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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Streaming Wars: It's All Good For Cinemas

 We don't want to get over-excited, as cinemas are just getting back to some form of normalcy, but the streaming war is raging and that can only be good for the movie exhibitors ... here's why!


The competition between content streamers is immense and vicious. The Players (big tech and big media) daily battle for subscribers and continue to grow by consuming every content producer no matter the price. The latest victim, MGM, was bought by Amazon for $8.4b last week. When asked how this purchase would impact Amazon, its CFO stated, "the purchase has no material impact to our financials or current operations as the transaction cannot be viewed as significant". Hey, it's only $8.4B. In Amazon-think the MGM content portfolio is significant
and historic and they get a solid production studio to boot. 



In addition to Amazon (which also manages Amazon Prime), there is Netflix (the most significant streamer), Hulu, HBOMax, Disney+, Apple+, Paramount+, VerizonWB, and over 50 other entertainment streamers from National Geographic to Acorn. At the moment, all of these competitors have made streaming very affordable entertainment, several offer subscription rates of only $4.95 per month.

What's at stake for all of the streamers is eyeballs. 70% of all viewed in-home content was through a streaming service - millennials streamed 60% of that content. The DVD industry is all but dead as the streamers allow subscribers to hold purchased content in their 'lockers'.

     

                                              The Battle for the Viewership

The current score on subscribers is as follows:

Netflix - 210m, Amazon Prive - 175m, Disney+ - 104m, HBOMax - 85m, Hulu - 41m, Paramount+ - 36m, Apple+ - 34m. This doesn't take into consideration the large Chinese streamers like TenCent and iQlyi and at least 50 more worldwide some with subscription bases as low as 100,000.

Content is king. For example, for Amazon, snapping up MGM - which has more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows in its catalog - is an easy and relatively cheap way to supercharge its Prime service with a slew of well-known titles. Which include franchises such as The Pink Panther, Rocky, and the Bond films.

Amazon's purchase of MGM came right after AT&T announced its decision to spin off  WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery Network. 

Why This Is Good For Movie Theaters

The streamers know that they need to keep their subscription prices low, at least into the foreseeable future, to remain competitive. To counter the low subscription price, several - Hulu, Paramount+, Discovery+ - are now including paid advertisements with their content streaming. So, we're back to the old game that the cable companies played. Charge a low monthly fee to start, then introduce ads, then raise the monthly fees as the situation permits. The problem is: that scenario doesn't work when consumers would need to purchase 4 or more streaming channels to get the content they desire. This can get very expensive when you consider that the household needs WiFi to get the streaming service delivered and may still want cable for broadcast TV content.

Current Cost of Streamed Content

Netflix $9/mo, $13/mo. HD

Amazon Price $9/mo. or included w/Prime $119/yr.

Apple TV+ $5/mo.

Hulu $6/mo. (ads), $12/mo. (w/o ads)

Paramount+ $6/mo. (ads), $10/mo. (w/o ads)

Disney+ $6/mo.

HBOMax $15/mo.

Everyone knows that the very top of the content barrel will be the Hollywood-produced tentpole films, and these will be exhibited in cinemas with an exclusive 45-day window (for the most part). If consumers want the very best in content they will have to go to the movies, or wait and view it on ???  If you don't have a subscription to Amazon Prime you're not going to see the latest James Bond film. The streamers will horde their content and stream it only on their channel.

This scenario provides cinemas an opportunity - as they, and they alone, will be able to exhibit content from all producers. 


 

 


Monday, May 17, 2021

We're BACK! ... But

 U.S. cinemas are opened. The studios are finally releasing quality content and this summer will be a killer box office. The public is ready to get back to "the movies".  There is a lot of pent-up demand, and the folks want to get out and return to some level of normalcy. 


The COVID was hard on the movie industry, particularly exhibition, as cinemas were closed for months on end. Getting back is great but there are some changes that have taken place. The biggest one being the 'adjustment' in the theatrical release window.

The 90-day exclusive theatrical release window died. A victim of the pandemic. The new window is now 45-days. The virus allowed the studios the opportunity to play with various release models. From day-and-date with streaming to direct to streaming. Exhibitors had no leverage over the release changes as they were shuttered.


Cinemas defended the 90-day exclusivity but the reality is that movies make over 70% of their gate within the first three weeks of release. So, the 45-day window shouldn't cause any panic for exhibs. 

Post-pandemic the cinema industry will be as vibrant and vital as ever. I believe people will appreciate the cinema experience more than ever, having lost it for almost two years. Hollywood is set to go and there is an inventory of blockbusters for release.

Look for an outstanding summer and a great holiday season - the cinema is BACK!

Monday, May 03, 2021

Nowhere To Run: The Weinstein Saga

                                                            Harvey in happier times

Harvey Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence for sexual assault in a prison near Buffalo, NY. - he is appealing that sentence.

In the meantime, he and his attorneys have been trying to evade his extradition to Los Angeles to face trial for 11 counts of rape and sexual assault - those charges carry a maximum sentence of 140 years if convicted. 

Although he has stalled the extradition request by California, it now appears eminent that Weinstein will be traveling to LA within 30 days unless Governor Andrew Cuomo of NY (himself accused of sexually assaulting 9 women) intervenes. 

Harvey stated that he was "eager to defend himself against these spurious charges". COVID issues will most likely cause his trial in LA to meet with long delays.

Weinstein was born in NYC in 1952. His misdeeds and criminal activities aside, he is considered to be one of the most influential film producers of recent times. Miramax, his production company was responsible for films such as: The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting, and Shakespeare in Love.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Academy Awards That Were Not!

You don't have to be too astute to figure out that the Oscars have been in a free-fall for the last decade. Becoming a political show, having a problem getting someone, anyone, to host, all the noise about diversity and inclusion, a changing of the guard to a very woke and weak administration, and a steady decline in Hollywood's grip on filmed entertainment - have all blended into a toxic mixture for the Academy and Oscars.




Last week's Academy Awards Show was irrelevant, unentertaining, and unglamorous. The red carpet served as a metaphor for the blood-letting that we witnessed. It was filled with people we didn't know and movies we didn't watch. Only 9.9 million watched the event, a 60% decrease from last year's show which was at the previous low. The Oscars peaked in 1998 at viewership of 57 million.

After 93 years one would think that the Academy could get it right! The Awards show should be movie fan-focused. The "inclusion" should be Hollywood embracing and thanking not only themselves but the folks that go to the local cinema to be entertained, to live in fantasy for several hours, to view and adore their idols. Yet, the Oscars languish in a state of disconnect. One in which the winner of the Best Actor Award (Anthony Hopkins) wasn't present to accept - either in person or via video stream. 

After the obvious acknowledgment that the Awards were a debacle, the Academy blamed the pandemic for the lousy Show and poor viewership numbers. One would think it should be the opposite. With people being sequestered in their homes there was a huge captive audience for the Oscar show.  

Perhaps the Academy has finally got the message that they are on the wrong path. It has to get back to making the Awards show a gala, festive, and above all entertaining event. I'm not holding my breath.

The Academy Awards are passe' and have been in free-fall for at last 10+ years. The Oscars have no relevance to the average person nor to moviegoers - only 1.9 million in the 18-49 age group viewed this year's Show - which portends things to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Perfect Casting: The Weinstein Saga

 If you were casting for a biopic on the whole sorted Weinstein saga you couldn't get a better portrayer for the Weinstein role than Harvey himself.

Look at Harvey. If there were anyone that fit the role of a sexual predator it's this guy.


"I'm Losing Teeth. Four So Far!"

Harvey's extradition to LA continues to be delayed. On April 12th Weinstein's attorney requested postponement due to "his client's scheduled critical health procedures, to treat his failing vision and save his teeth." Norman Effman, Weinstein's lead attorney, told the judge, "he is almost totally blind and in need of surgery and shots. He's also has major dental issues. He's already lost four teeth at this point". Arguing that leaving New York, where he is serving a 23 year sentence for rape and sexual assault charges, would be an undo hardship on Harvey. 

Los Angeles filed sexual charges against Weinstein on January 6, 2020. He is accused of rape and sexual assault in a number of separate incidents. If convicted on all counts the penalty would be over 140 years.  

"We believe we have a very good defense on all of the California charges and believe it will result in an acquittal" said Effman.

Judge Kenneth Case said that even if he ordered extradition, Weinstein has the right of appeal. So, he granted the request to postpone until April 20 the filing of papers opposing the extradition.

In a separate request, filed on April 6th, Weinstein asked the New York Court of Appeals to throw-out his conviction and grant him a new trial, stating that the Judge in his first case made several errors that denied him an impartial jury. We await the Appeal Court's decision on whether to hear the appeal or not.

And so, the saga continues. 



Monday, April 05, 2021

Monsters Hit B.O. Big

 


$48.5 million gross for 'Godzilla vs. Kong" was a pandemic record for a 5 day opening. This represented about half of what would be a 'normal' debut gate but represented a clear indicatioon that the cinema will return. Globally, the film raked in $285 million.

This bodes well for summer releases such as: "F9" (the Fast & Furious sequel), "Top Gun - Maverick", "Crulla", to name several summer tentpoles, The summer admission's ramp-up is tailor-made for viewing in the theatrical way - as bigger is always better for movie viewing.

"It Wasn't Me...It Was The Judge"

 Last Monday, Harvey Weinstein filed an appeal of his New York State conviction on sexual assault and rape charges, arguing that the judge made numerous errors that "resulted in a rigged trial". 

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 with two counts of 3rd degree rape and one count of 1st degree assault. He is serving a 23 years sentence with his earliest parole being 2039.


He is also awaiting extradition to Los Angeles to face an additional 11 counts that carry a potential sentence of 140 years. 

It should be noted that New York State Governor Andres Cuomo, also being investigated on sexual misconduct has retained Weinstein's legal council. 






Monday, March 15, 2021

Special CMG Report: Where Does The Cinema Go From Here?

 Background

The movie industry took a direct and profound hit from the pandemic. The business model is now deeply challenged and must undergo a complete revamp to meet the demands of the digital world. The role movie theaters will play post-pandemic remains unclear.

There are two truths we know for sure:

1. More people are viewing movies at home, and

2. Studios and other content streamers are quickly developing their own direct-to-consumer digital-based services.

Studios derive about one-half their revenue from theatrical releases. If there is a diminished cinema release window it could force changes in the way content deals are struck. However, streaming may not be the best place to be for the studios in terms of profit. Premium video-on-demand (PVoD), where first-run movies are streamed directly to consumers has had mixed results and a full 68% of consumers express a desire to watch movies in theaters. So, clearly it will not be simple nor advantageous for the studios to shift to a full streaming model.


 'The theatrical window is in fact an anchor to finance production'


Currently, box office sales account for 46% of total studio sales - which is not something the studios want to disrupt.  On average, studios share 45% of box office revenue with the theaters. Further, most movies make 75% of their total box office gross within 17 days of their theatrical release.

Traditionally, the 'windowing' system ensured that each release platform was protected by a set release timeframe, for example, cinemas had a 90 day exclusive. Furthermore, the theatrical window's performance determined, in many cases, how revenue from subsequent windows was negotiated. Therefore, if more movies skip theaters in favor of digital platform release, down-stream revenues are sacrificed. 

This scenario places studios in a pickle. Reach more people through streaming but in doing so undermine cinemas' big revenue generation. These facts must be considered in light of front-end financing of productions, existing distribution agreements, and licensing terms. The theatrical window is in fact an anchor to finance production.

Premium Video on Demand (PVoD)

As it now stands, studios either lose money by delaying theatrical releases or stream first-run movies directly to consumers. Only 18% of U.S. consumers have attended a theatrical screening since the pandemic began placing huge financial pressure on the studios and cinemas. Therefore, PVoD emerged as a viable alternative, but posed a treat to the traditional windowing system.

Revenue per window or revenue per user? Typically, digital platforms generate much more data regarding viewer' engagement than cinemas.  Viewer tastes and interests, demographics, and location are several. Although only the largest studios manage streaming platforms the need for original 'blockbuster' content is evident. The trick for the studios is to measure how different types of content perform on different distribution channels.  



Some movies are well-suited to long theatrical releases while others merit shorter cinema exclusivity and some none at all. The challenge for studios is to understand which distribution channel is appropriate for which type of content and marketing it to the 'right' audience. 

On the content front, the studios are now competing against tech and telecom giants. These corporations that don't need their media operations to turn a profit because their main revenue drivers are elsewhere. This kind of deep-pocket competition put studios in a very precarious position regarding purchasing content, selling it, or producing it.



                                         Advertisement: 4mperformance.com


Not Apples-to-Apples

Measuring box office admissions vs. streaming or PVoD revenues is not an apple-to-apple comparison. When the pandemic lifts, the role of cinemas will have changed. When consumers feel safe in a cinema there may very well be a strong rebound in cinema attendance. 

I believe studios will continue to deliver 'big cinema' content but how theaters adapt and demonstrate moviegoer value against a growing at-home market will determine their fate.

COVOD 19 hit the movie industry hard but with it came the opportunity to revamp old traditions and prepare for new ones. Streaming has become a necessity and the movie industry must recognize this and forge forward as the future is fast approaching.


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

DOWN, But NOT OUT!

 The movies have always adapted to 'BIG' changes and the COVID impact will be no different. 

The Movies Depict Our History


One of the issues this year is that the Oscars will not have any 'major' contenders. The studios mouth-balled their tent-poles, including such films as 'Dune' and 'West Side Story'.

The Awards will be dominated by 'small-fry' films which are great for the small screen but not so for the silver. Up until the pandemic, all filmmakers assumed their works would be viewed on the big screen. The Best Picture prize was relegated to epic productions or fantastic stories with great acting and directing. 

Now the new mantra is films that make the audience 'feel like its inside the film'. Much of the streamed content is 'modified to fit' the home screen and highly censored for a more 'family friendly' audience. Let's face it, a movie seen at home is not the same as seeing it on a big screen at a cinema - too much detail is lost.

Moviegoing is NOT Going AWAY!

Think I'm crazy. Well, since ever people have congregated to listen to storytellers - there is a need for a shared entertainment experience. Furthermore, there are too many people with too much at stake to see the industry disappear. It is financially important.

I've written before about how the movie industry survived TV and radio in the 1950s, the home video boom of the '80s, and 'pay-per-view' of the '90s and beyond. The pandemic will be no different.

In 1953, Walt Disney commented, "The movie industry requires constant adaptation and adventures in showmanship. We like to enjoy ourselves in crowds, at sports arenas, at picnics, fairs, and carnivals, at concerts, and in the theatre.  People are always going to demand and enjoy movies in the theatre. Movies will survive."

Well said Walt. I couldn't agree more!


Thursday, February 04, 2021

Cannes Festival Moved To July Good For Film Industry

 There may be hope for the Cannes film festival attendees and the movie industry in general as the date of the festival has now been set for early July. 



This will be the first major film festival that will be 'live'. After a year of virtual film fests, the prospect of celebrating great filmmaking sounds fantastic. Most festival attendees, be they distributors, filmmakers, actors, agents, producers, and buyers believe that even if the pandemic is not over by July, with the vaccines the lockdowns and group restrictions will be behind us. 

This news of a July festival is very positive for the film buyers. The normal (live) May festival was not in the cards. With the whole film industry in turmoil, a bit of normalcy at the biggest film market in the world is great. 

The July reschedule is reassuring because it's a delay that's not too long and therefore won't impact the commercial life of films but long enough not to disrupt the whole endeavor. To most, the date change was a huge relief. 

There are many distributors with movies waiting to be released once cinemas reopen fully.  They have to clear up their slate of overdue releases. The ideal game plan for a distributor is to use Cannes as a launchpad for new films to either streamers or cinemas.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Biden Admin. - Good/Bad For Cinema

 Will the Biden/Harris Administration be a good friend to the cinema industry?  Many in H'wood believe this will be the case.


George Clooney and Cher raised over $14m for Biden 

 Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are long-time supporters of the film industry and the H'wood elite were huge backers and, more importantly, big donors to Biden's election.

The Dems spent over $4.6b on the Presidential election - a record, and twice as much as the previous election cycle. And, a good portion of those contributions coming from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street. However, of this triad of large givers only H'wood has taken a major hit due to the pandemic. 

Biden is well aware of H'wood's suffering and the great cultural contribution it makes, as well as, the significant employment numbers it carries - 2.1 million direct jobs nationwide. Both of these facts will not go unrewarded by the Biden Administration. 

H'wood has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with Democratic administrations but I think the Biden White House will be less huggy-feelly and more pragmatic given the impact of the pandemic and the current significant divide between Republicans and Democrats. Biden will be an ally to the industry.

The cinema industry as one of the most severely impacted and remains so. Let's see what the Biden Admin. can do to get the industry moving and get moviegoers back into theaters. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Movie Theaters' New Life: Tiered Admission Pricing

Anyone who has read my articles knows that for years now I have predicted that cinemas and online streaming of movies would eventually go day-and-date. However, I never envisioned it would take a pandemic to spur-on this change - 2020 has forever changed film making, distribution and exhibition.

My new prognostication is that cinemas move to a tiered admission pricing structure - having different admission pricing dependent upon the movie being screened. Blockbuster tentpoles premium priced while lesser films a regular admission price. This simple tactic will get more people back to the cinema again and would keep them coming back.
The rise of streaming services, which received a huge boost as viewers were forced to stay home, placed added pressure on the old, ironclad theatrical release window. Cinemas were forced to close and the studios had to completely recast their release schedules - moving dates out years and sending some production to streaming services or digital rental platforms. That widened the cracks that were already present in the release window's panes resulting in a total rethink of movie distribution.

As cinemas reopen they are realizing that their bargaining power has been lost. For example, if they wanted to screen 'Wonder Woman 1984' they had to accept a very shortened exclusive window. Rebuilding the Theatrical Model Both the studios and exhibitors know that the 90 day exclusive release window is now history. What remains is a studio-by-studio negociation for release rules and, I believe, it will be a film-by-film model. For example, 'Fast and Furious 9' would warrant a longer window than a lesser film. I don't believe that the major blockbuster films will go day-and-date that often. However, the exclusive window would be weeks and not months.

Universal has worked out a deal with AMC, Cinemark, and Cineplex whereby the exhibs will get a piece of the digital profits of certain films to compensate for the shortened release window. This may be the best scenario for all concerned.

Consumers are now used to viewing films in the comfort of home-viewing, but there is a tremendous pent-up desire by people to get out of their homes and experience the full scale and impact that only the silver screen can bring. This is where the tiered pricing comes into play. Consumers are now used to paying a low subscriber price for their movie viewing - mostly in the $10-15/month range for any of the streamers. Cinemas will not be able to have a one-price-fits-all for films. They cannot charge, say a flat $12 (or $20 in NYC and LA) to see any film on the marquee - that model justs doesn't work any more. The COVID pandemic, in the long-term, may turn out to have been a good thing for the cinema industry if you agree that the changes it forced were going to happen in time anyway.






Sunday, December 13, 2020

The CINEMA is Dead...Long Live the CINEMA

 AT&T should not be in the movie business! Nor should Comcast. The streamers have their place but Netflix and Amazon should become cinema owners via the purchase of one of the top seven circuits exclusive of any Chinese properties. 

36 Years For A Remake

AT&T has no compassion for the cinema as an art form or, for that matter, entertainment medium. With a $150+billion debt load their only concern is making money - as much and as fast as they can. So, one of their solutions is to have the entire Warner Bros. legacy of films and all new content streamed through HBO day-and-date with cinemas. 

As Denis Villeneuve, Director of the upcoming 'Dune' stated, "AT&T is using prominent images from our movie to promote their streaming service. They have hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. They have absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience." 

Villeneuve couldn't be more right! Filmmaking is a collaboration, relying on a team of artists and skilled trades people coupled with visionary producers, writers, and distributors. Streamers are funding providers and producers for the cinema industry but they cannot sustain the cinema industry.  Viewing a film at home is not and will never be the equivalent of viewing a film at a cinema. Many films require the scope and scale of a cinema to impart their emotional impact.

Original cast photo

AT&T's decision means 'Dune" won't have the opportunity to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately win out. In a recent interview, AT&T's head, John Stankey stated, "the streaming horse left the barn." Yes, John and it went right to the meathouse.

With the pandemic now in its 2nd wave it was thought that 'Dune's' release would be postponed for a year. The plan was that 'Dune' would open at cinemas in October 2021, after the vaccinations were well advanced - but that scenario was tanked with the AT&T/Warners decision to have 'Dune's' tandem release: cinemas and streaming. 

According to Villeneuve, "Dune is by far the best movie I've ever made. My team and I devoted more than three years to make it a unique big screen experience. Our movie's image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters." 

Cinema, on the silver screen is more than a business, it is an art form and one of a few left that can be enjoyed as a collective experience we share with others. The artistic community should be up-in-arms regarding what is happening to 'their' industry.


Director & Cast


It is my strong belief that the cinema will return and not because the movie industry needs it, but because people need the cinema. Companies in the film business, be they film-makers, streamers, or large telecom entities must take on the responsibility, respect, and regard to protect this vital cultural medium. The revenue and profits generated by movies for these mega-companies, be it AT&T, Comcast, Sony, Disney, etc. is a negligible piece of their overall financial profile. But it is a legacy of our culture and history. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Mega-transformation: Disney Moves Boldly Into Digital-first Business

The aftershocks of COVID 19 may prove to be worse than the initial attack. Understanding the pandemic is not only a question of science but of business as well. 


The impact of the virus on 97 year-old media and entertainment giant Disney Co. was divestating and their transition to a digital-first strategy just as transformative.

Last week, Disney announced a major restructuring, as it drastically reduced its focus from theme parks, cruises, movies, and cable TV to Disney +, its streaming service. In a statement, Bob Chapek, Disney's new CEO, said "Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically re-positioning our company."

Disney+, launched last year, has been a huge success with over 60 million subscribers. On the flip-side, COVID 19 destroyed Disney's cruise, theme park, cable TV, live-sports, cinema, and retail businesses - losing  $4.7billion in second quarter.

A Very Bold & Quick Pivot

For a company of its size and culture, Disney's pivot to digital was astounding. Pre-pandemic, Disney held the top-spot in global entertainment so deciding to reinvent itself around a digital strategy is very telling and points to management's belief that the virus's impact will be longer and deeper than once thought. Making the 'wait-it-out' option a non-starter. 

The shifting to digital is not specific to companies like Disney. Re-positioning your business model and brand to accommodate access to customers in a more economical and direct way is vital. 


Monday, October 12, 2020

Trying To Outrun The Virus

 Studios Run To Push Tentpoles Into 2021 and Beyond



As the months have rolled-by we have seen one after another blockbuster kicked down the road - as again and again the studios re-scheduled release dates. Setting of a domino effect the rescheduling has caused havoc. 

When the Bond sequel was moved to 2021 that triggered 'Wonder Woman' to move to Christmas and caused 'Batman' to be bumped into 2022! After the poor gate for 'Tenet' the studios really became gun-shy. There is also the looming problem with production - there isn't any going on!  To play it safe and have some marquee headliners for 2011/22 the studios are playing it safe and holding tentpoles in reserve. 

At the moment there seems to be reluctance on the part of moviegoers to 'go to the movies'. One because of the virus and two, there are no great movies to watch. Both the U.S. and Europe, as well as, Asia face the same dilemma. When these movies will appear on screen is anybody's guess. 

When the cinema returns to normal is anybody's guess. However, finding the perfect release date for a $150m film is not in the cards at the moment, as the pandemic isn't going to just disappear on Jan. 1st.

For movie theaters the release delays has literally killed their enthusiasm as the welcome mat for patrons have been removed time-after-time.  Without tentpoles to screen and without the NYC, LA, and San Fran markets closed it is unlikely the studios will premier a blockbuster before Christmas.

There is only so much cinemas (particularly independents)  can take before they cave under financial strain with no product to screen, and those are the ones that can open.

 





Friday, October 02, 2020

Europeans Step-up With $$$ For Cinema, Where is U.S.?

 The British government has authorized "lifeline funding" for independent cinema of $1.9b. "This is the first wave of emergency funding to help dozens of independent cinemas across the country, preserving their unique character and history for future generations," stated Oliver Dowden, U.K. Culture Secretary. 

Independents Across England to Receive Emergency Funding

The same assistance is occurring throughout Europe, via the European Union's Culture Recovery Fund. The same should be happening in the U.S. and it's NOT!  Funding for independent cinemas should be specific as these represent lifelines not only for the cinemas but for the hundreds of small communities across the country.

The National Assoc. of Theater Owners (NATO), the Directors Guild of America, the Motion Picture Assoc. of America, and over 70 film directors and producers signed a letter that was sent to Congressional leaders in the House and Senate to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act to assist independent movie exhibitors.

The virus visited a devastating blow to cinemas. 93% of U.S. movie theaters reported operating losses in the first half of 2020. It is estimated that if the status quo continues 70% of small and mid-sized movie theaters will go bankrupt or close permanently. This represents thousands of lost jobs for primarily young workers.


Many cinemas are still 'dark' because of the virus

We need to take a page out of the British cultural playbook. "The U.K.'s cinemas are a key part of our culture - they provide many jobs and entertain the nation", says British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

The movie industry is a child of America and we must preserve this art form at all costs. It is a huge part of our culture and it must remain so. We all need to step-up and support the independent cinema.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Putting A Quota on Art!

The Academy herd has done it again. Put restraints on the art of movie making. One would think that anyone really interested in this medium would be up-in-arms over the conditions being placed on movies to be considered 'award contenders'. Directors, actors, screenwriters, novelists, producers, the cadre of 'artists' that make a movie a movie should be outraged. 



For 20+ years I have been foretelling the demise of the Academy Awards. It was easy to see that the Academy  was becoming more and more irrelevant to moviegoers and moviemakers alike. Each year the awards ceremony had become worse in terms of entertainment quality and viewership. In the past several years the show wasn't MC'd as the Academy couldn't muster a 'name' to host the event. 

Now, the coup de gras, The Academy has voted to place quotas on race, gender, and sexual preference for those films to be selected for an award. This runs counter to some in the movie industry that are pushing for gender neutrality, ie, there would be no more Best Actress award just Best Actors - this makes sense.

To set quotas makes little sense and further erodes the relevance of the Oscar. If the Academy pushes through with their social divisions there will be no need for an Oscar night because no one with any sense would be in attendance. 

Oliver Stone, in a recent interview, stated that the Academy's move for quotas in moviemaking would "never work and be detrimental to the industry. No director would work under these conditions."

Judging artists by the color of their skin, their sexual preference, gender, etc. is degrading and racist. No one can put a quota on art. This is equivalent to telling a painter what type of person to put in her painting. One thing is sure. That my decades old prediction regarding the Academy is coming true.

   

Friday, August 28, 2020

U.S. Exhibs Look To Europe After Six Month Lockdown


U.S. movie exhibs are set to open and ready to accept moviegoers.  If the fans return, as they have in Europe, the re-openings will prove to be very rewarding.

I believe that once again the anti-cinema pundits got it wrong regarding the demise of the cinema. In Europe, most of the cinemas have reopened. Many took the pandemic and turned it into opportunity to rethink their operations and internals for their patrons' enjoyment. So far this has paid off. European audiences have been under house-lockup were desperate to return to the big-screen having exhausted the streamers roster of content.

In Germany, this pent-up demand has fostered an admissions return of 50% of normal for films that have already been aired on pay-per-view, subscription, and broadcast/cable TV! Where new content has been screened admissions have been running at 80% of normal.

Looking ahead, as U.S. cinemas should have a very good 4th quarter box office. The large number of tentpoles the studios have in the ready-for-release stage and others that were pushed into 2021 makes the outlook very promising.

Covid 19 impacted everyone, but it did not quell the movie fans' desire to enjoy and share great, affordable entertainment at great cinema venues.  The movies live on!



Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Nudity in Films: Art or Exploitation

 'Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies', a documentary by Danny Wolf, delves into how the cinema has used nudity to admire, exploitate, and compensate itself via the naked body.

'Skin' pits the use of nudity by Hollywood vs. European films. It analyses many films, old and new, and considers how much audiences appreciate or are put-off by viewing the human body. The end result is that we all love to view nudity in all of its different forms.

Nudity in films evokes a combination of curiosity, awe, and voyeurism. 'Skin' presents a historic journey of nudity in movies from 'silents' to modern productions. It also touches upon the politics of nudity in movies with the infamous casting couch up to the #MeToo movement.

In retrospect, the early films of the 1900s up to the 1930s had more nudity. 1934 ushered in the Film Production Code and all movies got 'cleaned up'. It wasn't until 1968 that the Code was revoked, due principally to the cultural revolution of the 1960s. By then the naked genie was out of the bottle and it was off to the races. It should be noted that the ice breaker was a movie called 'Something's Got To Give' starring Marilyn Monroe. Monroe died during the filming of the movie and it was never completed. It was dubbed a "comeback comedy" for Monroe and included a nude scene.


Monroe in nude scene "Something's Got To Give"


Nudity is now commonplace in films for both women and men on both sides of the 'pond'. There are still restrictions in other parts of the world including India and China.

If you get the chance 'Skin' is a must view - it tells us something about ourselves. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Theatrical Release Window Dismantled

We have been predicting, for some years, that the time would come when first-run movies would screen day-and-date across all media outlets - effectively dis-mantling the exclusive theatrical window. That prediction took a step closer to reality yesterday when AMC Theaters inked a deal with Universal Pictures.



Under the deal all of Universal's movies will move to an on-demand video status just 17 days after their theatrical release at AMC Theaters.

Big-budget blockbusters will still enjoy long theatrical runs given they continue making bank at the box office. But the question remains: Did cinemas just escape extinction or hasten their own extinction?

We knew (all of us) that the exclusive theatrical release window was going to be a relic of the cinema industry the day Netflix began to stream movies.

The AMC/Universal deal provides a road-map for the other studios and exhibitors to follow. However, it all comes down to what consumers do. Movie-going may go back to the pre-virus level, but on the other hand, it may not. Regardless, the theatrical window is closing. It is up to cinemas to make going to the movies an experience unmatched at home or anywhere else.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Production Comes To A Dead Stop!

HWD isn't going back to work anytime soon.

Movies, shows and episodic series for theatrical, broadcast, or streaming has come to a halt - as safety from contagion has over-ruled all other considerations and needs.  So far all of the efforts from various entertainment industry commissions and groups have been disregarded.

Virus testing has quickly become the central barrier to overcome in getting content productions back on-stream. If a production adheres to all of the necessary protocols a location that is safe enough for hundreds of people is very difficult. No U.S. city wants production shooting on their streets so all scenes must be achieved indoors.

Producers and directors are searching for safe-havens so some productions have moved to places as Prague, Budapest, or Bucharest where the virus is much less prevalent and therefore much less controlled then in U.S. or Western European hot spots.

It appears that only a vaccine will bring an end to the production dilemma, and right now that isn't likely until 2021.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Uncertainty Is The Only Certainty

Here is the scenario:
- Studio announces plans to release a new movie
- Virus contagion forces scuttling of release date
- Studio delays and reschedules release date




"Tenet" was postponed twice in June, "Mulan" has been rescheduled three times. It is only logical that this scenario continues as State governments order cinemas to stay shuttered.

Some tentpoles have been shifted to the latter part of the year. Others pushed into 2021 and more than a few beyond that. The problem for the studios is that all of this scheduling and rescheduling cost unforeseen and unbudgeted marketing dollars. It's a chicken n' egg situation - studios want to release but need a critical mass of screens to do it, especially for tentpoles.

"Tenet" and "Mulan" are currently scheduled for release August 12th and August 21st respectively, Marketing budgets for these two movies, according to the studios, are still within budget but another postponement and the marketing of these movies will cease completely until a "very hard" release is scheduled.

It is estimated that pushing the release date for a blockbuster a few weeks ups the marketing costs by $500k but that number could easily mushroom to $5m+ if delays continue. The bulk of any movie's promotion and advertising expense occurs during the two weeks prior to release (promotion normally begins six weeks before release and peaks a week before).

NOW What?

Since cinemas are closed studios have had to reimagine their marketing strategy.  Playing trailers in cinemas, having press tours with casts, or other live events are not an option. To counter this, the studios are relying more on social media, apps, and video games. On the reverse side, cinemas can't successfully reopen until there is new content to screen. 

The major glitch in this whole mess is that even when reopened and there is great new content screened who is to say moviegoers will show up.

Best
Jim Lavorato






Monday, June 22, 2020

Cinema's New Box Office

Bottom-line thinking has always been essential to HWD, because movies are too expensive to think any other way. Blockbuster mentality may have reached its peak and it took a pandemic to do it. The desire to make movies that only made money was the one desire and the week-end box office tally was the ultimate arbiter. 
Lining-up for the cinema


For the last 3+ months; however, the 'kill it at the B.O. syndrome' has been negated. For avid moviegoers it was going cold turkey from the 'fix' of the B.O. race. Yet, with all of its scars, the B.O., as an unbiased tabulation, performs a service in informing what folks are paying to view.

Movies are still being released on streaming platforms but we have no idea of how they would have 'performed' at the cinema - this scenario is alien to everyone and one could even say, an evil happenstance.

Netflix, and the other streamers, have mostly made it a policy to never reveal the performance of their content. Now, that we are in what some (mostly uninformed nitwits) are calling the post-theatrical era due to the virus some producers are touting their "streaming numbers". For example, Universal boasted that its VOD revenue for 'Trolls World Tour' bettered $100 million. But had it garnered say only $20 million Universal would have been mute. In contrast, a theatrical tally would have been revealed. In the streaming world when a movie or other content bombs there is no sound.



One would never see the B.O. numbers on any of these films if they were streamed


As cinemas begin their slow move to reopen, the weekend B.O. will return and so much the better for the industry. And, as the cinema rebounds (it will and be even stronger) the B.O. will return as the conscience of both moviegoers and non-goers alike. To know how many people are viewing a film has value. To be in a world without knowing a movie's tally is to live in a world of controlled (yes, fake) information.

Jim Lavorato
Movie Analyst & Goer