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Friday, December 30, 2016

The Mouse Saved 2016's Box Office

Disney Saved 2016's Box Office
2016's box office ended with a huge surge as the year-end slate of movies couldn't have been of better quality or diversity.

'Rogue One' was the real box office bruiser, as the eighth segment in the 'Star Wars' saga, is currently inching toward $1b worldwide. 'Sing', the animated children's musical, although a distant second to 'Rogue', hit it big as well.

Disney dominated 2016 with six of the top 10 grossing films and literally saved this year's box office pushing it to a new record high of over $11.5b domestically, and still counting. The Mouse-house set the record in being the first studio to reach $7b in gross box office globally.

The holiday season came as a big relief for both the studios and exhibitors as this summer's grosses were anything but stellar.  But, even with a very crowded marquee most of the holiday movies did well. Besides 'Rogue' and 'Sing' there were a number of good performers: 'Passengers', 'Muana', 'Why Him', 'Assassin's Creed', and 'La La Land' all grossed very well, as did early holiday releases 'Fantastic Beasts', 'Office Christmas Party', 'Collateral Beauty, and 'Trolls' all of which grossed over $150m.  'Doctor Strange' broke the $230m mark and critics favorite  'Hacksaw Ridge' has grossed over $70m and still has legs.

In the end, 2016 finished big and salvaged what would have otherwise been a down and lack-luster year. Disney was 2016's box office hero, with: 'Finding Dory', 'Captain America', 'The Jungle Book', 'Rogue One', 'Zootopia', and 'Dr. Strange' all ending in the top 10 for the year, with all except 'Strange' grossing over the $340m mark.

We all look forward to another record breaking year in 2017!
 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Oscar Overload

This year there will be 336 movies eligible for the Best Picture Oscar Award.  That's a lot of films to judge and whittle-down to 10 finalists. In fact, it's too many. In an unattainable quest to be deemed a totally inclusive group, the Academy's selection process appears foolish.

The movies in contention span all genres and ratings-levels no matter their significance. The criteria for eligibility being that the films must have screened at a commercial cinema in Los Angeles between January 1st - December 31st for at least seven consecutive days. Additionally, the films, must have been exhibited theatrically and have a run-time of more than 40 minutes.  This eliminates a huge number of festival entrants but still leaves hundreds of bona fide qualifiers.

Nominees for the Best Picture Award will be announced on January 28th. The Award Show will be televised from the Hollywood Dolby Theater on February 28th.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Movie Attendance: Loyalty vs Frequency

Who is your audience?  The loyal moviegoer who only views films at your cinema however often, or the frequent moviegoer who visits your cinema on a consistent basis week in and week out.

What motivates the loyal or the frequent moviegoer?  It seems that most people are either/or. The loyal love your cinema. To them it is convenient, comfortable, meets their presentation standards, and consider it 'the venue' in which to see a movie. These are patrons to cherish. They come back over and over again and appreciate your efforts in making your cinema, 'their' cinema.

For the frequenter, it's all about the movies. These are the film buffs and people who really like going to the cinema to view the latest films on a weekly or biweekly basis and select films not specific to any genre but what is on the marquee.  Yes, they appreciate comfort, convenience, great presentation, and good concession but frequency is the key - it is a habit, an entertainment ritual, a recreational necessity.

The loyalist and the frequenter are motivated by very different criteria. Trying to get a loyalist to become a frequenter (the ultimate movie patron) is difficult, if not impossible. The loyalist normally views films they have an interest is seeing - if nothing strikes them of interest on the marquee they will opt for other entertainment. The frequenter, on the other hand, goes no matter what is on the marquee - opting for the movies vs other forms of entertainment. The frequenter is not loyal to the cinema but to films. The loyalist is committed to the cinema but not to films.

It is incumbent upon the cinema operator to understand each of their patrons and cater to their viewing needs. Film selections should be thoughtful and harnessing moviegoer data is crucial. What do 'my' cinema's customers want.  The key to the frequenter' is variety, for the loyalist, it's the whole experience - learn to serve both.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Will The Cinema Industry Be Trumped?

Trade Wars: Reciprocity is the new game in town
How will the cinema industry react to the newly elected Trump Administration? Certainly threats of tariffs would be bad news for the major studios.

For example, Hollywood has been counting on increasing access to Chinese moviegoers to fuel global box office growth. Currently, China allows 34 foreign films (virtually all U.S. produced) into the Chinese market each year.  That rule ends in February and the major studios were counting on the quota being increased or totally lifted. So, if Trump is looking for fairness in trade and quid pro quo in international dealings then China should lift the ban.

Chinese investors, particularly the Wanda Group,  has been allowed to make substantial investment in both cinema production and exhibition within the U.S. On the flip-side, China has been rapidly building new cinemas to placate its growing middle class and the theory is that China will need U.S. films to fill those seats. Yes, the Chinese film industry has entered into co-production deals with all of the major studios to produce locally made films but these projects will not be sufficient to fill their cinema entertainment needs.

For many decades, both Democratic and Republican administrations followed the same policy in the way the U.S. handled its relationship with the Chinese government.  The notion was that a stronger engagement would lead to the growth of a huge Chinese consuming middle class.  Indeed, a middle class has developed but the Chinese government has not moved toward a freer society - instead the U.S. policy has resulted in the development of a major rival that didn't previously exist.

With the Trump administration the opportunity for a more pragmatic approach to our dealings with the Chinese government is open. There will be lots of bluster and threats but in the end a mutually beneficial and cooperative deal will be struck for the entertainment industry. Reciprocity is the new game in town and I predict that in February the Chinese will increase their film quota limit on films.






Saturday, December 10, 2016

Movie Consumption Grows At All Levels

In five years VR will play much larger role
Cinemas, streaming, rentals, video purchases, cellphones, tablets, broadcast, cable, pay-per-view - the choices for movie viewing are wide, varied, and growing.

Choice is good and distribution channels feed one-another - consumers will often go to the cinema and then purchase the video for re-viewing.  Cinemas still remain king in terms of 'quality viewing' but home entertainment has seen huge improvement in content presentation. To compare, for the first nine months of this year, home entertainment spending totaled $13.1b vs.$8.3b at the box office. Of the $13.1b home number 60% represented revenue from streaming services with only 7% from physical disc sales.

Advances in technology and a wide choice of viewing options have placed the consumer firmly in command. They expect quality, simplicity of use, and great value from their movie entertainment. Although the bulk of viewing is from well known streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, many others are now entering the marketplace.  CMG recently posted on a new on-line movie service from the Turner Movie Classic channel called FilmStruck - which for $10.99/month serves up a menu of classic, foreign, and indie films. Another is Brown Sugar, a service from Bounce TV, that concentrates on '70s-era blaxploitation and cult films for $3.99/month - there will be many others to come.

CMG believes that within five years the sale of video discs will be extinct, as more and more consumers will become less interested in having any form of physical ownership of movies because they will be able to access titles on a streaming service. Virtual reality (VR) will also be playing a much larger role in five years.

Cinemas need to maintain their superior presentation qualities while broadening and enhancing their services. To maintain growth in the face of increased competition, cinemas will be required to improve their sound, expanded concession selections, and seriously consider the introduction of the 4k digital projection format that delivers four times the resolution of current 2k projectors. 4k will also find its way into the home.

The battle is on and it's going to be waging for some time to come. There will be winners and losers and the survivors will be those that recognize their shortcomings and address them.  The key being to always keep the consumer center-stage.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Atom Ticketing: Just Another Player

I've posted about Atom Ticketing and its goal of increasing the seat utilization rate at cinemas through an on-line app and automated system - a hefty and, in my opinion, unachievable mission.

The normal utilization rate at cinema's is 12-18%, meaning that, on average, 82-88% of the seats in a cinema are unused while a film is being presented.  This rate of seats-to-occupancy has been pretty much the norm for multiplexes since their inception.  For independent cinemas, the utilization is higher because they have fewer auditoriums and don't run as 'grind houses' as multiplexes do.  Many independent cinemas have utilization rates in the 20-30% range.

Originally, Atom's mission was to offer cinemas an automated system that would assist in increasing the utilization rate during low attendance times, such as weekday afternoons, by offering seats at lower admission prices during those times. Atom has now altered its mission. Now, it is pushing an app which makes it easy for groups of people to plan film outings. "Our hopes are that Atom Tickets triggers a social moviegoing revolution", said Steven Spielberg, a backer of Atom, "This is a big win for anyone who loves going to the movies with his or her friends." Spielberg and other backers of Atom believe they have a breakthrough technology. I'm unsure why they think this.

Atom does have a slick app which allows users to scan through movie posters of current or up-coming movie releases. Then, based upon 'predictive analytics' suggests movie tickets based on previous ticket purchases and/or your preferences gleaned through linking to your social media. For example, if you follow Brad Pitt on Facebook, Atom mines this information and  then suggests you purchase tickets for his latest film. You can also pre-order concession items when purchasing admission tickets.  Additionally, in the future, Atom intends to sell movie related merchandise such as toys, music, games, and clothing  through its website and app.

Free to download its app, Atom collects a surcharge on ticket sales from users. They claim use of their app will result in a 2-5% increase in admissions and concession orders. I don't think either claim can be achieved.

Atom's original system, which automatically reduced admission prices for film screenings that were under-attended, effectively increasing the utilization rate seems to have been scraped. It was not hard to assume that such a system would be unworkable and not subscribed to. People go to the movies when they have time and when there is a film they are interested in viewing - this is mostly on Friday evenings or Saturday/Sunday days or evenings.

CMG believes that no automated system or app, however slick and innovative will ever be able to increase a cinema's utilization rate.  Utilization increases can only be achieved by a cinema offering content that is based on local moviegoers' tastes, excellent overall service, better and varied concession, a spotless and comfortable venue, efficient staff, and an engaged and forward thinking management.





Saturday, December 03, 2016

ADA Law: Final Ruling On Movie Captioning & Narrative

On November 21st, Attorney General, Loretta Lynch signed into law the Final ruling requiring ALL movie theaters in the U.S. to have and maintain equipment necessary to provide BOTH closed captioning and audio description (narrative) for all digitally presented movies.

The new law becomes effective once the Final Ruling is placed in the Federal Register, which will occur by the end of December.  Once the law is registered movie theaters will have a maximum of 18 months to comply with the law.

There are no exceptions to the law except for drive-in theaters and those theaters that run 35mm film exclusively. All cinemas screening any digital film must comply and have available both closed captioning equipment for the hearing impaired or deaf and audio narrative headsets for visually impaired or blind movie patrons.

The cost of systems to comply with the law are priced from $1100-1400 with the narrative eyewear from $575-625 and headset audio receivers from $75-90.  The number of eyewear and headset receivers is determined by the number of screens at any one cinema - this number is stipulated in the law.

To review the law, go to the ADA website (ADA.com) and search '2016 final rules for movie theaters'.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Young Hollywood Get Younger

Media company Young Hollywood has announced the launch of a new division, Younger Hollywood. Considering itself a 'millennial' brand, Young Hollywood's new venture will focus on engaging an even younger audience (Generation Z) by creating content designed specifically to what they desire -engagement.

Young Hollywood says it can do this by connecting with younger audiences directly with their favorite stars through social and on-line platforms.  They will be producing movies and TV series for traditional and internet distribution that speak to the highly engaged Gen Z (see listing of Generations below). Their content will feature behind-the-scenes interviews and movie set tours with both traditional and social media stars.

"Young Hollywood prides itself on being connected with our audience and understanding what they're looking for", R J Williams, Founder and CEO of Young Hollywood told CMG. "The brand extension to Younger Hollywood marks our next phase of growth."

Young Hollywood envisions its growth to include overseas expansion as well, and the number don't lie. Young Hollywood currently gets 1.3 million views for a single live on-line broadcast.

CMG thinks Young and Younger Hollywood are onto something and catering to a younger Gen Z audience with enhanced engagement makes a lot of sense. The key to all marketing right now is to get the user/consumer, of any generation, to interact with what you are selling, be it entertainment content or jellybeans.

Generation Listing

GI Generation: 115 - 90 Born 1901-1926
Silent Generation: 89 - 71 Born 1927-1945
Baby Boomers: 70 - 52 Born 1946-1964
Generation X: 51 - 36 Born 1965-1980
Generation Y (Millennials): 35 - 16 Born 1981-2000
Generation Z (Boomlets): 15 - 0 Born 2001-Present

Best
Jim





Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA)

The Eastern answer to the Oscars, are the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which were held on November 24th and broadcast from Brisbane, Australia. As CMG has foretold, the Oscars will continue to be more and more irrelevant as movie viewership shifts to Asia.

As you can imagine, the winning films at the APSA would be unknown to U.S. moviegoers except for the most avid of cinema fans. This year's Best Picture Award went to 'Cold of Kalandar' a Turkish film.  Other winners were:

Best Actress: Hashine Killip in 'Ordinary People' from the Philippines
Best Actor: Manoj Bajpayee in ' Aliyarh' from India
Best Director: Feng Xiaogung for 'I Am Not Madame Bovary' from China
Best Documentary: 'Starless Dreams' from Iran

Many other Awards were given, the categories similar to the Academy Awards. The point being that there is a massive shift taking place in the global cinema industry. As Asian countries modernize and prosper their cinema industry grows as part of their greater cultural growth.  In doing so, Hollywood becomes less important. In fact, all of the major Hollywood studios have inked co-production deals with Asian movie producers.

The U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has become too self-absorbed and social correctness has infiltrated into its structure and selection process making, in my opinion, the Oscars less relevant. The major studios are going where the money is and that is Asia. They have placated to the social and political wills of China and are aiding Chinese government controlled production companies in making films specific to Chinese tastes - bypassing Hollywood entirely.

"As you stand-back and look at the APSA Awards two things hit you. One, is the issue of the family and the importance and role of the family in everyday life.  The other is the extraordinary quality of the performances. I have never seen that many outstanding performances - ever. Anywhere" said David Puttnam, Head Jurist for the APSA. "We could have awarded six male best acting awards."

Hollywood glitterati need a wake-up call. Their smugness and over-the-top political rants have run out of steam. They need a new shtick. As an example, many H'wood stars promised to leave the U.S. if Trump was elected, figuring that Hillary was a shoe-in. How many have now left? None.  The game is changing in the global cinema industry - its epicenter is moving out of Los Angeles and into a whole lot of other places in Asia.

Best
Jim


 
 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It's All A Blur

Streaming/Live Streaming, News/Fake News, On-line/Pay-Per-View, WiFi/Box Top, Cell/iPad, PC/Game Console - all things digital are getting to be one huge out-of-control blur for the user/consumer.

Let's take one example - Fandango, the movie ticketing service. Fandango has just entered the video-on-demand movie streaming game but has decided that streaming movies through the use of Microsoft X-Box and Android TV platforms are the way to go. Why?  Well, Fandango believes that they will instantly have over 100 million installed devices from which their new streaming service can be accessed. Whether this is a viable strategy for entering the home entertainment sector is questionable.

Fandango, owned by Comcast's NBC/Universal, has the lofty goal of expanding out of its movie ticketing business and grabbing a vast number of gamers who want to use their console for movie watching. This is one hard nut to crack as it will be going up against the likes of: Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Walmart Vudu, Roku, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and a score of lessor known content streamers.

According to Fandango execs, however, their secret sauce is the bundling of movie ticketing and home entertainment. For example, next month, subscribers who purchase or rent the movie 'The Secret Life of Pets' via X-Box will receive a free child's movie ticket to Illumination Entertainment's next feature film, 'Sing', scheduled for cinema release on December 21st.  This scheme is another one of these, 'if you do this and that you can do this and that' - these schemes rarely work.

CMG believes Fandango's strategy into home entertainment is flawed and just another nut in the fruitcake of digital entertainment, which is so fragmented and complex that people have come to pick one or two platforms and are sticking with them.  Everytime a new player enters the fray with a new formula that is going to shake-up the industry, they fall flat. My gut is that Fandango will get some subscribers but their ploy will not become the panacea Comcast and Microsoft envision.
   


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Quivers and Flying Robots

Flying Robot International Film Festival


The second annual FRIFF is taking place on November 17th and will be presenting 24 short films from around the world, which were shot from drones.

The entries are rumored to be of a very high quality and a huge improvement over last year's entries - as the cameras and drones continue to advance in performance and drone film-makers improve their skills. FRIFF film categories include: Drones for Good, Aerial Sport, and Cinematic Narrative. Winners will receive product and cash prizes worth over $10,000. In addition, this year's festival will include training workshops and seminars from basic to advanced drone film-making, regulatory issues, and live-streaming from the skies.

CMG predicts the Flying Robot Festival will continue to grow exponentially as more and more film-makers enter the realm of drone photography.

Quiver


An on-line movie distributor which has delivered over 5,000 self-made movie over a variety of digital platforms, Quiver - has decided to go mainstream and is expanding into traditional film acquisition/distribution.

Quiver realized that many on-line film-makers do not or could not self-distribute their content mainly due to cost, as even entry into film festivals is expensive. So, Quiver has decided to fill the gap and offer distribution services for the on-line film-makers.

Quiver will launch its new distribution service with three films: two documentaries ('Undecided:The Movie', and 'Long Way to The Top') and a romcom ('Seven Lovers'). "New movies are flooding the marketplace as never before and many struggle to find the support of a distributor", Sean Flanagan, Quiver Marketing Manager, told CMG, "We need to combine the film-makers with the distribution tools of a company like Quiver."

We'll hold judgment on Quiver's new venture. On-line distribution is very difficult to scale and even harder to monetize.  Getting mainstream distribution at cinemas or from a major streamer is next to impossible - there is simply just too much exceptional content in the marketplace.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Movies and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Hollywood movies have a long history and preoccupation with AI.  Robots and human-like intelligent computers (HAL) have been in films for decades.  However, reality hasn't kept up with the fantasy - until now!

You (and I mean you)  have contact with AI on a daily basis but are unaware of it.  Recommendations on purchases to make, which videos to watch, push notifications from viewed websites are all driven by machine-learning algorithms that crunch tons of data points to make decisions about the products and media that is specific to you. Large tech companies currently use algorithms that simulate the way the human brain thinks.  There are literally billions of data points on purchasing and viewing behavior to plot against which you (in particular) are buying or viewing.

According to Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google, "We are at a seminal moment in computing. We are evolving from a mobile-first to an AI-first world."  Some in the tech community believe that within five years every company of size will have an AI engine at it center.  AI systems can learn not only which products to recommend, but how to market each product and provide the best price and value for each and every customer.

The next step in AI is understanding customer satisfaction.  AI knows which products you like but not which of these you like the most - this satisfaction factor is now being developed.

We are all currently being manipulated by AI and the process will get greater and more subtle. The movies had it right decades ago - that people would be out-thought by robots and super computers. The reality, one can argue, is more sinister as it is driven by your own decisions.  In the near future, movies at the cinema will be recommended to you - given your past choices and satisfaction level.

As the joke goes: Based upon you last purchase decisions we are recommending your next purchase be a stool and rope.

Monday, November 07, 2016

CINEMA BUZZ by Seymour Flix

FilmStruck


Launched last week, FilmStruck is a subscription video-on demand service featuring hundreds of classic and cult movies. Developed and sold by the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable channel, FilmStruck will be priced at $10.99/month or $99 for a full year's subscription.

TCM estimates that there are 15 million people in the 18-64 age group that would be interested in the service.  Available only in the U.S.,most of FilmStruck's titles will be available with closed-captioning.

TV - Do We Need It Any More


Broadcast and cable TV are losing their audience, that's a fact. A perfect example of the move away from broadcast programming are this year's Video Game Award Show. This Show features the biggest video game stars and titles but this year it will not be on TV. Instead, the Show will be live-streamed free of charge on a wide variety of internet platforms, including Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, and Roku, as well as, social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

For the first time the Game Awards Show will be simulcast in China, the world's largest gaming market. The point being that the Show will have free worldwide distribution. "TV is not where our audience is, Geoff Keighly, executive producer of the Show told CMG, "we're 80% in the 18-36 demo and making the Show a free event and not a  broadcast TV event was very important. Broadcast and cable is very limiting."

The Game Awards nominees and winners are selected by voters at 28 gaming and entertainment publications, as well as, gaming fans that get to vote on-line.

The Game Awards will be held on December 1st at the Microsoft Theater in LA.,  - watch them on a digital platform near you and look for other big event shows to follow suit.

Piracy in Japan


The Japanese, noted for their law abiding and social code of honor,may not be so honorable when it comes to digital piracy. According to the Motion Picture Association of America 31% of Japanese internet user are involved in movie piracy which equates to $270 million in lost box office revenue.

Now, not nearly as bad as its larger and much more populace Northern neighbor (China, who knew) the Japanese use of pirate movie sites is huge and uncharacteristic of their adherence to other laws.

Recommended Movies To Be Seen BEFORE The Oscars

'Arrival' - a sci-fi thriller from Paramount
'Billy Lynn's Long Half-time Walk' - much acclaimed story of Iraq war hero
'Manchester By The Sea' - story of working-class hero, a top performer at film fests
'Lion' - drama about a man trying to locate the family he lost as a boy
'Jackie' - recap about Jackie Kennedy in the days right after the President's assassination
'La La Land' - musical about two lovers in LA
'Silence' - long awaited drama about Jesuit priests on a mission to spread Christianity in Japan
'20th Century Women' - comedy/coming of age film about a teen growing up in a house full of women.

Best,
Seymour Flix

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

We Told You So!

The Past
Last week AT&T made it known that it wanted to purchase Time-Warner, Inc. (comprised of HBO, CNN, TBS, and Warner Bros. studios) This is but one transaction in a string of many that is transforming the media business - pairing giant tech and telecom companies with entertainment content providers and distributors.  CMG has been on track with this transition for some years now (see list at the end of this post), harping on the fact that the cinema business was in for major changes not the least of which is the move toward day-and-date release on movie content across any number of distribution platforms, putting an end to the exclusive theatrical release window.

The Future
The old-line Hollywood studio has all but disappeared. Disney, MGM, Lionsgate, and a few other hangers-on are the only remnants of the once dominant content providers. Replaced by the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Netflix. We are witnessing a giant convergence of content and distribution which will change the entire business model of entertainment and how it is delivered to consumers worldwide.

AT&T has now entered the fray, challenging the big tech bullies. Verizon is also on the hunt, saying that it was interested in buying CBS and Viacom (which owns Paramount Pictures). Disney, is still the standalone, but even Disney (with a market cap of $150b) could be gobbled-up - Apple, for example, has $200b in cash and strong connections with Disney.

On the other hand, several of the giant streamers which are also content providers, such as Netflix, could be targets themselves. With a market cap of $60b Netflix could be bought - providing a solid worldwide distribution channel and highly acclaimed programming. For Disney, this could be a good strategy as it would provide further protection against a hostile purchase.

The game of entertainment creation and distribution will continue but the players and rules are, and will, change.  For cinemas, these game-changing events will further stress the need to dial-up their service, content offerings, environment, and customer-centric focus - because only in this way will they be able to survive and prosper.

List of prior posts on this topic:
- Cinemas vs Streamers 5/22/16
- Movie Industry In Flux 11/5/15
- So Darn Predictable 4/29/14
- Beginning of the End 11/6/13
- As Predicted by CMG 4/7/13
- Digital Condersions 4/8/12
- Future For The Cinema - Distribution 1/11/12

Jim

Monday, October 24, 2016

Boomers vs Millennials: Maybe They Aren't That Different

In this corner, the Baby Boomers: older, perhaps wiser, richer, and out for fun (Pub Happy Hours are huge). In the opposite corner, the Millennials: younger, more flexible and accepting, poorer. Hmmm, a marketing dilemma ?  No way. For a company, particularly in entertainment or hospitality, you have to go with the Boomers.

Why, because they play all the same games as their younger offspring and their grandchildren.  Social media has nothing over the Boomers. I don't buy into the notion that younger folks have all the tech savvy and "grew-up with computers and cells" making them better tech 'users' and, by extension, better and more informed 'consumers'. That advantage, if it ever existed, is now gone. Look at the Presidential race: all Boomers, their advisers, mainly Boomers, Boomers rule (for now).

In many instances the interests and needs of the Boomers and Millennials are polar opposites which only makes the job of a service provider, ie cinema operator, all the more difficult when it comes to both anticipating and satisfying their needs and wants. Knowing this, you began to understand the gravity of a cinema's undertaking and how difficult it is to improve a moviegoer's experience.

But, there are certain things that transcend the age-gap and are universal traits every single company dealing with the public must foster. One thing I have noticed and is irrefutable is that no matter what the generation, they all want to be well served and are growing increasingly unforgiving of service miscues. Take cleanliness. Having a clean establishment is not only a priority but a requisite.  But, cleanliness is more than just being clean.  A cinema's condition is also a component of cleanliness. A tear is an auditorium's soundfold, a cracked floor tile, dinged and marred wood work, worn fabrics and especially a worn carpet are all perceived by moviegoers to be an indication of cleanliness or a lack thereof.

Just as important as cleanliness is responsiveness to needs.  Every interaction with a patron requiring additional assistance or service of any kind must be time bound - and always under promised and over delivered.  The worst thing is to acknowledge a patron request and do nothing about it.

Are Boomers and Millennials very different in their wants and needs, yes! Are they the same, however, in many respects, yes! Get used to serving all of their needs and wants.

Best
Jim

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A 'Golden' Opportunity

Cinemas should always be looking for good promotions and business enhancers. One of the best and unique promotions I've come across recently is from an independent theater client (who wished to remain anonymous) which can be implemented by any cinema - regardless of size or customer make-up.

The promotion includes running a week-long retrospective of great films starring one actor (take your pick). Along with the films comes a chance for any moviegoer an opportunity to win a 'Golden Ticket' prize.

Here's how it works: Five Golden Tickets are scattered throughout random large-sized popcorn purchases each evening during the retrospective.  One of the prizes each evening being a voucher for free popcorn for a year.  The four other winners each win a voucher that includes a free movie and large popcorn. The 'Golden Tickets' are only available in large-sized popcorn purchases.

The best part of this promotion is the use of social media. Winners and losers are urged to share their photos of the Golden Ticket experience on social media sites. Additionally, photos of all the winners and their comments are posted on the Theater's social channels.

So, think about screening a retrospective of classic, cult, or hidden gem movies.  Be creative, request moviegoers to suggest what films or actors they would like to see - remember, most films are available on disc and hook-up of a BluRay player to your D-Cinema projection system is easy.

Oh, is your cinema having a Holloween Costume Party? If not, plan one.

Jim


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Movies For Grownups

On October 3rd, I posted "Boomers Find The Cinema", which spoke to the increasing cinema attendance by baby boomers and how movie exhibitors should be catering to this demographic.

It seems that Variety (the entertainment trade journal) and the AARP (American Association of Retired People) have now joined forces and are sponsoring the 'GrownUps Screening Series' of films.
The 'GrownUps Screening Series' features films for the 50+ age group and focuses on dramas with adult themes.  Each screening is followed by a Q&A session with the film's director, writers, producers, and cast members.

The AARP is a nonprofit organization with over 38 million members in the U.S all over the age of 50. The screenings will take place at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood.

The films to be screened are those anticipated to be considered for an award during the 2017 film awards season. The screenings are open to voting industry guild members, AARP members, and special guests in the entertainment community. 'A Monster Calls', 'Loving', and 'Nocturnal Animals' are all scheduled to be screened - other films will be announced shortly.

CMG hopes that in the GrownUps Series will be available for all cinemas to exhibit in the future via either live internet connection/broadcast or hard-drive format.

Jim

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Netflix Day-and-Date With Cinema Screenings

There was a lot of negative press regarding the deal inked between Netflix and iPic Entertainment ,the small, up-scale, and pricey theater chain that offers luxury seating with gourmet food and alcoholic drinks (if preferred) while you watch a movie. But, I see it differently.

I see no difference between an original movie from Netflix vs. one released from any other major studio.  I stated, long ago, that internet streamers would eventually run day-and-date product with cinemas and that the exclusive theatrical release window would eventually cease to exist. A step in that direction has now taken place.

The studios and large cinema chains (who naturally are against this) have no one to blame but themselves.  The major Hollywood studios, along with Regal, AMC, and Cinemark have been playing the 'clearance' game for years (see CMG post, "Fox Eliminates Practice of Exhibitor Clearances" posted on April 2, 2016) to the detriment of the small, independent exhibitor and now they will have to contend with their sins.

The Netflix/iPic deal calls for iPic to screen up to 10 Netflix original movies at the same time as those films are streamed on Netflix. iPic currently has 105 screen across the U.S. but is expanding with 20 new locations (typically 6-8 screens per location) in the works.

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) the movie exhibitor lobby group which for the most part works on behalf of the large cinema chains is adamantly opposed to the Netflix/iPic deal but ironically was closed-mouth, stating "it was not NATO's business to comment on the clearance deals" that has been negatively impacting the small, independent theaters for years.

Actually, this deal is good for the independent cinema operator.  Although the particulars of the deal between Netflix and iPic were not divulged, my guess, is that iPic is getting a better deal on gross revenue sharing with Netflix than they are with the Hollywood studios. Additionally, more good product for the independent to choose from, can't be bad.

This deal represents a crack in the dike and I predict the dike will eventually fall.

Best
Jim


Monday, October 03, 2016

Boomers Find The Cinema

Any service or hospitality company that ignores the 'older crowd' does so at their financial peril. So, it should be no surprise that cinemas need to cater to the needs of the baby boomer generation.

Boomers are turning out in large numbers. In the U.S. a full 15% of seniors (60 and over) are classified as "frequent moviegoers" by the Motion Picture Association of America. Boomers grew up with great films, the 50s, 60s, are often referred to as  the 'golden age of the cinema', now these seniors are searching for good films.  Dramas, comedies, westerns, with mature actors are huge hits with older viewers.

Boomers look not only for good films but an experience. Alternative content, so-called 'cinema events', such as live streaming of the ballet, opera, or theater productions are very popular as well. Also luring in the oldsters is more comfort.  Larger seats and assisted listening services are now the norm in cinemas.  The new mantra for cinemas, both independents and chains, is comfort over capacity. Cinemas need to create a welcoming environment for older folks by making sure their sound systems are adequate and serviced regularly to ensure peak-performance.

In the concession area, seniors will buy but look for value and variety.  Don't forget, these people grew up going to the local cinema and are accustomed to buying concession (unlike the depression-era folks before them). They seek choice and are willing to pay for it.

It's a fact that many boomers are opting away from sea-side and planned community living and instead are relocating to cities and towns where they can continue to be active. Wealthy pensioners are increasingly living in urban hubs - where going to the cinema has never been easier.  This is good news for the independent and art cinemas as the boomers are leaving the suburbs and relocating to city-centers.

Younger people are going to the cinema less, particularly those in the 15 to 24 age group but that slack can and should be taken up by boomers.  It is incumbent upon cinemas to make the changes necessary with regard to auditorium comfort, food,  and convenience to encourage mature audiences to attend their presentations. Keep in mind that many boomers haven't gone to the movies in a long time, but they are now ready to do so. Cinemas need to be ready for them.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Hollywood Will Kowtow to China

Over the last several years I've posted that Hollywood was in for big changes when it comes to the making of movies. H'wood's political correctness will become passe'.  Nudity, sexual preferences, and gender equality will take a backseat as Chinese cultural norms set the tone for movies.

In movie-speak, China is the future.  The era of the Western domination of moviemaking is rapidly drawing to a close, as Asia, particularly China, is where the money in cinema is.  The Chinese boxoffice is expected to outgross the U.S.'s next year.  Additionally, China has been buying Hollywood, up and down the food-chain: studios, post-houses, cinema exhibition chains. etc. as well as building studios and production facilities at home.

China currently has a quota on how many foreign movies can enter the Chinese market (it now is 34 per year).  This has forced the U.S. studios to do an end-run around the quota system by entering into co-production deals with Chinese film makers.  These co-productions cater to the cinema tastes of the Chinese and kowtow to the censors.

Co-productions follow strict rules. for example, half of the cast and crew must be Chinese and story-lines must follow censorship guidelines - crime stories cannot have too many details, stories about corruption must end with the perpetrators behind bars. There can be no ghosts, religion, nudity, or politics.  Movies must be made so that a five year-old child can watch it without being scared. Too much blood and gore, no way.

What trumps political correctness is money.

Another consideration is the Chinese consumers tastes in films.  What they like, and flock to the cinema to view, are romance and romcoms, and big epic productions with loads of special-effects.
Horror and 'message' films are forbidden and wouldn't screen well, regardless.

Obviously, this is limiting creativity but a good argument can be made regarding the numerous crap films and marquee fodder H'wood spews out every year.  So, filmmakers are presented with a dilemma but one which is easily decided: to go with the Chinese flow and accept the 'way', or not.

Comprise is the new normal for Hollywood, the alternative - no movie in China.  The global movie industry from Hollywood to Bollywood must woo and kowtow to China's film norms and restrictions as the revenue source is huge and booming.  Today, to hit it big globally, a film must pass the Chinese censor gauntlet, as well as, cater to Chinese film tastes. This fact tests the range of what films can be produced.

This scenario may not be a bad thing.  What will happen is that China will, over time, loosen its censorship rules while at the same time, H'wood moves away from its over-bearing infatuation with politically correct viewpoints.  For me, that's a win - win.

Best
Jim




Friday, September 23, 2016

Hottest Film Genre: The Action Sports Film

Once just the one-off surfing or ski docu the action sports film has come into its own.  Extreme sports entertainment is now the hot genre for the movie industry.
This is Travis Rice in 'The Fourth Phase'

Spurred on by the use of GoPro cameras and production companies like, Red Bull Media House, the genre has emerged as a viable audience generator.  Fast-paced action content is the norm for video gamers and the millions that frequent social media sites - paving the way for live action sports films to go mainstream.

Savage Cinema, is the prime-mover and distributor of the genre and has released a number of highly acclaimed features.  It's films include: 'Surfer's Blood', a documentary which delves into the lives of people with very diverse professions and life styles but share the common bond of a love for surfing.
Other projects include bio-documentaries that are character-driven and lace the action with the lives of extreme sport enthusiasts.

No longer working on shoe-string budgets the new action sport films are full-blown productions with lots of backing from the likes of Red Bull and other companies wanting to latch-on to the increasing popularity of the genre.

Other live action sport films to look for at you local cinema: 'Bunker 77', which chronicles the life of Bunker Spreckles, the ultra-wealthy surfer, who in the 1970s ran the social gamut and died at the age of 27.  Ten years in the making by Takuji Masuda, this film has been given high acclaim.

'The Fourth Phase', which follows the adventures of Travis Rice, who is arguably the world's best snowboarder.  'Let's Be Frank', which depicts the life of Frank Solomon, one of the world's top big wave surfers.  Only a very small number, four or five, people make a decent living out of big wave surfing, and Solomon is one of them.  The photography of this film is absolutely astounding.

  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hi-Tech and the Cinema

Tech moves fast and we need to keep up with the latest trends and developments which impact the cinema. Here we go.

Echo Dot

Echo Dot
Amazon set the price for its Alexa personal assistant device at a mere $50.  What the Dot does is listen to voice commands and acts upon them via wireless connection.  Alexa can be asked to play news programs, set reminders, provide weather reports, etc. - but you can also order items available for sale on Amazon's website.

Amazon offers a larger version of the Dot, called Echo which can play music and in the future retrieve movies.  Both the Echo and Echo Dot can be connected via Bluetooth to a remote audio system for music playback.

Priced so multiple units can be purchased for various rooms in the home, the Dot has a lot to offer for $50.

Delivery Agent - It Will Survive!

A company manufacturing a device which enables consumers to buy products they view on TV is going bust - or sort of.  Delivery Agent, the San Francisco based company that developed the on-screen purchasing system currently has contracts with dozens of TV networks and pay-TV source providers, which look to Delivery Agent as a way to create a new revenue stream by allowing viewers to purchase merchandise related to what they are viewing.  Problem is the system is so new, consumers have to catch-up with the concept and start using it.

Delivery Agent's platform, called ShopTV, is embedded into over 50 million devices from the likes of Sony, Roku, Samsung, and LG. While its media clients include: Fox, CBS, HBO, Showtime, and Disney. What Delivery Agent needs is marketing, so people will know it exists!  Point-of-sale and instant gratification are what drives purchases.  Impulse buying is what Delivery Agent is about but people need to know what it does and how to use it.

The impact on the cinema from a product like ShopTV could be significant.  People may opt to stay at home and watch a film with the intention of purchasing a product from their favorite film or TV show. On the other hand this technology may be adapted for use within cinemas, where a viewer would order up products that appear in the latest feature film.

I have no doubt that Delivery Agent will get the funding it needs to move forward, there is just too much opportunity for all of the players involved: the consumer (buyer), product providers (sellers), media providers (networks and studios), and internet providers (TV cable, on-line streamers).

Twitter: Finally Streaming

The long awaited time when Twitter would start streaming live action has finally come and it can be viewed on TV or cinema screens.  Twitter launched its new app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft XBox One with the first live stream of last Thursday night's NFL football game. Twitter struck a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday night games. It has also inked deals with the MLB (Major League Baseball), the NBA (Natl' Basketball Assoc.), and PAC 12 Networks (college football).

The viewer will be able to watch the live stream while Tweeting at the same time, which will be a big plus for avid sports fans.  The use of large screens is a big deal for Twitter's future growth as more and more consumers are cord-cutting and leaving their cable TV providers.  Twitter emphasized that there new streaming service is free of charge - their revenue coming from the ads viewers will see during the live feeds.

Cinema operators should view this as a huge opportunity for alternative content. Turning a normally slow Thursday night into a big audience magnet.  Get on it!.

Cheddar - But Not Cheese

For those of you who only think of cheddar as a tangy-bite on a cracker - think again. Cheddar is the latest digital financial-news network geared toward younger audiences.  And what better way to reach this younger demographic - aha, Twitter (which inked a deal with Cheddar last week).

Partnering with Cheddar will allow Twitter users access to the day's top news stories and other information 'live' via a free platform.  Similar to the deal Twitter struck with Bloomberg Media, the Cheddar deal calls for live broadcast streaming which can be viewed on a large screen.

Cinemas should be encouraged to use the Cheddar/Twitter content for pre-show. It would be lots better and much more relevant than the insipid (and normally months' old) pre-show 'stuff' now screened in theaters and the best part - it's free!


Best
Jim




Friday, September 16, 2016

Metrograph: Doing It Right

The unassuming Metrograph
On the lower East Side of Manhattan is the Metrograph - an independent cinema that has created a special niche to fill the ever demanding entertainment needs of its patrons.

Screening all types of films, from archival prints (in 35mm) to first-run Hollywood fare, to independent and documentary films, to film-noir specials, the two-screen Metrograph mixes movies, with a cafe, bookstore, candy shop, and lounge to cater to a wide spectrum of audiences.

Event films and film series also play a big part in the film-menu, complemented by a cafe, The Commissary. Comprised of a sit-down cafe, bar, and private dining area the cafe currently serves brunch, dinner, and late-night fare.
Metrograph's self-serve movie concession

Complementing the cafe is The Bookstore, a place where the screen meets the page.  Its book collection is centered around the 'motion-picture' - from first-edition biographies to the latest issues of entertainment magazines. Next to the bookstore is The Candy Shop.

In the relentless battle against home-viewing and other entertainment distractions, movie theaters must work tirelessly to keep old and generate new patrons.  This is particularly important to the independent cinema operator.

Currently, a cinema has to be more than just a venue that screens new Hollywood films. It has to draw in those that really value viewing a movie as it should be viewed - with great image and sound. In addition, a cinema must also vary its programming to include a variety of old, new, and classic films.

The Commissary Cafe
Consumers have two choices when viewing a movie: stay at home or go to the cinema.  The cinema experience can't be replicated at home but that experience must be top-notch. The cinema must be comfortable - a place where you can spend an afternoon or evening.  A place where all of the bits and pieces that make for a very enjoyable time are put together.  The trick is to make the pieces separate, keeping, for example, the cinema concession stand separate from the cafe and not offering an extensive menu of "finger foods" for cinema viewing - this trend is now passe.  Each experience should be kept separate and not dilute the various experiences being offered. Patrons may just want to have a drink or coffee with a sandwich and not attend a movie. They may just want to browse the bookshop and peruse a magazine. Or view a movie and have a meal afterwards.


The various areas do not need a lot of space but they must serve-up top-quality and comfort. What happens is that the various activities will feed each other - serving patrons in several different ways. Not every cinema has the capacity or space to run as the Metrograph but scaled-down versions can be accomplished by any cinema.

The Metrograph is a huge success because it has the right formula for success. It's clean, simple, un-cluttered, relaxed, and friendly - a place to be entertained in comfort - a cinema-plus.

Jim


Monday, September 05, 2016

CINEMA BUZZ

Bond Is Back


With all the buzz about who would star as the next James Bond, it now appears that Daniel Craig will continue in the role for the next two Bond films.

Craig has starred in four Bond movies and there was wide speculation (spurred on by Craig himself) that he was tired of the role and wanted to move on.  However, it now appears that Sony and Craig have come to terms and apparently have worked-up a two-film deal for a reported $150 million.  The two films will be shot back-to-back.

The Bond franchise is one of the top in terms of box office revenue and longevity.  Producer Barbara Broccoli (who has the rights to the Bond franchise, which she inherited from her father Albert) will have the final say regarding the Craig deal. It's rumored that she likes the idea of the two-film scenario with Craig continuing in the role.

No matter what, the Bond saga will continue and we look forward to viewing two new back-to-back features.

Betting More On Fewer Films
2016's Biggest Blockbuster Flop

The major studios have painted themselves into a corner as they are producing fewer but more expensive blockbusters.  Now days, a blockbuster flop is a really big error and a very costly one.

This summer the problem was witnessed straight-up, as the big, box office bruisers failed to perform. From Captain America, to Ben Hur, every 'biggie' for 2016 didn't muster-up to would-be expectations.

Many of this summers bruisers started off very well, opening to big first week-end grosses but had huge fall-offs (these were the lucky ones) others just fell flat from the get-go, such as, Independence Day, Alice in Wonderland, and Tarzan.  Ben Hur was the biggest disappoint. The $200 million remake epic opened with a pittance of $11 million and is on target to lose $100 million.

It appears that a major marketing and promotion campaign can get good opening numbers but word travels fast and sustaining good box office in the face of bad social media just can't happen any longer. 

Hollywood has no-one to blame but themselves.  Storylines have gotten to the point of absurdity and it's the same old faces in the same old roles.  Focusing more money on fewer titles seems to be the trend so more is riding on the success of each release - and 2016's roster of movies just didn't catch on.

Today's cinema, like music, books, TV, and radio is very fragmented. So, to attract wide moviegoer attention an over-the-top film is required, and these mega-movies require mega-bucks but with no assurance of success.

DVD sales, which were once a buffer against a poor box office have fallen off a cliff, replaced by VOD.  It's the 18-35 year-old male that is missing.  They have become much more selective in their viewing.  Movies must now be visually superior,  have sound great and believable storylines. The average moviegoer has become very discriminating and can smell a bad movie right-off.               

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Pancake Man - The Next Big Superhero?

Superheroes are an American derived phenomena.  The rest of the world is now catching up and developing homegrown superheroes of their own.
'Pancake Man' Super spoof

Japan has had super-monsters since the 1950s with Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra etc. but no real superheroes in the Super-sense. Now, however, the rest of the world is determined to best the U.S. film industry at their own game.

Russia, for example has produced the 'Zaschitniki' (Guardians) series of movies.  The Zaschiniki are a group of men and women from various parts of the former Soviet Union who have been subjected to a DNA enhancing program that gives them special powers - such as a machine-gun welding bear.
'The Zaschiniki', spawned from the mind of Armenian director Sarik Andreasyan, is hoping to copy the success of U.S. conceived 'Avengers'. An make no mistake, not only is Russia, but India, Japan, and China are all up to speed on special effects, big-picture graphics, makeup and action-based camera techniques.

Mumbai-based Graphic India has a live-action movie entitled 'Chakra the Invincible' in the works. Chakra is a superhero that harnesses the power of energy nodes to fight crime.  They have gone so far as to invite comic superhero guru Stan Lee to assist in the marking of the Chakra movie. "I'm a fan of Bollywood films and am really excited about launching 'Chakra the Invincible' as my first Bollywood superhero movie.  I have no doubt the Chakra film will be a big hit in India and around the world. I hope my cameo in the film isn't edited out" says Lee.

One of 'Zaschitniki' in Russian superhero film
Of course, the gorilla in the superhero room is China. Their box office is predicted to overtake the U.S. by next year and there is lots of room for cinema growth. There, Marvel Comics recently announced plans to produce a Chinese superhero movie entitled 'Hero's Awakening'.  The film will be shot in Mandarin and be made specially for the Chinese market. Other than this film, the Chinese are hard-pressed at inventing any home-grown superheroes. Last year, 'Pancake Man', a comedy about a poor street vendor given special powers thanks to his excellent snacks, made mega-box office but one gets the feeling that the Chinese don't take the superhero genre very seriously,

Hmm.... but the Chinese may be on to something.  Moviegoers do have superhero fatigue and are looking for something different. Perhaps comedic superheroes are the answer.  Pancake Man, with his spatula skill-set, may be just what we need.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Giving The Boot to the Re-boot

'Ghostbusters' 2016's Worst Re-boot
Hollywood seems to be scrounging to find other names besides 're-boot' and 're-make' to describe cloned films. Re-boots and re-makes are common fare in filmdom.  Every other movie seems to be an up-dated copy of a prior product and, in most cases, turns out to be a degradation from the original.
'True Grit' comes to mind as a very poor re-make that doesn't measure up to the original in script or acting.

The studios have now deemed that the monikers 're-make' and 're-boot' are verboten and don't describe a film's true value - as the terms invoke the idea of copy or clone, the un-new. In contrast, a sequel is a continuation of a story. A prequel, about what happened before. There are many sequels but prequels are used sparingly by studios. The most famous being the 'Star Wars' saga (which can be somewhat confusing after 8 or them). Sequels and prequels must have good continuity. Re-makes, however must provide an improved script, better surroundings and special-effects, and better acting - and why not, they have the original to improve upon.

Some films have been re-booted twice or even three times, ala 'Spider-Man' and 'The Hulk'. Hollywood is quick to point out that re-boots are not copies but fresh and improved versions, like the 'Ben Hur' re-boot currently in release - it was marketed as a "re-work". Semantics? Perhaps 're-hash' is a better term.

Audiences are getting fed-up and really tired with film-makers throwing-up old content and re-packaging it in worse form than the original.  A well constructed and scripted/acted re-boot can make for a great film but simply providing cosmetic changes to an old dog never works.

For now, it appears that Hollywood is intent upon dishing-out a continuous stream of cloned, and in many cases, inferior copies of prior films.  They can call it a 're-work' or a 're-new' but audiences are smart and they are 're-assigning' their entertainment priorities away from the 're-boot'.    

Saturday, August 27, 2016

THE BIG LIE

People lie. All people lie. All people lie everyday! In fact, people not only lie to others they lie to themselves.  Termed 'positive self-deception', people lie to themselves principally regarding three
things:
- having a positive self-view and believing they are more talented and intelligent than they are
- believing they have much more control over their lives than they really do
- believing their future will be better than the present or past

True lying begins around age three and by seven or eight becomes commonplace. Certain realities are lied about more than others.  Age, for instance, is lied about quite often. Young people lie about being older, while older people lie about being younger. Some professions lie more than others.  Politicians publicly lie flat-out; others, like lawyers, are more discreet about their lying.

Hmm ........ many movies are about lies and lying.  Lies and double-crosses are very common themes in films and have been since the very inception of the cinema. Some of my favorite lying-films are:

- 'Pinocchino' - yes, the all time greatest story about lying
- 'Mrs. Doubtfire' - a film based on complete deception, as is 'Tootsie'
- 'Arthur' - lies upon lies by Dudley Moore to almost everyone in the movie
- 'Easy Money' with Rodney Dangerfield lying about everything
- 'Heist' - with Gene Hackman in a triple-cross
- 'Liar Liar' - not having the ability to lie gets you into all sorts of trouble

What is your favorite lying-film? You'd be lying if you say you didn't have one.

In all honesty,
Jim




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Crude Entertainment

As the price of crude oil drops, oil-rich countries are turning to entertainment to fill the short-fall and diversify for the future - cinemas and theme parks are their preferred venues.
Aerial view of IMG Worlds of Adventure

Giving Universal and Disney a run for their money the Persian Gulf states are dialing-up their entertainment investments in a big way.  This month the Galadari family is opening a theme park in Dubai.  The park will feature Marvel comics Spider-Man and The Hulk and other ventures that are aimed at keeping their thrill-seeking brethren at home, as well as, lure-in foreign tourists.

Called IMG Worlds of Adventure, the park is equal in size to 28 football fields and sits in the middle of the desert - but the park is totally enclosed!  In addition to the superhero attractions will be 69 life-sized robotic dinosaurs and a complete haunted hotel (where guests can stay). "Because virtually the entire park is indoors really gives us a competitive edge as we can run 12 months out of the year without weather issues", Leonard Francois Otto, CEO of IMG World told CMG.

Gulf countries from Saudi Arabia to Dubai are betting big on entertainment and tourism as a hedge against the the uncertainties of oil revenues. Dubai expects to attract 20 million tourists a year by 2020, the year in which it will sponsor the World Expo.  They are targeting Gulf and Indian visitors as there is a significant absence of entertainment destinations in the Gulf region and Indian subcontinent.

U.S. based companies such as Six Flags and Disney are lending their expertise. The world's fastest roller coaster is currently located in Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi.  The park is entirely centered around the Italian luxury car.  Also in Abu Dhabi is the on-going construction of a Warner Brothers park which will be based upon the studio's best-known characters, including: Superman, Batman, and Bugs Bunny.

Sound like a good bet for the Gulf states as everyone likes to be amused and entertained and it can all happen in a cool, air-conditioned space.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Too Much Technology?

In yesterday's post, Seymour paid homage to the sciences and technology and how they 'push forward' the realism of movie viewing.  To that end, the science of film-making always leaps ahead of the day-to-day duty of film exhibition.

A perfect case is the latest movie from director, Ang Lee entitled 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk'. The film, about an American war hero, is being touted as a cinematic first because of the digitally radical way it was filmed.  Problem: few cinemas will be able to exhibit the film because the normal digital projection systems are not technologically advanced enough to screen the film as intended.

The movie will premiere on October 14th at the New York Film Festival, at an especially outfitted auditorium at the AMC Lincoln Square Theater.  The film will be exhibited in 3-D, 4K ultra-high definition at a speed of 120 frames per second.  No film has ever been exhibited to the public using this format. Movies are normally screened at 24 frames per second, although higher rates have been used and most digital projection systems in the field can handle higher rates, such as 48fps.

At a cost of $48 million, Sony Pictures isn't risking much but the vast majority of the audience will view the film in regular 3D or 2D and not as it was intended to be seen.  IMAX, for example, can exhibit 3D films at a maximum of 60fps.

Those lucky enough to view 'Billy Lynn' at the AMC Lincoln will see the sharpest, most vivid, most realistic on-screen image they have ever seen - at a cinema or at home. The 110 minute feature stars Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Van Diesel, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker. It will open in wide release on November 16th.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's UP At The Movies - by Seymour Flix

Alibaba Gets Into Movies


Alibaba, the Amazon of China, started producing movies some time ago but the latest news is that it is going to build cinemas in which to screen them. Alibaba Pictures Group, a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant, will now be film producer, distributor, and exhibitor.

Although the box office growth within China has slowed, Alibaba, as well as, the Wanda Group (the large Chinese real estate developer and owner of the U.S. based AMC Cinemas chain and Legendary Studios) are betting that the Chinese theatrical box office will resume its rapid growth.

At the end of 2015 China had 31,600 cinema screens,  By the end of this year that number is expected to reach 40,000 - about equal to the U.S/Canada count but with 4X the population and lots of room for expansion.

Alibaba Pictures Group, CEO Zhang Qiang told CMG, "The company plans to build an integrated platform in the movie business and cinemas play a integral part in that."  To that end Alibaba recently set up a $300 million cinema investment fund.

Hollywood on the Chinese Menu


Speaking of the Wanda Group, they have been on in entertainment industry buying spree and there seems to be no let-up in sight.

Wanda Chairman, Wang Jianlin even stated, "My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China."  Although not forthcoming on the next acquisitions, a stake in scandal-ridden and ill-managed Paramount Pictures could be in the making.  "We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them.  If one of the big six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested. Only the six are real film companies."

In addition to the $3.5 billion Legendary purchase, Wanda, this year, paid $3.4 billion for an 'entertainment' development in Paris, a $10 billion investment in an industrial/entertainment park in Haryana, India,  the $1.1 billion  purchase of European cinema chain Odean/UCI, and the pending purchase of U.S. chain Carmike Cinemas.

CMG has often written on the changing face of the global entertainment industry, particularly the cinema sector, and it is becoming reality.  Pouring billions into cinema related entities bodes well for the future of the cinema but these investments haven't seen any real return.  The Chinese are astute investors but it is the creative community that drives the cinema business.

Science and the Cinema


The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences puts emphasis on the Arts and the Sciences goes virtually unnoticed by moviegoers; however, it's the Sciences that push the industry forward. This year there are 12 science and technology categories which will be considered for Awards:

- High Resolution D-Cinema Cameras
- Motion Control Software 
- New Wireless Microphone Technology
- Computer printed, seamless Screen Backdrops
- Camera Flange Depth Measurement Devices
- Programming Language for Production Rendering
- Physically-based Shading and Light Transport
- Real-time Drawing Tools for Sketching and Makeup in Film Production
- Fast-reset Bullet Kit for Live-action Production
- On-set, Real-time Camera Tracking
- Electrode-less Plasma Arc Lamps
- Renderable, Life-sized Animatronic Horses

The final Awards will be presented on February 11, 2017.

 If it's all Greek to you don't worry, but keep in mind that it's the science and technology of film-making that is responsible for today's high-tech, action-based blockbusters.

Best,
S. Flix