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Friday, October 30, 2015

'Look Who's Back'

Poster for 'Look Who's Back'
'Spoof' movies can sometimes hit it just right and go big, for example, the Borat and Jackass films.  In Germany the top grossing film for the last three weeks is such a film - but its main character is Adolf Hitler.  Entitled 'Look Who's Back', Hitler comes back after a Rip Van Winkle-type sleep and awakens in 2011 and hits the streets of Berlin to get the reactions of real-life people. He is mistaken for an actor/impersonator and ultimately becomes a talk-show host and YouTube star.

Based on a satirical novel by Timur Vermes published in 2012,  the book sold over two million copies in Germany alone and has been translated into 42 languages, including Hebrew.  It is scheduled to be sold in the U.S. starting this week through British publisher MacLehose Press as American publishers passed on it.    According to Vermes fans are demanding a sequel.  The book's success was a surprise, given its theme, but humor own out over history.

Germany has a long tradition of Hitler satire but 'Look Who's Back' pushes into new territory as the movie makes you laugh with Hitler - which is kind of creepy as you don't want to have an affinity with the character.  Yasher Mounk, a German/Jew and author of a bio about growing up in Germany in the 80s and 90s entitled, 'Stranger In My Own Country' said of the movie, "it is the allure of the forbidden. It signals defiance at the notion that you shouldn't laugh at the Nazis. It says, "Look at me transcending the taboos that are meant to hold us down." If we cannot recognize the 'real' Hitler for who he was then we are all in trouble."

The movie is funny, for sure, but it makes you go deeper into yourself.  As New York Times critic, Janet Maslur stated, "it remains both humorous and disturbing at the same time."

Whether or not 'Look Who's Back' will ever play in cinemas in the U.S. is iffy. Baring the Jewish factor the whole issue that the U.S. had to defeat Germany twice for their indiscretions took a great toll on America at many levels.

The question becomes, should the whole issue of Hitler and the Nazis be a scar on the German psyche after 70 years? Many Germans, and others, think not.  'Look Who's Back' is a metaphor for unshackling the collective guilt of the past. Time is a big healer - societies change, wars are forgotten with new generations, guilt disappears and like a sack of bricks it is eventually put down and people walk away.

I don't believe 'Look Who's Back' would be a box office hit in the U.S. - it may be just too soon for us, but it should be released nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"WHAT'S UP" - At The Movies

Victoria - A First

Feature films are never shot in one single take.  No cuts. No stops. No special effects. No tricks. Just one single 138 minute take - that's 'Victoria'. And that's impressive.

'Victoria' is a movie about a woman who gets caught-up (by choice) in a bank robbery and the story goes from there.  The movie is very good, perhaps excellent, considering there was no editing and the actors played there roles off of a twelve page script so most of the narrative was ad-libbed. Nonetheless, 'Victoria' is a first-rate drama which is technically complex.

Filmed in Berlin, 'Victoria' has gotten rave reviews particularly given it's non-stop filming and direction which occurs in-doors and out - an amazing feat in this age of long production times and mega-millions to produce even a small budget Hollywood-type film.  'Victoria' is a must see and you have to keep reminding yourself, as you watch it, that it's all filmed in less than three hours.

Rich Women Of Hollywood

There has been much hoopla recently about the women of stardom not making as much as men; however, it is hard for the common person to empathize with the issue, given the amount of money movie stars earn.  Here is a rundown of the top 10 wealthiest (several will surprise you):
Alba hit it big 'going natural'

- Sofia Vergara - $85 million. Surprise! Sofia earned $37 million last year between 'Modern Family' and mega-endorsements.

- Cameron Diaz - $90 million. Making one hit after another Diaz deserves her big paydays.

- Jane Fonda - $120 million. Over the years Jane not only made a lot of films and cash but tons of dough from her fitness videos.

- Angelina Jolie - $145 million. Earning about $20 million per film she rakes in big paychecks.

- Jennifer Aniston - $150 million. 'Friends', films, and TV commercials all add up for this highly successful actress.

- Julia Roberts - $175 million. An 'A' lister Julia gets $25 million per pic and it's well deserved given that her films have made over $2 billion.

- Julia Louis-Dreyfus - $200 million. From 'Seinfeld' to any number of her own sitcoms have made Julia lots of cash.  Additionally, her father, Gerard Louis-Dreyfus is a billionaire - all of which Julia will inherit some day.

- Sandra Bullock - $200+ million. Movies, movies, and more good movies have made Bullock a very rich woman.  She now selects which movies to make and who directs them.

- Jessica Alba - $220 million. Another surprise. Jessica has made a lot of good films but her real money comes from her co-founding of The Honest Company (a natural products company for babies and women). If and when The Honest Company goes public, Jessica will be worth hundreds of millions more.

- Dina Merrill - $5+ billion. Yes, starring in 22 films in the 50s and 60s plus numerous TV shows Dina is the grand-dame of the Hollywood upper-crust. She is also the heir to the Post cereal fortune.

And there you have it. Not too shabby in the wealth department these ladies but hey, you can always have more. Remember: you can never be too rich or too thin.

H'wood Women Need A Break?
Sorry, but I had to put this in. It's a squeak. 

According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film in 2014 only 15% of movies had a female director, only 20% female writers, and only 8% of cinematographers.  Having tracked these numbers for over 20 years, Dr. Martha Lauzen, Head of the Center, says "not much has changed over that period of time."

In fact, the issue of gender equality in Hollywood has gotten so much attention of late that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal agency in charge of employment discrimination, is now interviewing industry figures in sorting out the huge gender discrepancies in films.

Funny thing. When researching the data, the Center, looked at the 700 highest grossing films (which make up all that had a theatrical release).  What it found was that more women were employed on the lower budget, lower grossing films than the bigger productions.  Meaning, according to the Center, that there may be the notion that women are not being hired on big films because they are somehow riskier hires.

And so it goes. I've said before, women in films (and everywhere for that matter) need more representation and equal pay.  Thing is - the movies that drive the box office (the top 25, which generate close to 50% of global admissions) are dominated by action-based, high-impact films with lots of killing, destruction, and over-the-top effects which is where male film-makers thrive.

Don't be fooled. Hollywood portrays itself as a liberal bastion of politically correct do-gooders.  In reality it is a very closed, very conservative social environment that leaves little room for (and doesn't want) change.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"WHAT'S UP" At The Movies

'Razorland': The Next Big Franchise?

Like 'Twilight', 'Hunger Games' or 'Harry Potter' can Ann Aquirre's 'Razorland' trilogy be the next big movie franchise?

Kickstart Productions thinks so as it optioned the rights to Aquirre's books and has started movie and TV productions of 'Enclave' - the first book in the trilogy. 'Enclave' tells the story of a girl from an underground enclave in which no one lives past the age of 25.  She is exiled from of the enclave to the uninhabited surface in punishment for a crime she did not commit.

Ann Aquirre is a bestselling author who has written over 30 novels for adults and teens.  Her 'Razorland' series has sold in the millions and has been translated into ten languages.
Aquirre has a winner in 'Razorland'

For its part, Kickstart Productions has had success in promoting both movies and TV shows. Several projects include the upcoming series, 'Preacher' on AMC and 'Ready, Jet, Go!' for PBS.

The 'Razorland' series includes three novels: 'Enclave', 'Outpost', 'Horde' and three novellas: 'Foundation', 'Endurance', and 'Restoration' all of which center around the exploits of a female character, named Deuce.  Aquirre is still a relative unknown even given her writing success; however, this will all change as, I believe, 'Razorland' will become as big as the 'Twilight' or 'Hunger Games' franchises.

"We Don't Need Hollywood"

According to Shan Dongbing, a veteran Chinese film producer and head of Foye Films, "We no longer need Hollywood, we have all the investment and intellectual property necessary to produce our own blockbusters."  Shan made these comments at the Tokyo Film Festival last week in response to Chinese/Japanese collaboration in making movies.

Unfortunately for Shan, the reality is much different. According to Hitoshi Endo, head of Amuse, a Japanese production and talent firm, "Japanese TV shows have been much more successful in China than movies. This is due mainly to demographic and regulatory issues that need to be overcome."

Thus far, Japanese production companies have not budged to China's censorship laws as they want to keep their, hard worked for, brand recognition.  They don't want to give up cast or script control on a Chinese remake of their films. "It can be very difficult if the movie is controlled by multiple owners", says Hitoshi.

Chinese regulatory issues - including script approvals, censorship, and Chinese content requirements - often block the path to co-production of films. However, according to Shan, "China wants to and will change it rules on easing film quotas and relaxing distribution and exhibition impediments."

I just don't see it. The Chinese and Japanese historically are leery of each other and given the political sensitivity regarding movies by the Chinese government there isn't much promise for them making blockbusters for the global box office any time soon.

Map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth Discovered
Tolkien's Map of Middle-Earth

For all of you 'Lord of the Rings' fans, a map of Middle-Earth was discovered in a copy of the 'Rings' novel owned Pauline Baynes, an illustrator for the Tolkien books.

The map contains notes by Tolkien regarding both 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' novels. It is on display and for sale at Blackwell's Rare Books in London for $100,000.  The most notable detail is how precise Tolkien was regarding his story and the work and research that went into his classic tales.

Who Bought All Of The Advanced Tickets to 'Star Wars'

By now everyone has heard how advanced ticket sales of 'Star Wars; The Force Awakens' crashed the on-line servers due to extremely heavy transaction volume.

The interesting thing is that older men were the big ticket purchasers.  70% of ticket sales were to men 18-49 years old, with the average age being 34.  These are mostly regular moviegoers who visit their local cinema monthly and most (67%) go to opening night presentations.

The trailer for the new 'Star Wars' was released during the half-time on 'Monday Night Football' and drove the sale of the tickets.  The trailer got 112 million subsequent views.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opens at cinemas on December 18th.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oscars: Between a Rock and a Rock

It's been hard for the Academy. Trying to get even a second tier talent to host the awards is difficult. Neil Patrick Harris, Seth McFarland, Ellen, or Whoopie just don't give the 'biggest entertainment award hoopla' the status it deserves.
A Tired Gala

Now, Chris Rock has been tapped to host the upcoming Oscars.  The potty-mouthed Rock made his bones using strong language and racial commentary but his shtick is old and out-of-touch.  Better choices would have been Eddie Murphy or Louis CK but the Academy can't control them and that's why a Rock or one of the 'lesser' talents is chosen.

The Academy Awards have witnessed a constant downward slide in viewer ratings over the last decade as the show is too long, too boring, and too much of the same. Viewership will drop again this year as Rock doesn't have the showmanship or entertainer juice to bring it home.   The red carpet runway is now the highlight of the show.  Perhaps the Hollywood glitterati likes it that way - because it's safe. These hosts are counted on to jab the political 'right' and not touch upon the politically correct or, God forbid, the tinsel-town elite.

Not since Billy Crystal has there been a top-talent host who could jab thin-skinned 'A' listers and get away with it.  Carson and Hope were the best at it and we see that now with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who have been killing it at the Golden Globes.

Chris Rock is a safe choice. He knows better than to blast the Hollywood hoi polloi. He'll get in a few decent one-liners, but the Oscars are a scripted event and there is no room (or tolerance) for ad-libbing.  I'm not looking forward to viewing the Awards or Chris Rock (his second time hosting). I believe, and I've said this before, the Academy Awards need a complete rework, into a much hipper, current, and terse affair.  This year we'll be getting the same 'old'.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"What's Up" At The Cinema by Seymore Flix

An 88 Year Old OO7
Roger Moore today

"Why don't they have a geriatric 007" says Roger Moore. "I would love to play James Bond again. "I'll come back."

Moore played Bond in seven movies during the '70s and '80s and of Daniel Craig, Moore made this back-handed comment, "I think he's terrific.  He's a great Bond. He looks like a killer, he really does. Frightens me!"

Sir Roger Moore is 88 and has had a long career in both film and television playing in such hits as 'The Saint' and 'The Persuaders' . He has been married four times and has three children. Will we see Moore playing Bond anytime soon - I wouldn't bet the farm or even a goat on it.

Box office Analytics - Are They Necessary?

Rentrak, an audience measurement company for both box office and TV programs and Gower Street, a newly formed analytics firm have partnered to develop forecasting products for the movie industry.

The new venture's first product will be a global distribution planning tool that generates box office estimates for all movies with a planned theatrical release up to 18 months in advance.  It is postulated that such data will allow studios and distributors to optimize their release strategy and maximize box office performance.  I say, watch out guys as you may be stepping on some very big toes if the estimates come up short and are leaked.  Why does this help distributors?  The studios know (for the most part) which films will gross big and which are marquee fodder.

The second product Rentrak/Gower will be hawking will be a "screen booking optimization" tool which will evaluate the performance of all possible booking scenarios.  I ask - Why?

According to David Kosse, Gower's Non-executive Director (non-executive?), "By combining Gower's industry knowledge and technical expertise with Rentrak's box office and television information we are set to create the standard in theatrical distribution data analytics."  Gower, which launched earlier this year, is managed by Kosse and two other prior employees of Universal Pictures, all which worked on analytics for the studio.

Am I'm missing something. Good movies generate big audiences - bad films beget poor attendance. That's the only analytic one needs to know.

My Favorite Cult Comedies
Landlady of Kung Fu Hustle

Everyone has their favorite comedies, some of which are cult (those that have reached a status whereby they have a very strong fanbase).  Cult films have often quoted phrases and enjoy repeated viewing by their followers.

My favorite cult comedies are the following:

'The Big Lebowski' 1998
'Caddie Shack'
'Animal House'
'The Blues Brothers' 1980
'Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo - 1999
'Kung Fu Hustel' 2004
'Clerks' 1994
'Beverly Hills Ninja' 1997
'Big Trouble in Little China' 1986


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lindsay or Kanye For Pres in 2020

If it's good enough for 'the Donald' then Lindsay Lohan says it's good enough for her.

On Friday, actress and troubled-soul Lindsay Lohan posted on her Instragram that she is strongly considering running for the U.S. Presidency in 2020.  She thanked President Obama and Kanye West for inspiring her to run for the highest office in the land, and if elected, she stated that her first act as President would be to take care of all the suffering children in the world (the 'how' to accomplish this was not elaborated on).

Her announcement, naturally, got a huge and varied response particularly given Lohan's past bouts with drugs, DUIs, rehab, and jail-time.  Hey, but who's holding that against her.

As for Kanye, his statements regarding his bid to seek the highest office in 2020 may be a stunt as his notoriety has waned in the last several years, principally due to his public behavior 'fits' and non-productive and lame musical output; however, Kim, as first lady, may be interesting.

I guess, secretly, we all hope both are serious and will run for the Commander-in-Chief job.  What a great time it would be for the press, talking-heads, stand-ups, bloggers, and SNL.  Oh, I forgot to ask. Is Lindsay running as a Republican or Democrat? Or, how about the 'Fight For Your Right To Party' Party.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dumbing Down Movies

Are moves getting completely unrealistic and testing the limits of credulity? Is the public buying this or are they coming to believe their intelligence is being insulted?

Movie plot-lines especially for superhero and monster films are looking more foolish and really unreal.  'Godzilla' winking at the audience while defending humanity. 'Jurassic World' where dinos from earlier films come out of nowhere to fight the newer versions of themselves.

For example, Warner Bros. just green lit  'King Kong vs Godzilla' for a 2020 release - but only after the release of a new Kong film entitled 'Kong: Skull Island' a reboot of the original Kong and a 2018 release of  'Godzilla 2'.  Also in pre-production is 'Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus' and additional 'Sharknado' films.  Make no mistake,  'Kong vs Godzilla' will be a big-budget pic and feature marquee stars.

The superhero genre is taking a cue from the monsters. This can be seen in the upcoming 'Batman vs. Superman' and 'Captain America: Civil War' in which the Captain will battle buddy Ironman. Superhero showdowns and match-ups are becoming the norm but are pitting good hero against good hero and not super villains.

Have moviegoers become so mindless and dismissive to what they view that cogent storylines are almost nonexistent and so far-fetched that good fantasy turns to laughable hijinks.  Has the hype trumped substance?

So, while we're at it. How about Ironman vs King Kong or Batman vs. Giant Octopus.  Hey, Alien vs. Predator worked! Why not really crazy match-ups or should we say mismatch-ups - but what difference does it make.  So long as the moviegoer buys into it, it doesn't have to make any sense, it just needs to have great effects and a somewhat, if any, believable plot.      

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Snowman doing his stuff
Equine films are always popular at the box-office - it is our affinity to the horse. It is not the dog but the horse that is man's best friend. To wit, a new documentary entitled, 'Harry and Snowman' is going on sale at the American Film Market.  This movie will be bought and if you are lucky enough to see it on a marquee view it.

The films centers on a plow-horse, Snowman, who became a championship jumper and won what is considered the triple crown of horse showjumping, the National Horse Show Championship in 1958 and 1959.  Thing was, just two years before, Snowman, was purchased for $80 off a truck that was bound for the slaughterhouse.

Snowman's story has been the topic of two books in addition to this new documentary.  "Snowman" penned by Robert Montgomery in 1962 which is now being re-published by Simon & Schuster, and Elizabeth Letts book, "The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired A Nation" which MGM recently purchased the rights to and has plans to green light for a movie.

The Champ
At film festivals this year, the documentary was a winner, drawing huge crowds which spurred the auctioning of the movie.  There is a large appetite for equestrian stories and they always do well at the box-office - 'Snowman's' story will be no different.

Snowman had worked as a farm-horse for eight years and was used up. He was literally on his way to the meat market when Harry de Leyer, a riding instructor who was looking to buy a horse for his riding school, saw Snowman on a truck and decided to purchase him for $80.  Leyer used Snowman as a children's lesson horse but then realized he had great jumping abilities.  Snowman won every show jumping event he entered throughout the 1950's.  He lived to be 26 years old and is now recognized as one of the greatest show jumpers of all time.   Great story!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What's Up At The Cinema ?

Star Wars Sand Scupturer

Erected in the town of Tottori, Japan (about 400 miles southwest of Tokyo on Japan's northern coast) by Katsuhiho Chaen, the Star Wars sand 'castle' took 160 tons of sand to build.  The sculpture is 10 feet high by 23 feet long by 13 feet wide.  It will be on display as part of the annual Tottori 'Castle Festival'  until December when the new Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens' opens at cinemas and it will then be moved to Chaen's sand museum.

Full sand 'castle' work
Back To The Future For Cinemas ?
35mm film projector - a relic

Looking to the next generation of moviegoers, I believe, cinemas MUST drastically improve the movie-going experience or they will simply lose their customers. Going forward, the movie experience must be more than 'come to our cinema and watch a movie' - if so, the experience will not be perceived as having value and people will stop going to the cinema.

There is a movement by some film-makers and others in the industry that want to turn back time and technology and go back to 35mm film presentations as a way to get people into cinema seats.  To me, this is not only a non-starter but totally ludicrous for many, many reasons - which I won't elaborate on as you are fully aware of them.  Moviegoers, as least the vast, vast majority, could care less about how the movie gets onto the screen.  What they want is a good, for-value entertainment experience - period! The cinema experience has to be larger than life, and it's not just the on-screen image but the 'whole' experience.

Entertainment in the future will be all about 'the experience' - and that includes the 'movie experience'.  Cinemas, like never before, will be tested on providing the best movie-going, viewing experience - from when patrons enter the lobby to when they leave.  The facility, concession, service, presentation (image and sound), seating, and overall ambiance must be first-rate, and customer-centric.

Going back to the future by using 35mm film is not the answer for the cinemas' long-term prosperity, in fact, it would be a detriment - a throw-back to an era which will never have a resurgence. Cinema's need showmanship, not old technology, to survive and prosper.

'PAN' - A Case-study in Bad Movies
No demographic for this prequel

Prequels are always touchy and usually judged rather harshly by audiences - it's the comparison to the 'already seen'.  'PAN' is the perfect example of this as it utterly failed to capture the imagination of audiences.

The Warner Bros. big-budget, fairytale, fantasy film is on-track to lose upwards of $150 million. So far, 'PAN' has grossed only $40 million worldwide compared with over $275 million spent on production and marketing.  Wow, come to find out 'PAN' has no demographic as it is too adult for children and too childish for adults.  As well as very poor critical reviews, "don't go see" social media buzz was a death blow for the film.

Warners has had a bad year at the box-office.  Rumors are that 'Jupiter Ascending' lost over $100 million and 'The Man From UNCLE' was a huge flop.  The big studio winners this year are Universal and Disney which are pushing 2015 into box-office record-breaking history.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

CINEMA BUZZ and more....

Star Wars Fans Shell-out Big For Memorabilia
Fisher in bikini

The gold bikini worn by Carrie Fisher in the 1983 film 'The Return of the Jedi' sold last week at auction for $96,000.  The sale also included the first spaceship seen in a Star Wars film, which is called the Blockade Runner - that model spaceship sold for a staggering $450,000.  These sales demonstrate the huge fan base and power of the Star Wars franchise.

The bikini worn by Fisher, who plays Princess Leia in the saga, was memorized in a scene at Jabba The Hutt's palace on the planet of Tatooine. The scene ends with Leia strangling Jabba with a chain.

Both the bikini and the model spacecraft were sold to anonymous bidders.

4K - The Way For Cinemas

Panasonic's new DMR-UBZ1 4K player
As many of my clients use DVD/BluRay players to screen alternative content at their cinemas it should come as very good news that Panasonic will began selling the world's first 4k Ultra High Definition BluRay player.  To be first sold in Japan starting in November, the Panasonic DMR-UBZ1 player has four times the resolution of a regular DVD.

Larger than a conventional BluRay Player, the DMR incorporates a 3TB disk as the extra resolution of Ultra HD and a frame rate of 60 frames per second requires a lot more data then traditional high definition content.

This player ushers in a new era in high-powered resolution and should do well in bringing UHD to cinemas.  Patience will be required as 4k content becomes available but cinemas should seriously think about upgrading to this delivery platform and adding another dimension to their featured content.

Are Women Holding Back Women?
Winslet at NY Film Festival

Could it be that women themselves are holding back other women's rise in, not only the movie business, but in other endeavors they pursue?

According to Oscar winner, Kate Winslet this is the case.  At the New York Film Festival on Tuesday, she took the opportunity to urge women to be more supportive and complimentary of their female friends and co-workers. "Young women, these days, because they're exposed to levels of criticism in the media, they just automatically criticize their friends, themselves, and each other. It's bizarre."

Winslet is fiercely against cosmetic surgery and made headlines in 2003 after complaining about a GQ magazine cover in which her legs were airbrushed to look slimmer. She was in New York to promote the film 'Jobs'  in which she co-stars and is considered to be a front-runner for an Oscar.

Noted for her role in 'Titanic' (the second highest grossing film of all time) she stated that its immense success caught her off-guard (she's not the only one).  "Call me naive, but I had no idea - I really didn't - that that was what was going to happen with that film and to my life.  In a funny way, I didn't feel that I earned it. I was only 21 and still learning."

Winslet has a point regarding how women treat each other, but it's within them to change, as the media and social networks are only the tools people use to hurt, keep-down, and disparage one another.

Another Bond - "No Way!" says Daniel Craig

Is Craig over Bond? Yes and No. "I'd rather slash my wrists .... I'm over it at the moment. We're done. I want to move on."  Then he stated, "For at least a year of two.  I just don't want to think about it. If I did another Bond it would only be for the money."

On a promotion tour for the upcoming Bond film 'Spectre' (the 24th Bond film), Craig says the new film "has more of everything".

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cinema BuzzFEED

Fast & Furious - The Ride Continues
Meadow Walker w/Dad (Paul) and F&F co-star Vin Diesel

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against German auto manufacturer Porsche by Meadow Walker, the daughter of actor Paul Walker who died in a high-speed crash in November 2013.  In its response, Porsche issued this statement, "we are very sad whenever anyone in hurt in a Porsche vehicle, but we believe the authorities' reports, in this case, clearly establish that this crash resulted from reckless driving and excessive speed."

Roger Rodas, who also died in the accident, was driving Walker's 2005 Porsche Carrera GT at the time of the crash.  He lost control of the car and crashed into several trees and a concrete lamppost.

The lawsuit claims that Porsche knew that the Carrera GT had "a history of instability and control issues". The law suit also questions police reports that the vehicle was traveling at 90 mph. Both LA County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol investigators concluded that unsafe speed and not vehicle mechanical problems caused the accident.

In a related story, it was officially reported that the Fast and Furious movie franchise will end with a trilogy of films.  The next episode is scheduled for release in 2017, with two more sequels to follow. The F&F franchise has been a huge success.  The last episode, Fast and Furious 7, raked in over $1.5 billion worldwide and there is no reason to believe that F&F 8, 9, and 10 can't match or exceed that figure.

Looking At The Competition
A relic of the past? Cable fights for scale.

It is always a good idea to investigate what your competition is up to and how they are coping with the ever changing landscape of the entertainment business. One of the competitors of the cinema exhibition industry is the TV cable business.

Cable is shrinking. Consolidation, competition, and consumer viewing habits are changing the cable TV business.  In the cable business these days it's eat or be eaten as the larger operators gobble up their smaller peers and players outside the TV realm snap-up providers. For example, AT&T recently forked over $48.5 billion for DirectTV.  Charter Communications, in May, purchased Time Warner Cable to the tune of $78.7 billion and picked up 10.8 million cable subscribers.  This and several other purchases of cable operators will give Charter a base of over 17.2 million cable customers by year's end.

The name of the game is scale.  Being bigger and bulking up provides the opportunity to offer new services more efficiently and cheaply across a larger base of customers as the players get bigger and bigger. For example, only five (Cox, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter) of the top 25 cable operators in 1995 still exist today, all the others were consumed.

The problem that cable faces is the internet. People opting for web-delivered content vs. cable or broadcast TV.  Each year thousands of cable subscribers cut the 'cord' essentially leaving cable providers and going solely to the internet for their viewing content.  This leaves the field wide-opened for competition - be it from communications companies like Verizon or AT&T or content streamers like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.  These competitors offer direct-to-consumer content without ads (for the most part) and they are now producing their own original, high-level content.  So, as cord-cutting continues the cable operators need to add scale to remain profitable.  Currently, in the U.S., of the 116 million households that have cable, over 80% are serviced by just eight cable companies, so it's getting harder to obtain that all important scale.  For example, if the fifth largest cable provider (Verizon) were to purchased the next three largest cable companies below its ranking it would still be stuck in fifth place!

So, long-term it's not cable companies that cinemas need to worry about but internet-based content providers.

'Extras' Protest Nudity & Sex on HBO Film Set

Sparked by a central casting call by HBO for the upcoming 'Westworld' scifi series which required 'extras' to prepare for and consent to being filmed in "graphic sexual situations and other acts the Project may require" SAG-AFTRA (the actors guide and union) went on notice saying HBO's requests were "unenforceable" under the current union agreements.

The current actors agreement ensures that, although actors may sign a consent form, consent to appear in scenes requiring nudity or sex acts can be withdrawn at any time, so long as the scenes have not already been shot.

Cast extras on the 'Westworld' set have been complaining about the show's expansive nudity and sexual violence.  For its part, HBO issued a statement saying, "we do not require any actor to participate in any on-set practices and we provide a professional and comfortable working environment for all performers."

A SAG-AFTRA representative commented, "it's important that performers understand their rights, especially in circumstances like these that pose a high risk of exploitation."

HBO's 'Westworld' is based upon the 1973 movie of the same name which starred Yul Brenner and Richard Benjamin.