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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Giving The Boot to the Re-boot

'Ghostbusters' 2016's Worst Re-boot
Hollywood seems to be scrounging to find other names besides 're-boot' and 're-make' to describe cloned films. Re-boots and re-makes are common fare in filmdom.  Every other movie seems to be an up-dated copy of a prior product and, in most cases, turns out to be a degradation from the original.
'True Grit' comes to mind as a very poor re-make that doesn't measure up to the original in script or acting.

The studios have now deemed that the monikers 're-make' and 're-boot' are verboten and don't describe a film's true value - as the terms invoke the idea of copy or clone, the un-new. In contrast, a sequel is a continuation of a story. A prequel, about what happened before. There are many sequels but prequels are used sparingly by studios. The most famous being the 'Star Wars' saga (which can be somewhat confusing after 8 or them). Sequels and prequels must have good continuity. Re-makes, however must provide an improved script, better surroundings and special-effects, and better acting - and why not, they have the original to improve upon.

Some films have been re-booted twice or even three times, ala 'Spider-Man' and 'The Hulk'. Hollywood is quick to point out that re-boots are not copies but fresh and improved versions, like the 'Ben Hur' re-boot currently in release - it was marketed as a "re-work". Semantics? Perhaps 're-hash' is a better term.

Audiences are getting fed-up and really tired with film-makers throwing-up old content and re-packaging it in worse form than the original.  A well constructed and scripted/acted re-boot can make for a great film but simply providing cosmetic changes to an old dog never works.

For now, it appears that Hollywood is intent upon dishing-out a continuous stream of cloned, and in many cases, inferior copies of prior films.  They can call it a 're-work' or a 're-new' but audiences are smart and they are 're-assigning' their entertainment priorities away from the 're-boot'.    

Saturday, August 27, 2016


People lie. All people lie. All people lie everyday! In fact, people not only lie to others they lie to themselves.  Termed 'positive self-deception', people lie to themselves principally regarding three
- having a positive self-view and believing they are more talented and intelligent than they are
- believing they have much more control over their lives than they really do
- believing their future will be better than the present or past

True lying begins around age three and by seven or eight becomes commonplace. Certain realities are lied about more than others.  Age, for instance, is lied about quite often. Young people lie about being older, while older people lie about being younger. Some professions lie more than others.  Politicians publicly lie flat-out; others, like lawyers, are more discreet about their lying.

Hmm ........ many movies are about lies and lying.  Lies and double-crosses are very common themes in films and have been since the very inception of the cinema. Some of my favorite lying-films are:

- 'Pinocchino' - yes, the all time greatest story about lying
- 'Mrs. Doubtfire' - a film based on complete deception, as is 'Tootsie'
- 'Arthur' - lies upon lies by Dudley Moore to almost everyone in the movie
- 'Easy Money' with Rodney Dangerfield lying about everything
- 'Heist' - with Gene Hackman in a triple-cross
- 'Liar Liar' - not having the ability to lie gets you into all sorts of trouble

What is your favorite lying-film? You'd be lying if you say you didn't have one.

In all honesty,

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Crude Entertainment

As the price of crude oil drops, oil-rich countries are turning to entertainment to fill the short-fall and diversify for the future - cinemas and theme parks are their preferred venues.
Aerial view of IMG Worlds of Adventure

Giving Universal and Disney a run for their money the Persian Gulf states are dialing-up their entertainment investments in a big way.  This month the Galadari family is opening a theme park in Dubai.  The park will feature Marvel comics Spider-Man and The Hulk and other ventures that are aimed at keeping their thrill-seeking brethren at home, as well as, lure-in foreign tourists.

Called IMG Worlds of Adventure, the park is equal in size to 28 football fields and sits in the middle of the desert - but the park is totally enclosed!  In addition to the superhero attractions will be 69 life-sized robotic dinosaurs and a complete haunted hotel (where guests can stay). "Because virtually the entire park is indoors really gives us a competitive edge as we can run 12 months out of the year without weather issues", Leonard Francois Otto, CEO of IMG World told CMG.

Gulf countries from Saudi Arabia to Dubai are betting big on entertainment and tourism as a hedge against the the uncertainties of oil revenues. Dubai expects to attract 20 million tourists a year by 2020, the year in which it will sponsor the World Expo.  They are targeting Gulf and Indian visitors as there is a significant absence of entertainment destinations in the Gulf region and Indian subcontinent.

U.S. based companies such as Six Flags and Disney are lending their expertise. The world's fastest roller coaster is currently located in Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi.  The park is entirely centered around the Italian luxury car.  Also in Abu Dhabi is the on-going construction of a Warner Brothers park which will be based upon the studio's best-known characters, including: Superman, Batman, and Bugs Bunny.

Sound like a good bet for the Gulf states as everyone likes to be amused and entertained and it can all happen in a cool, air-conditioned space.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Too Much Technology?

In yesterday's post, Seymour paid homage to the sciences and technology and how they 'push forward' the realism of movie viewing.  To that end, the science of film-making always leaps ahead of the day-to-day duty of film exhibition.

A perfect case is the latest movie from director, Ang Lee entitled 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk'. The film, about an American war hero, is being touted as a cinematic first because of the digitally radical way it was filmed.  Problem: few cinemas will be able to exhibit the film because the normal digital projection systems are not technologically advanced enough to screen the film as intended.

The movie will premiere on October 14th at the New York Film Festival, at an especially outfitted auditorium at the AMC Lincoln Square Theater.  The film will be exhibited in 3-D, 4K ultra-high definition at a speed of 120 frames per second.  No film has ever been exhibited to the public using this format. Movies are normally screened at 24 frames per second, although higher rates have been used and most digital projection systems in the field can handle higher rates, such as 48fps.

At a cost of $48 million, Sony Pictures isn't risking much but the vast majority of the audience will view the film in regular 3D or 2D and not as it was intended to be seen.  IMAX, for example, can exhibit 3D films at a maximum of 60fps.

Those lucky enough to view 'Billy Lynn' at the AMC Lincoln will see the sharpest, most vivid, most realistic on-screen image they have ever seen - at a cinema or at home. The 110 minute feature stars Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Van Diesel, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker. It will open in wide release on November 16th.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's UP At The Movies - by Seymour Flix

Alibaba Gets Into Movies

Alibaba, the Amazon of China, started producing movies some time ago but the latest news is that it is going to build cinemas in which to screen them. Alibaba Pictures Group, a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant, will now be film producer, distributor, and exhibitor.

Although the box office growth within China has slowed, Alibaba, as well as, the Wanda Group (the large Chinese real estate developer and owner of the U.S. based AMC Cinemas chain and Legendary Studios) are betting that the Chinese theatrical box office will resume its rapid growth.

At the end of 2015 China had 31,600 cinema screens,  By the end of this year that number is expected to reach 40,000 - about equal to the U.S/Canada count but with 4X the population and lots of room for expansion.

Alibaba Pictures Group, CEO Zhang Qiang told CMG, "The company plans to build an integrated platform in the movie business and cinemas play a integral part in that."  To that end Alibaba recently set up a $300 million cinema investment fund.

Hollywood on the Chinese Menu

Speaking of the Wanda Group, they have been on in entertainment industry buying spree and there seems to be no let-up in sight.

Wanda Chairman, Wang Jianlin even stated, "My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China."  Although not forthcoming on the next acquisitions, a stake in scandal-ridden and ill-managed Paramount Pictures could be in the making.  "We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them.  If one of the big six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested. Only the six are real film companies."

In addition to the $3.5 billion Legendary purchase, Wanda, this year, paid $3.4 billion for an 'entertainment' development in Paris, a $10 billion investment in an industrial/entertainment park in Haryana, India,  the $1.1 billion  purchase of European cinema chain Odean/UCI, and the pending purchase of U.S. chain Carmike Cinemas.

CMG has often written on the changing face of the global entertainment industry, particularly the cinema sector, and it is becoming reality.  Pouring billions into cinema related entities bodes well for the future of the cinema but these investments haven't seen any real return.  The Chinese are astute investors but it is the creative community that drives the cinema business.

Science and the Cinema

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences puts emphasis on the Arts and the Sciences goes virtually unnoticed by moviegoers; however, it's the Sciences that push the industry forward. This year there are 12 science and technology categories which will be considered for Awards:

- High Resolution D-Cinema Cameras
- Motion Control Software 
- New Wireless Microphone Technology
- Computer printed, seamless Screen Backdrops
- Camera Flange Depth Measurement Devices
- Programming Language for Production Rendering
- Physically-based Shading and Light Transport
- Real-time Drawing Tools for Sketching and Makeup in Film Production
- Fast-reset Bullet Kit for Live-action Production
- On-set, Real-time Camera Tracking
- Electrode-less Plasma Arc Lamps
- Renderable, Life-sized Animatronic Horses

The final Awards will be presented on February 11, 2017.

 If it's all Greek to you don't worry, but keep in mind that it's the science and technology of film-making that is responsible for today's high-tech, action-based blockbusters.

S. Flix

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Animation to Live-action Films

The last few posts to CMG covered several trends regarding animated movies, and I wanted to talk about another - the industry's trend of turning animated assets into live-action remakes.  Disney, for example, has 'converted' or 'remade' 'The Jungle Book', 'Maleficent' and has several, such as, 'Beauty and the Beast', 'The Little Mermaid', and 'Dumbo' in the remake-works.

The studios have a huge reservoir of animated assets going back decades, providing excellent, ready-made story-lines which are known by consumers across the globe. In fact, Variety conducted a survey which asked which animated movies deserved a live-action remake. The results:

1. The Lion King
2. Other
3. How I Trained My Dragon
4. Spirited Away
5. Shrek
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox

If your favorite wasn't listed don't fret, the animated remake is here to stay and there are plenty of outstanding films that beg for a live 'convert'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

'R' Rated Animation and It's Big Future

'Sausage Party' had a very difficult time getting distribution.  At a cost of $19 million, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, owners of Point Grey Pictures, finally got Sony Pictures to co-produce and distribute. With an opening weekend of $33.6 million and a total gross of $43.6 million after its first week, this film has good legs and should stay strong throughout August.

What the adult animated movie does is fill a void in the cinema market. As is often stated in CMG, audiences are yearning for a fresh cinema - movies that are creative and innovative.

'Sausage Party' is a rare film in that there have not been many adult animations.  'South Park:Bigger, Longer, & Uncut' (1999) was the most successful of this rare breed and grossed over $83 million! Unfortunately, the major studios (which produce virtually all of the animated films) use the genre as family-friendly.  With huge production budgets the studios go for 'G', 'PG', with a rare 'PG-13 rating'. For the most part, animation equates to Disney. The issue is that 'R' rated animation must be marketed heavily as adult entertainment so it's not mistaken as a kid's film.

This summer saw another adult animated film, 'Batman: The Killing Joke'. Green-lit by Warner Bros. as a direct to video product it did get a very limited theatrical release (two days) but grossed a whopping $3.8 million!. This box office success did not go unnoticed at WB and other projects are now in the works.

Point of fact, the movie studios are behind the curve when it comes to adult animation.  This form of entertainment is thriving with the internet streamers.  Netflix has been capitalizing with a very loyal audience following for its 'Bojack Horseman', or FX's 'Archer', or the Cartoon Network's 'Adult Swim' are all very successful shows.

The big plus for the producers is that every animator wants to work in 'adult', be it at Warners, Disney, Sony or any other studio.  For decades the animation community was told what they could or couldn't do - now they can have full creative freedom and they all want it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

2nd Class Superheroes

How Superheroes rank
Akin to 'A' list and 'B' list actors, superheroes have reached a point where their swelling numbers demand a ranking.  Ironman and Captain America from the Marvel stable of heroes and Superman and Batman from DC Comics are at the top of the heap - garnering the most fans and biggest box office, these superheroes have carved a huge hole in the super genre.

Superman and Batman have been around for some time and are known to moviegoers - young and old alike. Superman first appeared on the big screen in 1978, with Christopher Reeve. Batman in 1989 with Michael Keaton.  Ironman first appeared in 2008 and Captain America in 2011. Other big superhero names include X-Men (2000), which spun-off Wolverine and Deadpool and, of course Spiderman (2002).

Many others have come and gone (or are dormant) such as: The Shadow, Blade, Spawn, Green Lantern, Ghost Rider, Catwoman, Daredevil, Hellboy, The Crow, The Punisher, and Green Hornet. While others have become 'B' listers: The Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Flash and the Fantastic Four.

Up-and-comers will be the reconstituted Wonder Woman, Dr. Strange, and the new Black Panther, and Captain Marvel.  Others are on the cusp, let's call them B+ers: Mutant Turtles, Watchmen, and the Avengers.  The newly screened Suicide Squad has hit it big at the box office but a sequel will tell whether or not it will be an 'A' lister.

Now there have been superheroes themes that were thrown against the wall but didn't stick, such as:

Middle-Aged Man, who has the power to jump-start cars and comprehend mortgages.

Mystery Men, a-la the Avengers or X-Men but includes: Blue Raja, who throws cutlery, Shoveler, who carries a shovel, and Captain Amazing, who knows what he/she does.

 and, Apathy Man, who has all the powers of Superman but can't be bothered to use them.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

What's Up At The Movies - by Seymour Flix

Art House Theater Day

Saturday, September 24th will be the debut of Art House Theater Day which will celebrate the independent, community-based movie theater.  It is a day that recognizes the contribution that the art house cinema has, and continues, to make to film, filmmakers, and film-goers.

A global event, over 160 U.S. art house theaters are participating, as well as, theaters in Canada, Australia, and Estonia.  Several film distributors are offering exclusive programs that can only be viewed at a participating art house.

Art house theaters are unique in their approach to movie exhibition in that they support films which otherwise would never be seen by the public. They represent the counter-culture to mainstream cinema and have a loyal following of patrons that love dramas, documentaries, and films covering social topics which are not screened elsewhere.  If you are lucky enough to have an art house theater in your area I urge you to support it and recognize that it is providing an entertainment alternative that, in most cases, expands the bounderies of film-making.

Redford At 80
Redford at 80, still going strong

Sticking with the art house theater theme, Robert Redford (dubbed the 'Godfather of the Indie') will be turning 80 next week. The two time Oscar winner and founder of the Sundance Film Festival has been in the movie business for over 50 years.

In a recent interview, Redford expressed his opinions regarding current issues facing the industry. On Oscar diversity, "I'm not into Oscars.  I'm not into that. I'm not focused on that. For me it's about the work. Diversity comes out of the word independence.  We don't take a position on advocacy. It's tough for films in general.  There are all sorts of threats to distribution."

Redford founded the Sundance Festival (now one of the world's largest and best) in 1981 and says, "My goal for Sundance was for it to serve as a platform to elevate documentaries. Independent films survive because of their value and because there are independent theaters that keep that survival going."

Starring in the just released Disney film 'Pete's Dragon' Redford says the film "bucks the trend in fantasy films" in that it is a story based on magic and imagination, both of which are sorely lacking in the current superhero movies.  Redford has starred in 43 films, directed 9, and narrated 26 others.

Happy Birthday Bob!

Under The Radar
Gibson in 'Blood Father'

The new Mel Gibson film, 'Blood Father' could (should) be a real sleeper and is a box office gem. The film is really very good and is in the genre of a 'Taken'.  Gibson plays an aging ex-con who makes a living as a tattoo artist.  When his daughter gets into trouble, it's Dad to the rescue.

Gibson is at his best in this film - that maniac facade a-la 'Lethal Weapon' coupled with the fatalistic demeanor of "Mad Max' or 'Payback'. Now in limited release, watch for it as it may become the next cult classic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Last month I posted that, thus far, the summer of 2016 was a box office flop but that it would make a comeback - and as predicted, the box office has roared back.

Coming off a $120+ million week, with the opening of  'Jason Bourne', it was followed up with the staggering opening of 'Suicide Squad' at $135 million - which has set the stage for a very good summer box office.

Although 'Suicide Squad' received very bad critical reviews, moviegoers were undaunted.  There was a real disconnect between the critics and audiences - which loved the film and gave it an overall B+ rating.  Those under 18 gave it an A rating.

At a cost of $175 million, Warner Bros. has a big hit but now needs to figure out if the DC Comics sourced film can match-up against Disney/Marvel franchises like Batman or Superman.  With 'Suicide's' gross, Warner Bros. crossed the $1 billion domestic box office mark for 2016 - the only studio to accomplish this 16 years in a row.

The 'Suicide Squad' is a team of super villains which do good for money, and it appears that they have struck the right cord with moviegoers.  54% of the audience were men, with over 50% of these under age 25.  The film was released on 4,255 screens and 381 IMAX locations. 'Jason Bourne' finish 2nd last week at $22 million, with 'Bad Moms' taking 3rd with $14.2 million.

For 2016, the dog days of summer are turning out to be manna from heaven as this weekend's domestic gross topped $230 million. People love going to the movies but they need a reason to visit - this week the reason was 'Suicide Squad'.   For the remainder of the summer the reasons will be: 'Pete's Dragon', 'Sausage Party', 'Ben Hur', 'Kubo and the Two Strings', and 'Don't Breathe' .

See you at the cinema.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Concissions - Concessions - Concessions

Frappa-whatevers are very popular
In real estate it's all about Location. For cinemas it's all about Concessions. Now, more than ever, food and food related topics are everywhere. Today it's not just about eating but eating different. Food has entered the fast changing world of trends - organic, gluten-free, zero calorie, free-range, whole grain, locally sourced, etc. and cinema concession is no exception.

What food items cinemas sell and how they are marketed is critical to maintaining and boosting concession profits.  What was a big seller yesterday may no longer be in vogue today.  We all know that traditional sodas have been on the decline for sometime, being replaced by energy drinks, flavored smart waters, tea-based beverages, and caffeinated drinks - such as cold-brewed coffee and frappa-whatevers.  For better or worse consumers' tastes and preferences change and cinemas must embrace these changes (which run through all age groups: from baby-boomers to generation Z'ers). Resisting change not only hurts sales but leaves the impression that your cinema is 'dated and out-of-touch'.

Popcorn sales are a cinema's main concession profit-generator and will remain so; however, all other concession items should be reassessed and eliminated/substituted if warranted.  The introduction of new products is essential and it is easy to determine which new products are winners and any concession item that doesn't sell must be dropped!

Like beverages, tastes in candy has also changed.  A significant segment of consumers have tired of the same old candy selection mix and have moved up-stream to the likes of Dove and Godiva.  While, nuts and dried fruits have become go-to candy substitutes and gelato the ice cream alternative.

Very cinema should take a hard look at their concession product mix. Analyze per-cap sales and compare it to prior years.  Even if the per-cap is increasing changing the mix may generate even more revenue.  Be critical.  Get staff input.  Query patrons on what products they would like to see made available and would purchase.  Concessions are the life-blood of any cinema so a great deal of time and effort must be placed on getting the mix right, introducing new products, and keeping your patrons happy and eating.

Friday, August 05, 2016

They Can't Win For Trying

Landsbury, now 90, never won a major award
With all of the squabbling about Oscar diversity, one thing is clear - there's certainly diversity in those actors who have never won either an Oscar or Emmy and which come first to mind when discussing Hollywood's finest.  Representing some of the hardest-working, dedicated, and very well known actors whose films have generated mega-box office bucks.  Here's the surprising list:

Tom Cruise: 3 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Angela Lansbury: 3 Oscar Noms. / 18 Emmy Noms.
Brad Pitt: 3 Oscar Noms. / 1 Emmy Nom.
Scarlett Johansson: 0 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Harrison Ford: 1 Oscar Nom. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Will Smith: 2 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Gary Oldman: 1 Oscar Nom. / 1 Emmy Nom.
Johnny Depp: 3 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Samuel L. Jackson: 1 Oscar Nom. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Amy Adams: 5 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Max von Sydow: 2 Oscar Noms. / 2 Emmy Noms.
Sigourney Weaver: 3 Oscar Noms. / 3 Emmy Noms.
Edward Norton: 3 Oscar Noms. / 0 Emmy Noms.
Steve Buscemi: 0 Oscar Noms. / 6 Emmy Noms.

The actors on this list have pretty much done it all and played a huge diversity of roles - they just don't seem to be well liked by the awards folks.  Critics, the press, and fellow actors should stop grumbling about awards diversity and why so-and-so didn't get such-and-such and reflect on this list of non-winners.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Summer Doldrums For Big Theater Chains

In the last several posts I noted that this summer's box office has been lackluster - a few big hits but overall a tight squeeze for most films including a number that were deemed to be blockbuster material.

To bolster my contention that moviegoers are tired of the same-old, AMC Theaters, the U.S.'s 2nd largest movie circuit, issued a statement reporting that they will be reporting "seriously diminished financial results" for the second quarter and see no upswing in the third quarter as well.  AMC takes no blame for their poor performance but puts it squarely at the door of the studios and their "poor film selection currently available for public consumption."

Now, while I tend to agree with AMC on the slate of films offered up this summer as being ho-hum, and more of the same - all of the blame can't be on the studios. As I recollect AMC put mega-bucks into down-sizing their overall seating capacity at its cinemas. Installing large reclining chairs and, in some cases, reducing overall seating by 40%. The less is more theory. Additonally, AMC is reporting that their per-capita concession is also down - and that rests squarely on AMC's shoulders.

Let's face it, moviegoers have been in the doldrums regarding movies this summer, and coupled with security issues and increased home entertainment options the act of going to the cinema is far less appealing unless there are compelling films, ie; Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, and Bad Moms which grossed over $100 million at the U.S. box office this past weekend.

Regardless of the poor summer showing movies are still the best entertainment value and there is nothing comparable to the big screen experience. Moviegoers will flock to see good films and they will be back.