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Thursday, November 28, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 28 November 2013 (Happy Thanksgiving)

Black Bird Nets $4.1 million
Bogart with Falcon

Last month CMG reported that the James Bond Lotus Submarine car sold at auction for $800,000, and while this is impressive, it pales in comparison to the sale of  'the black bird'. Yes, I'm referring to the iconic statuette that appeared in the 1941 classic 'The Maltese Falcon'.  Last Monday, 'the bird' was auctioned off for over $4 million.

The auctioned statute was one of two used as props in the movie but the only one authenticated by Warner Brothers, as it has a WB inventory number etched into its base and bears the name of the movie.  The sale took place at Bonhams, the British art auction house.  In the movie, the statuette is termed "a priceless work of art", which is the cause of several murders.  The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade, with co-stars: Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. Directed by John Huston, it was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Lee To Create New Superheros
Stan Lee and Superheros

90 year old comic guru and genre creator Stan Lee has been hired by Sony Pictures to create new Superheros for the movies.  Lee created or co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and other comic superheros and was the moving force in the development and expansion of Marvel Comics.

Sony tapped Lee because it needs more superheros, as it has only one, Spider-Man.  Disney owns the rights to The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk via its purchase of Marvel Studios in 2009.  Warner Brothers owns the heroes from rival publisher DC Comics, which include: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Fox Studios owns the rights to X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

Thus far Sony's attempts at creating new superheros has failed, so Lee (who is no longer affiliated with Marvel) was hired to dream up new characters.  We wish Stan the best.

Gaming Is Really Big

Spil Games, a maker of online and mobile games, reported that more than 1.2 billion people play games worldwide each day, with 700 million playing online.

Oscar Diele, Spil's Head of Marketing told CMG, "Gaming is a huge part of people's online activities. It's really mainstream, crossing age and gender boundaries.  Many people really don't know how big gaming is. We are beginning to see more and more advertisers realizing that they need to spend more on video ads within games." 

Spil's data shows that 46% of gamers are women with 54% men. The top game categories for men and boys are racing, sports, and action games. The top categories for women are puzzles, quizzes, word matching and mahjong games.  The top categories for girls are cooking, dress-up, and pet care games.

47% of all females aged 15 to 24 play games, while 54% of that age group in males play games.  On the other end of the age spectrum, 41% of females and 37% of males over age 45 play games.

Movies and games feed off of each other. Many movies have turned into very popular games, such as Harry Potter and popular games have turned into movies, like Tome Raider.

Jim Lavorato

Sunday, November 24, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 24 November 2013

Are Hunger Games Movies Over-branded

'The Hunger Games' movie franchise is a perfect example of branding, and then marketing, the hell out of your product.  Prior examples abound: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Fast & Furious, Twilight, Star Trek, and so on.  The trick is for the studio to get as much as they can for as long as they can - and the milking can go on for decades. Branding/marketing the six Star Wars films has been on-going for decades and now three more sequels are in the works.  A perfect example of a massive franchise in the making is 'Avatar' - one film, thus far, but with three more planned. However, sometimes the brand can be oversold - and 'The Hunger Games' is an example of this over-branding.

Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the prime character in the story and a great role model for young women.  Problem is: how does blue makeup, Subway foot-longs, and Hasbro archery toys fit the brand? It doesn't, but for the royalties Lionsgate Studios (owner of  The Hunger Games) receives.

Lionsgate has sanctioned a line of clothing, The Capitol Collection, marketed to young women; however, their recent ad (in collaboration with CoverGirl makeup) depicts women (much older then teens) with blue lips and very heavy eye shadow and makeup. The makeup is almost in cosplay fashion.  My issue isn't with the makeup, if a young girl wants to wear it - go for it, but it represents everything that is wrong with the society in The Hunger Games, - these products are directly opposed to what Katniss represents.  The Capitol is superficial, cruel, and the epitome of Big Brotherism - where the citizens are numb to the fact that they are allowing and viewing 'games' where children kill each other for amusement.  The CoverGirl ads are telling girls to paint themselves to look pretty in direct contrast to the Katniss character who is earthy and loves nature and strives for a simple life.

However, the CoverGirl ads are trivial compared to the absurd Subway ads, with their "Fiery Footlong Collection" - I was unaware that you could 'collect' sandwiches. According to the ads, you can celebrate your love of the movies by consuming Subway's 'hot and spicy' chicken, turkey, or beef sandwiches.  But, unless I'm wrong, isn't the entire premise of The Hunger Games about food shortages and massive class inequality.

Better still, is the Hasbro line of Hunger Games nerf archery products - called the 'Nerf Rebelle' collection.  'Rebelle' - you have got to be kidding! Their TV ad shows little girls running around firing nerf arrows - using bright pink bows.  Hasbro has even given the bows names (you need to collect them all): The Pink Crush Blaster, the Guardian Crossbow, and the Heartbreaker Bow - chalk one up for girl power.

Ok, enough. My point is:
even movies (the stuff of make-believe) can be over-branded, to a point where they lose there moral, or any other, compass in the name of promotion and profits.

Stunt Oscar

Last week I wrote a piece on Jason Statham.  As a follow-up, I learned that he recently had an interview with Vanity Fair magazine where it came out that he is on a crusade to get stunt performers an Oscar category.  Said Statham, "I think it is an overlooked category considering how much responsibility these people have for the greatest entertainment in action movies.  I mean, all of the stunt performers - these are the unsung heroes.  They really are.  Nobody is giving them any credibility.  They're risking their necks.  It's total injustice."  I couldn't agree more. Without stunt coordinators and the people that actually perform the stunts the action, high-impact films that rule today's box office would not exist. They deserve an Oscar category.

Statham went on to scorn his fellow actors who are inserted into action scenes via visual effects. "Then you have some guy standing in front of a fucking green screen screwing his face up pretending like he's doing the stunt.  To me, it's a farce.  I have a real frustration with that because I know these stunt coordinators, they are incredibly talented."  Statham should know, his action films have grossed over $2 billion.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Cosplay - short for costume play - in which people dress as characters from movies, comics, and video games has become a global sub-culture.  Dedicated cosplaying is especially prevalent in Asia, with Japan in the lead.  In fact, the term 'cosplay' is derived from the Japanese Kosu (costume) and Asobu (play). 

In cosplay it is not unusual to see gender switching or dress-up centered on sex appeal where choosing characters, known  for their attractiveness and/or reveling costumes. This is not Halloween dress-up but for real character role playing. In the extreme, cosplayers dress-up and stay in character full-time.

Most cosplayers create their own costumes and great pains are taken to ensure the authenticity of the outfit.  This taxing and expensive process also serves to unite cosplayers and is part of the culture.  Many cosplayers also engage in various forms of body modification.  Contact lenses to match the color of the imitated character's eyes, the copying of tattoos or special skin markings their characters have, hair dying, and even plastic surgery to reshape a nose etc.

The psychology of cosplaying is profound.  To express adoration for a character (real or animated) is the ultimate in fan expression. For example, in its nascent form, you see many sports fans wearing their favorite player's jersey - in Japan this is termed 'otaku' - and is considered a form of affection.  But cosplay at the max, is all about the notoriety the character bringing to the player as they play out their fantasy.

Be it a movie, TV show, video game, or anime character the purpose of cosplay is to show off your character - and cosplayers do just that. Cosplay is culturally universal, and show-off  events are held around the world.  The single largest event is the ComiKet convention, held in Japan each summer and winter.  It attracts hundreds of thousands of cosplayers from around the world.  The largest event, outside of Asia is the annual San Diego ComicCon, there are also cosplay conventions in the UK, France, LA, Toronto, and Australia.

From Sesame Street to Star Wars, cosplay characters represent a wide array of fantasy figures to be emulated.  For some, there is an inner need to mimic (and in extreme cases try to become) the movie stars they adore.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Greatest Movie Footage In History

Most Historic Film Footage Ever !

The most significant and important movie footage ever - without doubt, the Zapruder footage of the JFK assassination.  Now, at the 50th anniversary of that unforgettable event, we see this 26 second, silent, color, 8mm micro-documentary, cum historic record, over and over again. Some have even termed the Zapruder film, 'the launch of citizen journalism - an omen of the coming age of  YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter'.
But what about Zapruder? What happened to the man who went on lunch-break to record the drive-past of the President and instead produced a film of epic importance?

Giamatti as Zapruder
Within hours of the assassination, Zapruder, an amateur photographer, had given copies of his film to two men.  The first, to Forrest Sorrels, of the Secret Service, the second to Richard Stolley, editor of Life Magazine. Zapruder sold the publishing rights to Life for $150,000 with the promise that they never publish frame 313: the fatal shot itself.  The copy that went to the Secret Service found its way to the investigators at the Warren Commission; however, the reproductions that the Commission printed omitted some frames and switched around others, planting even more conspiracy seeds, which exist to this day (just do a internet search and you'll be faced with a myriad of analyses of the film).

'The camera never lies' and the Zapruder film is the undisputed classic example - the motherlode of a first-hand visual account of an event.  The cinema has tried to address this very theme in films like, Antonioni's remarkable 'Blow-Up', and Coppola's, great film, 'The Conversation', but the Zapruder film is the standard because it is real!

In 1999, the Zapruder family sold the 26 second film to the U.S. government for $16 million, though they still retain the copyright. The going rate for use of it is currently $80,000. 

A new film on the assassination, 'Parkland', will be released shortly. It centers around the hospital that treated both Kennedy and Oswald after they were shot, and includes  all of the usual suspects, but in it is Zapruder, played by Paul Giamatti.  The film zeros in on Zapruder, and rather than reviewing the assassination yet again, it shows a closeup of Zapruder's face during those moments, registering his shock as he films, and the only time you see the famous footage is as a reflection in Zapruder's glasses.

Abraham Zapruder was the poster child for the American dream. A Russian Jewish immigrant who worked hard and made a life for himself and family, he was aware that his 26 second film would change his life as he knew it.  He was haunted by the assassination.  He testified before both the Warren Commission and the Clay Shaw trail - he wept during both testimonies.  He died of cancer in 1970, and according to his family, after November 22, 1963, he never looked through a camera lens again.

Although I don't recommend, nor find any of the conspiracy stuff relevant as I don't believe the mystery, if there is one, will ever be outed. I do find the human stories surrounding the assassination very compelling, i.e. the Zapruder story. So, I will go to the cinema to view 'Parkland'.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 14 November 2013

Cinema Ads Beat Out TV

Taco Bell Bets on In-cinema Ads
The Cinema Advertising Council recently released independently derived data that showed in-cinema advertisements beat out both broadcast and cable TV in sales response and audience product recognition. The two major cinema ad networks - ScreenVision and NCM MediaNetworks - view this data as huge support for their claims that in-cinema ads, for the same product, are more effective than TV.

Last month, spurred on by the data, ScreenVision  inked a deal with Nielsen Ratings, giving ScreenVision access to data that can be used to support demographic guarantees to large advertising clients.  The data, compiled by Nielsen's Cinema Audience Measurement Service, is widely recognized within the ad industry as valid for verification if ads are reaching their target audiences.

In its contracts with advertising clients, ScreenVision guarantees a certain level of audience response and recognition. Clients include: Taco Bell and ConAgra (Hunt's, SwissMiss, Peter Pan, and ReddiWhip brands- to name several).

Manga Master Returns

The Godfather of the Japanese animation world, Hayao Miyazaki, has come out of retirement to pen a new series of Manga comics and films.  Miyazaki is reported to be working on a new samurai-themed magna series set in Japan's "Warring States" period which has movie franchise potential.

If you are at all a reader of Manga, you know of Miyazaki.  The 72 year old film maker authored and directed the animation masterpieces "Spirited Away" (for which he won an Oscar) and the famous and widely acclaimed "Howl's Moving Castle", and  it appears he may be up for another Oscar nomination in 2014 for his "The Wind Rises" book and film.

Miyazaki's return to the genre is great news for Manga fans and if you have never read a Manga novel, do so! Like fiction novels, Manga has something to offer every taste.

Under The Radar

If you haven't seen the movie 'Layer Cake', do so - it is one of my favorite films. Released in 2001, it is based on a novel, by J.J. Connolly, which depicts the social strata of the British criminal underworld, and is so fast paced it's hard to keep up with the interplay of the actors and the plot. 'Layer Cake' has become a cult classic of sorts, and now a sequel - 'Viva La Madness' (also penned by J.J. Connolly) is in the works with the starring role to be played by Jason Statham.

Statham is what I term - 'an under-the-radar movie star'. Slowly, quietly he has built a solid reputation and body of work playing in both hard-edged and comedic films. From 'The Transporter' franchise, to the much acclaimed dark comedy/thriller 'Snatch', to the voice of Tybait in the children's animated classic 'Gnomes & Juliet'.  Statham (46) has had a pretty fair acting career and 'Viva La Madness' (published in 2011) will provide him an opportunity to play in a really good and gritty crime story that he is so good at. 

Statham, and his production partner, Steve Chasman bought the rights to Connolly's novel and are now in the process of Director selection.  Jason has completed 37 major movies, the latest, 'Homefront' co-starring James Franco will be released this month. He has 3 films in postproduction: 'Heat', 'Expendables 3', and the very anticipated comedy, 'Susan Cooper' which co-stars Melissa McCarthy, and one film currently in production: 'Fast & Furious 7'.  Good luck with 'Viva La Madness", Jason.

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Stars Square Off - The Last Rental - Scorsese's Horror

Clooney's Feuds w/ Crowe & DiCaprio 

Yeah-we all love celeb feuds
In an interview with Esquire Magazine, George Clooney broke the unwritten Hollywood code of silence and blasted fellow A-list actors Russell Crowe and Leo DiCaprio.

Clooney stated that Crowe had sent him a book of  his own poetry as a peace offering "to apologize for insulting the shit out of me, which he did."  According to Clooney, Crowe, "picked a fight with me. He started it for no reason at all."  In response, Clooney disparaged Crowe's band - '30 Odd Foot of Grunts' - which enraged Crowe further, claiming Clooney was nothing more than a "Sinatra wannabe".

DiCaprio, came into criticism by Clooney because of his entourage - known as the Pussy Posse.  According to George, "How important is it to have someone in your life to tell you what's what. I'm not sure if Leo has someone like that".  Clooney referred to a basketball game between George and Leo and their mutual set of friends.  Clooney said his team was, "all like 50 years old" (George is 52).  "The thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. But they can't play at all.  We're all like 50 years old and we beat them three straight."

So, even in the Hollywood major leagues there is feudn' and fussn' - over, it appears, really trivial crap.  But than again, what else have these 'pussies' got to bitch about.

Blockbuster's Last Rental

The last movie rental by Blockbuster Video (the video and DVD rental chain) occurred last Saturday night at 11pm in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The movie rented was 'This Is The End' (figures) and right after, the store closed - for good. Dude in middle of photo was last customer.

Streaming videos, pay-per-view, and services like Hulu brought the demise of the once mighty Blockbuster empire - which accounted for over 70% of all video/DVD rentals at its peak.  The Dish Network, current owner of Blockbuster, is closing all of the remaining company-run 300+ stores leaving around 50 stores under license. The movie rental service ceased on Saturday night for all of The Dish owned stores.

In response to the news that 'This Is The End' was the last movie rented, Seth Rogen, the film's writer, director, and star, tweeted, "this is nuts and sad. In high school I would hang out at blockbuster every day."

Funny, I remember going to the local Blockbuster (which I was a member of) and waiting in line to get my rental after scanning the shelves for the latest films, or perusing for an old classic to re-watch, or for a film I had mentally footnoted to view when it came out on DVD - but I digress. Good or bad, technology change, in the digital domain, is relentless and unforgiving. Blockbuster couldn't make the transition to streaming fast enough and lost out to the likes of  TiVo, Ruku, Netflix, Redbox, and Amazon Prime to name several.

Scorsese's Favorite Horror 

Noted film director, Marty Scorsese was recently asked to list his favorite horror films - turns out Scorsese is a big horror fan. Following is a list of his favorites (in no particular order):

The Haunting - 1963               The Changeling - 1980
Isle of the Dead - 1945            The Exorcist - 1973
The Uninvited - 1944               Night of the Demon - 1957
The Entity - 1982                     The Innocents - 1961
Dead of Night - 1945               Psycho - 1960

A younger Scorsese behind the camera.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CINEMA BuzzFEED - 10 November 2013


Shanghai's Bona Insun Cineplex has decided to use a 'Thor 2' movie poster depicting Thor and his sibling superhero brother, Loki, in a romantic embrace.  The image was Photoshopped from original images of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) protectively hugging Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and a picture of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) standing with eyes closed.

Why the image was Photoshopped is weird but even stranger is why it was used by a movie chain to advertise the film.

My take: People just have way too much time on their hands and besides Thor is a revengeful God and I wouldn't want his wrath visited upon me.


'Hunger Games - Catching Fire', the second of a four-part film series is due to be released in the U.S. on November 22nd.  The first film, 'The Hunger Games' grossed over $700 million and the franchise is valued at over $2 billion.  Given this success, Lionsgate Entertainment, the owner of Hunger Games, wants to build theme parks based upon the HG's premise (a society where people watch children fight to the death for fun). 

Variety Magazine, reported last week that Lionsgate is considering setting up at least two theme parks following the very successful launch of merchandising and clothing lines.  Among other products, Lionsgate teamed with a Chinese manufacturer to produce China Glaze, a line of nail polish, while also introducing a line of clothing, Capitol Couture - which has been very well received by teenage girls.

Whether or not the parks will be realized is iffy given that there has already been claims that the themed parks encourage children to be violent.  CMG will keep you informed.

The last two sequels of the franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 are due out in the fall of 2014 and 2015.


"Historic", "Groundbreaking", "The culmination of years of complex work", "Visionary".  These were the terms being used by Boxoffice Magazine and other media outlets to describe the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC) - None of it is TRUE !

DCDC, a consortia composed of large U.S. cinema chains and major film studios, is charged with the distribution of films and other content via satellite. However, none of what is being said regarding DCDC's historic significance or groundbreaking work is valid.  The groundbreaking of satellite distribution of movies digitally took place in 2001.  Back then, the Boeing Company (yes, the airplane manufacturer) with assistance from  Entertainment Equipment Corp. (the company I then and still manage) did what DCDC is doing now - transmitting movies digitally via satellite to cinemas.

The Boeing/EEC project centered around the transmission of  'Star Wars - Attack of of the Clones' to six movie locations in the San Diego, CA area.  The results of that experiment were great. The transmission of the movie to the theatres and the on-screen presentation went without a hitch and the system worked flawlessly with movie after movie for weeks after without one glitch. Unfortunately, the studios, driven by paranoia, didn't trust Boeing with their content and would not participate with further development.  Now, 12 years later, the studios and large exhibitors are calling their satellite distribution system "historic" and "visionary" - this could not be further from the truth. What DCDC is doing has all been done before, but by touting their 'service' as new and incredibly historic it hopes to get as many exhibitors to subscribe to as possible.

Does movie distribution via satellite work - YES. Is it the best way to distribute movies - NO.  The best way is via a secured internet feed - this is the cheapest, most effective and efficient way to distribute movies to theatres and in the future all movies will be distributed this way. 


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The NEW Hollywood: Production Out / Tourism In

Buses packed with wide-eyed tourists on route to get a glimpse of celebrity mansions. Movie fans on their way to Mount Lee for an up-close of the 45ft. high 'Hollywood' sign. Worshipers kneeling on the pavement-embedded pink stars on the 'walk of fame' paying homage to favorite film stars.  Hollywood has become a shrine versus the movie making mecca it once was. 

Since the 1980s Hollywood has been losing out to less expensive production locations and now struggles economically, as U.S. states and other countries have increasing used aggressive tax incentives and other financial lures to gain the business of moviemaking.  "The tourists still come but what they're looking at is the past. It's an illusion" says two-time Oscar winning makeup artist Michele Burke, "The big films are not being made here. Everything has changed".

Movie and TV production is fleeing Los Angeles and California for other locales to save money. Termed 'runaway production' FilmLA, a non-profit organization that arranges filming permits, has called the flight "staggering".  Of the top 50 highest grossing films of 2012, only 4 were filmed in California.  Recent releases attest to this trend.  Iron Man 3 was shot in North Carolina, The Long Ranger in New Mexico, The Great Gatsby in Australia, Gravity in England.  All of the new episodes of Star Wars will be produced in England as well. 

Hollywood is full of abandoned sound stages and LA's new mayor, Eric Garcetti, has declared the situation a "Civic emergency. Entertainment is LA's signature industry, and we can't afford to lose it. It's about more than just Hollywood actors and stars - it's an industry of over 500,000 good paying jobs and I'm committed to doing everything I can to keep filming here in LA. California must offer better tax breaks and credits to compete with rivals including Canada and the UK."

For a big production, these incentives can add up to tens of millions of dollars. For example, Disney's Iron Man 3, which grossed over $1 billion, paid no tax to its host, North Carolina, because it was deemed a "temporary business entity".

Varese Sarabande, the world's largest producer of film scores, recorded just 20 scores in LA last year, compared with more than 100 five years ago. The lure is not just tax incentives but a willingness to forfeit secondary market residuals on future video sales and broadcasts on the part of many locales. "In London, you have a buyout option, select your rate and the recording is yours. There are no further tariffs.  In LA you have a never-ending payment stream," says Robert Townson, Sarabande's VP.

Hollywood's demise is invisible to movie fans. When LA based Rhythm & Hues won the best visual effects Oscar for Life of Pi last year, very few knew that it was in bankruptcy.  Outside the Oscar venue hundreds of visual-effects artists protested but they were kept away from the red carpet. Remember: Hollywood is all about glitz and glamor and it remains so to the millions of movie fans worldwide.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Beginning of The End?

Movies Get Released Day-and-Date Across All Media Outlets 

Ted Sarandos
Way back in 1999, I penned an article for the Film Journal International entitled, "Theatres Become Viewing Venues".  In that article, I proposed that eventually - given the digital domain's need for speed and efficiency - all content would be available to everyone, everywhere in a real time basis.  Therefore movies would be 'offered up' in a variety of media outlets on a day-and-date basis.  This scenario is beginning to play out and why I continually harp to cinema owners that they must have a 'wow' factor in their presentations (both image and sound) if they are to survive.

OK, having said that, it appears that Netflix will be the first company to try out this scenario, as it recently announced that with the success of the TV shows it has produced and made available to its over 40 million subscribers, it has plans to produce feature films which would appear in cinemas and on Netflix at the same time.

Last week, Ted Sarandos, Netflix Head of Content, told CMG that, "Netflix could start delivering new movies to its subscribers by doing the same that we did with our original TV shows and become a first-run distributor."  When we pressed Sarandos, he told us, "What we're trying to do for TV, the model should extend pretty nicely to movies. Meaning, why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day they're opening in theatres?  And not little movies.  There's a lot of ways, and lots of people to do that already.  Why not major releases?  Why not follow the consumers' desire to watch things when they want?"

What Netflix wants to do is put pressure on Hollywood to change - it wants to end-run the present system of movie distribution. Problem is, the theatrical release is really the initial marketing for a movie with the more lucrative distribution of pay-per-view, DVDs, and TV (cable & broadcast) which follow - this is particularly true with blockbuster movies which generate a majority of the cinema box office.

Needless to say, the time when movies will release day-and-date is fast approaching and inevitable, there is just too much money involved for players like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and Apple to ignore.