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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Anya Taylor-Joy Will Be Movie A-lister

 At 27, Anya Taylor-Joy began her acting career just 10 years ago and has already amassed a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and the Cannes Trophe'e Choppard Awards. To that add, nominations for a BAFTA Film Actor Award and an Emmy.

Joy in "The Queen's Gambit"

A dual U.S. and British citizen, I first saw her acting ability on a Netflix series, "The Queens Gambit", where she portrayed a girl/woman who works her way up the competitive world of chess to become the world champ. She is not only talented but has a unique 'look'.

In a big switch from her prior roles, Anya will be co-staring in the film: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga", a prequel to the 2015 blockbuster, "Mad Max Fury Road", which starred Charlize Theron as Furiosa.

Taylor-Joy as Furiosa 

Thus far, Anya's career has been nothing short of spectacular and all under the radar of the Hollwood glitterati. She has made it a point to take on complex, and unusual, female roles. To her credit, she has turned down many roles which she felt were not appropriate for her. "Whenever I've gotten offers for girlfriend roles, I've sent them back. Being like, "Eh?" "Why?".  

Set to hit cinemas on May 24, 2024, "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" will be a very different look at Anya Taylor-Joy, and I predict she'll kill-it.

Look for her to become one of the biggest stars, in not only films, but mass entertainment worldwide.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Netflix Goes Retail

In the works for some time, Netflix will soon be debuting its first two retail locations. Where or of what size these outlets will be has not yet been announced. All that is known is that the 'centers' will serve food and drink, sell merch, and feature "immersive" activities based on Netflix hit shows and films, like "Squid Game".

Netflix Pop-up featuring 'Stranger Things' show.

 This is a good marketing tactic by Netflix. The outlets are essentially vehicles to bolster the brand and cement fan engagement.

Netflix has been deliberate in this effort. To date, they have launched over 40 pop-up sites to test market the concept. Called "Netflix Bites", besides concession, these sites offered fans of various original shows the ability to compete in games. For example, in the Squid Challenge, over a 70-minute timeframe, participants were presented with six challenges to solve. Tickets started at $39. Also offered were exclusive merch based upon original shows and films.

Pop up 'Netflix Bites'

These trial stores were very successful and fulfilled the goal of supporting the Netflix brand.

In a final note, as of October 1st, Netflix officially ended its DVD mailing business, which it ran for over 25 years. As a final gesture to customers, those that had DVD were allowed to keep them.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Want Less Sex in Movies, says GenZ'ers

 A poll, conducted by UCLA found that Americans between the ages of 12-24 want to see less sex on screen at movie theaters, in streaming content, and on TV shows. 

51% polled said they would like to see less sex, while 48% said, "sex isn't needed" for most movies and TV shows. 44% felt sex and romance were overused, with most saying they would never go on an on-line date. Even more revealing was that 56% preferred to watch original stories vs. adaptions, remakes, and sequels.

Other finding from the study:

  • Racial stereotypes were intensely disliked.
  • Surprise, GenZ'ers believe social media is "authentic" with TikTok considered the most authentic platform. Even though TikTok delivered more disinformation than any other platform.
  • Favorite stories were those "where people beat the odds" and "people with lives like their own".
According to Psychology Today, GenZ'ers are having much less sex than prior generations and with fewer partners. It's a good and bad situation. Gratuitous sex is probably not necessary to the plot of many films and TV shows. To my mind, if the sexual content is relevant to the story being told than find, if not, then it should be excluded. How graphic the sex scenes are is to the film maker and again does it fit the narrative.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corporation, EECcinema.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Is the Movie Intermission Back?

Like everything, the cinema moves in cycles. Genre's change, themes come and go, moviemaking evolves, as does viewership. One of the traditions of viewing entertainment is the intermission.

It's a good thing, bring it back.

Intermissions or commercial breaks are commonplace in live theater, operas, sporting events, even concerts, but the tradition of intermission at cinemas has faded over time. 

In the 1950's going to the movies was to see a double feature. Two movies screened back-to-back. With an intermission between features. But the movies back then were only 90-120 minutes. Those that were longer, had an intermission. 

Today, many movies hit the three-hour mark - some even hit and exceed the 200-minute mark. This makes for a very uncomfortable audience, to the extent that it may preclude them from going to the cinema and waiting to view (stream) the film at home where they can pause or stop the presentation as they wish.

Now, some cinemas are experimenting with bring back the intermission and it seems to be a win-win for the exhibitor and the moviegoer. 

Vue Cinemas, a UK theater chain, brough back the intermission recently for the screening of 'Killers of the Flower Moon' (which is 206 minutes long). The intermission is 15 minutes long which provides patrons the opportunity to stretch their legs, use the restroom, and purchase concession. 

Tim Richards, Vue CEO

"Our recent analysis shows that customers would like to see the return of intermissions, with 74% positive feedback. There aren't many events left where you're sitting in one spot for several hours", says Tim Richards, Vue's chief executive. 

This move, I believe, is necessary given the overlong runtimes of more and more films. The Batman, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Oppenheimer come to mind - which all hit the three-hour mark.

Directors of these films, and they are hitting the silver screen with more frequency, defend the long runtimes as required to 'tell' the story...and they're right. Most of the highest grossing films in history fall between the two- and three-hour range (Titanic, Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur, Godfather II) Now, even superhero franchises routinely hit the 140–150-minute mark.

So, it's not surprising that audiences want the intermission brought back. This 'tradition' is more considerate to the cinemagoer and might very well lure consumers back to enjoying the 'cinema experience'.

According to Tim Richards, "The issue wasn't long films but how cinemas can make the experience better. We had many people write us and say they attended 'The Killers of the Flower Moon' only because we had an intermission." 

Intermissions at cinema presentations isn't new, it's about cinemas offering another customer-friendly element to enhance their movie going experience - and, it appears, a large number enjoy having a break during long duration films. 

Martin Scorsese

I note, with great dismay, that as of Friday, 10/27 Paramount and Apple Original Films have formally informed cinemas that they are required to screen 'Flower Moon' in its entirety without intermissions. Scorsese, stating that having an intermission, "violates" the film's creative vision. C'mon Marty that's BS, you're bigger than that.

When you go to a great Broadway show the intermission doesn't distract from its artistic vision or value. In fact, it may enhance the enjoyment as the audience is more relaxed and anticipates the next part of the 'experience'. 

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Where is Entertainment Evolving?

 It is now evident that going forward, most entertainment will be streamed. Consumers are already choosing streaming over broadcast and cable TV. Yet, only one company, Netflix, is generating any big dollars from streaming. Why?


Only Netflix counts. Cinemas can and will get alternative content 

Netflix has a unique niche. With over 400 million paying monthly subscribers worldwide, it generates huge cash flow which it has wisely placed on high-quality content produced around the globe. So how can other entertainment companies follow suit? It will be very difficult!

It will take massive investment over a long period of time and producing great series, movies, and 'live' programming that people want to view day after day. Or linkup with an existing streamer and scale your content (brand) with great programming and receive a share of the revenues of all of the streamer's service revenues.

This is similar to the movie distributor/exhibitor relationship. Keep in mind that Netflix's current share of at-home viewing time is less than 10% - meaning many people are online and viewing other stuff (YouTube, X, Rumble, Meta, et.al.)

This scenario goes for the cinema industry as well. More and more, movie theater content will be streamed And, more and more, will be non-film. Concerts, sporting events, live entertainment will take on more and more screen time.

Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.  EECcinema.com 

The 2023 Holiday Box office May Be a No-show

 The October box office was a bust! Was it not for Taylor Swift with a little help from Scorsese's 'Flower Moon', there would have been empty movie theaters. 

No blockbusters this year...but

Which begs the question. Will the '23 holiday movie season be a no-show. There already exists big-time angst on the part of exhibitors. The SAG strike is the obvious culprit for exhibitors' woes, but through October the box office totaled $7.5 billion, which is 22% above last year's performance - projections are for a $9 billion year total. Not bad considering the impact of the strike.

There appears to be no films on the holiday roster that would be potential tentpoles, but there are some bright spots. "The Marvels" will release next month as will "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" ("The Hunger Games" prequel). Family-friendly, Turkey Day releases also include: "Trolls Band Together" and the musical, "Wish". 

December 1st, debuts Beyonce's, Taylor Swift cloned, concert, "Renaissance". It appears that these concert films may start a trend, and their low production costs make good bank for the performer and cinemas.

Other content that could bring in additional box office are "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom", "Wonka", and "The Color Purple".  

I think the holiday box office will be OK, not a disaster but not stellar. 

Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Swifties - Best News for Movie Exhibitors

 It costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars to attend a Taylor Swift concert, yet only $20 to see it at a movie theater. 

Scene from Eras Tours movie which is over 3 hours long.

Taylor Swift's 'Eras Tours' concert movie amassed $39 million in its debut opening day. How much can it gross worldwide? I think $400 million at least. 

Both exhibitors and Swift are encouraging fans to use their cell phones during the presentation - a switch from normal cinema etiquette rules.

And it is all working. Both Cinema Score and Rotten Tomatoes gave 'Eras Tours' very rare A+ and 100% viewers' rating approvals respectively. 

Swift composes her own songs which tell the story of her life.

The good news is that Swift decided to go directly to movie theaters for distribution and bypass the studios. Making her take of the gross greater and the exhibitors, as well. This is a first time this has been accomplished for a wide release movie and a sign of things to come.

Beyonce' is working on a concert movie to be released in December and plans to use the same distribution format.

This is great news for exhibitors and will boost their revenue streams and their concession sales. Exhibitors need to seize this opportunity and turn these concert movies into events, with major promotions, tail-gate parties, dress-up contests, merch sales, CD sales, etc. etc.

There is a close bond between Swift and her fan base (over 100 million). Many that attended the movie stood, sang, and danced. Cinemas have what live shows do not. Better seats, more immersive sound, a great 'view' of the entertainers, in a safe and controlled environment. 

The face that could change the exhibition industry.

Turning cinemas into mini-concert venues and all that can be added on to the event bodes very well for cinema operators. 

Swift has been recording for over 20 years and has built her fan base slowly and methodically. She has lived her life in public via social media. She has learned that being yourself vs. having stardom overtake you is the best way to go in the entertainment industry. 

By Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment EECcinema.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Content Streamers UNITE...It Had to Happen

 In the wake of the Writers' and Actors' union strikes why wouldn't one think that the content streaming providers would gather and form their own alliance...and this is just what they did.

This past Monday, a new trade group was formed, the Streaming Innovation Alliance (SNA) which bring together the likes of: Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Discovery+, MotorTrend+, Peacock, Pluto TV, Telemundo, BET+, and more. 

Prime movers of the SIA

The SNA mission is to promote their interests to politicians and government entities (Washington speak for lobbing group) and marks the first time competing streaming providers have banded together. SNA will advocate for federal and state policies that builds on a very strong pro-consumer market for streaming content.

In a recent Neilsen poll, content streaming has overtaken broadcast and cable programming in viewership, and it continues to grab market share. Also on the SIA agenda is the issue of Net Neutrality, which the Biden Administration has recently brought back as a topic to be investigated by the FCC. 

According to a statement issued by the SNA, "streaming provides great value, vast programming choices, and unprecedented options for consumers. We will be working to ensure that federal and state policy propels this incredible innovation forward - and doesn't undermine the value and diversity consumers are enjoying today."

The statement went on the say that streaming services bring relevant stories and options to historically underserved communities, and any policies that drags down streaming would turn back the clock on this vital progress. 

To prove their point, SIA released results of the Neilsen poll which found that 70% of registered voters view streaming services "favorably" or "very favorably", with results even higher among young voters.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp. EECcinema.com


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Generational Oscars Are a Rarity

 There are only two families that can claim having three generations of Oscar winners: the Hustons and the Coppolas.

The Hustons were the first with three generations of Oscar winners: John (father of Angelica), Angelica (daughter of John and granddaughter of Walter), and Walter (John's father). 

John and Walter both won Oscars for the same movie, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre". John won it for Best Director and Walter for Best Supporting Actor. Angelica won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in "Prizzi's Honor" - which was also directed by her father, John.

John with daughter Angelica

Walter Houston (left) with Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt
                 in " The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"

The Coppolas were the second family to win Oscars in three generations. Sofia won Best Original Screenplay for "Lost in Translation". Her grandfather, Carmine and her father, Francis both won Oscars for "Godfather II". Carmine of Best Original Score and Francis for Best Original Screenplay.

The Coppola extended family, however, has won many more Oscars.

Francis's sister, Talia Shire has been nominated for two Oscars. His nephew, Nicolas Cage, won a Best Actor Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas" And, Talia's son, Jason Schwartzman is being nominated this year for his role is "Asteroid City". 

Nick Cage, Francis, Sofia, and Mrs. Coppola

Sofia, her Aunt -Talia Shire, Francis and Mrs. Coppola

Getting the Most Out of Your Cinema - Incremental Sales

 Cinemas have been attempting to increase revenues from incremental sources (referred to as alternative content) for years. Trying, ever so hard, to leverage their venues so as not to be solely dependent on movie admissions - to create income opportunities, fill the void created by poor theatrical releases, and to expand their market reach. 

Fathom Events is the most acclaimed of the 'alternative' providers. Their 'Met Series' (Metropolitan Opera from Lincoln Center NYC) and 'Big Screen Classics' are two of their best. And there is a new Oscar 'Best Film' nominations playlist. Although revenue generation is likely to be moderate from any 'alternative' it does demonstrate a cinema's willingness and need to screen non-film content. 

Cinemas can be described as, weekend businesses, so during the midweek 'alternatives' may draw admissions, filling otherwise empty seats and potentially contributing to the venue's revenue stream. 

Having said that, the massive gorilla in the room of 'Alt-content' is sports programming and concerts, (as will be witnessed by the huge box-office that the upcoming Taylor Swift "ERAS Concert" will generate).

The challenge for securing sports programming has always been obtaining screening rights. Currently, the sands regarding sports programming rights seems to be slowing shifting in favor of cinemas. There are caveats, however.  Rights to screening NFL or NCAA games may preclude exhibitors from screening high-value weekend movies - taking up their time slots. 

Additionally, sporting event screenings may well require tailored advertisements, which are not optional for exhibitors to run. In regard to concerts, only the biggest entertainers, like Swift, would are able to draw enough viewers to their 'theater concerts' to make the process 'work' for cinemas.

Many cinemas, both independents and large circuits have reduced admissions for midweek screenings - bring in moviegoers who don't want to or can't afford regular weekend admission cost. Other revenue enhancement schemes include advanced seating and concession purchase, loyalty programs, and an expanded menu. These, although not great income generators do add incrementally to profits.

Whatever the case, cinemas must strive to 'serve-up' a varied menu of product to keep people wanting to frequent their theater. 

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp EECcinema.com


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Hollywood Actors and Writers Using AI Technology

 In my post of September 9th, entitled "No End in Sight -The Hollywood Strike", I stated that regarding the AI issue between the striking writers and actors against the studios and streamers, "You cannot stop technology. You can only work with it and maybe find the benefit to your advantage."

It appears that some prominent actors have done just that and are embracing AI technology so as to stay ahead of curve. 

Metaphysic AI, a new company, says it can provide public figures the ability to control their digital image and voice. The company stated that celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Tom Hanks, and Paris Hilton are using Metaphysic Pro, to scan their likeness which contain the characteristics that make up the individual and store them in a database. The allows users to keep control of the traits required to train an AI model on their likeness and voice. 

The large and very prestigious Hollywood talent agency, Creative Artists Agency, which represents Hathaway and Hanks, would not comment on the issue but it is known that CAA and Metaphysic AI inked a deal in January to develop generative AI tools and services, including photorealistic digital avatars for their clients. 

Owning the dataset that creates a performer's replica is crucial in fighting illegal deepfakes, or AI powered copycat videos and imagery used to create a false impression. It can also help ensure that actors are compensated for using their image and voice.

"Nobody has any right to how their voice sounds or their face looks. You don't have any property in that", says Tom Graham, CEO of Metaphysic AI. "So, if someone creates an unauthorized deepfake based on a bunch of pictures, they can put that online and you can't claim that infringes your IP - which means that you can't very effectively get that taken down."

Metaphysic co-founders Kevin Ume' & Thomas Graham

Metaphysic AI, headquartered in London, is the custodian of the user's data and not the owner. It is a platform that stores the data essential to train AI models. 

What this prevents is the puppetmastering of your presence or create a version of you saying or doing something you didn't do.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"I'm Terrified of Global Warming" says Spielberg...Really?

Spielberg's 357 ft. Superyacht

Steven Spielberg champions the evils of global warming yet when it comes to fossil fuels... well, he has no qualms about using them.

His pleasure craft is a $250 million superyacht, which guzzles a mind-boggling 700 liters of diesel fuel per hour. The ship boasts two swimming pools, a movie theater, and a helicopter landing pad. 

"I'm terrified of global warming. It's a reality. It's not a political a trick" says Spielberg. Hmmm, in addition to his yacht, he owns a Gulfstream G650 private jet which logged over 17,000 miles last year, at a fuel cost of over $116,000. 

The talk doesn't seem to match the walk. If you want to fancy yourself as a proponent of reducing fossil fuel consumption and believe in the global warming scenario, and tout it - than don't live a lifestyle that consumes tons and tons of carbon-based energy. 

By Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp. eeccinema.com

MoviePass: What's the Definition of Insanity?

 Oh No! Not Again! It's MoviePass, the get cinema admissions on the cheap scheme.

Once failed and bankrupt in 2019 the remnants of MoviePass were acquired by Spikes, a company made up of the original MoviePass management team, in 2021. Spikes, somehow, convinced Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong based gaming software and investment company and others, to pony-up the funds necessary to regurgitate MoviePass.

Under the original scheme, MoviePass subscribers paid $9.95/month for the ability to attend one movie per day. Under the new scheme, launched on September 1st, a subscriber can choose various levels of participation. For $10/month up to 3 movies could be attended per month. For $40/month up to 30 admissions. The new scheme is complicated, as credits are awarded for each participation level. All 3D films are excluded and where you live, for example in NYC or Southern California, you'll pay more. No information as to what MoviePass pays the cinemas for each admission has been provided. 

MoviePass states that over 4,000 theaters are participating in their 'new' program, namely, the large cinema circuits - AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. Although no data is available on how many subscribers signed up, it appears that moviegoers received its launch with a big yawn. 

It's deja vu all over again.

The MoviePass premise to success is that as more people subscribe and attend more movies, concessions will increase at participating cinemas, ergo, the cinemas will 'share' their increased concession profits with MoviePass. The problem, for MoviePass, is that many, if not most, cinemas already have their own version of MoviePass - called customer participation programs. And there are streaming services where you can pay and view premium movies at home.

I predicted back in 2019 that MoviePass would fail as a viable concept and it's going to fail again. Repeating the same thing over again, with a few new twists, does not indicate a road to success.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp. eeccinema.com

Saturday, September 09, 2023

No End In Sight - The Hollywood Strike

 This is the fifth time I've posted regarding the on-going strike by the scriptwriters and actors against the major film studios and content streamers. To me, the strike represents Hollywood's glitterati vs. the media giants - and it's so fun .

The strikers, portraying themselves as the downtrodden Davids against Goliath, can't really muster any support from the average Joe who is currently having a hard time making ends meet. Yes, there are the so called 'starving actors' but they normally have side gigs or full-time jobs. What I'm saying is I can't really feel their pain. If you're an actor or writer that can't make a living at it, you probably shouldn't be in that profession.

As for the studios and streamers (the group that fancy themselves to be the cultural makers and movers) have no reason to lock into contractual agreements that limit their ability to use a developing technology - artificial intelligence. 

Like Web3, AI is evolving as a technology and there is no stopping it. As Web3 is being attacked by sovereign governments and the current controllers and gatekeepers of Web2 so too is AI. 

Regarding the Hollywood strike, there is currently no indication that the studios or streamers would be meeting with the Writers and Actors Guilds anytime soon. Further, the Actors' Guild has now extended its strike to include the major video gaming companies, specifically Activision and ElectronArts - due to their intended use of AI in game development.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Guilds' Prime Negotiator - Really?

Both Guilds have indicated they were steadfast in their bargaining positions, and the far-left has joined their cause, even the likes of Kathy Hochul, the Gov of New York was on the picket line last week. The latest stab by the Writers' Guild was their request that the studios split from the streamers and negotiate alone. This is a non-starter. It's the old divide and conquer tactic, it's laughable.

It appears that both sides are cemented into their positions which means that the strike will be of a very long-term duration - and the Guilds will lose in the end. You cannot stop technology. You can only work with it and maybe find the benefit to your advantage. There are always winners and losers and in this case the losers will be the writers and actors. 

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp. eeccinema.com


Sunday, August 20, 2023

Best Non-American Film Schools

 There is no doubt that the U.S. has the best film schools. The American Film Institute, Univ. of Southern California, NYU, just to name three. However, the rest of the world is catching up. 

Here are the top 15 international film schools based upon the number of graduates who have won the Cannes' Palm d' Or award or an Oscar nomination. 

- Australian Film, Television, and Radio School. Located in Sidney it is noted for producing excellent film talent. 

- Beijing Film Academy, China's most prestigious film school.

- Centro Specimentale di Cinematografia, with multiple campuses across Italy this is the oldest film school in Europe (est. 1935).

- Deutsche Film und Ferntehakademie, located in Berlin this is a tuition free school - if you can get in.

- ECAM, Spain's leading film school, this Madrid based institution specializes in behind-the-camera instruction.

- La Femis, located in Paris and with an acceptance rate of less than 5%, this school is very exclusive and very good.

- Filmakademie Wien, located in Vienna this Austrian school puts an emphasis on practical experience.

- Gobelins L'ecole de l' Image, is located in Paris and is arguably the best school for animation in the world.

- Lodz Film School, located in Lodz, Poland it offers full and part-time instruction and courses.

Ongoing production at Lodz Film School

- National Film and Television, located in London and its most prestigious film school.

- National Film School of Denmark, located in Copenhagen it is very selective and one of the most expensive in Europe.

- Prague Film School, this Czech institute offers degrees in many disciples and produces over 30 full length features per year.

- Sam Spiegel Film and TV School, located in Jerusalem this Israeli school focuses on the 'small' screen productions

- Toronto Film School, one of two great Canadian film schools it is private and focuses on feature film production.

- Toronto Metropolitan University, the other noted Canadian film school TMU provides instruction in all film production categories. 

There you have it.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corporation

Disney Shuffles 2023 Release Dates

 Announcing release date changes for Avatar, Marvel films, and other movies, Disney is feeling the impact of the writers/actors strike. 

Regarding Marvel releases, 'Captain America' was moved from May to August 2024, while 'Thunderbolt' was rescheduled to December 2024, and 'Blade' to February 2025, as was the 'Fantastic Four' to May 2025.

Avatar to Avatar 5 - 22 years in total

As far as 'Avatar 3' is concerned, it has been scheduled for a December 2025 release. 'Avatar 4' to December 2029, and 'Avatar 5' to December 2031!  This means that 'Avatar 5' will be released 22 years after the original Avatar was screened - Wow!

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corporation


Diversity in the Movie Industry

 According to a just released study from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC, entitled the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the diversity of movies from 2007 to 2022 changed little over that 16-year period. 

The percentage of nonwhite speaking characters of every race and ethnicity, except Asians, was essentially unchanged. Asians, however, went from 3.4% to 15.9% over the period. Non-white characters remained at 38% compared to 41% of the overall U.S. population.

Women comprised 34% of speaking roles. There were no films in the top 100 films that included a Native American female role. 

The 'face' of Hollywood hasn't changed but maybe it shouldn't. 

Overall, the Annenberg study indicated that there was no improvement in the use of non-whites characters with the exception of Asian characters. The LGBTQ+ characters in films has remained unchanged since 2014 at 2%. Disabled characters were also unchanged at 1.9% of speaking roles.

CMG's Takeaway

People reflect themselves in their work. Most script writers and directors are white males and so this is reflected in their work. It's what they know. It's what they experience. The use of non-white speaking characters vs. overall population is 38% vs. 41% - so the difference isn't that significant. In summary, there has been some diversity movement to the extent that it is almost at parity with population data. 

By: Jim Lavorato


Saturday, August 12, 2023

The H'wood Writers'/Actors' Strike...Is It All Drama?


On the 'line'

Public protests are theatrical. Protestors assume dramatic poses and make rally speeches eliciting support and cheer.

A strike by actors would therefore have natural and ;striking' attributes. Ever more so, as in the present strike screen actors and writers are scripting the lines that are being shouted and 'soapboxed'. 

But like most things, they can be overplayed. This is the case with the Screen Actors Guild in their current standoff with the major film studios and content streamers. 

Many actors, marching, sign waving, and walking picket-lines along with their striking brethren have become scenes of what I term, "anger through wardrobe". Distressed denim and military khaki seem to be the common attire.

OK, we all get the 'workingperson' symbolism of these 'costumes' - but it has been totally overplayed. It would be better if the strikers showed up in their normal wear as opposed to staging and cosplay. The actors and writers are striking workers that are taking a stand around what they believe is a righteous and admirable cause...they don't have to pretend.

When the 'A' listers join the picket lines you know PR and self-promotion has entered the fray - and it all makes for great drama.

By: Jim Lavorato, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

AMC - Not Again! Please, Stop the Agony

 American Multi-Cinemas (AMC) is the largest cinema chain in North America (over 7,700 screens) and over 2,800 screens in Europe. But with all of those screens comes management issues and the biggest one for AMC is debt and generating revenue to pay it off.

Steering this large ship is Adam Aron and things aren't so rosy for Adam these days (although over the years Adam has become very wealthy at the expense of AMC shareholders and debtors - but that's another story).

Currently AMC stock is trading at $4.40/share indicating a market value of $4.1billion. It is projecting a loss of over $900 million this year. Company debt stood at $11.8 billion at year end 2022, indicating that its debt is over twice the value of the company.

Getting Back to the Point

In February, in what AMC management thought was a stroke of genius in generating more revenue, implemented a new admission pricing policy, termed 'Sightline'.

Under this policy, tickets are priced upon where a patron sat in the auditorium. Center seats cost more than 'off' center ones. Middle and back seats more than a front row seat, etc. 

Upon getting wind of this ridiculous policy Cinema Mucho Gusto published a post decrying this move as a failure from the get-go. And, sure enough, AMC pulled out of the 'Sightline' program this week. 

Citing that their pivot away from the program was "necessary to ensure its ticket pricing stays competitive", it now plans on up charging for "better, more comfortable recliner seats." Obviously, they haven't learned their lesson, and CMG predicts this new policy will also fail.

AMC 'Sightline' seating screen. Yellow are best seats and cost more.

Ever since movie theaters opened seating was on a first-come, first-served basis with all ticket sold at equal price. Over the years this policy was adopted to give 'special' pricing for matinees, seniors, children, etc. Now, many moviegoers purchase their tickets online before going to the cinema, and in most cases, they can choose which seats they want upon purchase - again first-come, first-served.

By instituting rules and up-charges for seating makes it more difficult for the moviegoer and stimies their attendance. Too complicated and costly forces many to wait until the film is streamed and forgo the cinema altogether.

Bad move AMC!

By: Jim Lavorato, Publisher, Cinema Mucho Gusto - a service of               Entertainment Equipment Corporation


Friday, July 21, 2023

The Chinese Movie Business is Different ... No Kidding!


Chinas has a robust film industry.

It's no secret that the Chinese moviegoer has a very different content appetite from its Western counterpart. This difference was always quite noticeable when going to the movies on my visits to Singapore, which has a large Chinese population, and where most of the films were Chinese productions.

 For mainland China that difference is more pronounced. Any film that is screened in China must first pass muster with the Government censors which is very difficult. Obtaining government approval takes time and once approved that approval can be revoked at a moment's notice.

Chinese film censors are very hardline.

The Chinese have built a very robust film industry and domestic film production is tremendously successful. The Chinese are hungry for entertainment by they abhor any kind of messaging that can be perceived as anti-Chinese. For example, China as a 'bad guy' will never be tolerated. On the social side, LGBTQ+ films are strictly forbidden.

The Chinese crave Western films, but everything is contingent upon understanding what movies will be allowed and which will not.

By: Jim Lavorato, Publisher, Cinema Mucho Gusto
        Sponsored by: Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

2023 Summer Sleeper - 'Sound of Freedom'

 Costing only $14 million, the now blockbuster hit, 'Sound of Freedom' is the savior of the '23 summer box office thus far. 

The film, about child sex trafficking, has now grossed over $100 million in its two-week run and is still going strong...all without any international release. 

Billed a 'political thriller' the film was produced and distributed by Angel Studios, a Utha-based company that crowd-funded the film via the Angel Guild, a community of 160,000 that votes on what film will get produced. 

Jim Caviezel plays the lead.

There is now a rush by cinema owners to get the film. It was originally released at 2,534 screens and is now screening at 3,287.

Cinema Mucho Gusto's Take

With a 100% audience rating and an 80% critics' rating from Rotten Tomatoes the film is based upon a true story of a former U.S. government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Columbia. A subject that Hollywood has shied away from dealing with - for political reasons. Big mistake! 


Full-Service Cinema Supplier

Despite poor reviews from mainstream media and industry trade rags the film is a huge money-maker and that's all that counts...at least as far as CMG concerned. 

The cinema needs all the help it can muster at the box office and whichever film can accomplish this - I'm an avid proponent. 

And, by the way, 'Sound of Freedom' is a very well made and acted film.

By: Jim Lavorato, Publisher Cinema Mucho Gusto                                                             


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Actors Join Writers in Walkout...Their Solution, Web3

 It been over six decades since Hollywood's actors and writers joined forces to strike against the major studios (and which now includes content streamers). The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) with 160,000+ members officially joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in their strike this week. 

Are they going in the wrong direction?

The main issues for the strike boil down to two:

  • Better compensation in the TV streaming era.
  • Concerns around writers and actors being replaced with artificial intelligence.
Most of SAG's members are struggling actors that live job-to-job and require side gigs (food service, bellhop, bartender) to make ends meet. 

Is Web3 their Solution?

To me, the solution for any person that creates anything is Web3 and as a major proponent of Web3 truly believe that Web2 has become a failed construct that must evolve. 

Anyone involved in the creative process should be looking at Web3 solutions, irrespective of the massively ill-informed, and manipulative mainstream media which are themselves part-and-parcel of the major content distributors/owners. 

Entertainment Equipment 
For all of your cinema's needs

TV, movies, music, books, you name the media, are all dominated by a few players...and the content creators get little of the pie. For example, Spotify pays one-third of a cent for each stream of a song.
As, Snoop Dog put it, "Can someone explain to me how you can get a billion streams and not get a million dollars?"

However, it's not Spotify making the money, in fact, they reported an operating loss of $430 million last year. It is the big media companies that are making those billions, that Snoop refers to. Spotify has paid out over $40 billion in licensing fees to these giants. Ergo...smart musicians are leaving big media and Spotify and selling their music via NFTs in Web3. 

The same can be said for live presentations, where the marketplace is even more monopolized, being controlled by Live Nation Entertainment - the ugly and usurious offspring of the merge between Live Nation and TicketMaster.

The Way Forward

The path forward for creators to really own and profit from their original ideas is through issuing unique, one-off digital assets or NFTs, which are an undeniable breakthrough innovation. 

NFTs are the new building blocks for a truly creative-centric system. They allow direct peer-to-peer ownership transfer from creator -to- fan or user. The time has come where the ownership and transfer of ownership via digital assets and the use of these assets to access and add value has arrived. 

Check out these articles on the 4M Performance site:

For creators, look for companies in your media for assistance and guidance for valuing and selling your NFT creations:
  • Aspen - a Web3 musicians' platform by Monax Labs
  • Gala Games - helps creators develop NFTs of their video productions.
  • ToonStar - an animation studio which allows its NFT community to vote on aspects of its projects, including development.
So, Hollywood writers and actors, perhaps you are negotiating with the wrong folks. It might be better, if not wise, to look in other directions and a new path forward that gives space to even the smallest projects...to dismiss Web3 innovations is to live under the delusion that the current Web2 economy is really working for everyone's benefit. 

By: Jim Lavorato, Publisher - Cinema Mucho Gusto

Monday, July 03, 2023

Stunts No Problem for Cruise

 Tom Cruise is known for performing many of the stunts in his films. However, the 61-year-old actor took this to the extreme in his latest film, "Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One".

In the film, he does all of the speed-flying scenes. Speed-flying is not skydiving it is akin to paragliding except that the flyer stays close to the slope of the ground, picking up speed from the wind currents. This vastly increases the chances of colliding with the mountainside - making this sport very dangerous.

According to Cruise, "You're doing spirals and landing at high speed, over 80 kilometers an hour". Video of Cruise Speed-flying.

In another scene, Cruise rides a motorcycle off the edge of a cliff and parachutes to the ground below. Video of Cruise on Motorcycle.

Of the motorcycle-cliff stunt Cruise says, "I was training for this for a long time and I was ready. We did it on the first day of shooting this film. I wanted to get it done."

The 7th film in the MI franchise, 'Dead Reckoning, Part One' opens on July 17th.