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Friday, April 24, 2015

Cinema's Unlikely Ally

'A Movie Never Looks The Same on TV'
Moore speaking at CinemaCon

At CinemaCon this week, Julianne Moore, this year's Best Actress Oscar winner for her role in 'Still Alice' had this to say about the cinema. "A movie never looks the same on television. We work very hard as creators in creating a theatrical experience. We're always so disappointed when you hear the words, 'day-and-date'." And she is absolutely right.

Of course, Moore is referring to the practice of studios releasing a film in cinemas, on DVD, and streamed via video-on-demand (VOD) to homes entertainment services - all at the same time. A practice which is becoming more and more prevalent, and one which I have noted in this blog for some time.

Now, there is debate over whether a day-and-date release actually hinders or helps a movie's total box office gross, but irregardless, it doesn't help a cinema's gross from a particular film.  However, I believe the trend will continue so cinemas must take this quite seriously and ensure that their movie presentations are spectacular in both image and sound quality, and that their concession is first-rate, and their cinema is clean, tidy, and inviting - a little showmanship goes a long way as well.

Moore further stated, "Hollywood isn't in the business of creating parts for actors.  They're in the business of creating product. It's about making a package."  Moore acknowledged her need to continue making big studio pictures, as well as, indie films, like 'Still Alice'. "The great parts are not going to come to you on a silver platter. You need a commercial profile so that investors will invest in something smaller. You can't make a living doing just indie films."

And that is why the big, box office bruisers. The high-impact, action and animated films deserve credit for generating the huge box office paydays that support the indie type films.  The blockbusters deserve more awards and kudos than they receive. And Julianne is right when she says that movies look much better on the big-screen than at home.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fans, Fans, Crazy Fans - Which Are The Best

There are fans, and than there are FANS. Hello Kitty Fans, Cosplay Fans, Comic Fans, Sports Fans - but which are the best fans. Well, it is hard to beat 'Star Wars' fans. At a time when obtaining, and harder still, controlling the fan community none does it better than the folks at LucasFilms.

Unlike most studios, LucasFilms (now owned by Disney) has a Fan Relations Department, which is responsible for, among other things, responding to hard-written notes and letters (yes, I said hand-written, the mailed kind - which come mostly from children), pumping out daily buzz on six social networks, and coordinating the fan based marketing efforts of the studio.

One of  the LucasFilms'  Fan Relations Department's major responsibilities is the coordination of a biennial get-together called the "Star Wars" Celebration - a four day event which was held in Anaheim last week.  Thousands attend the Celebration - the line to get into the convention started forming Wednesday afternoon, 28 hours before the doors were scheduled to open.  To help feed the  'faithful',  LucasFilm employees arrived Wednesday night and served up 200 pizzas.

This year, there will be over 30 hours of 'Star Wars' events, including a droid demolition derby, a sculptor who carves 'Star' characters out of vegetables, a Q&A session with Princess Leia (aka Carrie Fisher) and numerous events to enthrall the faithful.  Disney wants to prove to fans, many of which had mixed feelings about its purchase of LucasFilms, that their beloved 'Star Wars' is in good hands and went all out to demonstrate this. LucasFilms  even had a history of recruiting from its fan base and making them employees. Disney, kept up that tradition, when it hired fans to work in the 'creative department' building droids for use in  'The Force Awakens' - the next 'Star Wars' installment to be released at cinemas in December.
Lucas with Leia look-alikes at the 'Celebration'

LucasFilms' approach to fan relations may be impossible for other studios to copy, as George Lucas ran the studio as he wanted - if he wanted a vibrant fan department he simply allocated to funds for it. Most studios don't work like that, but Disney is trying, and in some respects has very good fan relations given their roster of animated characters which have fan bases.

The scene at this year's Celebration  (the tenth) was described as organized chaos, as thousands of, mostly adults, clad as Jedis, Empire Stormtroopers, Wookiees, droids, and many other 'Star Wars' characters clamored to get to the events.

Cinema operators should tap into the 'Star Wars' craze and prepare an event at their cinema for the upcoming December film - you have plenty of time to plan and market an event.

May the Force be with You


Inventing the Cinema, The Lumiere Brothers

Louis and Auguste Lumiere invented the cinema. Now, 120 years later, a new exhibition is being held in Paris at the Grand Palais to celebrate and pay homage to their achievement.

The exhibition entitled 'Lumiere! Inventing Cinema' will be on view until June 14th, and showcases all of the Lumieres' early films which have been pain-stakingly restored.  The show also seeks to put the Lumieres in historical context. Many inventors at that time were experimenting with recording images, including Thomas Edison, but it was the Lumieres, who in 1894, invented the cinematograph, a compact device that united all the existing technology to capture 17-minute films on 35mm film strips and project them. Their cinematograph was patented in 1895.

As soon as the technology took hold, the Lumieres sent novice filmmakers all over the world to document what they saw. Additionally, their cinematograph had early adopters, who began making movies on their own, so that by the early 1900s the first 'feature films' were being made and distributed for projection to the masses, and by 1914, Hollywood had started to form entities which we now refer to as movie studios.

The Lumieres made over 1500 films, which included fiction, as well as, reporting and documentaries. For this tribute to the Lumieres, all 1500 films will be exhibited on large cinema screens.  The first known cinema screening was held at the Salon Indien, inside the Hotel Scribe - Paris in 1895, where 10 Lumiere films were exhibited to a paying audience, thus ushering  in the cinema as we know it today.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cinema News & Views


- D-Cinema Equipment Less to Operate
- Blackmagic Launches Tiny Cinema Camera for Drone Use
- Celebs Who Don't Live Large

On-going Operating Cost of D-Cinema Proves Advantageous

For movie exhibitors the day-to-day cost of operating a D-Cinema Projection system is relatively small even when compared to the carbon arcs of begone days.  In the '80s, when I started out in the cinema equipment business, it was common for cinemas to spend anywhere from $300-500 per month for carbons to burn in their carbon arc lamphouses.  Today, a xenon lamp cost a fraction of that. A grind house running 10-12 hours per day will use up a xenon lamp in about 9 months, or the equivalent of $100-200 per month - a far cry from what they were paying 25 years ago!

Xenon lamps for cinemas are inexpensive and besides the lamps and filter kits for the projectors there is really no cost for equipment. No gears. No Sprockets. No Parts. No Splice or Cue Tape. No Reels. No Platter Parts. No Supplies. No Lubricants. No Projectionist!

So, I wish exhibitors would stop complaining about the high cost of digital and focus their attention on showmanship and concession management - where the money is.

Blackmagic Masters of Drone Photography 
Blackmagic camera attached to drone

A GoPro just doesn't cut it for filming movies as the quality demands are too high. For aerial footage not only is a heavy cinema camera demanded but to lift and control them large drones are required. Enter the world of Blackmagic Design, the company that produces the Micro Cinema Camera.

Blackmagic's cameras are suited for high-end image capture while attached to drones.  The cameras have 13 stops of dynamic range and weigh only one pound, including the lens.  This means that it can be mounted on a drone that cost $700 vs. one that costs $3,500 and are much easier to control.

Celebs Who Don't Live Large

We all think that big Hollywood celebs live the high-life. Multiple homes, numerous cars, bling everywhere, an entourage.  But many extremely rich celebs lead very normal and even modest lives. No glitz. No bling. Just living ordinary lives despite their super wealth.

Tyra Banks
- Tyra Banks - 42, net worth $90 million. Super model turned actress, and TV celebrity leads a very normal lifestyle without frills and glitz.

- Jennifer Lawrence - 25, net worth $50 million. Lives in a modest apartment and drives a Chevy.

Jennifer Lawrence
- Sarah Jessica Parker - 50, net worth $100 million. No expensive vacations or restaurants. Lives in a NYC brownstone.

- Jay Leno - 65, net worth $350 million. Has never spent a dime of what he earned from the 'Tonight' show. Lives modestly off of his earnings from his stand-up gigs. Only excessive expense - his auto collection. Never had an agent or manager.

Halle Berry
- Sharon Stone - 56, net worth $60 million. Started out as fashion model and moved onto movies. Lives very modestly and is ordained minister in Universal Life Church.

- Halle Berry - 49, net worth $80. A beauty queen (came in 2nd in Miss USA contest). A Best Actor Oscar winner she lives modestly and is seldom seen at any Hollywood or NYC nightclub or restaurant.

-Denzel Washington 61, net worth $190 million. Although he has one of the nicest homes in Beverly Hills, along with neighbors Eddie Murphy, Sly Stallone, and Rod Stewart, Washington lives a quiet and relatively modest lifestyle. He is noted for his charity and philanthropic work.

Jim Lavorato

Sunday, April 12, 2015

CINEMA SCENE by Seymore Flix

Into the Scrap Heap of Cinema
Grace Kelly

Grace of Monaco, the much hyped biopic about the life of Grace Kelly, and which stars Nicole Kidman, have been relegated to the equivalent of the 'cinema trash bin'.  The film will never see the light of day at cinemas and will premiere on the Lifetime cable TV network in May.

The movie had generated much controversy and was publicly labeled a total misrepresentation of Princess Grace's life by the royal family of Monaco - Princess Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco.  The movie was a big budget project produced by Weinstein Films and the move to release it directly to cable TV represents a big financial loss.

Kidman as Kelly
The Monegasque royal family, now headed by Kelly's son Prince Albert II and including her daughters Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, issued a statement saying the film, "in no way constitutes a biopic, as it recounts one rewritten, needlessly glamorized page in the history of Monaco and its family with both major historical inaccuracies and a series of purely fictional scenes".

The film's director,Oliver Dahan said, "a have made a human portrait of a modern woman who wants to reconcile her family, her husband, her career."  The Weinsteins had no comment.

Depp: In Rehap or Not?

Production of the fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and its entire crew have been put on hold because Johnny Depp has been a no-show on the set.  Depp, who is 51, flew home from the Gold Coast, on March 10th to have 'surgery on his hand' was the official word - he hasn't been seen since.

About half of the film crew, which totals 400, were told there would be no more work for them for 'at least two weeks'.  Speculation is rampant that Depp is in rehab and not recuperating from hand surgery.
Depp as Cap. Jack Sparrow

According to a spokesperson for Jerry Bruckheimer Films, which is making the movie for Disney, said production of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, "will absolutely continue when he returns".  However questions are being raised as to when that will exactly be, as it is widely believed that Depp is in rehab in the U.S. Production still has fourteen weeks of shoot time to go.

Depp has admitted problems with alcohol in the past. Last December, Depp appeared to give a drunken speech at a Hollywood Press Association awards night. Shortly afterwards, the National Enquirer reported that Depp was attempting an "at-home" treatment for his alcohol issues.

Clearly Disney is not going to scrap the project, it is far too important a franchise. The four prior 'Pirates' films have grossed over $3.73 billion and have generated many more billions in video games, toys, DVDs, pay-per-view, and other revenue enhancers.  The treasure chest are the movies and Disney won't be giving up that booty just because Jack Sparrow has a few too many rums.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Beating Out The Pundits

Furious 7 Hits It Realllly Big

Yesterday I posted that 'Furious 7' would gross $145 million over the weekend - going against most of the pundits which were predicting a box office of $110-120 million. Well, I hate to brag but the movie grossed a friggin $143.6 million. That coupled with a global gross of $384 million.

The $143.6 gross was the 3rd largest pure weekend debut for a film and a real vindication for a franchise that is 14 years old - and proves, once again, that the action, high-impact movie is what moviegoers are eager to view at cinemas and these are the films that deserve the awards and accolades.

I believe that 'Furious 7' is on its way to a $1 billion total gross before all is said and done which is remarkable for a seventh film in a franchise that started out with a little, small budget, B movie about racing cars.

The film played in N. America to a 51% male audience of which 25% was white, 37% Hispanic, 24% black, and 10% Asian.  So, its demographic was very wide as the gross numbers indicate.

Get ready cinemas for your biggest ever year!


Sunday, April 05, 2015

CINEMA SCENE by Seymore Flix

For Cinemas, Summer Started April 1st
Furious Stars, Michelle Rodriques and the late Paul Walker

The summer box office season started yesterday.  That's right, the summer blockbusters are here and it started with 'Furious 7' which raked in a huge $67+ million on Friday. It's now Saturday evening, as I compose this post, and I believe 'Furious 7's weekend gross will top $145 million. We are talking high altitude, thin air numbers where records will be broken, and the best part about it is that it's only the beginning of April!

2015 is going blow the top off of the 2013 box office record and it's going to do so in a big way. Finally, cinemas get their fair share and it's all coming from the high-impact, action, fantasy films - the very films that the Hollywood hoi polloi castigate yet which bring in the big paydays and support all of the other 'junk'. Yes, I said it - junk - perfect examples of which were most of this year's Oscar winners.

The cinema needs more films like 'Furious 7' and 2015 will have its share - to the betterment of the entire cinema industry - junk and all.

Box office bruisers to come: 'The Avengers', 'Batman vs. Superman', 'Ant-Man', 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens', 'Jurassic World', 'The Fantastic Four', X-Men - Apocalypse' and many others.

Tataouine Becomes Isis Stronghold
Tataouine littered with 'Star Wars' 'stuff'

The Tunisian town of Tataouine, with its ancient domed structures, was the model used by George Lucas for the 'Star Wars' planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker's  home. The town and the surrounding area in Tunisia has become a destination for die-hard 'Star Wars' fans but is now unsafe to visit as it has become a way point for Isis Islamic fighters traveling to and from training bases in Libya.

Although the upcoming 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens' will feature Tatooine, JJ Abrams, the film's director, did not return to Tunisia for filming but instead used locations in Abu Dhabi.  It will be a big blow to Tunisia's economy if the tourist trade dries-up so it appears the Tunisian authorities are pushing back against the insurgents. who killed 23 people on March 8th in Tunis, the capitol of Tunisia. Government forces have now set up a buffer zones between Tunisia and both Libya and Algeria.

Weinstein Joins The List
Ambra Battilana

Accused of assaulting  a 22 year-old model he met the day before, Harvey Weinstein, (owner of Weinstein studios) is now under investigation by the NYPD for the alleged sexual abuse. The incident took place at the Tribeca Film Center where Weinstein has an office.

Ambra Battilana, told police that Weinstein, 63, sexually assaulted her by grabbing her breasts and asking her "are these real". She asked him to stop, but he then put his hand up her skirt and asked her to "kiss him".  She told him "No" and left his office. She then went to the police station and reported the incident.

Weinstein - Accused of Sexual Assault
Ms. Battilana had met Weinstein the day before at the red-carpet premiere of  'The Rockettes Spectacular' that he had co-produced.  "He initiated the contact" a NYPD source said of Weinstein. "He saw her and spoke to her. She didn't know who he was until he approached her." Ms. Battilana, a former Miss Italy runner-up, reported that Weinstein gave her his business card and they exchanged emails and agreed to meet the next afternoon. She went to Weinstein's office at "his request to talk business".

NYPD Special Victims Unit interviewed Weinstein the next day. He requested that he speak with his lawyer and was allowed to leave the police station.

Reportedly, Battilana has turned down offers of up to $100.000 from media outlets to go public with her story - but so far has refused.  Good luck Harvey.