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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Netflix Gets Into Exhib Business

Netflix to screen at Paris Theatre
Yesterday, Netflix announced that it inked a deal to lease and operate the Paris Theatre in NYC.  The single screen cinema is one of the country's oldest and Netflix plans to use it to showcase its original content and "other events and screenings". The Paris has been in operation for 71 years - principally screening art and foreign films.

Netflix to screen content at the Egyptian
Netflix has similar plans for the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood - which it is currently in negotiation with.

This blog had urged exhibitors to team with Netflix on screening their content while it streamed the same content day-and-date. Our rational was that some of Netflix's original content was first-rate and would screen very successfully at 'big screen' cinemas - that notion, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.  Now Netflix is going to screen and stream on it own.

Last year, rumors abound that Netflix was in acquisition discussions with Landmark Cinemas, an independent cinema chain with 56 locations; however, Netflix decided it was not interested in managing a movie circuit.

There is still time for exhibs to team-up with Netflix for content. They should view the streamer as just another studio that can supply them great content for their movie patrons.

Jim Lavorato, Founder & President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, November 25, 2019

3rd Party Ticket Sellers Hit The Skids

I've reported that the future of 3rd party movie ticket sellers (ie Fandango) was doom and gloom.
Google Assistant Goes to the Cinema

This prediction materialized when the large cinema circuits began to offer ticket sales via their own websites. Now, putting move pressure on 3rd party ticket sellers, Google has decided to streamline movie ticket purchasing for online searchers by use of their Google Assistant.

Google Assistant will pop-up when searching for a movie and offer users a series of overlay images on top of a theater chain's website. It will include asking the purchaser for showtime select, number of tickets, and choice of seat (optional). Assistant then uses this info to auto-fill the data required by each ticket vendor's website (this would include Fandango, MovieTickets, and the large cinema exhibs.).

Google Assistant is based upon a technology called Duplex, which uses AI to interact with 3rd party services. Duplex's ability to mimic the sound of the human voice (complete with the occasional 'humm' for realism) is uncanny.

Google wants to use Assistant in many other online purchasing scenarios, including car rentals and hotel reservations.

Well Fandango, there you have it. What value do you bring to the ticket purchasing process?  None. Fandango is now just a 3rd party that has no unique selling proposition.  Game Over!

Jim Lavorato
President, Entertainment Equipment Corp.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Netflix Pushes Studios on Image Enhancement Rules

With an estimated 160 million subscribers worldwide much of what Netflix streams is viewed on tablets or  phones, where image quality is compromised.  This issue is not new and one widely recognized by cinematographers. Therefore, last week, Netflix made it a requirement that all of their original content be captured in HDR, or high dynamic range. 

HDR is a technique which improves the range of color and contrast in a digital image vs. the use of standard digital imaging.

For example, in the days of film, dailies were screened at the start of each production day - offering a chance for the director and other members of the 'key' crew to review freshly printed footage shot the previous day to help them evaluate image quality and spot and correct technical problems.

Now, dailies are streamed to separate crew member's tablets or phones, where slow wifi on remote locations means they are not seeing a meaningful representation of the footage. Worse still, producers back at the studio often see digital dailies on non-calibrated monitors in bright rooms and complain that the images are too dark.

The other issue Netflix wanted to address was the concern over whether Digital Imaging Technicians should be present on set during filming to advise on workflow, camera settings and image manipulation. Many producers do not want to budget for 'on-set' DITs.  This lack of imaging expertise, on the set, makes the work of the cinematographer very difficult.

I think Netflix is ahead of the curve on this issue. Times have changed and many consumers don't view content on large screens at home but are on the go and oft times view via a tablet or other mobile device. HDR is here and it will become the standard for digital image capture.

Jim Lavorato, President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.