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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chinese Movies Woo Women

Unlike Hollywood, which is all about male dominance in films, the Chinese movie industry is taking a different tact - catering to the female tastes.  The focus for Chinese film-makers is on what do women want to view at the cinema.

Following Hollywood's lead, for years movies in China were geared toward male audiences. But that has all changed as Chinese studios have shifted toward female-friendly movies and target the marketing of these films directly to women.
Baby monster from 'Monster Hunt'

The success of the strategy became apparent this summer when a film entitled 'Monster Hunt' - a fantasy film about the love between a cute monster baby and a Chinese heart-throb - became the highest grossing Chinese movie in history within its first two weeks of release! Its audience was 85% female.

There is a growing demand for locally produced movies in China, and while males prefer sci-fi and action movies, ala Hollywood style, the Chinese studios go to lighter fare and romance instead.  For example, last year of the top 10 highest grossing Chinese movies, six were female-friendly (five romance or romantic comedies and one based upon a family TV show).

An Yugang, General Manager of Entertainment Inc., a Beijing film studio, says "We need to build a connection anywhere we  can between our film projects and the female moviegoers to achieve better box office receipts. We need to understand what women like."

One of the ways to win women moviegoers hearts is what the Chinese refer to as "fresh-meat fever" , which refers to a number of young Chinese male singers and actors with large female fan bases. These stars generate huge social media buzz which translates into box office attendance. And, better still, these rom-com films only cost a fraction of what a special effects laden, action movie costs to produce and can easily become a franchise film.

China/U.S. movie co-productions will expand
The majority of Chinese moviegoers are still male (women make up 46% of attendance) but the research group, Entgroup, reports that women are the primary decision-makers in what content couples and families view at the cinema.

The Chinese film industry anticipates that the female impact on the local film market will keep growing.  And, not to be counted out, the Hollywood studios are getting on the bandwagon. and have begun to co-produce more female-friendly films for the local Chinese market.  Whether or not this trend will shift over to the U.S. film market is unclear, but I'll keep you informed.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Close Caption Systems

Photos of CC System Components
Cup holder Receiver

CC Eyewear Receiver

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How China Will Change The Movie Industry

I post about the Chinese cinema quite a bit - the good/the bad.  The thing is, China (within several years) will become the world's largest box office surpassing the U.S.  The major Hollywood studios are well aware of this and have been forging all manner of deals and alliances to ensure their movies get distribution in China.

The question than becomes, will Chinese likes and dislikes change what types of movies are produced.  In the last few years the major studios have bent over backwards to cater to the expanding demand for movies in China - setting up co-production deals for the likes of 'Iron Man 3' and 'Transformers:Age of Extinction', with the goal of bypassing China's strict 34 foreign movie per year quota system.  Additionally, Chinese movie stars have been placed into roles in Hollywood produced films in the hopes of  increasing their appeal from Chinese audiences. Dreamworks and Warner Bros. have been the most active of the studios in setting up co-partnerships with Chinese film companies to produce Chinese language movies for domestic consumption which will never be viewed at U.S. cinemas.

Blockbuster production/marketing budgets, in many cases, now exceed $200 million, making Hollywood reliant on the Chinese moviegoer to turn a profit.  So, it's no stretch to think that films will more and more need to cater to Chinese tastes.  Movies that currently do well at the Chinese box office are heavy special effects sci-fi and fantasy films with little, if any, racy or sexual content. You need only to review the biggest global box office earners to see examples of these films.

Given all of this, it appears that we will all be seeing more movies playing to a Chinese audience vs. what caters to American tastes.  While this year's box office sleepers, such as, 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Trainwreck' would probably have made the cut, given their low budgets, more expensive films would not have been produced as they would not play well in China.  As China moves toward box office dominance big-budget comedies or action films with a message that do not garner Chinese audience attendance will not be green-lit for production.  And, it goes without saying, that any movie with so much as a hint of political nuance will never be screened.

It's been said that in the future there will be a two-tiered box office - one exhibiting big-budget blockbusters at cinemas for a per view price of $15-25, and  low-budget films with a view price of $8-12.  However, China's eventual dominance may mean that the $25 per view price may not be required.

To me, the new normal in movie exhibition will be that the global box office will be split between the $200 million blockbusters (that will play very well in China and pass censor scrutiny) and the low-budget, non-special effects dramas and comedies that will be targeted to either an American or Chinese audience.  Any film that falls between these two categories will have little chance of being made.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cinema BuzzFEED

Streep Learns Hard Lesson
Women marching in NYC for suffrage

'Suffragette' is Meryle Streep's movie-of-the-month. The film is a feminist historical drama which screened this past weekend at the Telluride Film Festival. To get buzz going for the movie, Streep sent a letter to all 535 members of the U.S. Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators) calling on them to introduce new, nation-wide equality legislation but gave no specifics as to what that meant. It should be no surprise that Streep's letter received virtually a zero response for two reasons: first, it was too close to the opening on her new movie, and second, there is no way any member of Congress will react to a letter which has no political juice behind it.

Of the 535 letters, which were accompanied by a book by Jessica Neuwirth entitled 'Equal Means Equal', only 5 members of Congress responded. Three of which said they couldn't help and that current laws on equality already exist and two which stated they agreed with her and would 'look into the matter'.

In her letter, Streep stated, "I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality".  Having no political clout coupled with the fact that the letter coincided with her movie's release was a little hard for the members of Congress to swallow.  Streep should know that with Congress she is dealing with real PR pros and not Hollywood film-pitchers. With Congressional members you need to give before you ask.

'Suffragette' received guarded and so-so reviews at Telluride as it didn't play as a period piece but a current day drama, for example World War 1 wasn't mentioned during the film but which had a profound impact on the suffragette movement.  The suffragette movement started in Great Britain in the late 19th Century and carried over into the United States in the early 20th Century, where in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted right before the 1920 Presidential election giving women the right to vote.

Hollywood is currently struggling with wage equality between male and female actors and Streep should stick with that fight which is equivalent to pro athletics battling team owners for more money.

Lesson learned: concentrate on what you can achieve and don't push a self-serving agenda.  Streep tasted reality in the non-response from her Congressional note. Hollywood types may lend an hear to one another but the real world is very different and in that world Meryle Streep  learned she has no juice.

Chinese Gov Fudges Box Office Tallies
Movie poster for 'Hundred Regiments Offensive'

Accusations ran rampant regarding Chinese government officials offering cinemas financial incentives to report bogus box office results for the home-grown, patriotic epic movie, 'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' - a film about China's triumph over the Japanese 70 years ago.

Rumors started to whirl when 'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' outperformed several Hollywood blockbusters and evidence emerged that Communist Party officials ordered cinemas to produce fake box office tallies for the epic movie.

 A widely circulated online study cited that cinemas exhibiting 'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' could keep 100% of the revenue generated by the movie provided they reported hitting specific box office targets.  The cinemas were instructed to tell their staffs to work the scam by issuing moviegoers tickets for the Chinese-made film even when they had paid to view other movies. Many moviegoers posted pictures and videos of the altered tickets on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

The heads of two major Chinese film companies also aired their displeasure saying that 'The Hundred Regiments Offensive' stole box office revenue from their own Chinese-made films.  So far, there has been no response from Chinese officials about the scam.

The Hollywood Reporter indicated that Paramount Studios, which released 'Terminator Genisys' the same weekend as 'The Hundred Regiments Offensive', lost upwards of $11m due to the box office con.  But, what can Paramount do?  Just swallow it and move on, as complaining is of no use and may cause future retribution. China is the world's second-largest box office generator and the government controls the annual quota system whereby only 34 foreign films are allowed to be screened each year - and Paramount wants its future films to be included in the quota.

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Telluride: The Most Influential Film Fest You Never Hear About

Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Film Fest has often commented that, "Sundance is a victim of its own success", referring to how over-sized the festival has gotten physically as it gained in importance - to the point that it may be losing what it was intended to accomplish, a place for indie films to debut and get cred.

Now, Telluride's Film Fest maybe experiencing the same fate as it attracts larger and larger crowds and media attention.  According to co-founder and exex director Julie Huntsinger, the answer is "No." She told CMG that "This little secret on the mountain has been doing exactly what it does for a very long time, and different people will react to us differently over time, but we are going to keep doing the same thing."  However, more and more, "the little secret on the mountain" is getting exposed. Now, top directors and top talent are using the Telluride Fest to premiere there wares - and the Fest's operators have no control over its popularity and what that brings to this small Rocky Mountain community.

Telluride exec Huntsinger
What you now have at Telluride is a film festival that has played host to five straight best picture winners, and three of them were world premieres.  So, the 'movie folks' keep coming even thought the Festival's  playlist is keep secret until opening. This practice, however,  has angered other larger fest operators as Telluride's status has increased.  For example, the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) went so far as to institute a policy last year preventing Telluride films from screening at any of TIFF's top venues.  Telluride has quietly left the fest wars play out. As Huntsinger said, "we're going to do what we always do".

Telluride remains a treasure for the devoted - a cinephil mecca. For example, Lobster Films, a restoration lab, will be debuting newly restored works from Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, and the Fest opens with a restored version of Fritz Lang's 1924 275 minute classic 'Die Nibelungen'.  "This is the purity of Telluride", Huntsinger told me, "that I feel committed to supporting forever."

The 42nd Telluride Film Festival runs from September 4th - 7th from 10am to 10pm.

I Love Lucy
Ball in 'Lucy' makeup

Cate Blanchett has signed on to portray Lucille Ball in a new biopic about the very popular comedienne, film star, and producer. This will be a good stretch for Blanchett who has a knack at being a chameleon in her roles and normally doesn't do comedy.

Lucy Arnaz, Jr. and Desi Arnaz, Jr., Lucy and Desi Arnaz's children, will be co-producing the movie, and although untitled, as yet, rumors are that the movie will center on the star's 20+ year marriage to Desi. It was during that period that Lucy and Desi co-starred in the very popular (to this day) 'I Love Lucy' sitcom.

Blanchett's recent films include 'Cinderella', 'Truth', and 'Carol' all of which were distributed this year.  No time-frame has been set to start shooting the Lucy biopic and no mention as yet regarding who will play Desi.  It will be a treat to see Lucy and Desi come back to life. We wish Cate all the best - Lucy is a hard act to follow.