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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.

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.

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.

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.

Jim Lavorato


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!

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.

Jim Lavorato 

Saturday, June 23, 2018


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.

AD: Fund-House Ventures - www.FundHouse.us

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Are Superheroes In Need Of Super Interventions?

What do Superheroes stand for? In today's world, can movie superheroes justify the violence inherent in their movies and its impact on society at large?
Coping With Their Angst

Tom King, publisher and comic writer at DC Comics, thinks so and announced that his next project will be a seven issue comic series entitled, 'Heroes In Crisis'.

The 'Heroes In Crisis' series is going to center around a place called 'The Sanctuary' - a trauma center for superheroes founded by Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  The premise of King's series will trace what happens when the 'Sanctuary' fails to deliver for its patients and what happens afterwards.

"I feel I'm part of a generation of people who spent their twenties fighting terrorism. I think that sort of experience of violence is shaping who we are as a culture and as a country."  I believe King is right. I do think that the level of violence in films, video games, TV shows, and the rest does impact society - and not in a good way.

King went on, "And I want to discuss that. To talk about the impact of violence we experience in movies, particularly superhero comics and films, and what that can do to a person, community, nation, world. I feel a duty to talk about what violence does to a society through the comics I'm creating."

So superheroes, like all of us, have angst, internal conflict, coping issues. How they address their issues may be a lesson for all of us. Perhaps the violence can be dialed-down but the question remains is the violence of the content impacting the viewer or is the content mirroring what exists in society?
What do you think?

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Monday, June 04, 2018

What Makes A Franchise: Story or Actors?

Franchise films: Stars or Character Driver
Some of the very best, most popular, not to mention profitable, movie franchises are studded with big named 'A' listers.  For example, 'Avengers: Infinity War' inclued Robert Downey, Scarlett Johansson, Chad Boseman, etc. In fact, most of the Marvel character-based films have loads of 'A' listers.

So the question has become: what is driving the franchise box-office? Is it the stars or is it the Marvel, superhero characters?  Now, take a franchise like the 'Incredibles', being animated it has no human actors, yet it is a box-office smash. In fact, its family-based characters are the films' biggest selling point.

Advertisement: Fund-House Ventures, LLC

Let me put it this way. If a franchise film had no human 'A' listers would you still visit your local cinema and see it? The answer is Yes, pure and simple.

To me, it is quite obvious that franchise films don't need a cadre of big-name actors to carry them to box-office success.  'Solo: A Star Wars Story' is a great example, can you name the actor who plays Han Solo in the film? On the other hand, one of this summer's expected big money makers, 'Skyscraper', would probably not garner a big box-office payday if Dwayne Johnson, was not in the lead role. He's the Rock and he draws in moviegoers like a magnet.
Bond, the ultimate Franchise

Franchise films, like 'Mission Impossible', have latched onto a star, in this case Tom Cruise, and stayed with him, as he bring in the money.  At 55, Cruise has no plans on giving up the phyicaly demanding aspects of the 'Impossible' films - but how long can this last? Like the Bond films, if the "MI" franchise is to continue Cruise will have to be replaced.

Now, a perfect example of star-power in a franchise was the 'Oceans' series. With, Clooney, Pitt, Damon, and Cheadle running complicated capers the three 'Oceans' pics would never have made blockbuster status without these 'A' listers.  Now they are trying to replicate it in 'Oceans 8' with a stellar all female cast: Bullock, Blanchett, Rihanna, Paulson, Kaling, and Awkwafina - it will be interesting to see if the women can keep the franchise 'working'.

To sum up - it seems that in this time of the franchise - stars have to really push or come in bunches to carry the films and avoid extinction. Because in the 'great cinematic universe' stars die out while a franchise, like black space, can live on forever.


Jim Lavorato
by: Cinema Mucho Gusto

A Weinstein Horror Film

De Palma plans Weinstein horror film
Like I said before - you can't make this stuff up.

On Friday (6/1) Brian De Palma, the noted film director - 'Scarface', 'The Untouchables', 'Mission Impossible', 'Carrie', stated that he would be creating and directing a Harvey Weinstein horror film.

Yes, horror is the right genre.
The 77 year-old director, in an interview with French publication Le Parisien, stated that the whole Weinstein saga  of sexual abuse and harassment will be the premise for his next work, and be a film that will be within the horror genre. "I'm writing a film about the whole scandal. My character won't be named Harvey Weinstien, but it will be a horror movie with a sexual predator, and take place in the film industry."  The similarities will be noticeable.

De Palma did not say how soon the script for this new film would be completed.  His latest project, a movie entitled, 'Domino', has just wrapped but no date for its release has been announced.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato
Cinema Mucho Gusto

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What's Up With The Weinstein Saga

The Harvey Weinstein story is one of those "you couldn't make this stuff up" sagas.  The latest is that Harvey is now on trail in New York City facing criminal charges - that should be interesting.  But a less intriguing chapter to the story is what has happened with the once fabled Hollywood production/distribution company - The Weinstein Company (TWC).

Well, the company has been sold to Dallas, TX, based Lantern Capital - which specializes in purchasing distressed businesses, re-structuring them, and re-selling them. Lantern's prior purchases have included everything from car dealerships to a zinc recycling company.  Lantern purchased TWC for $310m, a bargain, as the Weinsteins had grown it into an Oscar winning, indie film juggernaut; however, TWC needs rehab and rebranding, big-time.  Don't forget, Harvey was the prime-mover for the #MeToo movement.

Harv, facing the music in NYC court
Harvey, and his brother Bob, had built up Miramax from scratch and started TWC after selling Miramax to Disney. As part of the deal, Lantern will assume more than $100m in debt. In exchange, Lantern will be the owners of TWC's 277 movies and television shows.

Whether or not Lantern can turn TWC around is questionable, as they have no prior experience with dealing in the Hollywood arena. My guess is that Lantern will complete the financing and distribution of the films already in production by TWC and then go from there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Missing Movie Prop

Iron Man Suit Stolen Last Week
Movie props go missing all the time. Some are valueless while others can fetch lots of cash. For example, last week the Los Angeles Police Department launched an investigation into the disappearance of the $325,000 suit from the 2008 Iron Man movie.

Over the years, thousands of props have gone AWOL, a few of the more interesting ones, include:

- Wizard of Oz - Ruby Slippers. A number of pairs of the famous sparkle red shoes were made for the 1939 classic. One pair was stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland exhibit that was touring in Minnesota. Currently a $1 million reward is offered for information regarding the whereabouts of the shoes.

- World War Z - Cows.  Yes, believe it or not during the 2013 shooting of the film a pair of fiberglass cows, used in several scenes, were stolen from the set - go figure?

- Goldfinger - Aston Martin DB5. There were four Astons used during the filming of 'Goldfinger' in 1964. One of the original cars was actually a DB4 and was stolen in 1997 from the residence in Florida - it had been insured for $4.5 million and has never been recovered.

Lee as Scaramanga with Golden Gun
- The Goonies - Treasure Map. When filming ended, Sean Astin, who starred in the movie, asked, and was allowed, to take and keep 'One-Eyed Willies' treasure map.  Some years later, Astin related that his mother, the actor Patty Duke, threw the map in the trash, thinking it was just a piece of scrap paper.

- Easy Rider - Choppers. Four motorcycles were used in the filming of the '69 classic starring Fonda, Nicholson, and Hopper. Three of the bikes were stolen before the movie was released! The remaining bike sold at auction for $1.62 million in 2014.

- Man With The Golden Gun - Golden Gun. From the 1975 Bond film, one of the four guns, valued at $136,000, which were used by the film's villain, Scaramanga (portrayed by Christopher Lee) was stolen and has never been recovered.

And so it goes. Many, many props disappear from movie sets and prop rooms. In some cases, the value of the prop can be in the millions depending upon the film, how it was used, and by which person in the movie. From clothes, to guns, to cars, to superhero suits anything is up-for-'grabs'.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato