Although tight-lipped about the project, rumors have it that the movies will be entirely original and not based on books or pre-existing intellectual property.

Animation is big at the boxoffice typically out-grossing most other genres. Locksmith originally had lined-up a deal with Paramount but that fell through when Paramount installed a new CEO, Jim Gianopulos, who didn't like the deal.

We wish Fox and Locksmith the best and look forward to their films.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Monster Opening, And We Need 'IT'

This summer's box office was a nightmare for exhibs. It was scary and there were many sleepless nights of worry.  Wouldn't it be ironic if a scary movie was responsible for bursting the summer b.o. doldrums.  Well it may just happen with the debut of 'IT' tomorrow.  The New Line film is expected to gross $75 million domestically and is what movie audiences have been waiting all summer for.

Reaching $75 would make this R rated horror film the biggest September opener of all time!  Coming off a summer which was the worst in 20 years, 'IT" will make everyone happy. It's not a sequel or remake - trends that may have been partially responsible for the lackluster b.o. of late. 'IT" seems to be reaching out beyond the horror hard-core and appealing to mainstream moviegoers, as well as, Steven King fans.

Rumor has it that a sequel is already in the works. As the current 'IT' centers on the children, the sequel will follow them to adulthood. No release date for the 'IT' sequel has been announced.

We are all hoping that 'IT" brings them back into the cinemas and is the start of a great fall and holiday season at the box office. We need something to scare us out of the current cinema blahs.

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cinemas Must Target Millennials

It's now official, Millennials (born 1981-1999) are the largest generation in U.S. history.  There are 92 million of them vs. 77 million Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the Mills are moving into their prime spending years.
You have to market Mills. 'socially'

They are moving up in the corporate ranks, starting up businesses, getting married, starting families, buying homes, and looking for engaging entertainment and recreation.  The Mills differ from the Boomers in that, for example, they don't value cars and don't allocate large portions of their discretionary spending on them.  They think Uber. They think a sharing economy.  They don't value luxury the way the Boomers do. They are mistrustful of high-price points and expect brands to offer premium performance . They think iPhone.

For entertainment they like dining out, live concerts, and blockbuster films.  They will spend hundreds of dollars to attend a concert of their favorite entertainers. They like (want) immersive entertainment and experiences. Most importantly, they have different ways of engaging the world and learning about products and brands. Given this, cinemas must engage Mills and market to them on their terms. Here are some hints:

- Mills. expect premium performance but with pricing that is inclusive and within reach
- Validate businesses via social media. So if you are not marketing via social get on it.
- Spend time in digital communities, blogs, etc.
- Heavily focused on mobile-browsing and instant information gathering
- React to digital, visual-only marketing
- When engaging with a business they expect vitality, credibility, honesty
- Positive reaction to promotional events and ads

Marketing to seniors is great but they are a dying customer base (literally). All businesses need to 'sell' to millennials and it is a very different sell. You must engage them and cater to their biases.

Best
Jim Lavorato

Monday, August 21, 2017

Paying Admissions Forward: Will It Work

 CMG has previously posted about newly-hatched subscription based services were members pay a monthly fee for the right to go to a cinema and view a movie as often as they wish - the biggest of these being 'MoviePass' . At that time, CMG reported  MoviePass was having problems scaling its operation, but last week it shocked the movie exhibition industry by announcing that is was going to allow its members to view a movie a day for a subscription fee of $9.95 per month.

AMC Theaters, the U.S.'s largest cinema chain, quickly responded by announcing that it was going to pursue legal action against MoviePass. For sure MoviePass currently loses money but its scheme is that over time movie exhibitors and the studios will recognize their value and cut them in on increased profits, principally for higher concession sales. However, one of the big stumbling blocks is that most cinemas (large or small) have their own loyalty programs and prefer to enhance these.

According to Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, "we can increase attendance on average by 111%, increasing, not only admissions, but much higher concession sales." Currently, MoviePass purchases movie tickets and re-sells the tickets to its subscribers at a much reduced rate - losing money on each transaction.  But Lowe predicts that, in "the future they will cut the company in on their additional profits. We know we have to prove the value we deliver and we should be able to work together in a constructive manner so that everybody makes more money." WOW.

Well, where should I start? MoviePass may be a great idea but its implementation is unsustainable. For early subscribers it is a great deal, but how long can it last? Unless MoviePass can get the big chains on board, it's a doomed concept, and at the moment, it looks as though exhibitors are not embracing the strategy.  Overhauling the cinema admission business is quite simple - produce and distribute movies that consumers want to go to the cinema to view. It's not as if the folks will go to the cinema more because of a cheap admission to films they don't want to see anyway.

CMG believes MoviePass is missing the motivation of moviegoers - it's not all about price but product. 

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Online Reviews - The Terrible Truth

If your cinema has a website and/or uses social media of any sort you are going to get reviews. Online reviews can be your biggest curse or the love of your life, and are one of the few things about your business that are totally out of your control.

A few words posted next to a five-star scale rating can be do or die for a business.  A recent survey by ReportLinker found the following regarding online reviews.

- The level of trust by consumers of online reviews is incredibly high.  59% of consumers believe that online reviews are as trustful as personal recommendations, with a full 7% saying that online reviews are more trusted than personal recommendations.

-33% of consumers go to search to find reviews, with 25% going directly to review websites.  That means that two-thirds of all customers go to other websites than yours to look for reviews.

- Besides search engines, like Google, top social sites for finding reviews were Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. 

- When taking about specific product reviews, Amazon and eBay lead the way, with 57% of consumers using them for product reviews.

- 51% of the surveyed respondents admitted they had written a review within the last 12 months.  49% said they review when they are very satisfied, while 34% said they review when very dissatisfied.

- Content matters most in reviews (not credibility). 62% of consumers said that content of the review was most important and not the credibility of the reviewer - now that's scary.

CMG's advice: be on the constant lookout for reviews about your cinema and address them.  Bad reviews can be very hard to cope with but nonetheless are real and have to be addressed. Be proactive with reviews and try to return comment for good and bad reviews.







Friday, August 04, 2017

The Plot Thickens: Telecoms Enter The Arena

Media: all things, for all people, all the time
If it wasn't bad enough with the tech companies entering the media/movie business with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple and others entering and grabbing up media companies and film studios but now the giant telecoms are entering the arena.

AT&T purchased DirectTV in 2015 and is now awaiting regulatory approval for its acquisition of Time Warner. That purchase would provide AT&T the Warner Bros. studio, HBO, and CNN, among other digital content providers. This is the new media landscape - and telecoms, like tech companies, want in on the action and profits.

AT&T's Mobility Entertainment Group, is spearheading its foray into mass media and according to Dave Christopher, its Head, "there's this big convergence going on between telecom and media and we believe the opportunity to create new and great experiences for customers going forward."

CMG believes that there is no one-size-fits all in the entertainment sector. Investment, acquisition, and merger across the media landscape is required to meet the wide variety of consumer needs - from movies at cinemas to sports on your wristwatch. Having solutions for different customers is the name of the game for media giants: movies, streaming, social outlets, and mobile distribution are all on the agenda.  All will be important to serve-up and fill the voracious appetite for entertainment that is now global in nature.

Friday, July 28, 2017

IMAX: A Case Study

Developed  in the early 1970s, IMAX offered a larger on-screen image with much higher resolution than conventional films of the time.  IMAX systems were marketed principally to special, non-profit venues such as: museums, aquariums, science centers, planetariums, etc. Content was 40 minute nature documentaries which were produced in collaboration with one or several of these special venue facilities.

Great, award-winning docu-films like, 'Mount Everest', 'Antartica' and 'Roving Mars' were produced and made the rounds of the increasing number of giant screen venues that were constructed around the world. However, these films were not profitable for IMAX and it was inevitable that they would have to venture into the main stream consumer market. Thus began the production and screening of docus like 'The Rolling Stones: Live At The Max' - but again the cost of production and limited distribution made profit generation illusive.

So, IMAX went wide and started to screen conventional films blown up to accommodate their large format. This became much easier when digital cinema was introduced and much less expensive. IMAX, for the last decade has become locked-into the Hollywood blockbuster and 3D genres.
However, IMAX stills suffers from its original problem - not enough content.

It's normally gangbusters at the boxoffice in the first two weeks of a run at an IMAX venue and then attendance dies off.  Price is one reason. In a quick survey, conducted for this article, the prices for admission to an IMAX ranged from $13.50 to $20.00. Another reason, is that conventional theaters have gotten larger with some auditoriums having screens as large as an IMAX and, in some cases, superior sound. This combination leaves IMAX theaters empty or near empty for weeks, with no new product to screen.

Lack of content will weigh heavily on the IMAX theaters going forward, coupled with increased competition from conventional cinemas and high admission pricing the outlook isn't rosy. We may see IMAX going back to its roots and revert to producing one-off documentaries for the special venue giant screen locations. Only time will tell.

Jim Lavorato