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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Disney/Fox Deal A Sea-change For Movies

The combined company, 'New Disney', will boast a collection of top-tier franchises from 'The Simpsons' to 'Alien'.  This leaves the other studios looking anemic and much less powerful competitors as against the 'Old Disney or Fox'. Leaving Paramount (Viacom) and, to a lesser extent, Columbia (Sony) up against it and perhaps they are contemplating a merger/combination?

Universal, owned by the mega conglom Comcast, can hold its own. On the other hand, Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner will have to merge or be bought out.  AT&T (Verizon lost out on its bid for Warners) is now vying, awaiting approval from the Justice Department. Regardless, it appears that more combinations/buyouts of Hollywood is inevitable because they will need to compete against the Apples and Amazons which are turning their attention to becoming big media, as well as, big tech companies.

Impact of Movie Theaters

Disney had already been putting pressure on movie theaters by demanding a higher percentage of gross ticket sales for its films - the Disney/Fox combine will give Disney even more of an excuse to demand more from the exhibitors.  For 2017, Disney and Fox released a total of 30 major features and it is unlikely the combine will release as many going forward.  That gap however, I believe, will be filled by the silicon valley players.

Movie exhibition will be forced to add the likes of Netflix and Amazon to its roster of product deliverers for the big screen.  Exhibitors, large and small, will need to get creative and start to use their cinemas with a more diverse and inclusive product line.  On the flip side, Fox was very aggressive regarding the shortening of the exclusive theatrical release window, while Disney argued for a 90 day or longer exclusive theatrical runs.

CMG believes that anyway you slice it Disney just got a lot more formidable in the battle against all comers for entertainment craving eyeballs.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Saturday, December 09, 2017


There has been a take-no-prisoners war going on between content providers vs. content distributors for some years now.  The battles being pitched between the Hollywood studios (content) and digital domain stalwarts (distributors).

The Hollywood studios have, by and large, been the victims - gobbled-up by the likes of Comcast (Universal), Sony (Columbia), Fox (20th Century Fox), Paramount (Viacom), Time Warner (Warner Bros. cum Verizon).  Only Disney and MGM (privately owned) remain as intact old-line studios.

The war has raged within the digital domain as Amazon and Netflix maneuvered to take ownership of internet distribution of mass media content, particularly motion pictures.  Not only distributing Hollywood produced content but producing their own high-quality content.

Given this scenario, Disney's only play was to eat or be eaten. My own prediction was that Disney would be purchased by Apple (that could pay cash for Disney) as they have long had close relations so that fit would be the least painful for Disney

It now appears that Disney has decided to 'eat' and what it wants to consume is a big hunk of the Fox media empire.  Rumor has it that Disney will be offering Fox $74 billion for the 20th Century Fox film and TV studio, the FX Networks, National Geographic Channels, and 22 regional sports networks. Fox, it appears, wants out and views its assets as being at their peak value.

Disney is betting big that becoming significantly larger will one, prevent (or at least make very difficult) their own takeover, and two, become a much larger player in content production and distribution - the buzz word being 'scale'.  Disney would be the one old-school studio with the muscle to battle the social media giants.

Only time will tell if Disney has made the right decision.

Stay in touch,

Jim Lavorato

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Perversions Pile Up

It didn't take long, in fact - no time at all - for the accusations to start piling up against pols and entertainment fat-cats in the aftermath of the Weinstein sex scandal.  The avalanche of accusers pointing out sexual misdeeds has widened to include over 200 perverse individuals including Lauer, Hoffman, Ratner, Spacey, and Segal. Weinstein's accusers now number over 90 and growing!

Hollywood attorneys say their phones are ringing and vibrating (no sexual connotation implied) non-stop. Shawn Holley, a showbiz  litigator told CMG that, "Almost all of the women I've spoken with are still trying to figure out what, if anything, they want to do. They are exploring civil, as well as. possible criminal remedies." 

Women working in the entertainment industry, at all  levels, are coming forward with horror stories in numbers never imagined.  And journalists are chasing tip after tip pointing to claims of abuse, sexual impropriety, and far-reaching cover-ups. Talent agencies, studios, networks, and law firms are being scrutinized for their roles in enabling, concealing, and even participating in the perverse behavior.

One question being asked of the women accusers is: Did you tell your agent, and what did he or she do about it?  Actress Rae Dawn Chong stated that her agent, CAA, would send her on auditions where sexual harassment would take place. "Did I call my agent and tell him what happened and say how violated I was? Yes. And did CAA take the position of 'We'll protect you?' No. It became, 'Rae Dawn Chong's difficult'. And it did impact my career. Obviously, I left CAA promptly, because it was like a pimp situation."

Women and men who feel victimized are now much more comfortable sharing their experiences with supervisors and HR departments. We'll see how long this cleansing acts will continue but at the moment it appears their is no stop in sight.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bad Auditorium Sound - It Could Be The Audience

People impact the sound at a cinema
Sound tests and room equalizations are performed in unoccupied auditoriums. That, however, is not how the sound within the auditorium would be heard, because having an audience can make a huge difference in the sound.

It is debatable as to how much the audience impacts the sound but it does impact it. As the sound in an occupied auditorium is different than one unoccupied. 

First, there are acoustic changes due to the sound absorption introduced by the audience.

Second, there are transmission changes to the sound patterns (direct and reflected) caused by the audience absorption and associated temperature and humidity changes.

Third, ambient noise increases due to the audience itself and the accompanying chatter, movement, laughing, eating, etc.

Although all of these affects are known, there has been little written or discussed about them within the context of cinema sound issues.

People are very sound absorbing. How much they absorb is open to debate as it depends on the activity and posture of the person, as well as, if they crowded together or spread throughout the auditorium? Also a group of occupied seats in one auditorium will not sound the same in a second auditorium. It's also a fact that people absorb more mid and high frequency sounds than low  - particularly when sitting in upholstered seats.

So, it is easy to see that the introduction of large sound absorbing objects (people) will have a big impact on the sound within the auditorium. Introducing an audience into a space has a complex affect on the sound in terms of reverberation and reflection.

The next time your viewing a movie in a crowded auditorium it will sound very different if you viewed that movie two weeks later is a sparsely attended screening - and that difference will be substantial.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cinemas Turn On The Lights

How does a cinema determine when to turn the auditorium lights off and on when screening a movie? Do cinemas have any appreciation for the film when deciding when to flick the on/off light switch? Or are they just robotic in their care for the nuances of each movie they screen.

By law, cinemas must have adequate lighting for moviegoers to see where they are going within an auditorium - pre, during, and post screening. Most cinemas have lights up until the trailers start then they switch to half-up, when the feature starts lights, normally, go off except for aisle and exit lights.

Now, the vast majority of cinemas have automated lighting and dimmer systems interfaced to the projection system, so rarely does a human exercise discretion over the lighting on/off or dimming.
There is a credits off-set time on the actual hard drive the movie arrives on and which is ingested into the projection server.  The cinema places a cue in their automation system, which will bring down or up the lights at a precise moment in the presentation.

No two lighting systems are going to be the same from cinema to cinema and when many of today's films have med-credit and post-credit sequences when to bring up the lights is iffy.  For example, Marvel movies feature multiple post-credit sequences which set-up the next sequel in the superhero series. Many comedies have blooper scenes that run after the feature is over. However, lights will normally come-up automatically for those moviegoers wishing to exit the auditorium right after the feature ends.

So far as I know, no cinema has separate lighting policies for different genres of film - they simply set the cue according to their on-going practice. It is the policy of each cinema, guided by law, that set the lighting rules.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, November 05, 2017

What's Next? For the Movie Industry

The third 'Thor' killed it, with a $118m opening as the first 'holiday hit' and broke the box office slump which only had 'IT' to look back on.

'Thor:Ragnarok', a Disney/Marvel product was welcomed by moviegoers with open arms and Disney must be credited with excellent pre-promotion of the film - which hooked in fans. Hoorah!

As we're all aware, there are profound changes going on in the movie industry as it tries to find itself. In the throngs of a diminishing release window and competition from all sides the movie industry, particularly exhibition, knows that what worked in the past is no longer of value today. Compounded by a lack of big name blockbusters and Hollywood sexual revelations the U.S. box office is down over 5% from last year.

What is needed is good product to 'draw them in' and an engaging experience once at the cinema. Disruptors, like Netflix, plague the industry by not only buying new product for their platform but also producing there own content. So, if you can't beat'em join 'em. Movie exhibitors should consider deals with Netflix to screen day-and-date with Netflix releases.

In addition, cinemas should be considering:

- Hooking-up with Netflix on their serial productions. Screening an episode each week of the most popular Netflix originals.

- Work with the studios on tiered pricing for films. Charging more for the 'biggies' ala 'Star Wars' or 'Thor' and less admission for marquee fodder. The day of the one-price-fits-all movies is OVER.

- A monthly admission is also worth exploring.

-There are still many engaging genre films but they are not promoted properly. Concourse Media's new Mediabill and Playbill in partner with exhibitors is a good first-start and should be expanded upon. This is particularly true for Horror films which have always been good grossers.

- It's not a question of not enough product it's a question of promotion (the studios) and fulfillment (the cinemas). Consumers need to be engaged- the need for entertainment must turn into a want to go to the local cinema

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

AR & VR How Do They Impact The Movies

Concourse Media's developed Moviebill, an Augmented Reality (AR) based Playbill for the movie industry, is hawking its new wares to exhibitors.  Regal Entertainment, the second largest circuit in the U.S., has signed up and will began to use Moviebill next year.

How It Works

Each Playbill under the Moviebill moniker will promote one feature film in an AR experience -sharing behind-the-scenes footage, games, talent connecting, etc. Concourse is planning for Moviebill to debut in early 2018.  Regal would market this as a service to its moviegoers.

According to Regal spokesperson, Ken Thewes, "Moviebill provides an experience for moviegoers that helps bring the movie to life and promotes a deeper connection to the movies we exhibit. We believe Moviebill will help our goal of enhancing the moviegoing experience, providing movie fans more of what they want."

If it's experience moviegoers wish, Moviebill may be the enhanced preview (trailer) that will gin-up interest in any given film - it certainly can't hurt. No numbers were given as to the cost for Moviebill to the exhibitor, so we'll have to wait and see if the benefit at the box office out-weighs the cost.
This also presupposes a lot of movie fans have the required AR eyeglass to view the Playbills.

AR vs. VR What's The Difference

AR- Augmented Reality, takes current reality and adds something to it. It does not 'transport' the user to any other presence. Requires special AR glasses.

VR - Virtual Reality, transports the user to another place visually using a headset. VR is immersive while AR is not.

The VR business hasn't taken off as predicted by its stakeholders but it is progressing.  VR is available on gaming consoles and via mobile phone-based headsets.  Several companies have exited the VR business, such as Nokia, which halted development of its VR OZO camera system. Nokia cited, "slower than expected development of the VR industry".

According to Concourse Media, all of the major studios are working with it to provide exclusive AR experiences for the Moviebill scheme. 

Stay in touch,

Sunday, October 29, 2017

'Code of Conduct' for Oscars Academy

In light of the Weinstein scandal, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has decided to institute a Code of Conduct for its members.

The Academy expelled Weinstein, only the second member to ever be expelled, two weeks ago and has now issued a statement that its full Board of Directors (which numbers 57) will address the issue of having a code of conduct at its December and January monthly meetings.

"We have no intention of functioning as an investigative body or moral court" stated Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy, " but we are concerned about sexual harassment and predatory behavior in the workplace, especially in our own industry. To the end, we are taking steps to establish a code of conduct for our members, which will include a policy of evaluating alleged violations and determining if action regarding membership is warranted."

The Academy is consulting experts in law and ethics to gain an understanding of what they should institute. The goal is to maintain clear standards of workplace behavior for all of its members.

It's high-time the Academy had a conduct code, given all of the past decades of transgressions by its members. Hopefully it will not be too little too late but be a code that is strict and quickly enforced if violated.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, October 22, 2017

HORROR - The Genre of NOW

Horror may save the Cinema
Horror films are the truest example of escapism because unlike rom-coms, musicals, message dramas, historical pieces or even, high-impact action movies, horror as escapism reflects the traumatic times that are NOW.

Artificial terror is what the current moviegoer may be hankering. 'IT' may reflect the mood of the times - serving up oodles of fear and trepidation. A real symbol of the NOW, horror impacts all of us. Real or made-up it reveals a distorted, but related look into humanity as it now exists.

Horror films have always been known for their low risk/high return potential. With broad demographics and simplistic storylines the horror genre is about to save Hollywood and the cinema exhibition business. Easily adopted to sequels and reboots, horror has box office power.

As President Trump lamented during the campaign, "Make American Great Again", horror may be just what the local cinema needs to be great again.  Like America, horror movies are filled with baked-in fear and terror but in a perverse way are nostalgic and familiar.

So, go to the local cinema and scream, scream a lot for more horror.

Stay in touch,
Jim  Lavorato

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hollywood - Killing The Golden Goose

Weinstein: Hollywood's Avatar
I guess you can't write a blog about news and commentary regarding the cinema industry and not address the recent and on-going Weinstein sex crimes scandal.  Unfortunately, Hollywood's problem runs much deeper and is changing the way the average moviegoer views the people that control and star in films.  More importantly, I believe, people are going to address their displeasure by not going to view films at cinemas, and will simply stay at home and very selectively pick and choose the films or TV shows they wish to see.

Everyone who is anyone in Hollywood knew of Weinstein's sexual predator conduct over the last 30+ years and to say otherwise shows how corrupt they really are.  Hollywood has become a nepotistic, greedy, cruel, and false place run by megalomaniacs - and everyone knows it.  The veil has been lifted regarding the totally corrupt, self-centered, misogynistic egos of this privileged, filthy rich caste that is now called Hollywood - tacitly endorsed, I might add, by many of the top females in the industry.

Birds of a Feather
Pontificating on political and social issues while living in compounds and estates, constantly presenting each other with awards and accolades, and living in a world so remote from the average that their only concerns are stroking their egos, buying homes, cars, jewelry, and over-the-top what-evers. Sex, drugs, overdoses, rehabs, reinvents, remakes, it's all about second chances, and re-finding yourself for the glitterati.    From Streep to Clooney, from DeNiro to Lawrence and all the way to Weinstein the whole thing stinks.  And it has got to change for it to survive.

Harvey Weinstein is the perfect avatar for Hollywood. A fat, sloppy, self-indulged, 'Aqualung' figure. A pig of a man who used his position, wealth, and cruel cunning to feed his sexual needs at the expense of young women and their naive view of the perverse Hollywood culture.

The Hollywood elite have it made yet they are traveling down a road of self-destruct.  Killing the goose that laid their golden egg they quickly need to reassess and shed their facade of phony liberal do-gooderism and address their dark-side and inner demons. If they don't they will loose their audience and not only them but the local cinema will suffer - and that is what I care about.

Jim Lavorato
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

'SONIC' Goes Large

'Sonic The Hedgehog'
Any video gamer knows the game 'Sonic The Hedgehog' and Paramount Pictures thinks Sonic deserves a place on the big screen. The Sega video game franchise, of the same name, was launched over 26 years ago and has sold more than 360 million copies including digital games on consoles, tablets, and mobile.

For those of you non-gamers, the game features a hedgehog named Sonic who is on a quest to defeat Doctor Robotnik, an evil scientist.  The game has been enormously successful and established the Sega Genesis console player.

The film will be a combo live action and animation and will be Sonic's first film. CMG predicts that 'Sonic The Hedgehog' will be a big box office hit upon release.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fandango: Getting Scalped In Ticketing

In the September issue of ScreenTrade Magazine, an article/analysis, of Fandango, the on-line cinema ticketing service, by CMG entitled 'New Fanbase', detailed why Fandango was in a downward spiral and destined to become a much less significant player in the cinema industry.

To bolster my analysis, I stated that Fandango's purchase of Rotten Tomatoes, the on-line movie critics service, was too little too late, as RT was no longer relevant given consumers use of social media and their own, instantaneous, reviews of movies.  It seems that this viewpoint has been validated as a recent study, conducted by the University of Southern California, and reported in last week's issue of Variety Magazine, found out just that!  The article in Variety, 'Rotten Tomatoes Scores Don't Impact Box Office', debunked the notion that Rotten Tomatoes had an influence on box office performance.

The study, conducted at the University's Entertainment Technology Center concluded that RT scores have a very small, if any, role in determining box office performance - good or bad.  "There is virtually no difference between Rotten Tomatoes' critical scores and audiences' scores and the more successful the film the smaller the difference" stated Yves Berquist, Director of the Technology Center, "which means that audiences are becoming experts at smelling-out bad films." To wit: they don't need Rotten Tomatoes for movie ratings and its use will eventually be rendered irrelevant.

For the full analysis go to the CMG post entitled 'Fandango's FanShop: A Bit Too Late' 3/18/17'

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Theatrical Window Closes A Little More

Last week, Michael Burns, V. Chair. at Lionsgate Studios predicted that all of the major film studios would reach a deal with cinema exhibitors on the launch of a premium video-on-demand window for new theatrical releases within a year!

Speaking at a conference in NYC, Burns stated, "some level of PVOD offering will be available to consumers within 12 months once details, such as pricing and the length of time between a film's theatrical release debut and the early home entertainment offering are hammered out."  Burns went on to say that Disney would be the only studio that would opt out of the deal.

Under the proposal, the current 90 day window between theatrical and home releases would be shortened to 17 days - giving exhibitors three weekends for exclusive screening of any film.

CMG has always been of the mind that eventually all movies would be released day-and-date across all distribution platforms.  This deal moves the bar closer to CMG's inevitable prediction.

Cinemas, large and small, MUST prepare and ensure that their operations are running at max-performance.  Investment in high sound quality and best on-screen image is without question a must-do.  Showmanship and moviegoer engagement are requisite.  It is only in this way that the local cinema will survive.  In many cases, this will entail investment that cannot be fueled by on-going operations but from outside sources, such as loans or leases.

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fox Goes Family

Not to be outdone by a faltering Disney, 20th Century Fox is dialing-up the number of family films it produces. The Fox strategy is to produce and distribute a major animated film each year with several sub-majors during the year.

Up to now, Fox has not been producing any family-friendly animation but has been distributing pictures from DreamWorks, that deal is ending as DreamWorks was required by Comcast, which also owns Universal Pictures, severed the relationship.

To counteract this situation and to accomplish their goal of producing their own animated films, Fox has entered into a long-term co-production and development deal with Locksmith Animation.  Fox, which owns Blue Sky Productions, the makers of the 'Ice Age' films, plans on augmenting Blue Sky's slate of films.

Three projects are currently in development with the plan being Locksmith's first film with Fox will screen at cinemas in the fall of 2020.  Although tight-lipped about the project, rumors have it that the movies will be entirely original and not based on books or pre-existing intellectual property.

Animation is big at the boxoffice typically out-grossing most other genres. Locksmith originally had lined-up a deal with Paramount but that fell through when Paramount installed a new CEO, Jim Gianopulos, who didn't like the deal.

We wish Fox and Locksmith the best and look forward to their films.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Monster Opening, And We Need 'IT'

This summer's box office was a nightmare for exhibs. It was scary and there were many sleepless nights of worry.  Wouldn't it be ironic if a scary movie was responsible for bursting the summer b.o. doldrums.  Well it may just happen with the debut of 'IT' tomorrow.  The New Line film is expected to gross $75 million domestically and is what movie audiences have been waiting all summer for.

Reaching $75 would make this R rated horror film the biggest September opener of all time!  Coming off a summer which was the worst in 20 years, 'IT" will make everyone happy. It's not a sequel or remake - trends that may have been partially responsible for the lackluster b.o. of late. 'IT" seems to be reaching out beyond the horror hard-core and appealing to mainstream moviegoers, as well as, Steven King fans.

Rumor has it that a sequel is already in the works. As the current 'IT' centers on the children, the sequel will follow them to adulthood. No release date for the 'IT' sequel has been announced.

We are all hoping that 'IT" brings them back into the cinemas and is the start of a great fall and holiday season at the box office. We need something to scare us out of the current cinema blahs.

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cinemas Must Target Millennials

It's now official, Millennials (born 1981-1999) are the largest generation in U.S. history.  There are 92 million of them vs. 77 million Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the Mills are moving into their prime spending years.
You have to market Mills. 'socially'

They are moving up in the corporate ranks, starting up businesses, getting married, starting families, buying homes, and looking for engaging entertainment and recreation.  The Mills differ from the Boomers in that, for example, they don't value cars and don't allocate large portions of their discretionary spending on them.  They think Uber. They think a sharing economy.  They don't value luxury the way the Boomers do. They are mistrustful of high-price points and expect brands to offer premium performance . They think iPhone.

For entertainment they like dining out, live concerts, and blockbuster films.  They will spend hundreds of dollars to attend a concert of their favorite entertainers. They like (want) immersive entertainment and experiences. Most importantly, they have different ways of engaging the world and learning about products and brands. Given this, cinemas must engage Mills and market to them on their terms. Here are some hints:

- Mills. expect premium performance but with pricing that is inclusive and within reach
- Validate businesses via social media. So if you are not marketing via social get on it.
- Spend time in digital communities, blogs, etc.
- Heavily focused on mobile-browsing and instant information gathering
- React to digital, visual-only marketing
- When engaging with a business they expect vitality, credibility, honesty
- Positive reaction to promotional events and ads

Marketing to seniors is great but they are a dying customer base (literally). All businesses need to 'sell' to millennials and it is a very different sell. You must engage them and cater to their biases.

Jim Lavorato

Monday, August 21, 2017

Paying Admissions Forward: Will It Work

 CMG has previously posted about newly-hatched subscription based services were members pay a monthly fee for the right to go to a cinema and view a movie as often as they wish - the biggest of these being 'MoviePass' . At that time, CMG reported  MoviePass was having problems scaling its operation, but last week it shocked the movie exhibition industry by announcing that is was going to allow its members to view a movie a day for a subscription fee of $9.95 per month.

AMC Theaters, the U.S.'s largest cinema chain, quickly responded by announcing that it was going to pursue legal action against MoviePass. For sure MoviePass currently loses money but its scheme is that over time movie exhibitors and the studios will recognize their value and cut them in on increased profits, principally for higher concession sales. However, one of the big stumbling blocks is that most cinemas (large or small) have their own loyalty programs and prefer to enhance these.

According to Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, "we can increase attendance on average by 111%, increasing, not only admissions, but much higher concession sales." Currently, MoviePass purchases movie tickets and re-sells the tickets to its subscribers at a much reduced rate - losing money on each transaction.  But Lowe predicts that, in "the future they will cut the company in on their additional profits. We know we have to prove the value we deliver and we should be able to work together in a constructive manner so that everybody makes more money." WOW.

Well, where should I start? MoviePass may be a great idea but its implementation is unsustainable. For early subscribers it is a great deal, but how long can it last? Unless MoviePass can get the big chains on board, it's a doomed concept, and at the moment, it looks as though exhibitors are not embracing the strategy.  Overhauling the cinema admission business is quite simple - produce and distribute movies that consumers want to go to the cinema to view. It's not as if the folks will go to the cinema more because of a cheap admission to films they don't want to see anyway.

CMG believes MoviePass is missing the motivation of moviegoers - it's not all about price but product. 

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Online Reviews - The Terrible Truth

If your cinema has a website and/or uses social media of any sort you are going to get reviews. Online reviews can be your biggest curse or the love of your life, and are one of the few things about your business that are totally out of your control.

A few words posted next to a five-star scale rating can be do or die for a business.  A recent survey by ReportLinker found the following regarding online reviews.

- The level of trust by consumers of online reviews is incredibly high.  59% of consumers believe that online reviews are as trustful as personal recommendations, with a full 7% saying that online reviews are more trusted than personal recommendations.

-33% of consumers go to search to find reviews, with 25% going directly to review websites.  That means that two-thirds of all customers go to other websites than yours to look for reviews.

- Besides search engines, like Google, top social sites for finding reviews were Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. 

- When taking about specific product reviews, Amazon and eBay lead the way, with 57% of consumers using them for product reviews.

- 51% of the surveyed respondents admitted they had written a review within the last 12 months.  49% said they review when they are very satisfied, while 34% said they review when very dissatisfied.

- Content matters most in reviews (not credibility). 62% of consumers said that content of the review was most important and not the credibility of the reviewer - now that's scary.

CMG's advice: be on the constant lookout for reviews about your cinema and address them.  Bad reviews can be very hard to cope with but nonetheless are real and have to be addressed. Be proactive with reviews and try to return comment for good and bad reviews.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Plot Thickens: Telecoms Enter The Arena

Media: all things, for all people, all the time
If it wasn't bad enough with the tech companies entering the media/movie business with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple and others entering and grabbing up media companies and film studios but now the giant telecoms are entering the arena.

AT&T purchased DirectTV in 2015 and is now awaiting regulatory approval for its acquisition of Time Warner. That purchase would provide AT&T the Warner Bros. studio, HBO, and CNN, among other digital content providers. This is the new media landscape - and telecoms, like tech companies, want in on the action and profits.

AT&T's Mobility Entertainment Group, is spearheading its foray into mass media and according to Dave Christopher, its Head, "there's this big convergence going on between telecom and media and we believe the opportunity to create new and great experiences for customers going forward."

CMG believes that there is no one-size-fits all in the entertainment sector. Investment, acquisition, and merger across the media landscape is required to meet the wide variety of consumer needs - from movies at cinemas to sports on your wristwatch. Having solutions for different customers is the name of the game for media giants: movies, streaming, social outlets, and mobile distribution are all on the agenda.  All will be important to serve-up and fill the voracious appetite for entertainment that is now global in nature.

Friday, July 28, 2017

IMAX: A Case Study

Developed  in the early 1970s, IMAX offered a larger on-screen image with much higher resolution than conventional films of the time.  IMAX systems were marketed principally to special, non-profit venues such as: museums, aquariums, science centers, planetariums, etc. Content was 40 minute nature documentaries which were produced in collaboration with one or several of these special venue facilities.

Great, award-winning docu-films like, 'Mount Everest', 'Antartica' and 'Roving Mars' were produced and made the rounds of the increasing number of giant screen venues that were constructed around the world. However, these films were not profitable for IMAX and it was inevitable that they would have to venture into the main stream consumer market. Thus began the production and screening of docus like 'The Rolling Stones: Live At The Max' - but again the cost of production and limited distribution made profit generation illusive.

So, IMAX went wide and started to screen conventional films blown up to accommodate their large format. This became much easier when digital cinema was introduced and much less expensive. IMAX, for the last decade has become locked-into the Hollywood blockbuster and 3D genres.
However, IMAX stills suffers from its original problem - not enough content.

It's normally gangbusters at the boxoffice in the first two weeks of a run at an IMAX venue and then attendance dies off.  Price is one reason. In a quick survey, conducted for this article, the prices for admission to an IMAX ranged from $13.50 to $20.00. Another reason, is that conventional theaters have gotten larger with some auditoriums having screens as large as an IMAX and, in some cases, superior sound. This combination leaves IMAX theaters empty or near empty for weeks, with no new product to screen.

Lack of content will weigh heavily on the IMAX theaters going forward, coupled with increased competition from conventional cinemas and high admission pricing the outlook isn't rosy. We may see IMAX going back to its roots and revert to producing one-off documentaries for the special venue giant screen locations. Only time will tell.

Jim Lavorato


Monday, July 24, 2017

Body Language: It's How We Communicate

What Is Your Body Language Telling Others
Only 5% of our communication with others is verbal - the other 95% is communicated through our body language.  Understanding this non-verbal communication is crucial to getting the most out of our relationship with other people. We all have relationships with others on a daily basis.  The waiter, the store clerk, family members, co-workers, friends etc. we have relationships with everyone we come in contact with - and they are communicating with us via their body language.

In this two part post I will be discussing what to look for and what others are telling you through their body language and, perhaps more importantly, what you are telling them through your movements, gestures, and poses.

Worst Body Language Faux Pas:

- Avoiding Eye Contact: This is a signal of deception, or worse, a lack of respect. Keep eye contact with others in conversation.

- Slouching: Shows a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem. You are unsure of your position and signals weakness.

- Weak Handshake: Both men and women should have a firm handshake. A weak shake indicates a lack of authority. However too firm a shake for too long shows aggression and is just as bad as a weak shake.

- Folding Arms: Indicates discontent and lack of interest. Also signalling 'shut-down' and withdrawal in men and women but women may do this for warmth reasons.

- Looking Down: Particularly when making a salient point in a presentation or at a meeting looking down saps all the power out of your argument and indicates weakness.

- Angling Body Away From Others: Shows that you are uncomfortable, distrustful, or disinterested in the subject under discussion.

- Fidgeting & Touching Hair: Women do this but notice how many men fidget with their hair. This can reveal discomfort and anxiety, and a lack of self-confidence.

- Invading Others Space: 18" for N. Americans is about right. Being too close to others makes them feel uncomfortable and could show aggression on your part.

- Frowning/Scowling: The most unconscious of communications these facial indicators show unhappiness and/or disagreement.

These are a few of the worst body gestures or poses and are very telling about the feelings of others. Be aware of them when dealing with others and of using them yourself.

In the next post we will discuss the cross-cultural aspects of body language and signs.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, July 20, 2017

H'wood's Aging Franchises

Domestically, once sure bet box office franchise films, like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Transformers' are now failing to fill seats at the local cinema.- making for a tough 2017 summer.

Big name franchises that the studios could count on for the next blockbuster sequel are now marquee fodder and are hard-pressed to justify their fourth and fifth versions. The studios have made little attempt to correct the situation and when they have the results have been depressing.

Recent attempts to build new franchises have failed. For example, 'King Authur: Legend of the Sword' from Warner Bros. was met with a box office yawn.  'The Mummy', which was touted as being the movie needed to kick-start Universal's Dark Universe of monsters and sci-fi creatures, failed to connect.

On the bright side, 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', was a successful reboot but it stands alone. 'War for the Planet of the Apes' held its own and cinemas are looking for big gates from 'Atomic Blonde', and 'Dunkirk'.  There is always an ebb and flow from year-to-year in box office results but this summer was not one where franchise films performed. It should be noted that what didn't do well domestically did very well globally.  For example, 'The Mummy' and 'Transformers' earned over 75% of their grosses overseas and 'Pirates' did over $565m worldwide.

This dichotomy in box office gate between domestic and international points to the fact that it is getting harder to create films that appeal to every audience around the world.  There is a disconnect between what plays well in the U.S. and what overseas moviegoers view as must sees.

Still, 2017 may not turn out all that bad, as the fall and holiday films look very promising. 'Justice League', 'Coco', and 'Star Wars: The Last  Jedi' will all be big hits and led the pack. They  may just push 2017 into record territory.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eastwood Biopic to Star Real-life Heroes

Eastwood with real-life heroes/actors
Not many filmmakers would take the risk of casting non-actors as the major stars in a film, but Clint Eastwood is doing just that in his next movie entitled, 'The 15:17 to Paris'.

In this very risky move, Eastwood is casting Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spenser Stone to play themselves in this bio-pic about three Americans who stopped a terrorist on a train bound for Paris. The three heroes will have major roles and be supported by professional actors. This film will be Eastwood's follow-up to the box office hit 'Sully' which starred Tom Hanks.

Eastwood stated that he began a wide-ranging search for the actors who would portray the three Americans.  The studio and Eastwood made their choices but at the very end and right before signing the contracts Eastwood decided to have Sadler, Skarlatos, and Spenser play themselves (the three authored a book by the same name upon which the movie is based).

The film will begin in their childhood (these roles played by professional actors) and depict their friendship leading up to the moment that changed their lives on the train to Paris. This will be Eastwood's third real-life hero movie following 'Sully' and 'American Sniper'.  Another film, entitled 'Impossible Odds' the story of Jessica Buchanan, a humanitarian worker who was kidnapped while working in Somalia and later rescued by Navy Seals may be his next.

This film will be another box office winner for cinemas and CMG believes will be bigger than 'Sully' or 'American Sniper'.

Jim Lavorato

Friday, July 14, 2017

Studios Try To Fight Back, Is It Enough

Back in 2014, Disney acquired an on-line production company called Maker Studios for $675 million.  For almost three years nothing was heard of Maker and what Disney was to do with their new internet venture. In 2014, Maker was comprised of over 60,000 YouTube channels (yes, that's right 60k) and had no real mission other than to produce a myriad of live streaming videos in the hopes that several would stick and develop an audience.

Obviously Disney had other plans. Coming out-of-the-closet last week was 'Disney Digital Network'  A newly formed entity that is a blend of the former Maker Studio and Disney's own brand of on-line entertainment.  Pared-down to less than 1,000 channels, the new venture will focus on a singular audience - a Disney family-friendly audience.

So, after  a whole-lot of reorganization and restructuring, Maker has now officially been folded into the Disney family and ready for it's debut as part of the new 'Disney Digital Network'.

Disney has big plans for its digital network which will encompass a broad range of digital channels, all of its social accounts, home websites like Disney.com, and a separate content studio.  Disney believes that the resulting network will be able to reach 1 billion consumers globally and be heavily skewed toward millennials and Gen Z viewers.

Disney has been a leader among the studios in embracing the inevitable digital onslaught and has, thus far, managed both the movie and web-based audiences each serves extremely well.  Problem is that serving both, over the long-haul, takes lots of money and lots of talent and Disney may not be up to the task by itself.  CMG believes that over time Disney, like the other studios, will have to partner-up with one of the big tech or communications companies, my guess is Apple.

Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Auto-Generated Movies, It's What's Next

You heard it here first - movies generated by computers using Artificial Intelligence.  Given some of the movies I've viewed in the last few years this is probably a move forward in film making.

For years filmmakers, writers, musicians, post-houses, etc. have used technology to better their work, making it easier and more efficient and given rise the the myriad of content the industry has become saturated with.  So, it was only a matter of time until AI auto-generated movies would come to be.

Technology has assisted in all of the creative aspects of movie-making and now is the time when the 'assist' becomes the 'do'. To prove the future, IBM sponsored 'Storytellers With Watson', a two-month contest on how media and entertainment pros can use AI in film making.

The winner of the contest, Seth Grossman, developed what he called, 'Rip-o-matic With Watson' which recognizes meaning in images and language for video (film) editing to automatically generate a sizzle-reel preview of a movie or TV show based on the script.  Grossman's idea is to use AI to analyze, index, and splice together rips (known in filmdom as takes) from videos that represent a film maker's vision, by recognizing information in images, as well as, classifying their meaning in sets of written information.  The AI software, Watson, would find and splice together the content that best matches the script, including specific lines, time periods, and locations. What this all means is that the winner is the audience, because as Rip-o-matics gets better and more refined better movies will be made.

Obviously the whole concept of using AI in making movies is still in infancy but the writing is definitely on the wall. The other finalists in the IBM 'Watson' contest proposed using AI for choreography assist, to simplify script review, to improve film marketing, and to enable real-time language translation.

According to IBM's Rob High, "Technology helps all of us find opportunities where we didn't know it existed. We can use cognitive computing to help us to make better decisions." 

An area where Watson is currently being used is for an AI program called 'ScriptAloud'.  which uses Watson's Text to Speech Analyzer to transform written scripts into audio files available for casting directors and producers so they don't have to read film scripts.

CMG firmly believes that AI generated films are not that far off - it's tech trumping media once again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Anime: Cinema's Next Blockbusters?

There are millions of amine fans throughout the world. Normally males in their twenties amine fans are totally dedicated and fiercely loyal.
Fans at Anime Expo

Anime is essentially adult cartoons.  Started in Japan the genre has become huge and a gathering of thousands took place in Los Angeles this week for the annual Anime Expo.

Heretofore, anime was in book form or video over the internet on such streaming channels as 'Crunchy Roll' or 'Hulu' but last year big tech entered the world of anime - and in a big way.  Seeing the potential of a massive global fan base, both Amazon and Netflix entered the fray.

Anime has serial shows. For example, Amazon is streaming a show called 'Scum's Wish' while Netflix 'Little Witch Academia'.  Additionally, there a hundreds of series and movies from Japan, which are all accessible on line. Anime has gotten so big that Amazon recently launched a subscription service dedicated to the genre called, 'Anime Strike' and Netflix is starting to produce its own original anime content. Both streamers are also buying content directly from Japanese anime production companies.

This new and growing genre has not gone unnoticed by the Hollywood studios and, I believe this could develop into seat-fillers at cinemas. Anime on the big-screen has to happen. Not only are the stories and characters known by vast numbers of fans but anime could replace comic superhero films which are fatiguing.  In addition the anime market, is replete with merchandising of themed toys, snacks, and a huge array of consumer products from T-shirts to key chains.

Two of the biggest U.S. based anime streamers, 'Crunchy Roll' and 'Funimation'  have large fan bases of their own. 'Crunchy Roll' ranks in the top 10 overall subscription services, just below HBO and ahead of Showtime and Funimation  isn't far behind.  Make no mistake, anime is big business and growing rapidly. 'Crunchy Roll' costs $6.95 per month, while 'Funimation' is $5.95. 'Anime Strike' is $5 per month but requires an Amazon Prime membership. 'Daisuki' another popular streaming service is $5, as well.

CMG believes anime will be a big on the big screen. It's apparent that the genre has a large, dedicated and growing fan base which cannot be ignored by Hollywood. Anime will pick up the slack of the Marvel and DC comic characters-which are fast becoming old. Do we really need another 'Iron Man' sequel?

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Exhibitors FINALLY Get Smart ... and Unite

GCF too little - too late?
Motion picture exhibitors have finally joined forces by forming a global alliance to address major industry issues that have been impacting them for decades. Long in coming, this type of collaboration attests to the slow, myopic nature of the cinema exhibition industry and the ineffectiveness of their trade groups.

However, at last, in an effort to present a united front a group of exhibitors has formed the Global Cinema Federation (GCF), a new group that will represent many of the world's major cinema operators.

Membership is open to all exhibitors with at least 250 screens and the national trade associations. Smaller exhibitors will be allowed to support the Federation and will be kept abreast of all of its activities and developments.  The first meeting of GCF was held during the recent annual CineEurope Convention in Barcelona and will meet again during CineAsia and CinemaCon.

Facing a diminishing distribution window, internet content streamers, piracy, poor studio relationships, and ever improving home entertainment cinema exhibition does not portend a rosy future - hopefully the GCF will provide a much stronger voice on behalf of the global exhibition community. Alegendro Ramierez Magana, CEO of the Cinepolis Cinema Group, and one of  GCF's prime movers, told CMG, "we are still working on the exact role of the Group and developing our positions on key issues, lobbying role, and education."

Members include: AMC Theaters, Cinemark, Cineplex, Cinepolis, Cineworld, Event Cinemas, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathe, Regal Group, Vive International, Wanda Cinema and others, including trade associations: International Union of Cinemas, and the National Association of Theater Owners.

CMG wishes all the best to the Global Cinema Federation but believes it is too little - too late. A group such as this should have existed decades ago when they might have had some clout. Now we are too far down the road - there is no stopping the internet streaming juggernaut and no real strong cards for exhibitors to play.

Nuff said,

Jim Lavorato

Sunday, June 25, 2017

'Wonder Kitty'

The Japanese love cuteness, and what is cuter than 'Hello Kitty', the ubiquitous Kitty that is recognized globally. So, it's natural that, for the first time ever, Hello Kitty will be promoting a movie - that being the new 'Wonder Woman'.

The 'Wonder Woman' and 'Hello
'Hello Kitty' Wonder Woman outfit.
Kitty' tie-in is for the scheduled opening of the movie in Japan on August 25th. Sanrio, the owner of 'Hello Kitty', designed a custom superhero costume for Kitty - with red, blue, and gold detailing, high-boots, and a Lasso of Truth.

'Wonder Woman's' director, Patty Jenkins, is a big fan and collector of all things related to 'Hello Kitty' and approved of the collaboration as did Warner Brothers, Wonder Woman's production studio and distributor.

Tickets have already gone on sale in Japan, and each advanced ticket purchaser will receive a Wonder Woman and Hello Kitty rubber key-chain or limited edition reproduction of the first Wonder Woman comic book which appeared in 1941.

In Japan, the movie's promotion and trailers are playing up Wonder Woman's innocence and pureness which are all part of the movie's promotion and, of course, Kitty's traits.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Cinema SCOOP by Seymour Flix

Media Giants Form Alliance to Fight Piracy
Big Media's new ACE coalition

Normally fighting tooth-and-nail, a group of entertainment content producers have joined forces to fight a common enemy - piracy!

The new global coalition (comprised of 30 entities) has been dubbed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) with the goal of reducing the prevalence of online piracy. The group plans to conduct research, work with law enforcement, and engage with companies responsible for the internet ecosystem, such as Google and other ISPs.

ACE brings together a group of companies which normally compete fiercely with each other: Amazon, the BBC, Bell Canada, CBS, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, MGM, Netflix, Universal, Fox, and Disney to name several of ACE's participating members.  The group brings a level of cooperation as yet unseen between these diverse content producers and distributors.

Content piracy has been rampant and getting worse, despite great efforts to stem its growth by such groups as the Motion Picture Association of  America.  In 2016, internet users streamed over 100 billion pirated productions.

Hollywood Goes GREEN with PEACH and PEAR
Hollywood's Green Initiative

It was a busy week for acronyms in tinsel-town, as in addition to the ACE coalition, in a show of unity to foster its goal to cut carbon emissions, the major movie studios teamed-up to form the Green Production Guide (GPG).  All of the studios were front and center for this green initiative: Amblin, Fox, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony, and Warners are all committed to collaborating with GPG.

Now, the GPG includes the Production Environmental Actions Checklist (oh yes, PEACH).  The goal of PEACH is to have movies and TV shows be awarded the Green Seal, which denotes the productions level of  "green-ness".  This Green Seal is given based upon the Production Environmental Accounting Report (you guessed it, PEAR), a carbon calculator which computes a production's carbon emissions.

On their face, both PEACH and PEAR appear to be good initiatives because, as we all know, movie and TV production has not been very environmentally friendly here-to-fore. Good luck Hollywood.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Going To The Movies" - What Does It Mean To You

The phrase 'Going to the movies' is uniquely American yet global in use.

People, in the U.S., don't go to the movies as frequently as they once did as many have turned into homebodies.  TV technology and content streaming to all manner of personal device have given rise to viewing only the cream-of-the-crop at the megaplex.

To counteract this trend cinema operators are upgrading seating, improving and expanding concession offerings, and exhibiting the best in viewing entertainment with big screens and big sound. In turn, the studios have morphed into generators of  big budget and big risk blockbuster sequels, prequels, and reboots.

The megaplexes of the '80s and '90s are becoming passe' - huge structures that demand a continuous volume of product to fill their screens. Fully reclining seats and table service at your seat of food and drink is the new megaplex normal.  But, one must keep in mind, that there ain't no home screen wide enough, and there ain't no home sound big enough to ever replicate the full sensory immersion of 'going to the movies'.

'Going to the movies' is a ritual that has been honed over the decades. Most people can remember the first movie they viewed at a cinema - it was a coming of age event. In many cases, 'going to the movies' was one of  the first venues that many parents allowed their children to frequent without them.

'Going to the movies' is still the universal 'first date place'.  It is also the place where our inner likes and dislikes play themselves out - horror movie devotee, superhero addict, rom-com watcher, tear-jerker aficionado - there is a film genre for everyone.

 People go to the movies with others to have a shared experience - that can be discussed and debated. 'Going to the movies' is still exciting - the sharing of concessions, the dimming of the lights when the movie starts, the anticipation of being swept away into a story.

There is nothing like 'going to the movies' and that experience is here to stay. It's unique because it is personal yet communal and enjoyed by all.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Great Medical News For Cinemas

Yes, the word from the medical industry (at least some in it) believe that Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other entertainment content internet streamers should come with a health warning label.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) , if you are staying up way past you normal bedtime because you wanted to get through a season of your favorite TV series you are putting your health in peril.

Binge-watchers that fail to get enough sleep are in danger of suffering deteriorating "mood and cognitive abilities" stated the AASM last week.  In very bad cases, sleep deprived viewers are at risk of being "in a workplace accident or drowsy-driving crash!"

This is great news for cinemas. No binge watching there. And no 2am showings. The AASM recommends that adults get, at least, seven hours or more of sleep nightly.  The AASM, whose members comprise sleep professionals and doctors, said it's unwise to scrimp on getting the adequate amount of sleep no matter how compelling the entertainment.

You can stream your favorite shows in moderation. "responsible binge-watching is the way to balance your personal entertainment with you health and well-being" recommends the AASM. The group gave the following tips for binge-watching:

- Set an episode limit each night
- Take a break between each episode to get out of the "auto-play loop"
- Download episodes on your smartphone to control how many you watch at once
- Schedule time on the weekend to catch up on your favorite shows
- Minimize brightly lit screens by using screen settings that filter blue light after sunset

Binge viewings is bad! Nuf said.  Movies in cinemas are good for your health. Ok, we won't get into the concession part, but dang, going to the cinema is exciting, uplifting, and a healthy form of entertainment.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Theatrical Release Window Under Siege

The exclusive release window for movie theaters is under siege - and from all quarters.

Last week Redbox, which operates the red DVD kiosks seen in supermarkets, malls, drug stores, etc. inked a deal with Warner Brothers whereby all Warner movies will be available for rental at all Redbox kiosks just seven days after their retail sell-through date.

Despite the decline in overall DVD sales, Redbox movie rentals are still very much in demand.  This year it plans on installing 1,500 new kiosks across the U.S. which will bring its total 'rental boxes' to over 40,000!

Prior to this deal, Warner Bros. movies were on a 28 day delay before Redbox was permitted to rent them.  Currently, Lionsgate and Paramount have a 16 days deal. Redbox has no current deal with Sony or Disney and must purchase their DVDs in the open market. Redbox charges $1.50 per day for a regular DVD and $2 for a Blu-ray rental.

Outerwall, the parent company of Redbox, was purchased last fall by Apollo Global Management for $1.6 billion.  In addition to Redbox, Outerwall consisted of Coinstar and ecoATM.  

Redbox has carved out a niche for itself in the movie distribution business and has been very successful, thus far.  Although content streamers like Netflix and Amazon have been very successful there are still millions of people who don't subscribe and still rent out DVDs. Redbox has no really competition in the DVD rental business.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The SCOOP by Seymour Flix

What We View During The Day

Netflix just completed a six month analysis which studied the viewing patterns in 22 countries - showing that audiences worldwide view comedies, dramas, thrillers, and documentary shows during specific times each day.

The study found that viewing preferences change as the day goes on. People prefer comedies in the morning, dramas during midday, thrillers in evening primetime, comedies (again) in late-night, and documentaries in the wee-hours.

As more and more viewers free themselves from the shackles of  cable and broadcast TV schedules their choice of what and when to view movies and shows varies greatly by country and time of day.

The study found that viewers start the day with comedies. At 6am they are 14% more likely to watch a comedy vs. any other genre. By noon thru 2pm they favor dramas by 47%. During the evening the trend shifts again, and by 9pm thrillers are the content of choice. By 11pm, viewers swing back to comedies, and from 1am to 6am documentaries are most popular.

The study also found that peak viewing periods vary by country. For example, primetime in India is 5pm while in Argentina it is 10pm (that goes for Mexico and Singapore as well).  Japan is the only country where Tuesday is the highest viewing day of the week, while Brazil boasts the highest lunch-time binge viewing of any country. Netflix based the analysis on six months of content data by 77 million subscribers in 22 countries.

Could this data be used by cinemas? Should cinemas be screening comedies during the early hours of the day and switch to dramas in the afternoon and thrillers in the evening. It is worth a look-see.

The World of Avatar Opens

Last Wednesday, Pandora: World of Avatar officially opened within Disney Land, in Orlando, Florida. Both Bob Iger, CEO of Disney and James Cameron the creator of the world of Avatar were on hand for the opening.

Inspired by the blockbuster movie, 'Avatar', the new attraction is the largest in Disney's history. Iger commented, "At Disney we have a 'how did they do that' standard. I can't think of a better example of that than what we're standing in front of right now."  The 'avatar park' has floating mountains and uses advanced technology to create a one-of-a-kind theme park experience. Iger and Cameron thanked the "imagineers" who conceived and executed the project.

In addition to the floating mountains, are a first person 3D ride called Avatar Flight of Passage, a ride that takes you through a bioluminescent forest,called Na'vi River Journey, and the exotic Valley of Mo'ara.  Disney wants park-goers to have an emotional experience by entering a world that will astonish and delight and it sounds like they did just that.

Google To Buy MGM?

David Krane, the head of Google Ventures, the arm of Google that invests and purchases various companies, was last week appointed to MGM's Board of Directors.

The privately held MGM recently reported substantial declines in both revenue and earning and it appears that the studio needs more money to ensure it has viable content in the future - and certainly Google can provide this.

The purchase of MGM makes sense for Google as it provides a functioning movie studio with a formidable archive and great cache. MGM would be a prudent purchase for Google and fit into its strategy of delivering high quality content as it completes with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Apple.  

CMG predicts Google will invest funds (if not purchase outright) MGM in the near future.

Seymour Flix

Thursday, May 25, 2017

CMG's Picks: Best Movie Posters at Cannes Festival

For the last several years, CMG has selected the best film posters from the wide array of entrants to the Cannes Film Festival.  This year the selection was hard as Cannes grows each year in terms of everything, including submissions. For example, 9 films out of a total of 4,843 submissions were selected to complete for the Short Film Palme d' Or Award.  There are literally thousands of submissions to the festival in the various award categories.  This makes the selection of the posters that much harder, although not all submissions have the poster budget.

Called one-sheets, in the trade, movie posters have been used to advertise films since day-one.  Over the years it has in itself become an art form, and the Cannes Festival brings out some of the best. Here's our 2017 selections:

A documentary which uses Grant's own narrative, follows the movie idol during his 30+ year film career.  Working with the best directors of his day and with the best actors (male and female) Grant starred in straight dramas, comedies, historical pieces, thrillers, and romcoms. 'Becoming Cary Grant' starts at the beginning and follows the star throughout his career. A great poster which shows how Grant became Grant.

Story of a aging, depressed man (Vania) living in a small Bulgarian village (played by, the great, Gerard Depardieu) whose granddaughter wants to buy him a dog for companionship. As dogs cost too much she buys him a pig instead - with the idea that eventually they will eat the pig. However, as time goes on, Vania has other ideas. A great story for family moviegoing. And a poster that says it all.

A poster for a film entitled, 'Sangamithra'. A so-called Tollywood film, which are Indian films released in the Telugu or Bengali language, for which there is a current trend within India. Poster is emoji of stylized happy face.

A horror film by Michael O'Shea tells the story of Milo, a teenager who believes himself to be a vampire - although there is doubt that he is one other than in his own mind.

Milo, kills and drinks blood but beyond that he is normal - can walk in the sun, eat garlic, but can't turn into a bat. The story progresses from there. No since giving out the end. This poster depicts Milo and his sinister shadow.

First released in 1982, 'The Last Horror Film' made a comeback at Cannes this year - but as expected did not get any traction. However, this film has become semi-cult.

The story centers around a 'fanatic' who is obsessed with a starlet who is promoting a movie at the Cannes festival. A great-stalker film where the bad guy leaves lots of carnage in his wake, 'The Last Horror Film' is a good view.  The poster says it all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hollywood Up For Ransom

It's not just State secrets and industrial espionage but hacking has become a big business for entertainment content.  This past Monday, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney Corporation dropped a bombshell when he informed his senior staff, at their weekly meeting, that a copy of the new 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead  Men Tell No Tales' had been hacked and stolen.

Although Iger made no mention of the amount, he did say that the hackers were "asking for a large bitcoin payment to keep the movie under wraps."  The hackers threatened to release the entire film in five minute snippets if payment was not forthcoming. For his part, Iger vowed that Disney would never pay ransom for any stolen content.

This hacking  episode is very similar to the recent leak of Netflix's 'Orange Is The New Black' series.  In that case, hackers had breached the security of a Hollywood  post-production facility that Netflix uses for its original content.  The hackers targeted Netflix with ransom demands which were denied. Subsequently, ten new and unreleased episodes of the series were released on 'Pirate Bay', an on-line bit-torrent site.

Entertainment content hacking and ransom is fast becoming the new means for making lots of money illegally. It appears to be easily accomplished and the culprits can't suffer any consequences given that they are, most likely, offshore in different countries.

How many hacks have there been is unknown. In many cases, unlike Disney and Netflix, the hackers have been paid and the victims never reveal the crime for fear they may not be used for future business.

CMG believes entertainment content hacking and ransom will become more prevalent as there appears to be no way to prevent it. Self-named, 'TheDarkLord', hacker(s) have thus far not extorted any money from Disney or Netflix but the press TheDarkLord is getting could help it in the future especially against smaller firms which would not want their clients to know they have been hacked.

TheDarkLord also targets other industries. For example, just last week they hacked three major healthcare companies and released data on thousands of medical patients.