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Monday, December 31, 2012


Yes, another new year has arrived. A new year - a new day - a fresh start. Time for a change?  About 45% of Americans make a New Year's resolution, but only 8% keep them.  Women are 10% more likely to succeed in keeping their resolutions than men.
And, 47% of all resolutions target self-improvement.

The Top 10 Resolutions for 2013 are:
-Drink Less Alcohol
-Eat Healthy Food
-Get a Better Job
-Lose Weight/Get Fit
-Manage Stress
-Quit Smoking
-Save Money/Manage Debt
-Take A Trip
-Volunteer Time to Help Others

Moviegoers have voted.  The 10 Most Overlooked Films of 2012 were:
-Being Flynn
-Hello I Must Be Going
-Jeff Who Lives At Home
-Save The Date
-Sever Psychopaths
-2 Days In New York

The 10 Most Disappointing Films of 2012:
-Dark Shadows
-The Watch
-John Carter
-The Bourne Legacy
-Les Miserables

Best Wishes for a Great New Year!
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, December 30, 2012


2012 was the highest grossing year for movies on record, and ticket sales actually increased - which has not occurred since 2009! The U.S. box office grossed over $10.8 billion, a 6% increase over 2011, with admissions up 5% at 1.3 billion.

Not surprising, CMG predicted a stellar summer and winter box office, but the fall grosses also held up as good film product was steady and kept moviegoers coming.
Can 2013 equal or exceed 2012 ?  CMG believes so, for two reasons: people are looking to escape and the product roster looks great.

There will be a new Star Trek, Superman, The Hobbit-Part II, and Iron Man 3. There will be a new Thor, Fast & Furious 6, Hangover III, Hunger Games II, and lots more. Not to mention a plethora of  alternative content that will become more and more accessible as digital cinema becomes the norm.  2013 will be killer for the box office.

What do you think? Let us have your thoughts and comments.

Best and Happy Movie Going!
Jim Lavorato

Monday, December 24, 2012


In CMG's continuing coverage of the Kodak story, last week showed a way out and new life for the 'old gal'.

On Wednesday, Kodak agreed to sell and license its digital imaging patents for $525 million.  A consortium organized by Intellectual Ventures Management, LLC, and RPX Corp. were the purchasers.  The Bankruptcy Court must approve the transaction but once approved will lead the way to Kodak's emergence for Chapter 11 bankruptcy which it entered into in January of this year.

The funds provide for exit financing and resolution of U.S. retiree non-pension benefits and liabilities.  The $525 million will be paid by 12 intellectual property licensees organized by Intellectual Ventures Mgnt. and RPX, whose names were not disclosed but filed reports indicate that Apple and Google were among the group of 12.

"The proposed transaction enables Kodak to repay a substantial amount of its debtor-in-possession loan, and provide new financing for its commercial imaging business for growth and success," said Antonio Perez, Kodak Chairman & CEO.

The sale of the 1,100 patents includes 700 patents covering image capture, processing, and transmission technologies related to the design and operation of digital cameras and other devices, including smartphones and tablets.  The remaining 400 patents cover image analysis, manipulation and tagging, and network-based services - such as image storage, access, and fulfillment.

Hopefully Kodak will reinvent itself as a viable and profitable entity and become the dominent player in the commercial imaging business through innovation and research.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

High Frame Rate - What's All The Fuss

The hot topic within the Hollywood production community is High Frame Rates (HFR).  Shooting and exhibiting movies at frame rates from 48 frames per second (fps) to 60 fps and even up to 120 fps.  But, why? Why use HFRs ?  Will the average moviegoer even notice the difference ?

The technology to advance the HFR concept exists.  Most digital movie cameras can easily be adjusted to accommodate shooting in HFRs and all Series II digital cinema projectors and servers can accommodate at least a 48fps playback.  But the question remains.  Does running more frames through a lens actually improve the viewing experience ?

The 35mm film standard of 24fps was developed because the studios didn't want to pay for more film that using a higher frame rate required.  For example, at 48fps twice the film would be required for the same movie released in 24fps.  The reason 24fps was chosen was because 16fps (the original standard of silent films) was not fast enough to support sound on film.

Hollywood proponents of a HFR standard claim that it eliminates strobing during near lens pan shots and provides a smoothness to physical movement denied to 24fps images.  But some Hollywood production honchos question HFR's universal applicability.  Some, like famed cinematographer, Doug Trumbull find that HFRs "look a little too vivid" and that real action in high contrast sunlight starts to "look hyper real".  Trumbull's recommendation is to use HFR selectively, using it for action shots but returning the motion blur of 24fps when appropriate. " You can use HFR throughout the movie, changing frame rates for every scene, every object, every pixel, just as you would for brightness or color timing" , says Trumbull. For many viewers, HFR looks 'too real'.  For others, it looks 'too much like video' and not like a regular film.

Ready For HFR

It appears that Hollywood's production folks and their content aequisition equipment are ready to accommodate high frame rates, it's just a matter of its value and need. Is a higher frame rate better? Yes. Does it make a huge difference from the viewers perspective? Probably not.

Best and Happy Movie Going
Jim Lavorato
Comments Welcomed

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Tis that time of the Year when dreams come true and sugar plums dance in your head, or if you are a movie exhibitor your wish list may look like this:

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me .........
A Boxoffice Line A Block Long
Two ... Popper Popping
Three... 'Avitar' Sequels
Four ... 'Twilight' Sagas
Five Thousand ... Gift Cards
Six Hundred ...Fandango Admissions
Seven ... Concession Combos
Eight ... Free Digital Conversions
Nine ... Midnight Showings
Ten ... Premium 3D Movies
Eleven ... Pre-feature Promos
Twelve ... Blockbuster Hits

Happy Dreams and Merry Christmas !

Jim Lavorato

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Does the independent film booker have a role to play in the digital cinema age?  Will the film booking business model follow the fate of the video store or travel agency - or will they continue to operate unscathed by the digital domain?

My thought is that film bookers will have to dramatically change their modus operendi - or they will become victims to the relentless change the cinema industry is undergoing in its digital transition.

Film bookers are paid by theatre owners to make distribution contracts with movie studios on their behalf.  Historically, the most important term of the contract was the percentage of ticket sales that went back to the studio.  The booker also negotiated the commitment that applies to each movie.  The commitment being the minimum number of weeks that a theatre must screen the movie.

The purpose of a film booker is to advocate for his client (the theatre owner). To accomplish this the booker has to have a very good working knowledge of what movies 'play well' based upon each theatre's demographic.  They must also 'spot' sleepers (movies with unrecognized potential) to maximize their client's profits. Traditionally, the job of the booker also included the overseeing of the shipment of the film to the theatre (the cost of which is incurred by the theatre owner).

Film bookers aren't required to be licensed and work under a variety of arrangements. For example, it is very uncommon for a film booker (unlike a talent agent) to work for a percentage of ticket sales.  It is much more common for a film booker to either be a salaried, in-house employee for a cinema chain or be an independent booker.  Independent bookers charge a flat fee for their service - usually so much per screen per week or per movie.

The 'edge' bookers have is that they are booking for any number of cinemas which should give them 'buying power' with the studios.  However, that power has diminished with the industry's transition to digital operation to a point where 'buying power' is almost non-existent.  More and more, there is no negotiation between the booker and the distributors.  The distributor simple sets the terms and its "take it or leave it".  Even the traditional 'gross split' which went in favor of the exhibitor as the movie played-out is gone.  Replaced now by the 'aggregate' rule - whereby a flat percentage of ticket sales is charged for the entire run of the movie.  The aggregate is very prevalent and used more and more on major films.

Given this scenario, and as the cinema industry becomes more dependent on the digital domain, why would a theatre owner require the passe services of a  film booker? Currently, most movies are distributed via hard drive to theatres by the studios or surrogates like Technicolor.  It costs the studios $5 for the hard drive. In the future, movies will most likely be distributed via satellite or over the internet which cost 5 cents.  Could not the studios present a menu of movies and other content to theatre owners which, in turn, would select from that menu (play list) the content they want to exhibit?  The play list would be specific to each cinema, ie first run, second run etc. The terms would be set for each movie (as they are now) by the studios without negotiation. There would be no limit on availability of  'prints' and no need for a booker, as it would only take the theatre owner minutes to 'book' a movie.

The future seems clear.  Traditional film booking agencies will have to embrace new services and expand their product portfolio to survive. They will have to become more relevant by offering new and (in most cases) untried services and systems directly tied to the revenue stream of their theatre clients.  The good-old-days of  booking movies for a fee will no longer be a viable business - or for that matter, even exist.

Jim Lavorato
Comment Welcomed 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

CineBuzz REPORT - 14 December 2012


- Cathay Cineplexes/Tops In Cinema Marketing
- GDC Teams Up With Chinese Partner
- NEC Takes 'TOP' Projector Honors, Also Latest On Small Venue NC-900
- 'UltraViolet' - To Triple Number Of  'Digital Locker'  Users In 2013

NOTE To CMG Readers: Sorry for the pause in posting. As of late, business and personal committents distracted me from CMG, but I am back and ready for a holiday blitz. Thanks for your patience.

Cathay: Bests All Exhibitors In Marketing Their Theatres

Cathay Cineplexes, a mid-sized cinema chain based in Singapore has, far and away, the best cinema promotions.  Their promotions are relevant, thoughtful, cater to their cinema customers desires, while bringing in new moviegoers to their venues.  Entertainment Equipment, the company I manage, has been a consultant to Cathay in the past - providing training on a variety of management and technical issues.

After getting to know Cathay and how they manage, I was awe struck by their dedication to marketing and promotion.  For example, their latest promotion (see insert) states, "Watch Films At Cathay Cineplexes and Win Your Exclusive Backstage Pass To Europe".  Well, straight away your interest is aroused.  What are they taking about?  Exclusive Backstage Pass? Europe? You must read on!  The tag line (which is terrific)  states: "You Have One Life, One Shot - Make It Count".

This is great promotion and enticement. It sells tickets but also, and more importantly, cements the connection with their customers, while offering something their competition doesn't.  All cinemas should take note of Cathay's promotions and begin to market as they do.

GDC Gets New Cinema Partner

Huayi Brothers Media Group, one of China's leading private film production companies, reported that it had acquired  a 9 percent stake in digital cinema equipment and solution provider GDC Technology Ltd for $20.92 million - which  effectively values GDC at slightly over $232 million. The Huayi Group, known for its quality film productions, entered the cinema exhibition business in 2010 and currently has 12 cinemas in China.

"In recent years, the number of cinemas (in China) has increased rapidly, intensifying competition in that sector.  Huayi Brothers, as a latecomer to the movie exhibition business, increases it potential to develop better than its cinema rivals with GDC's technological support" states, Cai Ling, a Chinese cultural industry consultant.

According to the latest statistics, there are 11,835 movie screens in China, 90% of which are digital.  Of that total, 8,565 are equipped for 3D playback.  This compares to about 40,000 movie screens in the U.S.

Most U.S. exhibitors know GDC as a producer/seller of DCI complient digital cinema servers and as a VPF integrator. GDC is a portfolio company of the venture capital and investment firm the Carlyle Group.

NEC 'TOPS' In Digital Projectors

Every year, Pacific Media Associates, a worldwide consulting firm on digital projection and products, compiles and reports a list of the 'Top Digital Projector Brands'. Pacific Media uses sell-through data from dealers and project integrators, and customer response analysis to compile its list. This year, NEC won top honors with its NP-PA550W High End projector and its NP-V260X mainstream digital projector.

NEC was cited as having the best performing digital projectors vs. all other manufacturers.  That record of achievement is passed on to its line of digital cinema projectors - where the top performing, least problematic, projectors have been the NECs.

In other NEC news, the new NC-900C small venue digital cinema projector - for cinemas with screens up to 24ft. wide - may be a winner.  The NC-900 comes complete with a lens and lamp. Early next year, the package will also include an integrated media server.  The NC-900s offer High Frame Rate capability, and have the ability to run 3D features and alternative content.  "NEC is committed to having large and small screened cinemas convert to digital cinema technology," said Jim Reisteter, General Manager of Digital Cinema Solutions for NEC.  "Our NC-900C projector gives venues with small screens, the ability to delight their patrons with pristine images and a meaningful theatre experience."

UltraViolet Finally Gets Traction

I have discussed UltraViolet in several prior posts.  To refresh, UV is an alliance of leading entertainment and technology companies, retailers, and internet providers (www.uvvu.com  that provide a vehicle for consumers to collect, access, and enjoy movies and TV shows in the cloud via on-line stores, video apps, and mobile and other devices.  The media is stored in each consumer's 'individual digital locker' for on-demand playback and use.

UltraViolet was conceived and brought to life over three years ago but without much success, as the marketing of UV was dismal, now it has gotten its stride. Consumer awareness has now reached 50% and over 7 million users have subscribed.  "Awareness has really risen over the past year", says Lexine Wong, SVP for worldwide marketing at Sony Home Entertainment"The industry remains united in marketing UV, for example, all DVD and Blu-Ray releases carry stickers which explain
UltraViolet's cloud-based digital storage lockers and how they work. This has been a great marketing tool. Additionally, for example, Sony Pictures Gift Store offers 500 UltraViolet enabled digital titles to gift during this holiday season." Wong further says she expects expanded marketing efforts involving the movie studios and retail partners to be forthcoming.

The UltraViolet alliance is forecasting to have over 21 million  U.S. subscribers by year-end 2013, and expects this growth trend to be as robust in the international market.

UltraViolet is the future for home entertainment and media collecting and viewing on larger and better home TV and sound systems.  Movie exhibitors - take note - your cinema presentations need to have the WOW factor to compete against this trend. So, when converting to digital cinema don't go the least expensive, smallest, or just-get-by purchase.  Think of the future and who your competition will be, and as the sun will rise tomorrow, the exclusive theatrical window for movie releases will eventually close.

Best and Happy Movie Going!
Jim Lavorato
Comments Welcomed