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Monday, July 24, 2017

Body Language: It's How We Communicate

What Is Your Body Language Telling Others
Only 5% of our communication with others is verbal - the other 95% is communicated through our body language.  Understanding this non-verbal communication is crucial to getting the most out of our relationship with other people. We all have relationships with others on a daily basis.  The waiter, the store clerk, family members, co-workers, friends etc. we have relationships with everyone we come in contact with - and they are communicating with us via their body language.

In this two part post I will be discussing what to look for and what others are telling you through their body language and, perhaps more importantly, what you are telling them through your movements, gestures, and poses.

Worst Body Language Faux Pas:

- Avoiding Eye Contact: This is a signal of deception, or worse, a lack of respect. Keep eye contact with others in conversation.

- Slouching: Shows a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem. You are unsure of your position and signals weakness.

- Weak Handshake: Both men and women should have a firm handshake. A weak shake indicates a lack of authority. However too firm a shake for too long shows aggression and is just as bad as a weak shake.

- Folding Arms: Indicates discontent and lack of interest. Also signalling 'shut-down' and withdrawal in men and women but women may do this for warmth reasons.

- Looking Down: Particularly when making a salient point in a presentation or at a meeting looking down saps all the power out of your argument and indicates weakness.

- Angling Body Away From Others: Shows that you are uncomfortable, distrustful, or disinterested in the subject under discussion.

- Fidgeting & Touching Hair: Women do this but notice how many men fidget with their hair. This can reveal discomfort and anxiety, and a lack of self-confidence.

- Invading Others Space: 18" for N. Americans is about right. Being too close to others makes them feel uncomfortable and could show aggression on your part.

- Frowning/Scowling: The most unconscious of communications these facial indicators show unhappiness and/or disagreement.

These are a few of the worst body gestures or poses and are very telling about the feelings of others. Be aware of them when dealing with others and of using them yourself.

In the next post we will discuss the cross-cultural aspects of body language and signs.

Best,
Jim Lavorato

Thursday, July 20, 2017

H'wood's Aging Franchises

Domestically, once sure bet box office franchise films, like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Transformers' are now failing to fill seats at the local cinema.- making for a tough 2017 summer.

Big name franchises that the studios could count on for the next blockbuster sequel are now marquee fodder and are hard-pressed to justify their fourth and fifth versions. The studios have made little attempt to correct the situation and when they have the results have been depressing.

Recent attempts to build new franchises have failed. For example, 'King Authur: Legend of the Sword' from Warner Bros. was met with a box office yawn.  'The Mummy', which was touted as being the movie needed to kick-start Universal's Dark Universe of monsters and sci-fi creatures, failed to connect.

On the bright side, 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', was a successful reboot but it stands alone. 'War for the Planet of the Apes' held its own and cinemas are looking for big gates from 'Atomic Blonde', and 'Dunkirk'.  There is always an ebb and flow from year-to-year in box office results but this summer was not one where franchise films performed. It should be noted that what didn't do well domestically did very well globally.  For example, 'The Mummy' and 'Transformers' earned over 75% of their grosses overseas and 'Pirates' did over $565m worldwide.

This dichotomy in box office gate between domestic and international points to the fact that it is getting harder to create films that appeal to every audience around the world.  There is a disconnect between what plays well in the U.S. and what overseas moviegoers view as must sees.

Still, 2017 may not turn out all that bad, as the fall and holiday films look very promising. 'Justice League', 'Coco', and 'Star Wars: The Last  Jedi' will all be big hits and led the pack. They  may just push 2017 into record territory.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eastwood Biopic to Star Real-life Heroes

Eastwood with real-life heroes/actors
Not many filmmakers would take the risk of casting non-actors as the major stars in a film, but Clint Eastwood is doing just that in his next movie entitled, 'The 15:17 to Paris'.

In this very risky move, Eastwood is casting Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spenser Stone to play themselves in this bio-pic about three Americans who stopped a terrorist on a train bound for Paris. The three heroes will have major roles and be supported by professional actors. This film will be Eastwood's follow-up to the box office hit 'Sully' which starred Tom Hanks.

Eastwood stated that he began a wide-ranging search for the actors who would portray the three Americans.  The studio and Eastwood made their choices but at the very end and right before signing the contracts Eastwood decided to have Sadler, Skarlatos, and Spenser play themselves (the three authored a book by the same name upon which the movie is based).

The film will begin in their childhood (these roles played by professional actors) and depict their friendship leading up to the moment that changed their lives on the train to Paris. This will be Eastwood's third real-life hero movie following 'Sully' and 'American Sniper'.  Another film, entitled 'Impossible Odds' the story of Jessica Buchanan, a humanitarian worker who was kidnapped while working in Somalia and later rescued by Navy Seals may be his next.

This film will be another box office winner for cinemas and CMG believes will be bigger than 'Sully' or 'American Sniper'.

Jim Lavorato


Friday, July 14, 2017

Studios Try To Fight Back, Is It Enough

Back in 2014, Disney acquired an on-line production company called Maker Studios for $675 million.  For almost three years nothing was heard of Maker and what Disney was to do with their new internet venture. In 2014, Maker was comprised of over 60,000 YouTube channels (yes, that's right 60k) and had no real mission other than to produce a myriad of live streaming videos in the hopes that several would stick and develop an audience.

Obviously Disney had other plans. Coming out-of-the-closet last week was 'Disney Digital Network'  A newly formed entity that is a blend of the former Maker Studio and Disney's own brand of on-line entertainment.  Pared-down to less than 1,000 channels, the new venture will focus on a singular audience - a Disney family-friendly audience.

So, after  a whole-lot of reorganization and restructuring, Maker has now officially been folded into the Disney family and ready for it's debut as part of the new 'Disney Digital Network'.

Disney has big plans for its digital network which will encompass a broad range of digital channels, all of its social accounts, home websites like Disney.com, and a separate content studio.  Disney believes that the resulting network will be able to reach 1 billion consumers globally and be heavily skewed toward millennials and Gen Z viewers.

Disney has been a leader among the studios in embracing the inevitable digital onslaught and has, thus far, managed both the movie and web-based audiences each serves extremely well.  Problem is that serving both, over the long-haul, takes lots of money and lots of talent and Disney may not be up to the task by itself.  CMG believes that over time Disney, like the other studios, will have to partner-up with one of the big tech or communications companies, my guess is Apple.

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Auto-Generated Movies, It's What's Next

You heard it here first - movies generated by computers using Artificial Intelligence.  Given some of the movies I've viewed in the last few years this is probably a move forward in film making.

For years filmmakers, writers, musicians, post-houses, etc. have used technology to better their work, making it easier and more efficient and given rise the the myriad of content the industry has become saturated with.  So, it was only a matter of time until AI auto-generated movies would come to be.

Technology has assisted in all of the creative aspects of movie-making and now is the time when the 'assist' becomes the 'do'. To prove the future, IBM sponsored 'Storytellers With Watson', a two-month contest on how media and entertainment pros can use AI in film making.

The winner of the contest, Seth Grossman, developed what he called, 'Rip-o-matic With Watson' which recognizes meaning in images and language for video (film) editing to automatically generate a sizzle-reel preview of a movie or TV show based on the script.  Grossman's idea is to use AI to analyze, index, and splice together rips (known in filmdom as takes) from videos that represent a film maker's vision, by recognizing information in images, as well as, classifying their meaning in sets of written information.  The AI software, Watson, would find and splice together the content that best matches the script, including specific lines, time periods, and locations. What this all means is that the winner is the audience, because as Rip-o-matics gets better and more refined better movies will be made.

Obviously the whole concept of using AI in making movies is still in infancy but the writing is definitely on the wall. The other finalists in the IBM 'Watson' contest proposed using AI for choreography assist, to simplify script review, to improve film marketing, and to enable real-time language translation.

According to IBM's Rob High, "Technology helps all of us find opportunities where we didn't know it existed. We can use cognitive computing to help us to make better decisions." 

An area where Watson is currently being used is for an AI program called 'ScriptAloud'.  which uses Watson's Text to Speech Analyzer to transform written scripts into audio files available for casting directors and producers so they don't have to read film scripts.

CMG firmly believes that AI generated films are not that far off - it's tech trumping media once again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Anime: Cinema's Next Blockbusters?

There are millions of amine fans throughout the world. Normally males in their twenties amine fans are totally dedicated and fiercely loyal.
Fans at Anime Expo

Anime is essentially adult cartoons.  Started in Japan the genre has become huge and a gathering of thousands took place in Los Angeles this week for the annual Anime Expo.

Heretofore, anime was in book form or video over the internet on such streaming channels as 'Crunchy Roll' or 'Hulu' but last year big tech entered the world of anime - and in a big way.  Seeing the potential of a massive global fan base, both Amazon and Netflix entered the fray.

Anime has serial shows. For example, Amazon is streaming a show called 'Scum's Wish' while Netflix 'Little Witch Academia'.  Additionally, there a hundreds of series and movies from Japan, which are all accessible on line. Anime has gotten so big that Amazon recently launched a subscription service dedicated to the genre called, 'Anime Strike' and Netflix is starting to produce its own original anime content. Both streamers are also buying content directly from Japanese anime production companies.

This new and growing genre has not gone unnoticed by the Hollywood studios and, I believe this could develop into seat-fillers at cinemas. Anime on the big-screen has to happen. Not only are the stories and characters known by vast numbers of fans but anime could replace comic superhero films which are fatiguing.  In addition the anime market, is replete with merchandising of themed toys, snacks, and a huge array of consumer products from T-shirts to key chains.

Two of the biggest U.S. based anime streamers, 'Crunchy Roll' and 'Funimation'  have large fan bases of their own. 'Crunchy Roll' ranks in the top 10 overall subscription services, just below HBO and ahead of Showtime and Funimation  isn't far behind.  Make no mistake, anime is big business and growing rapidly. 'Crunchy Roll' costs $6.95 per month, while 'Funimation' is $5.95. 'Anime Strike' is $5 per month but requires an Amazon Prime membership. 'Daisuki' another popular streaming service is $5, as well.

CMG believes anime will be a big on the big screen. It's apparent that the genre has a large, dedicated and growing fan base which cannot be ignored by Hollywood. Anime will pick up the slack of the Marvel and DC comic characters-which are fast becoming old. Do we really need another 'Iron Man' sequel?

Best
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Exhibitors FINALLY Get Smart ... and Unite

GCF too little - too late?
Motion picture exhibitors have finally joined forces by forming a global alliance to address major industry issues that have been impacting them for decades. Long in coming, this type of collaboration attests to the slow, myopic nature of the cinema exhibition industry and the ineffectiveness of their trade groups.

However, at last, in an effort to present a united front a group of exhibitors has formed the Global Cinema Federation (GCF), a new group that will represent many of the world's major cinema operators.

Membership is open to all exhibitors with at least 250 screens and the national trade associations. Smaller exhibitors will be allowed to support the Federation and will be kept abreast of all of its activities and developments.  The first meeting of GCF was held during the recent annual CineEurope Convention in Barcelona and will meet again during CineAsia and CinemaCon.

Facing a diminishing distribution window, internet content streamers, piracy, poor studio relationships, and ever improving home entertainment cinema exhibition does not portend a rosy future - hopefully the GCF will provide a much stronger voice on behalf of the global exhibition community. Alegendro Ramierez Magana, CEO of the Cinepolis Cinema Group, and one of  GCF's prime movers, told CMG, "we are still working on the exact role of the Group and developing our positions on key issues, lobbying role, and education."

Members include: AMC Theaters, Cinemark, Cineplex, Cinepolis, Cineworld, Event Cinemas, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathe, Regal Group, Vive International, Wanda Cinema and others, including trade associations: International Union of Cinemas, and the National Association of Theater Owners.

CMG wishes all the best to the Global Cinema Federation but believes it is too little - too late. A group such as this should have existed decades ago when they might have had some clout. Now we are too far down the road - there is no stopping the internet streaming juggernaut and no real strong cards for exhibitors to play.

Nuff said,


Jim Lavorato

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.