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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Cinema Tidbits by Seymour Flix

Yes, it's been awhile since we've connected, but that's the way of superstars. But the Flixster is still alive and well and my fan-base as loyal as ever. so, let us get started with some
Cinema Tidbits from yours truly.

The End of Madea
Tyler Perry and  Perry as Madea

'Madea' is being put to rest after almost 20 years.  Yes, the Tyler Perry, rough-talking grandma character which appeared in dozens of films, plays, and TV appearances is going into 'permanent' retirement. 

Perry plans on doing a farewell stage tour in 2019, "Tyler Perry's a Madea Family Funeral" to say farewell to his iconic character. It would be an understatement to say that Madea made Perry a very rich man. The film franchise alone, consisting of 10 movies, has grossed over $500 million.

"I'm happy to kill the old bitch, man" Perry said during an interview with Bevy Smith. "I just don't want to be her age, playing her." Well said Tyler, who wrote and directed most of the Madea films.
Perry has said that the character was loosely based on his own mother, and is known for the use of comical and vulgar language, and has a litany of criminal offenses.

For sure, Madea has made us all laugh over the years, and it will be with regret that we see her put to rest. We wish Tyler all the best.


May Be Overdoing Their Cause
Weinstein: Could the 'Me Too"  Movement Overplay Their Hand?

In an amended class action suit filed last Wednesday in NYC, the beleaguered mogul was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year old girl.  The action, brought forth by an anonymous woman, charged that she was repeatedly attacked by Weinstein from 2002 - 2011 beginning when she was 16.

Weinstein vehemently denied the allegations. His attorney, Ben Brafman stated, "This claim is preposterous. Like so many other women in this case who have already been exposed as liars, this latest, uncorroborated charge, that is 20 years old, will also be shown to be patently false."

Filed under a Jane Doe, the complaint states that the victim continued to have dealings with Weinstein over the source of 9 years.

With this latest accusation, the 'Me Too' movement may be going too far and actually diminishing the validity of their cases against Weinstein. Already, another case against him was dismissed , with the Judge, in that case, stating there was a lack of evidence in how Weinstein and the Board at The Weinstein Group might have operated to conceal his alleged predation.

With the Supreme Court appointment of Bret Kavanaugh, and all of the false allegations brought to bear, Weinstein may benefit from that fiasco.  Only time and justice will tell.


FlimStruck Shutters Doors
AT&T says goodbye to FilmStruck

FilmStruck, the Cinephile streaming service was struck-down after two years in operation. Turner Communications and Warner Bros. owners of FilmStruck announced that FS would cease operations by Nov. 29th.

WarnerMedia, now owned by AT&T, and in charge of all mainstream direct-to-consumer entertainment services decided that FilmStruck did not fit into their strategic plans. FilmStruck hosted hundreds of classic, arthouse, indie, and foreign films - many of them exclusive to the streamer.

It will be missed by many fans and a large following of H'wood directors and producers.


Sequel to 'Crazy Rich Asians' to be filmed in China
'Crazy Rich Asians' Sequel - To Be Shot In China

Although the film won't be released in Chinese cinemas until November end, the producers of the very popular film say the sequel will be shot in China. Entitled "China Rich Girlfriend" the sequel will be filmed in Shanghai, and be the second adaptation of the "Asians" series of books by Kevin Kwan.

'Crazy Rich Asians' has grossed $232 million since its release and its screening in China could push the gross to over $350 million. I saw and enjoyed the film and it deserves a sequel.

All the best,
Seymour Flix






Saturday, October 27, 2018

Aston Martin Brings Bond DB5 Back

Thanks to an unexpected collaboration between Aston Martin, Bond movie producers EON, and the  special effects team at Pinewood Studios, James Bond's Aston DB5 is BACK!
Connery with DB5 as appeared in 'Goldfinger'

Aston Martin announced that it is going to build a run of 28 Bond DB5 Continuations, in honor of the upcoming 25th Bond movie due to be released in 2019.  25 of the cars will be sold to the public plus one for Aston Martin, one for EON, and one to be auctioned off for charity. Price per car 2,75m pounds (approx. $3.5m).

The cars will be built at the Aston Martin Works at Newport Pagnell,  home of the original DB5. They will be manufactured to the original plans and using traditional methods while incorporating the latest advances in auto technology while remaining true to the character of the Bond DB5.  The cars will all be painted Silver Birch and have several of the gadgets the original movie cars had (no, there will be no ejector seat or concealed machine guns) but there will, must likely, be revolving license plates and modern navigation and phone systems incorporated into the retro dashboard.

Delivery of the DB5s will be in 2020 with all 25 cars pre-sold before production.

Happy motoring,
Jim Lavorato, CMG

Friday, October 26, 2018

Privacy First

Data Protection Regulation is NEEDED
Hollywood goes to great lengths to protect their intellectual property, in fact, all of media goes to great lengths to protect all sorts of intellectual property from patents and copyrights to books and video games.

Yet, it is very difficult for consumers to grasp and appreciate how social media companies are collecting, analyzing, sharing, and selling a tremendous amount of information about
them!

It has reached a point where uniform privacy protections that would provide meaningful consent for the use of online information no matter where they go on the internet is now required.

CMG believes that a national online privacy framework should start with the consumer and be grounded in the concept of empowering and informing consumers to control the personal information that is collected about them online.

Control
Consumers should be empowered to have meaningful choice for each use of their data through opt-in consent. The consent options should be purposeful, clear, and meaningful with no 'pre-ticked boxes', 'take-it-or-leave-it offers', of other default consents. Additionally, the consent should be renewable at reasonable frequency.

Transparency
Explanation about how companies collect, use, and maintain consumer' data should be clear, concise,  easy-to-understand, and readily available. Consumers should have the ability to weigh the benefits and harms of collection and use of their data.

Parity
Consent must be applied uniformly across the entire Internet and not based on who is collecting it, or whether a service is free or paid - and whether they are using an ISP, a search engine, e-commerce site, streaming service, social network, or mobile carrier or device. 

Uniformity
Consumers should be protected under a single, national standard that protects regardless of where you live, work, or travel - the protection should not under individual State laws.

There are many accounts of data misuse and privacy laws are long overdue. Consumers deserve and have a right to control how their personal information is collected and used whenever they use the internet and whenever they go online.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Monday, October 22, 2018

Holiday B.O. - Starting Off With A Bang

Halloween kills it a the box office- 40 yrs. later
As CMG predicted, this holiday season box office will be stellar. It started off with 'Halloween' which killed it with a launch last weekend with a $77.5m b.o.  It came on the back of 'Venom' which had I $80m take earlier this month.

'Halloween' is a long-awaited sequel - over 40 years between the original and this latest film. However, this movie combined the return of the original star, Jamie Lee Curtis, great writing, and great filmmaking.

Both 'Venom' and 'A Star is Born' were big winners this month. Both topping over $100m since their releases. 'Venom' $171m and 'A Star is Born' $126m.  So far, October tally is more than 54% ahead of last year. Adding to this year being 10.6% higher than 2017.

CMG believes this trend will continue throughout the rest of the year - with November and December being record-breaking month at the box office. Enjoy exhibs. You deserve it!

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato
Cinema Mucho Gusto

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sexual Charges Against Weinstein Get TOSSED

Some of Weinstein's accusers.
Allegations made by Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Bernie Weinstein, were tossed out of court last Thursday.  The charges were dismissed after evidence emerged that a police detective had coached a witness to stay silent about evidence that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers.

Harvey still faces charges over allegations that he raped an unidentified woman in his hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.

In the Evans case, a woman closed to Evans told the police detective that Evans had told her that what had happened in Weinstein's office was consensual as Weinstein had promised her an acting job if she agreed to perform oral sex and she agreed. According to this witness, who was not named in the Court filing, Evans had been drinking and "appeared to be upset, embarrassed and shaking" when she told her story.

Weinstein's lawyer, Ben Brafman, told the Judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to the New Yorker Magazine about her encounter with Weinstein. "The integrity of these proceedings has been compromised" he said, and suggested that Evans should be prosecuted criminally for perjury.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on $1 million bail.

The clouds are parting, at least a little, for Bernie and it could well be that in the end all of the charges against him are dropped for both lack of hard evidence and consentuality based upon getting a movie role or model booking.

Best
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Smartglasses Assist With LIVE Theater Performances

Augmented reality or AR proved its value last week when the National Theater in London introduced smartglasses that provide real-time subtitles for hearing
impaired audience members.

Epson's  'smart caption glasses'
The 'smart-caption glasses' show the dialogue as the on-stage actors say it, allowing the users to keep their eyes on the stage. The glasses are produced by
Epson and were over two years in development to get things right. Originally, the captions were to be displayed on the audience members' phones but that became too distracting for the other audience members.

The software developed is able to follow along with the speech live and sends the words to the glasses via WiFi. The software also recognizes lighting changes and will alter the placement of captions for optimal viewing.

The glasses retail for $1,050 per pair. Which is not out of reasons given the cost of the normal movie theater hearing impaired products' costs.

So, once again AR is applied to a real world situation and proved to be very valuable. Future uses of this technology will include real-time language translation.

By: Jim Lavorato
Cinema Much Gusto

Best Multiplex of the Year Award: Mayajaal 16plex.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Weinstein Team Goes On The Defense

The defense for both the civil and criminal allegations against Harvey Weinstein is going to take a four-tiered approach, all of which will be held in various courts in NYC.

Here's how the defense is taking shape:

#1 - The Grand Jury Was Not Given Proper Evidence.  Principally emails between Weinstein and a woman accusing him of rape in 2013.  The emails, allegedly suggest the relationship was consensual and continued after the incident in question.

#2 - Relationships Were Consensual.  To discredit his accusers Weinstein has released photographs and letters showing that the women maintained contact with him after the alleged assaults.

#3 - Company Didn't Hide Anything. Weinstein's defense team is trying to get a lawsuit filed by six women seeking a class-action suit (which if cleared would allow over 80 women to be part of the legal proceedings).  In court, the plaintiffs' lawyers were told they must prove that "an enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity over an extended period of time."

Additionally, defense attorneys argued that the women have failed to back allegations of a conspiracy and sex trafficking as nothing was offered in exchange for sex.

#4 - Events Happened Too Long Ago. Defense attorneys have argued that the allegations for criminal charges are too old and lack any forensic evidence, ie. DNA.

So, there you have it. Weinstein won't be going down without a fight and some of his defenses have merit.  The saga continues.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato
Cinema Mucho Gusto

Saturday, September 29, 2018

'A' Listers and Voice-overs

All have multiple voice-over credits
Why do 'A' Listers rent out their iconic voices to be in the world of animation?  From Eddie Murphy (Mulan, Shrek) to Brad Pitt (Sinbad, Megamind, Happy Feet), Emily Blunt (Gnomeo and Juliet, My Little Pony). The majority of the time these big-screen stars do multiple voice-overs.

Jackie Chan, who has appeared in over 150 films has lent his voice to Kung Fu Panda, Nut Job, and the Lego Ninjago films.  Johnny Depp lent his voice to Corpse Brides and Gnomeo and Juliet.  Hugh Jackman, who broke into the industry with his casting as Wolverine in X-Men, but despite his action hero roles he has found time to voice-over in films such as Happy Feet and Rise of the Guardians.
The Donkey in Shrek is Iconic

Why do these stars do voice-overs? Because they are fun! You get to be in the best animated films portraying over-the-top, funny characters, most of which aren't human. The scripts are normally very funny and there is no worry about make-up, wardrobe, stunts, sets. Most of the films are family-friendly and you can 'play' anything: from alien, to fish, to donkey and humanize the role.

The late Robin Williams did many voice-overs. Aladdin,, FernGully, Last Rain Forest, Robots, and Happy Feet to name several.

It's all great fun and each character takes on a life of its own with an iconic voice of a noted actor.

Best,
Jim Lavorato
Cinema  Mucho Gusto

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Street Gangs & H'wood: Working Together

It's no secret that H'wood uses street gangs when shooting movies in inter-city locations. Tech production advisers work with gangs to smooth out the 'rough issues' (which can get very dicey).

It's very careful work in dealing with gang leaders in using their turf and fellow gang members as movie extras. The production advisers negotiate the where film crews will be and when the film shooting with take place. But even then, movie cars disappear, props are stolen, and money is paid out for safety. The film crews must be seen as guests and not neighborhood occupiers, and the gang members must be empowered in the process. For the most part, if treated correctly, street gangs will cooperate and lend real cred to the movie.

Normally, a community leader is hired as neighborhood liaison. That person will help ease the path and aid in selecting the people who will, in turn, be hired as background cast and perhaps even a small part in the film.

So, when viewing your next film where street gangs are involved remember - 'Real life is just on the edges and it's not all that good'. 

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

'No New Oscars' Says Academy

Well, it didn't take long, as the staid and geezer-ish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put the kibosh on its August 8th announcement that a new Oscar award for 'Achievement in Popular Film' was to be awarded.  You know, the Oscar for the movie that had the biggest gross for the year.

It seems there was a lot of backlash to the proposal from the Acad rank and file - as they want to keep the artistic theme (as if it ever existed) of the Oscars to remain undisturbed. Dawn Hudson, the Acad's CEO stated "the leadership of the Academy is still committed to the new prize in principal."

My take is that even if adding or changing several of the prize categories, the disinterest of the public and the sagging ratings of the Acad show is due to any number of reasons. Certainly the changing viewing habits of consumers and Tinseltown's over-the-top political biases are but two. The Oscars show is too long and too boring which begs the question that has been raised (and which I totally agree with) - the sale of the Oscars show by the Academy to a net-streamer, ie Netflix. 

This would eliminate the broadcast rating issue completely, make for a better show, give it the funding needed to make it a shorter but more entertaining event, and take the politics out of the whole process. If not, then the Oscars will continue to lose viewership and become more irrelevant than they already are.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.
9/13/18



Thursday, September 06, 2018

Summer Hits Keep On Coming

Jim Lavorato  Sept. 6, 2018

Abnormal, as it may be, big grossing films continue to be released throughout September - with 10 major opening over the next several weeks.

1. 'Nun' - a sequel to 'The Conjuring' film franchise, is going to provide horror fans a new favorite and possibly iconic movie. Opens 9/7

2. 'Peppermint' - Jennifer Garner in fast-paced, high-action revenge films, ala 'Taken'. Should be a box office favorite. Opens 9/7

3. 'The Predator' - another addition to the Predator/Alien saga. This flick has been touted as a super thriller/action film and a moviegoer fav. Will not disappoint Predator fans. Opens 9/14

4. 'A Simple Favor' - a noir-thriller about a girl whose best friend mysteriously disappears - the truth will win out eventually. Opens 9/14

5. 'White Boy Rick' - a true bio about the youngest informant/drug dealer in FBI history. Set in
1980s Detroit it is thought to be an Oscar nominee. Opens 9/14

6. 'The House With A Clock In Its Wall' - Long title for a pre-Holloween family-friendly film with a great cast and storyline. All around good entertainment. Opens 9/14

7. 'Life Itself' - A love story that has repercussions across many family members. A tear-jerker that will require lots of Kleenex. Opens 9/21

8. 'Assassination Nation' - this Oscar favorite explores several themes, such as the highschool experience and the force of the internet on young adults.  What brings on the mayhem and chaos in our schools. Opens 9/21

9. 'Night School' - Comedy about a couple joining forces. A student and teacher both return to school where everything goes wrong. Opens 9/28

10. 'Smallfoot' - A Warners animated film with a star-studded cast of voice-over givers. Great for kids and adults alike. Opens 9/28

So, take a trip to the movies this September, the summer just keeps on giving at your cinema.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.
entequip@aol.com

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Weinstein Saga Gets 'Legal Crazy'

Harvey: in a world of hurt
It's not every day that a company files for bankruptcy because its founder is accused, by dozens of people, of sexual misconduct. It's rarer still when the alleged victims convince the case Judge to lift a stay on their class action lawsuit which are normally suspended in bankruptcy proceedings - but that's what happened last week!

The filing group, called the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, filed and won a lifting of the stay against their lawsuit, and they weren't the only ones. Alexandra Camosa, an alleged Weinstein victim, was an associate producer on the Netflix show 'Marco Polo'. She is not only suing the Weinstein Company but also individual members of the Board of Directors in a $10 million complaint for associated sexual harassment charges.

The problem is that, the Lantern Company, which purchased the Weinstein Company assets for $289 million will have to pay up if Weinstein loses the suits and it appears that the $289m won't be enough to cover the settlements - which include claims by the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Writers Guild of America.

To make matters worse (and even more nuts) another motion has been filed with the bankruptcy court by Endemol Shine, which has initiated a lawsuit in England against Lantern over whether the Weinstein Company contracted rights on the 'Peaky Blinders' show terminated due to Harvey's alleged sexual dalliances.

The next hearing in the Weinstien saga will take place on Sept. 5th in Delaware.

What's Harvey Up To?

For his part, Harvey has denied perpetuating any unconsenual sex acts. At worst, he says he used his position of power to "score sexual favors".  According to Ben Brafman, Harvey's attorney, "Mr Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood".  

Harvey is also facing sex trafficking charges, and he has asked the Court for an official definition of "a commercial sex act".  Which begs the question: Does the possibility exist that a film role represents value? If so, then Harvey's actions would be classified as a 'quid pro quo', ie. an acting role in fact have value. However, up to now, the Judge in Harvey's criminal case has ruled that "the expectation of a film role, a modeling meeting, or other such promises have no real value.

And so it goes!

Jim Lavorato

Friday, August 24, 2018

Film: Not Dead Yet

Until very recently it was possible to purchase a camera that was film based: the Canon DSLR - EOS Iv. The company ceased production of the EOS-Iv in 2010 but has been slowly selling of its stock with the last one being sold a few weeks ago.

However, photography printing is still very much alive. At the time it was killing off film cameras, Canon announced its new IVY Mini Photo Printer.  The IVY is targeted to a young audience.  Today, 85% of all photos are taken with smartphones, and IVY is a clear play to put Canon products in the hands of mobile consumers.

The smartphone accessory that lets Instagrammers print photos for lasting memories is poised to be a winner. Gifting a printed photo has a lot more meaning than a Facebook posting. What makes these printers acceptable are their size - they are small and that's all due to a technology called ZINK.

Zink is a 'zero ink' printing technology, originally developed by Polaroid and spun-off as a separate company in 2005.  Like Polaroid photos everything needed to produce a great image is embedded on the ZINK paper itself.  The devices that use ZINK don't require ink which allows the devices to maintain their compactness, and photos don't need to dry before handling.

With an initial retail of 50 cents per print regardless of quantity the attraction of affordable instant printing is huge.

Canon isn't the only company pushing the ZINK technology, Polaroid, Kodak, HP, and LG are among the global manufactures that also have an array of ZINK powered instant cameras and mobile printers.

In addition to consumers there is great potential for corporate use. The primary business printer market is dying as tablets take over. But, screens can't always replace all images and ones that produce hard-copies instantaneously.

ZINK is going to be big and its use has only, thus far, been confined to consumer selfies - there is much more it can, and will, do.

Best,
Jim Lavorato

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Oscar, You Need A Face-lift

Last week, the Oscars announced that there were going to be changes to the awards show.  While many, including yours truly, applaud the long-awaited changes - such as shorting the length of the show - it still remains a staid and boring annual tribute to the greatest entertainment on earth.

The changes being contemplated by the Academy, include:

- New award for: 'Outstanding Achievement in a Popular Film'. Translation: What Film Had The Biggest Gross'.
- A bunch of what are termed "behind the scenes" awards will not be broadcasted  but will be given
out during the commercial breaks.
- The whole show will be limited to three hours of run-time.

Note: the same film could win both Best Picture and Most Popular.                                                                               
Well, we've all known for a long time that the Show needed changing. But are these changes enough? The Oscars need to be movie-fan-centric NOT Hollywood-centric. I have always believed that the Awards should be given based on box-office and fan-based criteria and not on 'so called' film as art.

Which Awards will be 'cut' is still an open question and a very bitter battle is expected within the
Academy ranks. Technical awards were never popular with the public, so I say cut them all  OUT. Who cares about Sound Editing or Original Script? In there place lets have some REAL Awards: Best Sequel, Best Film Without A Storyline, Best Reboot now we're talking. Lets make the Oscars a real show, a fan-centric show. We need to reduce Oscar fatigue and bring in showmanship.

And as you know, as the Oscars go so do all of the other Award-fests. SAG, Golden Globes, etc.,etc.,etc. - but it's all the same stuff with all the same people over and over.

Oscar needs a face-lift, NO a total re-construct.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato


Friday, August 03, 2018

Selling The Cinema: What Motivates Moviegoers

Stressed: Visit Your Cinema
Yesterday I went to my local cinema (Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale, AZ) to see 'Mission Impossible: Fallout".  The film was excellent and not only satisfied my entertainment requirements as a high-impact, action movie but, even more, gave me something else - RELIEF. 

That's right, as I was watching the trailers of upcoming films, it occurred to me that I was sitting in this cinema and I was relaxed. No distractions, no calls, no emails, no texts. I was into the experience and I was relaxed, relieved and I have to admit -  a bit excited.

This, elated feeling, I can never get at home. If I'm viewing a movie or streaming a video at home, I'm still tethered to the damn phone, I'm still a slave to the PC or iPad, I'm not in my full comfort-zone. At the cinema, it's all about ME not Them. And that, my friends, is Marketable.

I believe, that more and more, what motivates folks to visit the cinema is relief. The moviegoing experience has become a 'stress-depressor'. A way to de-compress for a few hours and leave the outside world (and all if its pressures) at the cinema doorway - and the cinema industry should be marketing this! Because it's a Good Thing and it is a Reality.

Think about the last time you visited a cinema. How did you feel? Note: if you don't frequent the cinema than you shouldn't be reading this blog. What were your feelings as you sat down, with your corn and soda, in anticipation of experiencing a film you selected from a marquee full of choices?

What you FELT was RELIEF and it's all good!

Best,
Jim Lavorato



Wednesday, August 01, 2018

MoviePass Near-Death

From the get/go CMG made it perfectly clear that MoviePass was a fractured concept. Having moviegoers pay $10 per month for the privilege of going to a cinema as many times as they desired during that month was a non-starter from a monetary sense - although, I must say, MoviePass (which claims to have 3m members) lasted longer than I thought.

Problem was that MoviePass execs had convinced themselves that exhibitors would eventually come around as MoviePass subscribers increased and that all would share as the admission and concession pie grew. Wow, the more you think about it the worse it is. Needless to say, charging $10 per month and than having to pay full admission for the tickets the subscribers required made no sense. MoviePass tried various pricing structures during it tenure but the concept, as we stated, is flawed.

Now, AtomTickets (a ticketing service whose main competition is Fandango) is smelling blood and last week launched a contest encouraging customers of the flailing MoviePass to cancel their memberships for a chance to win one year of free tickets.

Calling it "Break UP Sweepstakes" the winner will receive a free daily movie ticket for 365 days (valued at $4,380). To enter, MoviePass customers must tweet a picture of their cut-up MoviePass member card to AtomTickets.

The straw that broke MoviePass's back occurred on Monday when their system crashed and their parent company was forced to borrow $5 million to resolve the issue, and then warned subscribers that "certain movies may not always be available in every theater on our platform".

AtomTickets is owned by Lionsgate, Disney, Fox, and Fidelity. Its board includes: Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Tyler Perry, Dwayne Johnson, and Dany Garcia (Johnson and Garcia are also investors).

CMG also predicted that Fandango would fall on rocky times and with AtomTickets as a competitor that's not good news for Fandango (owned by NBC/Universal).

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It's Here, Finally: Day-and-Date With Streamers

We have been predicting the exhibition of films at movie theaters and by on-line streamers day-and-date, in the pages of ScreenTrade Magazine and in this blog for years. It is now reality.

At this year's Venice film festival, several films produced by Netflix will be released at cinemas and on Netflix simultaneously following the festival. After the Cannes Festival demanded that all films needed a local theatrical release to compete at this year's festival, Netflix pulled all films from the festival, and the big winner of this was - the Venice Film Festival.

Six Netflix films will debut at the Venice Fest with festival chief, Alberto Barbera saying, "My job is that of a programmer, not a distributor. I see no reason to exclude from the competition of the festival a film because it was produced by Netflix.  In France, the law is different as regards to the windows, but fortunately here we do not have these problems."  And he is right! As I said in a prior post regarding the Cannes decision to ban Netflix films - it was stupid and out-of-touch with what is transpiring in the film industry and that Cannes would be the loser - it already has. 

As you would think, some of Italy's cinema exhibs are against the decision by the Venice Festival. Reasoning that the decision hurts them however they are not looking at the bigger picture. Piracy is rampant in Italy so running day-and-date completely destroys the piracy play. Also, the running of Netflix films allows the exhibs to exhibit excellent product at better terms than available from mainstream studios, and consumers will want to experience the films on large format screens with major sound. All of this favors the local cinema operator and they should embrace it.

The Venice Film Festival begins on Wednesday, August 29th, and end on Saturday, September 8th. Wish I could attend this year's fest as it will be historic for movie exhibition.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, July 15, 2018

U.S./China Trade Issues May Impact H'wood

Beijing and Washington trade talks may scuttle the booming China box office and delay film-quota negotiations. Protracted trade tit-for-tats between the U.S. and China may soon draw Hollywood into the fray.

President Trump could have last laugh on Hollywood
The U.S. film studios are exposed and vulnerable regarding U.S. and China relations. Hollywood tentpoles currently make a significant amount of gross profits in China. For example, Universal's Jurassic World:Fallen Kingdon earned over 25% of its $1.1b in global ticket sales in China. This year China's box office is up 16% over last year and is anticipated to surpass N. America as the world's biggest theatrical movie market within two years.

Thus far, the trans-Pacific trade spats have had no impact on films as Beijing has been very specific with its retaliatory tariffs and if you want to hurt Trump you don't go after Hollywood (where anti-Trump sentiment is high from left-leaning Tinseltown glitterati).

Another issue is that the big Hollywood blockbusters keep seats full in Chinese cinemas, which if cancelled would probably push the Chinese box office into the red. But that equation could change if the trade spat escalates into a war.  The Chinese have already threatened to hold up licenses for U.S. companies, delaying merger approvals, and increasing border inspections of U.S. goods.

The highest grossing Chinese film released in the U.S. last year was Wolf Warrior 2 with a $2.7m take. The highest grossing U.S. film released in China was Fate of the Furious with a $393m gross.

The biggest issue for studios is the on-going, and now stalled, negotiation on China's U.S. film quota. Under the current deal, which expired in 2017, the number of films accepted for release was controlled but also the when and how titles could be released and how much revenue foreign studios could take home (the studios currently take just 25% of admissions).  The push by the studios to renegotiate had made little head-way before the trade spat, now it is essentially dead.

Like most companies doing business with China the idea of selling to the world largest middle class prompted Hollywood to take aim at the (soon to be) world's biggest movie market - but like most companies in any industry that idea is a dream - and don't expect China to change, with or without a new trade regime.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Friday, July 13, 2018

Summer B.O. Big But Skewed

This summer's box office is going great-guns but its only Disney and Universal that are making it big. Missing-in-action are Warners, Sony, and Paramount. This makes one wonder if this is a shift in release strategy or just plain bad product, or a combination of both.

It's not that moviegoers aren't visiting their local cinema - as the B.O. tallied over $2.6b from May 4th - July 8th - a 14% increase over last year's figure.  Disney along is responsible for a whopping 44% of the total, while Universal accounted for 17%. Fox, Warners, Paramount, Lionsgate, and Sony shared the rest. Globally, the story is the same, as the box office is 10% above last year.




Some in the industry believe that placing films throughout the year is a better strategy than loading up in the summer, for example, Warners is releasing 'Aquaman' (its 2018 tentpole) is being released in December.

To be fair, this summer isn't over yet and things may change but the numbers are just too big for Sony or Warners to overcome.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Sicario: Franchise In The Making

Last week, the second film in the 'Sicario' series opened - 'Sicario: Day of the Soldado'. I say series because, I think, 'Sicario' is a film franchise in the making.

The 'Sicario' franchise, unlike others, is planned to have stand-alone episodes vs. follow-on story lines. Four of the original characters and cast members returned in 'Soldado' but in a new, and unique follow-on film which is not a direct sequel. Emily Blount, who played Kate Mercer, in the first film is not in 'Soldado' but is scheduled to return in the third film in the series.

'Sicario' (which stars Benicio Del Toro) is a crime drama not an action drama, and it is important to note that Taylor Sheridan the mastermind behind 'Sicario' had always envisioned a film trilogy but, I think, there will be more than three.

Like 'John Wick' (Keanu Reeves) and 'The Equalizer' (Denzel Washington) a new genre in Hollywood is the single hero crime drama that, unlike, the superhero films are centered around real-life, believable stories. Yes, they are high-impact films with known A and A- list actors in roles that are not stereotyped from their prior roles which makes these films refreshing and real-lifeish.

'Soldado' cost $35m to make and grossed over $36m in its first four days of release - not bad as the global take in the end will be well over $100m.

Best,
Jim Lavorato 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

FYI

Galaxy X
Samsung will be unveiling the first 'foldable' smart phone this February (maybe sooner). The Galaxy X, the tenth phone in the Galaxy series, will also feature a fingerprint and  facial scanner.

An answer to Apple's latest, the X will boast a 3.5" OLED that will fold out to a huge 7 inch tablet-sized phone. The phone may fold out like a book and may likely be comprised of three screens (or OLED panels) giving the appearance of a phone/tablet on one side and just a regular phone on the other side.

Global sales of consumer electronics will total more than $1.014 trillion this year. That growth driven by continued demand for three major categories of product: smartphones, smart speakers, and TVs. Innovation across the consumer electronics industry is pushing adoption of new technologies like voice control and artificial intelligence.

The current mantra in innovation is "How do we simplify technology?"

Entering store and being scanned
Suning Commerce Group, the Chinese retail store company, announced plans to open four unmanned automated stores. The cashier-less stores are aimed at offering today's tech-savvy consumers a very new and convenient shopping experience.

Powered by facial recognition technology, Radio Frequency Identification, big data analysis, and its own online financial services the Suning unmanned stores offer a friction-less shopping and paying experience.

Exiting store through pathway
After entering the store the customer simply lets a camera scan their face which is linked automatically to prearranged bank card. To check out, shoppers only need to carry their goods along the payment pathway which will recognize the shoppers and their items - making the entire check-out process less than 15 seconds.

This is surely the store of the future and you'll be seeing more and more of them as the consumer experience is paramount and the ease and convenience of the cashier-less store is what every shopper wants. Sales staff will still be on-hand to assist with product information and sales assistance.

Big Tech Sits Out On Big Media Buyouts

FAANG sees no value in buying big media
FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) aren't too keen about getting involved in the recent M&A of big media and communication companies. AT&T's buy of Time-Warner, Disney's bid for Fox and Comcast's upping the Fox ante with an all cash $65 billion offer than Disney countering the Comcast, offer.

All of these recent deals have left FAANG noticeably out of the mix. While there has been speculation for years about when big tech would make substantial plays for traditional media targets, its become clear they might not need to make any big acquisition to achieve their goals.

Take Netflix. N has built its current empire largely from scratch, buying rights deals for cable shows and, more recently, leading the industry in originally produced content.  Amazon, on the other hand, has re-upped it NFL streaming rights along with that of English soccer. It has also increased its original scripted series and movies, and streaming the back catalogs of other networks. Although lagging Netflix, which is said to be spending over $12.6 billion on non-sports content this year - it plans to end the year with 1,000 original movies and series including 470 that will debut in the second half of the year.

Also, in thinking about the situation, there isn't much left to buy. The old way of doing business - studios produce content and try to sell it to networks, which in turn monetize them in as many ways, on as many outlets as possible - is fading away faster then most expected.  Amazon and Netflix don't sell content to networks, they use it on their direct-to-consumer services.


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The media industry is very consolidated and the tech giants don't have much interest in buying legacy media companies - they would rather invest and build-out content and programming.  If otherwise, the deals would have already been made.

So, I believe FAANG will go on its merry way and leave the fighting to the big media and communications companies which will have problems integrating and monetizing themselves.

Just Saying,

Jim Lavorato