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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What's Up At The Movies - by Seymour Flix

Woman Shot Watching Movie - Patron Safety Not A High Priority

This past Thursday, a woman was shot at a cinema while watching '13 Hours:The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'.  The shooting took place at the Regal Stadium 14 in Renton, Washington.  Authorities stated that an intoxicated man was allowed to enter the cinema and while in the auditorium fumbled with a gun which discharged and hit an innocent moviegoer.
Notice on Facebook

By the time police arrived, the man had fled the scene.  He later called the police and confessed that he had dropped the gun and it discharged, the bullet hitting Michelle Mallari in the shoulder. The man, Dane Gallion, 29 stated he had been drinking before entering the cinema- he has been charged with felony assault. Ms. Mallari, now hospitalized, is expected to fully recover from her wound.

So, again, this brings up the question of cinema patron safety. Obviously Gallion was intoxicated (which was confirmed by witnesses) and should not have been allowed into the cinema by Regal staff.  Cinemas need to be vigilant and patron safety should be a primary concern - in this case it wasn't!

In the wake of other recent cinema shootings Regal added a new security warning message on its website, which states "backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission".
Well, by golly, I feel a lot safer now!  Checking backpacks? Who wears a backpack to go see a movie? Are cinema ushers, popcorn makers, and sweepers becoming low-paid security guards?  And, God forbid, what if a box of Dots or Sweet Tarts or bottle of water is found in the sack?

Women moviegoers have reported that their purses were searched but only after their tickets were purchased but before any concession buying.  To add further insult, most men don't carry purses, so the search policy is skewed towards women.

My policy: attend movies at your own risk. Be on the look-out for intoxicated patrons and make a bee-line for the exit at the first indication of any out-of-the-ordinary goings-on. 

Note: A movie entitled, 'Dark Night' just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.  The film is about the affect the shooting, in Aurora, Colorado, had on the lives of various moviegoers who witnessed the tragedy.  'Dark Night' is segmented into several vignettes that track the after-shock and emotions of various witnesses of the shooting.

'Dark Night' is a risky move for any director, but Tim Sutton supposedly pulled it off - the movie is a mix genre (narrative and documentary).  As of today the film has no release date as it just started making the festival rounds - we'll wait any see if any distributor picks it up.

It's A 'Perfect World'

China's Perfect World Pictures said it was signing a $500 million movie funding deal with Universal Pictures. This new venture follows only a week after Dalian Wanda, a Chinese investment group, announced it was paying $3.5 billion for the Hollywood-based Legendary Entertainment film studio.

Perfect World's deal is a five-year commitment for a 25% share of films released by Universal (which led all U.S. studios in box office gross in 2015).  Excluded from the deal are the 'Fast and Furious' and 'Minions' franchises.

Termed "a strategic partnership", Perfect World has made no public statement regarding its move into the American film industry.  This deal represents the on-going trend of investment into Hollywood entities by major Chinese entertainment firms.  Other investments have included deals with Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, and Fox studios.

Ban Popcorn At Cinemas - This is Crazy Talk
Somebody, anybody - Mike needs help

Popcorn is a staple at movies - period!  A bag of corn is a symbol of all that is right in the world. Now, a one Mike Shotton (a misguided Englishman), is attempting to ban popcorn from cinemas - and other misfits are agreeing.  Mike's on-line petition to ban corn has the signatures of 416 other heathens. Calling the snack, "the loudest food known to man", Mike says people make too much noise when eating popcorn.  Well Mike, I have never been bothered by loud corn-munchers at a cinema.  In fact, I find the opposite to be true - that eating popcorn prevents moviegoers from talking to one another which is ten times more annoying.

Mike hates corn.  His hatred is deep-seated and Freudian.  It's his Mother - she made him eat corn for supper, far too often, and, his Father, loved the stuff.  Mike, believe me when I tell you that popcorn will never, ever be banned at cinemas.  What else cost 10 cents and sells for $7?  Mike, corn is king at cinemas.  Without corn - no cinemas.

My advice Mike, 'watch movies alone, in the silence of your living room and dwell on your childhood with a good therapist'. 


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Gerrymandering The Oscars

Gerrymandering - to achieve an electoral outcome by manipulating the voting.

Is the gerrymander the path the Oscars will take?  Will the voting for Oscar nominations be based upon anything other then the arbitrary nuance of Academy members' votes?  Like it or not this seems to be the route the Academy is taking regarding the future of the Oscars - however long and arduous that journey may be. Like many Awards it's not the best or most deserved that prevail but the one that keep the 'face' of the donor organization in proper form.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is a very tight, closed group composed of Hollywood insiders who vote every year on each other's performance; however, Hollywood and the Academy are both losing power and relevance.  For example, when (and not if) China becomes the largest cinema market the whole industry will shift. It won't be the Academy that welds power over the 'best' but a whole new group of folks making films outside the Hollywood realm.

The Oscars are losing their 'value' and have been for some time. Ask any recent Oscar recipient and they will tell you they got nothing of value (other than spiritual and, perhaps, individual satisfaction) from receiving the 'big' Award.  Viewership, of the Awards show, has been waning for years and gets more tedious and boring with each broadcast.  So, if gerrymandering is the inevitable 'way' of Academy voting who really cares - the whole concept is on the down-slide anyway.

As the old saying goes, "Awards are like hemorrhoids, eventually very ass gets one".

Just saying,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Oscars Are All About Color : Green That Is

Forget about diversity, boycotts, and such, let's get down to reality and importance regarding the Oscars - their PRICE.

What were the costs of this year's Oscar campaigns, because if you came up short, you're out!  The only color that matters is Green.  I've posted about this before but it appears that some didn't heed my words or, God forbid, don't read CMG.

The Academy has over 6,000 members and if you don't treat them right, well, tough luck.  The new reality of the Oscars is: you have to pay-to-play. So, those of you in the entertainment world who are complaining about a lack of diversity ask yourself: How much was spent on 'promoting' my film?

Today, even the most jaded or inhibited of actors must partake in the wine and dine exercise with Academy members.  For example, this year Paramount, Fox, and Universal 'invested' the most in their entries. "The amount of money being spent is outrageous, it's like a Presidential fund raiser", bemoaned one indie studio exec (who asked to remain anonymous). According to Academy rules,   monies, in any amount, can be spent before nominations are announced.  Once announced and the second round of voting starts, 'to ensure that no statue and be bought', no event can be held that serves food or drink.  However, before the nominations, NYC-based Academy members were given Fox's 'The Revenant' treatment: breakfast at Monkey Bar, lunch at Le Bernardin, and dinner at the Harvard Club.

Now to cost. Smaller and indie studios can expect to fork-up $3 million to lobby Academy voters on their movies, the major studios will spend up to $10 million per entry.  In this digital age, the personal touch is what is called for, so the studios "encourage" stars to take as many selfies as is required with Academy members.  So, between TV spots, dinner parties, galas, and first-tier travel and accommodation expenses the monies add up with the majority being spent on voters in LA and NYC.

And then there are the Oscar consultants' fees.  These folks pull-in tens of thousands for their "awards-whisperings and persuasion efforts".  Their large fees being augmented by huge bonuses if 'their films' make the Oscar short-lists, receive a nomination, or get the big, gold statue.  These consultants (the best of which is a group called, Top Oscar) produce highly detailed information and data on Academy members' opinions on various films - and they know who is voting and how to reach them.

So, those of you who want to boycott the Oscars due to lack of color remember to spend more next year - it may not get you a nom but it is a requirement, and make no mistake, it's green that counts- protestations get you nowhere.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Envelope, Please

'Meet the new boss - same as the old boss'  The nominations for the 88th Academy Awards were certainly no kilt-lifter in terms of surprise.  'The Revenant' got 12 noms, 'Mad Max: Fury Road' got 10, and 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' snagged 5.
Do the Oscars need more diversity?

As always, we're sure to hear the laments about diversity and inclusiveness (do we really care) and we will all be bored to tears listening to the slurpy platitudes come rolling-out of the winners' mouths - but this is par for the Oscars.

The voting ranks of the Academy don't need diversity, they are what they are - older Hollywood stalwarts from a variety of movie-making disciplines, who, once inducted, are in for life.  To say there were no actors of "color" nominated means that a non-color actor who was nominated should be displaced. Color does not equate to nomination it has nothing to do with it, otherwise there should be a category for Best Non-white Actors, etc. etc.

The nominations for this year span a wide-range of genres: from financial crisis drama ('The Big Short'), to period drama ('Brooklyn'), to high-impact action ('Mad Max - Fury Road'), to sci-fi ('The Martian'), to western ('The Revenant').  You can claim a lot of things wrong with the Academy but diversity isn't among them.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  The Awards try to be too politically correct and they cannot be, as movies are art and art is not definable.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jaunt: The Cinema Slayer + Notes on the 'Globes' by Jim Lavorato

Jaunt - Could This Be The Cinema Slayer?

The whole world of Virtual Reality (VR) is very young but the seeds are being sowed which eventually will grow into a formidable alternative to the cinema experience.
Jaunt VR camera at Yosemite

Jaunt is the latest, and best company thus far, that has laid down the VR gauntlet. A start-up, that recently got a big boost ($100 million) in funding from the likes of Disney, Sky, and Euro biggies: ProSieben Sat.1 and Axel Springer, has developed VR cameras and a cloud-based VR distribution platform and is eagerly awaiting the anticipated consumer explosion for VR entertainment.

Jaunt is now ready to scale-up content creation and awaits consumer purchase of VR headsets from the likes of HTC, Oculus, and PlayStation, among others.  Jaunt will provide the "end-to-end pipeline" from camera creation to content development to end product (which will be formatted to specific platforms).  So far Jaunt has released 20 VR "experiences" and with this latest round of funding plans on rapidly accelerating its content release schedule.

According to Jaunt CEO and Founder, Jens Christensen, "You'll experience Jaunt content through the Jaunt app that you will download to your device.  Jaunt will service all platforms, it is device-agnostic."
Jans Christensen, CEO/Founder

The most popular genre will first be music (short, 3-5 minutes productions) and full-length adventure/travel films.  For example, Jaunt has two movies that were made for North Face (the outdoor clothing manufacturer) on BASE jumpers in Moab and Yosemite Parks.

Christensen figures that by year-end there will be many VR headsets available to consumers - HTC, Facebook Oculus, Rift, PlayStation, Google Cardboard, etc.  With the headsets ready to go, content will be necessary for VR to go mainstream and this is where Jaunt comes in.

I believe that over the next 18 months you are going to see an adoption of VR both in terms of headsets sold and content consumption.  Cinemas need to be on their best game and make the whole cinema experience just that, 'an experience' as they compete in the future.

Golden Globe Awards - My Take

Sunday's telecast of the 73rd Golden Globe Awards Show joined the Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Shows in posting a viewer ratings decline. This year the Globes' were down over 4% in viewership vs. 2015. At 18+ million viewers, the Globes got about as many viewers as one of the Republican Presidential debates, which is nothing to write home about, unless you compare it to a Democratic debate which gets about 8.5 million.

Actually, the Golden Globes have seen smaller declines in viewership than the other major award shows, in fact, the only  big show that has seen viewer increases in the last several years is the Academy of Country Music Awards.

This year, the best and most deserved Globe went to Sly Stallone who was last nominated for a Globe in 1976 for the 'Rocky' screenplay, not as actor.  The biggest snub of the night went to Netflix - not one recognition for all of its home-grown, stellar content.

We now await the other 'big' shows where the same Hollywood faces will appear - only the gowns, tuxs, and bling change.


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

What's Up At The Cinema? - by Seymour Flix

2015 Big Year For The Pirates

2015 has tallied-up to be the biggest year for the movie box-office, it was also the record breaker for pirated films.  Illegal downloads of 2015 movies numbered in the hundreds of millions, below is a breakdown of the Top 10 Most Pirated.

#10 - 'Kingman: The Secret Service' - 30.9 million illegal downloads
 #9 - 'Terminator: Genisys' - 31 million
 #8 - 'The Hobbit - Battle of the Five Armies' - 31.5 million
 #7 - 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - 32.1 million
 #6 - 'American Sniper' (2014 film, but not pirated in earnest until 2015) - 34 million
 #5 - 'Mad Max: Fury Road' - 36 million (can't imagine seeing this on a small screen)
 #4 - 'Jurassic World' - 36.9 million
 #3 - 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' - 41.6 million
 #2 - 'Furious 7' - 44.8 million
 #1 - 'Interstellar' - 46.8 million (certainly not my first guess but the pirates really liked stealing this one, in fact, this film had 15 million more illegal downloads than the most pirated film of 2014 -'The Wolf of Wall Street'   

Own A Cinema - Just Enter A Contest
Original Temple Theatre 

Is this what its come to for the independent cinema owner - a cinema, given away for free.  I thought that owning a cinema was like starting a band or opening a pub.  Don't many people dream of owning there own cinema?  Well, if this is your dream than it may just come true.

The Temple Theatre in Houlton, Maine (pop. 6300) can be had for free, the only requirement is that you compose an essay in 250 words or less on "Why you would be the best person to be the new owner of the Temple".  The Temple is historic (over 98 years-old) and will be awarded to the winner of the essay contest next month, the contest runs until the end of January.  So, submit your entry (or entries) early and often.

The scheme is the brain-child of Mike Hurley, the current owner of the Temple, who purchased the twin, 400 seat cinema 12 years-ago.  It has been refurbished and includes offices and a live-in apartment.  Hurley tried, but couldn't sell the Temple for his asking price of $350,000, and then it hit him - sell contest entries for $100 each and set a minimum number of entries at 3500. Sounds good, but unfortunately for Mike only 200 essays have been received as of today.  Mike says he is confident he will reach his goal as it is still early and he is getting a lot of press.  According to Hurley, "He makes tons of money at the Temple, especially on concessions."  

The Temple has digital projection and new 6 channel sound systems, so if you have a spare $100, a semi-flair with the written word, and a hankering for a place in the world of entertainment, your dream of owning a cinema may come true.  Take a shot!  www.templemovies.com.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

2016's Cinema - What's Coming

Zombies are out! Vampires are out! Aliens, however, are in. Also, international terrorism and more serious subjects will be front-and-center for 2016.
Zombies Out !

Good alien flix have been out of vogue for some time, having been replaced with blood-suckers - but in 2016 space invaders are back.  Additionally, geo-political themes will play big.  Less kid-stuff and more adult movies will be the marquee fodder for this year.  The roster of films for 2016 will take audiences out of their comfort zone and into the reality of our current and uncomfortable real situation.

Also to make its 'new' debut, after decades in limbo, will be the 'conflict comedy'.  A genre not seen since the likes of the Vietnam war films.  The absurdness of political strife and war will be fully screened in films like, 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' and 'War Machine'.
Aliens In !

2016 will be a transition year in movies. More thoughtful, more reality-based movies, flanked by well conceived alien dramas and thinking-man comedies. And least we forget there will be another 'Star Wars'.

Boba Fett
Speaking of Star Wars, the next movie in the saga is to be entitled 'Rogue One:A Stars War Story' which is scheduled for release on December 16th.  A 'filler' until the next installment ('Star Wars: Episode VIII') of the original story-line is released in May of 2017 (which will include the original cast of 'The Force Awakens').  Then another 'filler', 'Star Wars Anthology: Han Solo' (currently the working title) will be a bio-pic about Han Solo and is scheduled for release in May of 2018.Then 'Star Wars: Episode IX', the saga continues. No cast as yet but the planned release is the latter part of 2019.  Then 'Star Wars Anthology: Boba Fett' to be released in 2020 - one of the most popular of the Star Wars characters.

So, Disney has set a 5 years course full of Star Wars epics (hopefully).  However, by 2020 we all may have had our fill of the whole fantasy and moved on to other movie interests far, far, away.