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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!


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.


Monday, September 05, 2016


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.