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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Disney Gets Beat-up By Redbox

In a court ruling last week, Disney was found libel for committing copyright misuse. Then, quickly re-grouping, made changes in the way it licenses its content online and re-applied for a new injunction aimed at preventing Redbox from selling movie download codes.  Disney contends that Redbox is violating its copyrights by disassembling "Combo Packs" - a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a movie download code which can be redeemed through authorized digital outlets.

Disney lost in its first motion for a preliminary injunction against Redbox. In that case, Judge Dean Pregerson found that there was no dispute Disney couldn't prevent consumers from transferring Blu-ray discs and DVDs contained within Combo Packs. Citing a copyrights first sale doctrine that provides that someone who lawfully acquires a copyrighted work is entitled to sell or dispose of their copy.  The judge found that Disney's restrictive license terms given them "giant power beyond the scope of its copyright to works like Star Wars and Frozen. Combo Pack purchasers can not access digital movie content, for which they have already paid, without exceeding the scope of the license agreement unless they forego that right."

This whole mess puts Disney in a bad position as Redbox readies to sell a Combo Pack for Black Panther and after that all movie content.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, April 07, 2018

MPAA Pivots - Bending To Reality

Global cinema box-office revenue hit a record $40b last year, yet U.S. admissions hit a 23 year low!

The business of H'wood is changing


Hmmm..... so what does the U.S. based Motion Picture Association of America do?  It pivots and gives a BIG HO-RAH to Netflix and other streaming services, including home entertainment spending in its annual report on the health of the movie business.

There is good reason for the pivot, considering the explosion in digital subscription services vs. the volatile cinema market and the death of DVD sales/rentals (once the major contribution to Hollywood's coffers). In 2017, global spending on cinema and home entertainment totaled $88.4b with home entertainment responsible for $48.4b of which $32.1b was digital content streaming.

The MPAA is comprised of the six major studios: Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warners all of which sell their movies to streaming services; however, they have a conflicted relationship with Netflix, which also produces original content for movies and TV productions - which will exceed $8b this year. Netflix has also irked movie exhibitors by refusing to abide by the theatrical window in trying to screen its original films at theaters - as they do at the iPic Cinemas.

The demographics of films is also changing, making traditional films (particularly non-blockbusters) irrelevant. The 25-39 age group continued to have the most frequent moviegoers followed by the 40-49 age group. Next came the 12-17 group followed by the 18-24 group. The worst stat in these numbers was that the 18-24 group's attendance was down 28% while the 12-17 group was down 22% from 2016 - not a good sign for the future.
Chuck Dodd out Charlie Rivkin in as MPAA hancho

Among ethnic groups, Hispanics were the highest, going to the movies 4.5x on average per year, followed by Asians at 4.3x.  Caucasians purchased 55% of all tickets sold, Hispanics 23%, Blacks 12%, and Asians 7% - these stats pretty much mirror the population figures of these groups.

More than 263 million N. Americans went to the cinema at least once in 2017, with ticket sales essentially split evenly between female and male moviegoers.

RECAP

- Less people (particularly the younger age groups) are going to the movies.
- Higher ticket pricing is making up for the slide in admissions - (sustainable?).
- Lots more is being spent on streaming content vs. cinema viewing
- The trend in home entertainment is: a lot more quality content will be available.

My take is that cinemas must embrace the Netflix's of the world and began to strike deals with them to screen their content as well as Hollywood's output. The studios are already doing it - why not cinemas?

Stay in touch,

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, April 05, 2018

MoviePass - How LOW Can It Go ?

CMG has been following the MoviePass saga for several years and last week it reached new heights in testing credulity.

MoviePass, the subscription-based service which offers low movie admission pricing, seems hell-bent on trying to confound, not only, the theater chains and  major film studios but anyone who has been following their quest to disrupt the long-standing cinema admission/concession pricing tradition.

The company, last week, pared another dollar off its monthly fee, so now a subscriber is entitled to one movie ticket per day for $6.95 per month!
The only catch being that users must pay for a year upfront and there is a one-time processing fee of $6.55. So, that's $89.95 to join.

It's hard for me to count the number of times MoviePass has changed its pricing scheme. When it launched, 6 years ago, the price was $40 per month. Then it was raised to $50 per month, there were several others price changes, but most significantly, 8 months ago the price was slashed to $9.95. That change had the desired effect of increasing the user rate, which ballooned from 20,000 to 3 million!

MoviePass has many critics, most notably the large cinema chains and studios which believe the service cheapens the moviegoing experience. Additionally, studio executives stress over the fact that the company will not survive (it pays mostly full price for the movie tickets it subscribers use) and believe that its users (left out in the cold) will never want to pay the regular price of admission - now averaging $9.50.

Still, MoviePass presses on, but not without competition. A company called Sinemia, which launched several years ago in Europe, recently entered the U.S. market. Sinemia provides two movie admissions for $9.99 per month and unlike MoviePass, includes IMAX and 3D screening in its offering.  But Sinemia's two tickets per month is a far cry from the 30 admissions per month MoviePass users can obtain.

It remains to be seen if either of these disruptors will turn a profit.  For its part, MoviePass is committed to its quest of eventually striking agreements with  movie exhibitors to share in their admission and concession profits as more and more of its users crowd into cinemas. So far, that hasn't happened.

MoviePass's 'burn-rate' gets higher as they get more subscribers, so they need to make deals and they need to do that quickly. Can it drop its price to $4.95 per month?  Only time will tell.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sabo Strikes Again and H'wood Changing Production

One of Sabo's works
Sabo, a Hollywood street artist, hijacked three billboards in Tinseltown the day prior to the Oscars and turned them into attack advertisements against the film industry for its abuses and mis-informed protests.

The Sabo inspired billboards boasted the messages:  "And the Oscar for the Biggest Pedophile Goes To" , "We All Knew and Still No Arrests", and "Name Names on Stage or Shut-the-hell-up."

The billboards, prior to Sabo's work, had paid advertisements and measured 48ft. across x 14ft. high. Sabo has attacked H'wood before with billboard take-overs but he considers this latest venture his largest artistic endeavor yet.

Over 100 men in the entertainment industry have now been publicly accused of sexual abuse and misconduct since charges were made against Harvey Weinstein 5 months age.

Sabo says, "my sign art is meant to point the finger at those that enabled sexual harassment with their silence, and to send a message to celebrities to refrain from preaching during their Oscar acceptance speeches."

Hollywood Changing It M.O.

In his new book, 'The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies' Ben Fritz, describes how Hollywood moved from the rise of the superhero film to the complete disappearance of the mid-budget adult drama.  From the hacking of Sony's corporate records to the development of on-line streaming, Fritz lays out where he believes the boxoffice is headed.

According to Fritz, and I agree, Hollywood is obsessed with funding the next global brand films - but the new franchises are no longer talent-based but concept-based.

It was not too long ago that Sony, Warners, and Universal all kept vacation villas in places like: Acapulco, Aspen, and Tuscany that stars had free access to.  But following numerous star-centric films that have been boxoffice flops over the last 5 years all of the major studios have now moved to the concept franchise over star power.  The current H'wood mantra is 'we can't make money by pushing stars and we need to stop relying on them to carry a film to big-grosses'. What has occurred is that the stars are all trying to abandon the studios (that no longer want or need them) in favor of inking deals with Netflix (which is in the throngs of developing a library of their own productions).



  Stay in touch,

Jim

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Using Fake Holidays To Drum-up Business

If you haven't noticed, there has been a surge in fake holidays. For instance, Jan.31st is National Backwards Day, March 3rd is National Puzzle Day, and today is National Baked Alaska Day.

OK, this is clearly out-of-hand but on second thought it maybe a way for a cinema to leverage these days to your advantage. Be honest, we all contribute to the Cyber Monday and Black Friday spending craze.

The whole national holiday mania started in 1908 with Mother's Day - which went mainstream when in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as the national day to honor mothers.  And that was it, over the next 70+ years we all went holiday berserk.

We now even celebrate sporting events as holidays, ie. Super Bowl Day, for which, before game day A/V equipment sales now rival those of Black  Friday!  From greeting cards to electronics, businesses take advantage of our 'holiday obsession'.

So all of you cinema owners, if you can't find a holiday that helps admissions and/or concessions latch on to one that is meaningful to your local community.  There is a Small Business Saturday, a Record Store Day, and even a National Thank You Note Day. Partner-up and cross-promote the cinema with other local businesses.

Best thing to do is create your own holiday, National Cinema Day for example. Make sure it falls on a Friday, Sat, or Sunday and use it as part of your existing loyalty program (you do have a loyalty program, right).  And who says you just need a day. What about a National Cinema Week, or better still, Month.

It's all about creative brand marketing to enhance your cinema's unique sales proposition. DO IT!

Keep in touch,
Jim

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Cinema's Need A Dose of Disruption

Disruption use to be a dirty word. It was bad to be disruptive and unconventional. Now, it's all the rage in corporate suites. The best examples are: Amazon stepping into the food market industry and now moving into the prescription drug business.  Uber being the largest taxi company in the world without owning one cab, Airbnb, now the globe's largest property renter without owning any real estate properties. Cinemas need to take a page out of the disruptor playbook and began to think and act in a manner which provides the next step in their evolution!

The term, Unique Selling Proposition, is used in Branding and Marketing to describe the one thing that sets your service or product apart from your competition and differentiate your business. Cinemas need to find their USP.  We witness this all of the time, and here are two recent examples:

Starbucks keeps evolving, improving, and (most importantly) engaging their customers. The latest USP from the java giant is the Reserve Store. The first Reserve recently opened at Starbuck's headquarters in Seattle - which is the precursor of 1,000 Reserve Stores that are planned throughout the U.S. and other countries.
On premises bakery

Starbucks Reserve Store is massive
The Store (called a store because of It is constructed as a large open market, similar to Eataly in NYC (if  you go to NYC a visit to Eataly is a must). A host of items will be served-up at the Reserve Stores, including: branded coffee, special drinks, on-premises full-blown bakery, all sorts of food items, and alcoholic drinks.

The point of all this is that Starbucks doesn't rest on it past success - in fact, the Reserve Store will be the fifth addition to their evolving customer-centric business model. An addition to its regular cafes, their Reserve Roasteries, Reserve Bars, and Express retail stores - Reserve Stores combine all five concepts into a single location - as all things Starbucks.

Another perfect example of disruption is witness by Ekoplaza, a food-store chain in Amsterdam, which is drastically reducing the use of plastic in food packaging (and starting, what I believe will be a major trend for all food stores in the very near future). Ekoplaza has started a plastic-free section of their stores which includes hundreds of products which are sold in recyclable glass, metal, and cardboard packaging. This will be a big winner for Ekoplaza as this concept is very consumer friendly and meets the wants of many shoppers for a plastic-free environment.

These are two examples of companies that are evolving and pushing the envelope in their respective markets. Cinemas need to do the same and institute a dose of disruption into their operations.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato


Studios Take Big Hit on 'Their Piracy'

Last Wednesday, Disney, Fox, and Paramount received a legal blow in a case whereby the three studios were charged with having used stolen graphics effects programs in production in many of their biggest super hero films.

The U.S. Circuit Court rejected the studios' copyright argument when sued by Rearden LLC, a Silicon Valley firm, for the illegal use of its motion-capture technology, know as the MOVA Contour Program. MOVA captures and tracks the 3D shapes of the human face with great precision. Rearden attorneys argued that the software program's output can be owned by the programmers instead of the end user if the program does the 'lion's share' of the process required.  The studios argued that there was substantial creative input by directors and actors to change the program - but the Court wasn't buying into this defense.
MOVA System best for facial recognition

Keep in mind that copyright laws in the U.S. protect original works of authorship while trademarks protect words, phrases, and designs that identify the source of goods and services.   


Judge Tigar ruled that Disney and Fox's use of the MOVA system trademark made in movie credits lead viewers to believe that Rearden endorsed the movie - which it did not!  The Court further stipulated that the MOVA system (used in the making of blockbusters, such as 'Guardians of the Galaxy', 'Deadpool', 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Fantastic Four', 'Terminator: Genisys', and many others) without Rearden's permission or endorsement.  This is a big problem for the studios. The defending studios stated that they would be appealing the verdict.

We will see more of this type of  law suit in the future as more and more of movie production uses simulated scenes and digital programming made outside of  Hollywood's control

Jim Lavorato




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 Off To A Great Start

Living up to all of its hype, 'Black Panther' grossed an astounding $340m in N. American over the 4 day, President's Day Holiday weekend.
Starting 2018 Off Right

The movie carries a $200m production cost and an additional $85m in marketing so Disney/Marvel always considered it a tent-pole title - but they didn't expect the grosses the 'Panther' generated (its total gate for the weekend was over $430 globally). The movie will have good legs and carry exceptional grosses over the next several weeks.

The best news, it pushed 2018's YTD domestic gross (at $1.65b) up 6.9% over 2017's performance - not bad and we're not even through February.

The concept of a 'Black Panther' movie was originally touted by Wesley Snipes in 1992 but the project never got traction and Snipes then moved on to the 'Blade' and sequels.

Disney/Marvel was smart in marketing 'Black Panther' as pre-release they had partnered-up with the NFL, Lexus, PepsiCo, Unilever, the NBA and others. Special trailers were even produced for the Chinese market.  The movie has averaged an approval rating of 8.3 out of 10 and there were over 560 thousand Tweets on day one of release, twice the number that 'The Last Jedi' garnered. There are already several sequels planned.

So, as predicted in these pages, 2018 looks like it's shaping-up to be a stellar year.

Keep in touch,
Jim

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Top Movie Franchises

Movie franchises are the life-blood of  the movie industry. Generating mega-bucks above and beyond their box office grosses these money machines have huge fan bases that purchase any and everything  franchise associated. From costumes to a vast array of collectible merchandise the biggest franchises even have their own theme parks and can last for decades with numerous sequels or prequels.

So which are the best and biggest movie franchises. According to a poll by Variety the top 15 all-time biggest franchises, so far, are:

  1. Star Wars (Disney building Star Wars Land - Disneyland, CA
  2. James Bond (the longest running)
  3. Batman (more actors playing the lead than any other franchise)
  4. Lord of The Rings (Shire theme park to open this year in Spain
  5. Rocky
  6. Fast & Furious (Universal's biggest with 8 and counting)
  7. Mission Impossible (theme park in London to open in 2021)
  8. Harry Potter (own theme park)
  9. Ironman (3 with Avengers' films)
  10. Lethal Weapon
  11. X-Men (sequels, prequels, and reboots)
  12. Pirates of the Caribbean (theme park in Shanghai)
  13. Spider Man (most reboots)
  14. Indiana Jones
  15. Die Hard
Waiting in the wings: Avatar (already has theme park). Now, imagine a Disney-Marvel 'Super' theme park with Ironman, Spider-man, Thor, Captain America, X-Men, and Avengers attractions.

Best,
Jim


Marketing Your Cinema With Social Media

Are you marketing your cinema on one or more of the social platforms? If the answer is NO, you should take a look at doing so.

Cinemas Need To Use Social Media 
All of the social platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Tweeter, and others  offer advertising options. The best thing about advertising on a social platform is that it is very inexpensive. An ad on Facebook is about $30, so budgeting just $200-300 per month will allow for multiple ads. Comparing this to traditional advertising it is a fraction of the cost.

Additionally, social media allows you to select which demographic you want targeted. This provides you a rifle vs. shotgun approach to reach potential customers. For example, you can choose age, sex, and geographic area - therefore your ads will appear only on the Facebook pages of those particular people. That's nice because your ads will be targeting only those consumers in your  local community.

When using a social platform for advertising use both text and videos in your ads, this is important, as social platforms prefer the use of videos, pictures, and graphics. This allows you to have great leeway in who your ads are targeting.

Special screenings, concession deals, merchandise offerings, loyalty discounts, coming attractions,
the opportunities are endless for ads to promote your cinema the 'social way'. Do It!

Keep in touch,
Jim

Friday, February 09, 2018

AMC Gets Sold.... AGAIN

This week the Wanda Group, a Chinese conglom that owns the AMC theater circuit, sold a $1.2b stake in the exhib to the Alibaba Group (the Amazon of China).  No real details for the sale were given but AMC reported a $210 million loss through the 3rd quarter of 2017. Its share price has dropped from a high of $31.85 at the start of 2017 to $14.20 as of yesterday.  Alibaba may have thought that at a $14 price the investment was worth it.

In addition to decreased admissions, AMC has been in a battle with MoviePass, a subscription based cinema admission service that offers one movie ticket a day to customers which use its Red Card service for $9.95 per month.  AMC blasted MoviePass, and has been moving forward with legal action. MoviePass's goal is to have exhibs share their admission and concession sales with them because they are bringing more people into theaters - AMC views this profit sharing scheme as a non-starter.

AMC had received at least six offers of purchase over the last three months but Wanda settled upon Alibaba's offer.

Keep in touch,

Jim

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bigger Isn't Better In Movie Exhibition : Regal Gets Gobbled

BIG ISN'T BETTER!
AMC, the second largest cinema chain in the U.S. went to Chinese conglom Wanda Group, making Wanda the largest chain in the world with over 11,000 screens. Now it Regal Entertainment, the largest U.S. chain, being taken over by the Cineworld crew for a cool $3.6b, making Cineworld the globe's second largest chain with over 9,500 screens (Regal having 7,315).

Paying $23 per share for Regal, a premium of over $7 a share from its 2017 average price. Cineworld believes big is better in the movie exhibition game, but is it?  Recent poor box office grosses attest to the fact that entertainment seekers aren't enthused with the current cinema experience.

We, are Cinema Mucho Gusto (CMG) have always believed that, going forward, cinemas would have no choice but to lock arms with the major web content streamers and run day-and-date content that had big-screen/big sound appeal.

Cinemas, over the past decade, have responded to lower admissions by adding enticements such as, better seating, loyalty programs, enhanced food and drink options, and improved viewing options with larger screens and improved sound - but all those enticement came with higher admission pricing - and all for nought.

For example, Cinemark, another large U.S. chain, recently introduced the 'Movie Club' program. Under this incentive, a patron pays $8.99 for one ticket per month over the course of a year. Regal, experimented with a concept of charging more for an admission during peak hours and less at lighter attendance times.

I believe these schemes are not a solution to the problem of low attendance. People want GOOD CONTENT - a high-impact or animated film with a good storyline, and great effects, offered in a clean and safe environment with 'cinema food' and a great on-screen image and sound - that's IT!

All of these loyalty programs and admission pricing schemes are meaningless and will not bring in more eyeballs.  Gourmet burgers, flatbreads, gelato, sushi, and alcoholic beverages are not going to entice consumers to visit a cinema.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato

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