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Monday, June 29, 2015

Diesel Wants 'Kojak' Role

Savalas as Kojak
Universal Pictures has put the TV adaptation of the popular 1970's NYC cop series, 'Kojak' on the green list.  The series starred Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak a tough, no-nonsense cop that TV Guide has ranked as number 18 on its Greatest TV Characters of All Time.

Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel has been pushing Universal to make the movie since 2012 and doesn't want to go the comedic route but be true to the role Savalas developed over the 6 years the show aired and topped the TV charts. Savalas had a long movie and TV career and was cast in over 56 movies and numerous TV shows. He was a graduate of Columbia University and was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for his role in 'The Birdman of Alcatraz'.

Universal is sold on the idea and has aims of developing 'Kojak' into a franchise with Diesel, which will add to his 'Fast and Furious' and, to a lesser degree, 'Riddick' franchises.  Diesel will have some say as to who will direct the first movie - his first choice is Ang Lee. However, a script still needs to be written and approved so it will be awhile before we can see 'Kojak' on the big screen. "We love ya, baby".

Light and Magic

Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) the pre-eminent special effects company founded by George Lucas and now owned by Disney Studios is about to set on a mission to develop a virtual reality experience for movies.

Lucas originally developed ILM (which has 16 Oscars to its credit) to create the then state-of-the-art special effects for the 'Star Wars' films. ILM is now the go-to company for any movie director looking for the best in effects.

ILMxLab is the new name of the entity that will combine the technical skills of ILM, with Skywalker Sound, and LucasFilms to create immersive experiences that will allow users to participate in their favorite movie worlds.   Although video games take a step to a virtual reality experience ILM's new technology will be different - the experience will be non-competitive and will use photo-realism rather than animation.

"It's the new frontier. Technology is looking for content. We can bring an emotional experience to that technology.  The bar needs to moved up as the current movie-making technology is available anywhere in the world", says Lucas.

ILMx's new technology will allow movie fans to enter scenes of a movie and navigate through them at will.  The aim is to open the two-dimensional world of movies and allow fans to walk into those worlds.  The use of Oculus-Rift virtual reality goggles will be used to provide the true-to-life experience. The difference between a video game and the ILMx created world is that the goal is not beating a foe but to put the viewer inside the movie to explore the story - it's about stepping into an alternate reality.

The ILM technology will be another way of viewing films.  Whether or not the masses will go for it is something else. Surely it will be used but, to me, this technology offers much more value in being able to delve into more useful realities than movies.  Lets wait and see.

Hobbit House
Peter Jackson in doorway of his Hobbit House - 'Bag Ends'

Speaking of virtual reality - how about living in your fantasy.  Well, that's exactly what Peter Jackson, the director of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' franchise movies has done.

Jackson has built an exact replica of Bilbo Baggins' Hobbit house, which is part of his residence in New Zealand.  The house is exact in every detail, but unlike the movie house, this one is livable - it is a real home.

Jackson purchased a 1930s built mansion in Masterton, NZ and employed the same team which worked on the films to turn part of the residence into the Hobbit House (called Bag End).  According to Jackson, "other directors and friends have come and stayed at Bag End, including Spielberg and Lucas, it is a playhouse but for real".

From Russia To Hollywood - No More Free Lunch

The Russian Minister of Culture, Vlad Medinsky, is calling for a new tax on cinema admissions to U.S. films screened at Russian cinemas.  The money generated by the tax to be used to promote and fund local movie production. The tax would add 100 roubles ($1.80) per admission.
'Viy' - Biggest grossing Russian film of last year

The problem is that 80% of the Russian box office is from U.S. made films and that reality will continue to be the case.  Now, many developed countries subsidize their national film industry but with very limited success - Russia will not be different.  However, it should support local movie-making for films that depict Russia in a positive light and be inspirational. Thing is, moviegoers, worldwide, crave the mega-budget, Hollywood produced high-impact, action, superhero, and fantasy films.  The highest grossing film in Russia last year was 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'  The highest grossing Russian film was 'Viy- 3D', a fantasy, special effects driven film, and very well made, it grossed $34 million. 'Transformers' generated $45 million.

If Russia wants to compete it will have to subsidize more films like 'Viy' because the average Joe knows all to well when they are being shown 'fluff' and they will not support it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cinema Buzz by Seymore Flix - 6/26/2015

Where Are They Now?

Actors, who had stellar careers, seemingly vanish from the Hollywood radar screen - after huge early success - Poof!  'A'-listers down the scale to 'B' and 'C' listers or off the charts completely. Here are a few that come to mind:

- Cuba Gooding Jr. - a lead-man who has become, at best, a supporting actor. Great early success but nothing since.

- Adam Sandler - Great start after SNL with a lot of very funny films but a total bust as of late. He's attempting to get back on course with a new deal with Netflix.

- Eddie Murphy - one of the funniest people ever - hilarious.  Bev Hills Cops franchise, 'Coming to America', et.al.  Lately his best effort is voice-over for donkey in 'Shrek'.  Eddie we need you.

- Jim Carrey - another very funny guy who starred in huge films in the late '90s - 'Batman', 'Pet Detective', 'Liar, Liar', 'The Mask'.  Not only funny but very, very creative.  Carrey has hit the wall and hasn't made anything really good since 'Bruce Almighty' in 2003.

- Meg Ryan - the darling of the rom-com - 'When Harry Met Sally', 'Sleepless In Seattle', 'You've Got Mail'.  Now 53 Ryan hasn't made any films since 2010 "Lives of the Saints'

- Catherine Zeta-Jones - What happened? The Douglas marriage busted but Catherine was huge in the late '90s early 2000s with a slew of very good and high grossing movies. Hasn't made any significant movies since 2007's 'No Reservations'.

- Hilary Swank - Oscars beside, Hilary is off the casting charts.  Nothing of any note in the last 8 years. Swank needs to re-group.

- Macaulay Calkin - Child star that couldn't make it to adult stardom.  Personal life went sour and he didn't age very well.


Mothers report 'terrified' children after viewing 'Insidious 3', which was mistakenly screened instead of 'Inside Out'.

Terrified Tot ?
A projectionist error was responsible for the mix-up which led to an auditorium of awe-struck preschoolers.  All admission monies were returned but the 'damage' was already done.  Although the staff at The Danbarry Cinema in Middletown, Ohio caught the mistake within the first few minutes of the screening.

Other patrons reported that it was the parents who freaked-out and not the children who were 'calm and fine'.  I tend to believe this. It's all in a day's TV or cable viewing for a child. What's a bit more carnage. No harm - no foul, I say.  When's the last time these tots witnessed a good, old parental donnybrook?  Now that's horror.

Furious 8

It didn't take long for the announcement of the next installment of the Fast & Furious saga. 'Furious 7', was (to say the least) a HUGE box office success, and Universal is not about to stop the inertia of this (its most lucrative) franchise.

F&F Actors - Rodriquez and Diesel
All of the old F & F family members will be recast along Jason Stratham and Kurt Russell (both   returning from their Furious 7 roles).  Eva Mendes is rumored to be returning in her previous role as a U.S. government agent.  No sense changing a good thing.

Biggest problem is topping 'Furious 7's' high-impact action scenes which will be hard to accomplish, but Universal is going to take its best shot - with an undisclosed but rumored gigantic budget.  The movie has a scheduled release date of April 2017.

Also, there is no doubt that there will be a 'Furious 9'.  In fact, it's already in early development.

Oscar Gets Museum
Artist's rendering of Academy Museum

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will begin construction of a movie museum - to be dubbed (what else) 'The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures'.

To be constructed in the heart of Los Angeles within the Wilshire May Company building complex and next door to the LA County Museum of Art, the project will get its official groundbreaking this fall.

The facility will include galleries, exhibit and event spaces, movie theaters, and educational areas.
Academy sources informed me that the organization has been collecting pieces and memorabilia of movie history since the 1930s.  Rare footage and behind-the-scenes photos, costumes, film take-outs, historic movie props and full sets.  A spherical dome will act as the Museum's main theater and be the focal point of the facility.

A $30 million fund raising campaign to help pay for expenditures is being spearheaded by Bob Iger, Disney Head, and actors, Tom Hanks and Annette Bening.

Just saying,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Future: Solo Viewer vs. Cinema Viewer

We are fast approaching the time, I believe, when there will be a split in viewing content and movies will be made with either the cinema or other (smaller platforms) in mind.Viewing a movie in a cinema is so very different than watching the same movie on a 'small' screen that the need for 'specific viewing' will be requisite.
Immersive Cinema

Times change. Movie theaters, since their beginning, were large spaces where viewing was communal - now, much viewing is 'solo' with a personal device.  Movies made for cinemas must cater to groups (demographics) and the wider the demo the better.  A multiplex has to run a variety of films that appeal to different groups in an effort to get as many moviegoers as possible into seats.

In the digital world, however, movies are viewed alone so they are, by definition, segmented or 'fan-based'.  One can see this in the original content being released by Amazon and Netflix, which is tailored to a specific demographic.

The internet is all about niche content - targeting specific viewers.  The cinema is all about immersion of the masses.  I believe, that because of the diversion of the mediums, content will more and more become platform specific.  Movies being made specific for the cinema and movies being made for viewing on a laptop or cell phone.  Many directors have already stated that if you watched their films on a small screen then you haven't 'seen' their film.

Larger than life epic movies have such scale that they can really only be viewed at a cinema. Watching an epic movie on-line vs. at a cinema is like seeing a sporting event on TV rather then being at the stadium.  We already see content becoming device specific. For example, Google's 360 degree movies allows the viewer to click the screen and look around (like Google maps). Specific to phones, the 360 movie creates the sensation of  having stepped into the story - it is essentially, content that combines film and gaming.

In the future, different platforms will dictate different kinds of film-making.  The solo viewer and the cinema viewer will each get the experience they desire from content best viewed in that medium.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cinema Buzz by Seymore Flix - 6/21/2015

In This Issue of Cinema Buzz

- Horror and the Supernatural Scare Up BIG Grosses
- The 'McQueen Effect' 
- Zoe Saldana Irate Over No Nanny Pay
- Rihanna Sued Over Her Name

Horror Continues To Scare Up Big Box Office
Horror has come a long way 

Taking a cue from the big screen, networks (be they broadcast, cable, or internet) are big into horror, as the genre continues to scare up big grosses and audiences.

The supernatural, horror, sci-fi, and now artificial and robotic intelligence spur on the magic 18-34 demo and keep the demand for this genre alive and very well. This month alone six new horror shows debuted on the small screen, and lots of money is being put into new movies and shows.

The genre has reinvented itself to where the horror and thrillers of today are darker but more sophisticated and their viewership has gotten wider.  Content that was once viewed only by screaming teens is now watched by a much broader viewership.

Technology has a lot to do with the growth and popularity of horror - creating new, horrific real-life scenarios that are resonating with all types of viewers of all ages.  The latest are movies or shows which feature 'synths' or sophisticated robots which are must-haves in many new horror movies and shows.  Film and TV show producers and writers feel strongly that there is an huge audience that is fascinated by the topic of artificial intelligence and the potential impact it will have on our real future.

Irregardless, the horror genre is big and getting bigger and is good and getting better.

'The McQueen Effect' - King of Cool Still Worth Big $s
McQueen's '76 Porsche

Steve McQueen was cool no doubt about it and a fine actor as well, in addition to being a for-real race car and motor cycle driver.  McQueen did all of his own driving and cycle riding in his movies. In fact, in 'The Great Escape' he did all of the motor cycle riding, including the German who was chasing him. McQueen made a lot of really good movies and made lots of money as one of the highest paid actors of his time.  He spent a portion of his wealth on sports cars and other high-end vehicles.

McQueen on set of 'Le Mans'
At this year's Monterey Car Week, McQueen's 1976 Porsche 930 will be auctioned. It is the last car McQueen special ordered.  A price for the car has not been set, although pristine  '76 930s go for about $200,000 the McQueen Porsche will fetch much more.

At last year's Monterey show, McQueen's 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 sold for $10 million! Prior to that his 1968 Ford GT40, used in the filming of 'Le Mans' sold for $11 million.

Steve McQueen died at the age of 50 but he made many timeless movies and is now in the realm of the iconic.  The McQueen Effect will be in play at the auction as the King of Cool lives on.

Zoe, Mad As Hell At Studios
Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana, the star of 'Avatar' wants the studios to pay for her nanny expenses.  The 37 year old actress who has scored big roles, in big franchise films, is advocating that the studios pay-up for her childcare expenses for her two children.

According to Zoe, the studios, "are taking me away from my home and my children away from home and make me work long hours.  Therefore I have to pay for a nanny. But they say, 'nope, we don't pay for nannies".

Saldana, who has a net worth of over $14 million has starred several big franchise films, including 'Star Trek' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy'.  She will next be seen in the jazz biopic 'Nina' (about the life of singer Nina Simone).  She will also be in the upcoming 'Star Trek Beyond' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2'.

Hey Zoe, nice try. Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks - next time have 'nanny expenses' put into your contract - it's that simple, but for now - pay the nanny!

DC Comics Sues Rihanna Over Name
Hey Rihanna,  What's in a name?

The comics company and pop-singer Rihanna are going head-to-head (legally) over the rights to the name Robyn.  DC Comics has filed a claim with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to prevent Rihanna from trademarking the name Robyn (Rihanna's actual first name) because it is too similar to the name Robin - Batman's sidekick.

This may seem like an over-reach by DC, as Robin or Robyn are hardly unique names, but DC has had a trademark on 'Robin' since 1984 - yup, four years before Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born!

DC can't stop Rihanna from using the name Robyn but she probably can't trademark it either. But who knows, the government is all about paperwork so it could take some time before this issue is resolved.

So, its Robyn or Robin, this issue in itself could be a comic - it is pretty comical after all.

Best and Happy Movie-going

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

In-Cinema Ads: Do Moviegoers Give Them Any Attention ?

We hear a lot about the benefits to advertisers regarding in-cinema ads. Buzz phrases abound: captive audience, demographic segmentation, market fragmentation, ad-reach, audience guarantees. But do moviegoers really pay any more attention to in-cinema ads vs. any other ads that are constantly thrown at us.
Are in-cinema ads very useful ?

I for one don't think moviegoers pay any more attention to cinema ads than they do watching any other ads on any platform.  For example, when I go to the movies and the show 'officially starts' it is normally the case that advertisements are thrown at me. These can be ads for concession items (which makes no sense as I am now seated and settled-in for a 2-3 hour movie and have already made my decision on whether or not to purchase concession items), automobiles, casual shoes, Air Force or Army recruitment, etc. After the ads come movie trailers (which can be as many as 7 or 8 but are normally 4 or 5) and are several minutes each.  Then the feature (what I came and paid to view) starts. Now, if you ask me what the ads were that I viewed I may guess right one or two.  Same on the trailers, I can remember one or two but not 5 and certainly not 8.

In many cases, the ads are the same ones I viewed on my last trip to that cinema and are, quite possibly,  the same ads even if I go to another cinema. Many times, they are ads I have already seen on broadcast or cable TV - so they are not new to me.

To me there is no connect between the ad and the movie I am viewing and the ads do not take into consideration the MPAA movie rating. I don't remember nor am I motivated by an advertisement because  I viewed it before a great movie.  And when I query other moviegoers they say the same. They find no connection between the ads and the movie.

Recently ScreenVision, one of the largest in-cinema ad runners, announced that they were launching 'Project Lynx' - a system which will track consumer behavior in and beyond their cinema experience.  Lynx is touted as being able to track  who, exactly, is sitting in the seats for any given movie and if they were motivated by the ads they viewed.  It will be interesting to see how Lynx works out.

Yes, the cinema is an immersive experience. Yes, the screens are larger than any TV. Yes, it is a less distracting viewing venue vs. the home. Yes, ads can be targeted so as to match up with movie titles.
But does all of this add up to increased brand awareness, ad recall, or (best case) product purchases.

For me the jury is still out on the impact of in-cinema advertising.  I believe it has the same impact as any type of other advertising - if the viewer has a predisposition of interest in a particular product they will focus attention, if not, it cognitively passes as not required information.


Monday, June 15, 2015

CINEMA BUZZ by Seymore Flix - 6/15/15

Avatar 2 - What's The Holdup ?

James Cameron is taking his time with the sequel to the highest grossing film of all time - 'Avatar' ($2.8 billion -2009). Come to think of it, the second highest grossing film of all time,'Titanic' $2.2 billion - 1997) was also a Cameron film and they are 11 years apart.

Originally scheduled for release in 2016,  'Avatar 2' in now looking at a December 2017 release.  But wait! 'Avatar 3' and 'Avatar 4' are in the works and the reason 'Avatar 2' was postponed. Cameron is filming all three simultaneously and as you can imagine is very complex and time consuming. It's sure not bothering Fox Entertainment, which is bank-rolling this mega-project.  Fox's CEO, Jim Gianopulos stated, "Jim has his own pace and we are comfortable which that".  And, we might add, the two highest grossing films ever.  Even if Avatar 2 were to gross one-half of the first Avatar it would still end up the fifth highest grossing movie of all time.

James Cameron - 'At his own pace'
Cameron definitely works at his own pace and has a tendency to use the latest technologies that the industry has to offer.  If you remember, Avatar was one of the first films to use digital 3D for it debut. Can't wait to see all three sequels.  Scheduled releases: 12/17, 12/18,  and 12/19.

Top 10 All Time Highest Grossing Movies

1. Avatar $2.8 billion - 2009
2. Titanic $2.2 billion - 1997
3. The Avengers $1.6 billion - 2012
4. Furious 7 $1.5 billion - 2015
5. Avengers: Age of Altron $1.4 billion - 2015
6. Harry Potter-Deathly Hallows 2 $1.3 billion - 2011
7. Frozen $1.3 billion - 2013
8. Ironman 3 $1.2 billion - 2013
9. Transformers:Dark of the Moon $1.2 billion - 2011
10. Lord of the Rings:Return of the King $1.1 billion - 2003

No Men Allowed

Photo from 'The Gift of Fire'
Now here's a first, I think. Rechy Elias, a Jewish film-maker stipulated that her film, 'The Gift of Fire' could only be viewed by women - no men allowed in the auditorium!

To be screened at the London Israeli Film Festival last week Elias stated her religion forbade men from watching her movie.  An orthodox Jew of the Haredi sect, the film contains footage of women dancing and singing which cannot be viewed by men.

Screening of the film were cancelled by the governing board of the Festival as Odeon Theaters, where the movie was to debut, cancelled the screenings, stating "The film contains women dancing and singing, and in the Haredi beliefs this should not be viewed by men. We respect the position of the film-maker but have decided that we need to honor our policy of not restricting entry to any film based on gender."

'The Gift of Fire' is about a young woman's ordeal during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Hmmm seems to me that Elias should think about making a film regarding her own, rather archaic, beliefs

A Tribute To Lee
Lee as Dracula

From 1958 Dracula to staring roles in everything from Bond films to Star Wars and Lord or the Rings Christopher Lee had a film career that spanned seven decades. At six foot five, Lee was an imposing figure with a deep, penetrating voice.  Always the perfect villain be it Scaramanga in the 007 'Man With The Golden Gun' or evil Count Dooku in the Star Wars 'Attack of the Clones' and 'Revenge of the Sith' or s the sinister Saruman in Lord of the Rings trilogy Lee was the embodiment of a cinema super villain who we had come to know and love over the years.

Peter Jackson, maker of the Lord of the Rings stated, "He was a scholar, singer, actor .... There will never be another Christopher Lee. He has a unique place in cinema history. An icon of cinema has passed into legend."
As Scaramanga in 007 'Golden Gun'

Tim Burton, who cast Lee in five films including Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, said "He was the last of his kind - a true legend - who I'm fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me and I'm sure countless others."

Martin Scorsese, who cast Lee in his fantasy movie, 'Hugo' called Lee, "a great actor, wonderful friend, and real professional. I think of him every day and always will."

Lee was preparing for his latest role, at 93, in a film entitled 'The 11th' with Uma Thurman when he died.  Lee scared me when I was young watching the Dracula films. He was more sinister than Lugosi and more daunting. As time passed, however you came to admire his performances and that baritone voice wasn't as scary any longer. You knew it was your old buddy Chris Lee playing bad guy again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Studios: It's All About The 'Franchise'

Disney is about to start building the first 'Frozen' ride at Epcot Center in a section of the Park called 'Frozen Ever After' - which of course is based on the very successful animated movie/musical of the same name.

This is an example of a studio packaging a big hit movie into an entire business.  Termed franchises, these entities live on for years (long after the movie) as theme park rides and attractions, toys, clothes, video games, TV shows, and anything else that can generate revenue.

What the Hollywood studios are moving toward is basing their entire business model around brands and franchises. For example, in the case of 'Frozen' merchandise sales so far this year are 10 times what they were last year and the mobile game for 'Frozen' has more than 105 million downloads. 'Frozen', the movie, has grossed $1.3 billion since its 2013 release - and Disney has announced a sequel is in the works, as is a Broadway show.

The franchise concept for movies has been around for decades (Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes films come to mind) but the overall marketing of merchandise and related products has really kicked-in over the last 10 years - and now it's all about franchise films (their sequels) and all of the other revenue generators based upon the movie.  Last year, 11 of Disney's franchises each generated over $1 billion in branded merchandise.

Disney releases about 10 movies a year and they are all targeted to sequels, super-hero flix, and animated films (new or re-worked classics).  The era of producing big-ticket one-off movies and rolling the dice on their box office success is dead!  The studios can no longer be considered giant media companies but are now, global consumer-products companies.

Problem is : this strategy has a downside.  With reliance on franchises only a studio runs the risk of passing on projects that may turn into new franchises or one-off movies that turn into mega-box office winners.  However, it appears that all of the major studios are going down the same path of 'franchise prosperity' and perhaps giving consumers too much of the same.

In the meantime,  cinemas can thrive on the franchise model. Every cinema should take advantage of the huge (and free) amount of promotional give-aways and swag these films come with. A 'freebie' goes a long way in cementing the relationship between a cinema and moviegoer.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Where Do Cinemas Go From Here?

It has been 6 years, almost to the day, when I prognosticated that movies would eventually be released day-and-date across all digital platforms.  My reasons for this rather (at the time) bold pronouncement was predicated on the premise that the large (and growing) internet-based companies, such as Google and Amazon would eventually need to expand their user base so as to monetize their business and thus their charged fees and advertisement solicitations.  Netflix, at that time, did not figure into the equation, as it offered only a movie-by-mail service.  But, by a complete re-invention of itself (through one of the greatest turnarounds in corporate history) became the predominate internet streamer of viewed entertainment - and the prime mover in global movie distribution.

With billions at their disposal, these internet giants can buy and produce original, high-end content and decide where and how it is viewed.  Ushering in the day when a movie's debut will be world-wide on all digital platforms.  Last week, in Cannes, Netflix's chief of content, Ted Sarandos, stated "The current practice of delaying the release of films on home entertainment platforms until several weeks or months after they have appeared in cinemas, termed 'the theatrical window', will no longer be the norm.  Movies will be more profitable when they debut online and simultaneous with their conventional cinema releases."

How about some 'homemade' popcorn
Problem is: these web-based entities have the means but not the physical distribution outlets that bring movies to 'life' - cinemas.  Now, Netflix could easily purchase even the largest cinema circuit but what does that give them?  It would be contrary to their entire corporate strategy and reason for being - fee-based global content streaming.  Cinemas go against everything these entities strive not to be. Cinemas aren't efficient, virtual. or very profitable (at least not in Netflix's world).  So, their alternative is to produce high-quality movie content to distribute on their platform.

To that end, Netflix announced their first original film production, a sequel to the Oscar-winning 'Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon' in partners, with our old friends at the Weinstein Company. Another movie, 'The Ridiculous Six', a western spoof starring Adam Sandler will not be released in cinemas at all, and is the first of four stream-only movies scheduled with Sandler. (Note to cinema exhibitors: don't book any more Sandler movies).

Now, it's a no-brainer, and we find no fault with Netflix, Amazon, Google, or Apple, becoming major players in the entertainment content business (as this is a logical extension of their current business endeavors).  However, the cinema experience is what it is and it cannot be replicated via on-line devices. The logical conclusion will be the eventual elimination of the 'theatrical window'.  That said, the biggest grossing films are the high-impact, action-based films which really can only be savored at a cinema with big sound, large screen, and communal viewing which can not be replicated by streaming to home entertainment systems or iPads.

Immersive is just that, and you can only get really immersive at a cinema.  Stand-fast cinemas, you're going to be around until something much better than streaming a movie to a TV comes around.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

I would love to have your comments on this subject so don't hesitate to have your say.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

CINEMA BUZZ by Seymore Flix - 6/6/2015

In This Buzz Edition

- Banksy, Greatest Street Artist Ever
- Mockingjay Two : Fans Hunger For It
- Actor Has Second Career Making 'Retreads'

Banksy - Say What?

You say you don't know who Banksy is. Well
A Banksy in NYC Subway
neither does the rest of the world. We don't know his/her real name nor how old he/she is, but whoever it maybe, Banksy is one of today's greatest modern artists, whose works fetch over $500,000.

We know Banksy was born in London and people started seeing Banksy's 'street art' on building in and around England which then spread to other European and U.S. cities.

An HBO documentary entitled, 'Banksy Does New York', is in release and chronicles the story of Banksy's quest of producing 31 original works of art (paintings and sculptors) one each day for a full month in NYC - each day giving clues on a website and an Instagram account as to where the next work would show up. Like a huge scavenger-hunt people scrambled to be the first to find the new works and post evidence of their discovery. Politically or culturally inspired, Banksy's works have a message and in many cases very profound ones.

Walkers-by place their head on the hydrant
It is thought that Banksy is a man and his works have become so popular that in several cases, people have taken the entire wall where Banksy has painted - it's that valuable.

If you get a chance to view 'Banksy Does New York' do so - it tells us more about ourselves than it does Banksy.

Hunger Games' Last Installment's First Look
Photo released on Facebook by Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence, the star of the 'Hunger Games' movie franchise, posted a peek of the final installment of the four episode saga on her Facebook page this past Thursday.  This posting was most likely not 'off the cuff' but planned as part of the film's promotion.

The photo that was posted shows Lawrence in character with her signature bow with co-star Liam Hensworth and other rebels. Lawrence posted the picture with the caption "6.9.15" - the date when Mockingjay Two's trailer is scheduled for release - the movie's release isn't until November.  This Facebook 'tease' came just two days after the release of  the film's official poster - which pictures a smashed statue of bad-guy and Capitol leader, President Snow.

There is certainly no teasing regarding the franchise box office which now stands at over $2 billion globally.  The final installment, if it lives up to its press, should gross another $500 million.

Harrison Ford Is Having 'Retread' Career
Ford as Solo in new 'Star Wars'

'The Fugitive' sequel is in the works - based on the great success of the original film (1993) and the TV series of the '60s.  The film, which starred Ford and Tommy Lee Jones (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the film) earned $390 million and its sequel goes into production early next year.

Ford, who is 72, has made a second career by re-acting his past iconic roles.  He will be playing Han Solo in the upcoming 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'.  He is also starring in the reboot of 'Blade Runner' where he is brought back as Rick Deckard.  Additionally, it has been rumored that a new Indiana Jones may get another installment.

Ford is still recovering from a plane crash of last March in which a vintage plane he was flying malfunctioned.  We wish Harrison the best. He has given us many hours of great and exciting entertainment.


Friday, June 05, 2015

'Tomorrowland's' Box Office - A World Beyond

Speaking of the loss of star-power - one only has to look at 'Tomorrowland' - George Clooney just couldn't get 'tomorrow' into today's box office.  At a cost of $180+ million, Disney has laid another very big egg.  Projections are that the film's domestic take will end up in the $80-100 million range.

'Tomorrowland' is a child-friendly romp and an original film (not based upon a book, comic, or other source).  The movie did not deliver in terms of mind-blowing special effects - the effects were good but not great and word spread fast.  The marketing of the movie was better than the final (advertised) product.

For Clooney, he should take solace in the fact that no actor has star-power any longer.  No current actor can draw large attendance numbers unless they are supported by a great film. Its been proven time and again that the big box office bruisers don't need a big-name actor to get in the mega-grosses. Even the Disney name, as family-friendly as it is, cannot guarantee audiences.

'Tomorrowland' is what it is - a 'B' movie whose shortcomings quickly became apparent to moviegoers. Many reviewers are blaming the fact the the movie was an original film, in my mind that really doesn't matter.There have been plenty of films that started out as originals and then became huge successes - Fast & Furious comes to mind.

High-impact, action films w/good actors and special effects = good box office. A mediocre film with big-named star and studio cache = bad box office.  Maybe Disney can recoup some of the loss through DVD and pay-per-view sales. Best of luck.


Wednesday, June 03, 2015

DOJ Probes AMC and Regal For Misconduct in Movie Booking

It is common knowledge (to anyone in the industry) that the large cinema circuits have used 'clearances' for years.

Clearances are agreements that cinema chains strike with the studios in order to gain the exclusive right to play a given movie in a particular market.  Problem is, this practice is illegal and the Department of  Justice Antitrust Division has initiated a probe at the two largest cinema circuits - Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Holdings - to see how this practice has stymied competition from competing theater operators.

AMC, in a statement, said the DOJ "wanted information into potentially anticompetitive  conduct which we do not believe we violated and are cooperating with the governmental authorities."

The DOJ's civil investigative demands, received by AMC and Regal on May 28th, "gave it subpoena power and request for documents and answers to certain questions regarding the practice of clearance". AMC and Regal also received additional civil investigative demands from the Office of the Attorney General of Ohio, which has similar inquiry under Ohio's antitrust laws.

Regal, in a statement, said that it had been asked by the DOJ to "preserve all documents and information since January 2011 relating to movie clearances or communications or cooperation" between the company and its chief rivals, AMC and Cinemark Holdings Inc. We do not believe that any investigation of movie clearances or any communications or cooperation involving the Company and AMC or Cinemark will produce evidence that the Company has engaged in any anticompetitive conduct in violation of Federal or State antitrust or competition laws.

Come on guys, the clearance issue has been around and practiced for years, and has been complained about for years by many independent cinema exhibitors.  The National Assoc. of Theater Owners (NATO) has also known about this for years - and did nothing about it. Not a peek.

It now appears that the practice has become so widespread that it finally couldn't be ignored by the DOJ and State regulators.  The increase in clearance requests by the large circuits has coincided with a rise in cinema construction, and sufferers of the practice say it allows the larger chains to wield significant market power and drive new and existing smaller competitors out of business. AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have commented that clearances are part of a long-standing and established industry practice that only affects a small number of their locations.

Well, just because something is done doesn't mean it's right or, for that matter, legal.  As I said, clearance has been going on for years and everyone in the industry knew it was happening and knew it was wrong.  Clearances should not be granted and the practice needs to be stopped - a large civil judgment against the large circuits may be what will end it.


Monday, June 01, 2015

The Ultimate Fan

A few weeks ago a post on the greatest movie fans detailed how the 'Stars Wars' juggernaut had the most dedicated fans; however, I may have spoken to soon.  It seems that a 'Star Trek' fan has taken the all-time greatest fan prize.

Liu Dejian, a Chinese web app developer and over-the-top Trekkie, has built his company's corporate headquarters in the shape of the SS Enterprise, Captain Kirk's space ship.  Now, this is what I call a fan!

At a cost of $160 million, Liu has actualized  his obsession with Star Trek and fulfilled the mantra of 'going where no man has gone before'.  Reports from within NetDragon Websoft, Liu's company, indicate that Liu went so far as to secure the copyright for the Enterprise, to make his dream headquarters 100% legal. No word on how much he paid for the copyright but it may have been a good bit over the $160 million construction cost for the building. The huge space-ship shaped corporate campus is quite functional and beautiful and may be as large, if not larger, than the fictional SS Enterprise.

NetDragon has had great success with mobile smartphone games and other apps in China, and Liu himself has branched out of the app game and into fields like bioengineering.  Liu had an early love for the 'Star Trek' TV show and the Trek-series of movies, and is wealthy enough to indulge his passion as a Trekkie. This is quite impressive, it's fantasy to reality in very big terms.


It's Not All About Money - Or Is It.

I received a few comments from readers saying that I was cynical regarding the movie business being all about money.  That the art of movie-making is not all about profits and grosses but done for a great cause - an artistic endeavor.  Alright, have it your way.  But to bolster my case following are a few recent examples of Hollywood 'good deeds' :

- The American Federation of Musicians of the U.S. & Canada filed a law suit last week accusing the major film studios of "recycling old soundtracks in new movie releases".  The Federation claims that the studios, including Disney, Paramount, and Sony have violated the terms of their contract with song writers by using previously recorded film scores or parts of scores in later movie releases.

The law suit names a number of examples where this 'recycling of film scores' has occurred. For example, there was 1 minute/10 second clip of the 'Titanic' used in 'This Means War', a 33 second clip from 'Castaway' featured in 'Bridesmaids', a 35 second clip from 'Battle of the Planet of the Apes' used in 'Argo'.  These and many other examples were cited in the law suit.

The studios are in agreement that "all music soundtracks already recorded, will not be used at any time, for any purpose, except to accompany the picture for which the music soundtrack was originally prepared."

Well, how cheap and greedy are the studios.  They can't compensate the music writers for use of their songs or scores.  How much money does this save?   Hmmmm ........ but Hollywood's not about money.

- Gender inequality in movie actor pay - that is the current mantra of movie actors. Equal pay for equal performance.  It seems that the leaked emails for the Sony Studio hack indicated that the studios are not paying female stars the same amount as their male co-stars. This has now reached the stage where it begs the question: are these actions on the part of the studios illegal discrimination.

The stuff that leaked through the internet when Sony was hacked speaks for itself.  The emails between executives at Sony indicate that, for example, 'American Hustle' stars Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were paid less than their male co-stars.

Again, it's all about the money. The solution for this is simple - for the studios. Just pay the male actors less!  Bring their pay down to the level of the female actors - problem solved.  So, instead of making $10 million for their role the male stars make $8 million. They are all over-compensated anyway.  Everyone knows that most films are not star-driven anyway. What?  There have been 5 or 6 Batmen, 3 or 4 Supermen, 3 or 4 Spidermen - you got my drift. It's been proven time and again that a movie doesn't need a star to make a big gross.  Ok, Ok. That's one solution. But honestly, it should be equal pay for equal work without exception.

What is a movie-star. anyway?  Defined as an actor who has become famous for their acting roles or is deemed marketable and whose name is used to promote a motion picture.  Really well known and recognized movie-stars become super-stars.  But are there really any super-stars now?  In the past there were people who sang, danced, acted, and played an instrument - all with great genius. These people were not just movie-stars they were entertainers - and you don't find them in today's Hollywood.