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Sunday, December 19, 2021

The AMC Saga: The Best Hollywood Story of the Year


Being resurrected from the brink of bankruptcy was only the start of this entertainment saga.

More than 4 million retail investors betted billions on AMC's future as the entity was rocked and battered by COVID and content streamers.

Amassing on social media, these retail investors took AMC's shares price from $2.20 to $76.02 and the new 'crowd' investors ended up owning 80% of the company. Empowered by Robin Hood, Webull, and other online investment apps, that have made stock trading easy and cheap, the mob rescued the faltering movie house. 

Robin Hood founders: Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Phatt

Not guided by Wall Street's normal financial investment motives, these retail investors were moved by internet buzz. AMC and video game retailer Game Stop were 2021 'mob' favorites. Fancied a populist revolt against Wall Street take-over predators who had bet heavily on both companies' demise.

"It was the 99% against the 1%. I love the movies, we would go every week. I knew there was a bunch of people that would come together for this battle", stated Kathy Larsen, a 40-year-old bartender from Oceanside, CA. 

Larsen, and her mates, call themselves 'apes', a reference to the film 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'. The apes made AMC their cause, and AMC CEO, Adam Aron, climbed on board. To appease the apes, AMC began accepting cryptocurrencies and hosting mixed martial arts tournaments.

$2 billion had been raised but Aron felt he would need double that to survive the impact of the pandemic but the new 'owners' shot down that idea. Led by several leaders, including Trey Collins, a 24-year-old Army officer, the apes told Aron to "forget about AMC's business fundamentals" and instead put trust in the ape collective.

Now, looking in from the outside, Wall Street analysts cited AMC's pandemic losses, a $5 billion debt load, and the changing consumers' viewing habits make AMC's performance outlook extremely dim.

Numbers don't lie, and AMC's share price currently stands at $29.12 (as of 12/18/21). The apes did allow AMC senior executives to become rich however as they unloaded their shares - to the tune of $80 million. 

Trey Collins and other ape influencers tell AMC mob investors to hold their shares - predicting the stock will soar again.

The apes vs. Wall Street, there can only be one winner. Who do you think will come out on top?

Friday, December 17, 2021

"I Didn't Pull The Trigger"

 Things got a lot worse for Alec Baldwin this week as a warrant to search his cell phone was issued. 

In the continuation of the investigation of the fatal shooting on the set of 'Rust', the lead investigator, Santa Fe Detective Alexandria Hancock stated that she had asked Baldwin and his attorney to voluntarily turn over the phone, but her request was refused. She was told by Baldwin's attorney to "get a warrant." Which she did!

Hancock also indicated that in a search of Halyna Hutchins' (the cinematographer that was killed) phone found conversations regarding the protocols during the production of 'Rust' that went back to July 14th. 

                                 Alec Baldwin in a world of hurt

The affidavit for the warrant included details of Baldwin's initial interview with detectives. In that interview, Baldwin stated that he had exchanged emails with Hannah Reed, the armorer of the production, about what type of gun was to be used and that he selected the Colt .45 used in the fatal shooting.

In an interview on ABC, Baldwin stated, "it's highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally."  Hmmm...not so fast Alec. So far no charges have been ruled out and criminal negligence and 2nd-degree manslaughter are not far-fetched charges in a case such as this.

The warrant included all voice, text, photos, videos, call history, contacts, and GPS date regarding anything to do with the 'Rust' production.

CMG thinks Baldwin is in a world of hurt.

In a related story, the Head of Lighting on the 'Rust' production has filed a lawsuit over Baldwin's fatal shooting, alleging negligence that caused him "severe emotional stress that will haunt him forever."

                             Serge Svernoy and attorney

Serge Svetnoy, said the fatal bullet, that killed Hutchins, narrowly missed him.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, names many, including Alec Baldwin, who was a star and a producer of 'Rust". Svetnoy stated that he had seen guns setting unattended in the dirt and had warned the people responsible for them.

"I felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurized air from my right. I believe I felt gunpowder and other residual materials strike the right side of my face."

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Clooney Blasts Baldwin

 "I've been on sets for 40 years and the person that hands you a gun, the person that is responsible for the gun, is either the prop person or the armorer, PERIOD." quoted George Clooney.

                                Clooney very outspoken on 'Rust' shooting

In the case of the fatal shooting on the set of  'Rust', assistant director David Halls handed the gun to Alec Baldwin - who never checked the gun. Supposedly, Halls told Baldwin it was a "cold gun". Clooney called that a term, "I've never heard".

Clooney was very outspoken about the fatal shooting. "Every single time I'm handed a gun on the set... I open it, I show it to the person I'm pointing it at, I show it to the crew. Every single take, you hand it back to the armorer when you're done and you do it again for every take. For the life of me, this low-budget film with producers who haven't produced anything wouldn't have hired, for the armorer, someone with experience is insane and infuriating."

                                   Baldwin is in a heap of trouble

Alec Baldwin, who was one of the producers of 'Rust', is now claiming he never discharged the gun that fatally shot Halyna Hutchins and wounded Joel Souza.

"Every film/TV set that uses guns, fake or otherwise, should have a police officer on set, hired by the production, to specifically monitor weapons safety", says Baldwin. 

No Alec. You just need to follow the protocols and be smart and not cheap-out on crew and staff. Hire good and experienced prop people and armorers and make sure the person holding the gun checks it BEFORE it is used. This is basis 101 gun safety. NEVER point a gun at anyone no matter what and ALWAYS check to see if it is loaded and with what.

The great irony of all this is that an activist group, BLD PWR, an arm of Black Lives Matter, demanded that the studios stop using police on all movie and TV sets. Citing police brutality and racism. The Group wants Hollywood to divest itself from the use of police ties and push the industry to invest more in black productions. 

CMG says, if black or other ethnic films made money, they would be produced all day long. Fact is, the color Hollywood is most concerned about, like all businesses, is GREEN. Another fact, the black community is the worst of all moviegoing demographics.                           

Saturday, November 20, 2021

IATSE's Contract Negotiations with Studios & Streamers Ends


The long and very bitter labor contract negotiations between the Union and studios and content streamers ended as it started contentiously. 

On Monday, the Intl' Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, ratified the agreement by 256 delegates voting "yes" and 188 voting "no". However, of the 40,000+ general membership, 50.4% voted "no".
This left many union members angry and have asked for the resignation of Matthew Loeb, President of the Union. Based in NYC, many members (who are based in Los Angeles) felt Loeb was "out of touch with our situation."

The contract includes some member gains - a 54 hour weekend rest period, as well as, increased penalties for working longer than eight hours without a lunch break. But, working hours and improved funding of the health care and retirement funds were not addressed.

Many members have vowed to continue pressing for their demands for "humane work schedules" and more contributions from the content streamers.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Best Western Movies EVER!

 Recent, British entertainment media company The Independent issued their list of the 20 Top Western Movies of all time. Here we reprint their listing and CMG's top picks.

      Indendendent's Selections          CMG's Selections  

20.    Ride Lonesome (1959) Randolph Scott               Buck & The Preacher (1972) S. Poitier

19.    Vera Cruz (1954) B. Lancaster, G.Cooper          Little Big Man ( 1970 ) D. Hoffman

18.    Winchester 73 (1950) J.Stewart                           Big Hand For A Little Lady (1966) H. Fonda

17.    One-Eyed Jacks (1961) M. Brando                      HUD (1961) P. Newman

16.    Rio Bravo (1959) J. Wayne, D. Martin                Nevada Smith (1966) S. McQueen

15.    My Darling Clementine (1946)) H. Fonda           The Professionals (1966) L. Marvin

14.    The Ox-bow Insident (1943) H. Fonda                 Hang 'em High (1968) C. Eastwood

13.    Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969)         Hombre (1967) P. Newman

12.    The Gunslinger (1950) G. Peck                             The Appaloosa (1966) M. Brando

11.    Ride the High Country (1962) R. Scott                 Shalako (1968) S. Connery

10.    The Magnificant Seven (1960) Y. Bryner             One-Eyed Jacks (1961) M. Brando

Alan Ladd - 'Shane'. 

9.      Red River (1948) J. Wayne                                    True Grit  (1960) J. Wayne  

8.      High Noon (1952) G. Cooper                                 Once Upon A Time in The West (1968)

7.      Stagecoach (1939) J. Wayne                                  The Magnificant Seven (1960) Y. Bryner

6.      Once Upon A Time in The West (1968)                The Cowboys (1972) J. Wayne

5.      Shane (1953) A. Ladd                                             The Wild Bunch (1969) W. Holden

4.      Unforgiven (1992) C. Eastwood                            Unforgiven (1992) C. Eastwood

3.      Good, the Bad, The Ugly (1966) C. Eastwood     The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (1966) 

2.      The Wild Bunch (1969) W. Holden                       The Searchers (1956) J. Wayne

1.      The Searchers (1956) J. Wayne                             Shane (1953) A. Ladd 


 There you have it. The choices for the Best Westerns EVER!          


Tuesday, November 09, 2021

IATSE vs. Studios & Streamers Contract Up For Vote


In our continuing coverage of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union contract negotiations with the major film studios and content streamers, members will vote on the current leadership negotiated contract on November 15th.

But, there is not only discontent within the general membership but the 23 candidates running for the Board of the Editors Guild (Local 700 of IATSE) are all opposed to the pending agreement. 

The current Board of the Editors' Guild is urging members to ratify the new contract (as are the leaders of IATSE) but many of the rank-and-file don't like the agreement reached with the studios and streamers.

The sticking issue revolves around getting streaming residuals and more funding for retirement and health plans.

There is a 50/50 chance that the agreement will not be passed and a strike would then be eminent. 

Disney+ To Stream Old Marvel Films in IMAX Formet

 Starting Nov. 12th, Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream 13 previously released Marvel films in an IMAX Expanded Aspect Ratio (see photo).

Black Panther is expanded format

The films include: 'Captain America', 'Doctor Strange', 'Thor: Ragnarok', and 'Black Panther', and others, but all of which have already played on broadcast TV, many times. So, nothing new there.

The expanded format is 1.9:1, meaning that in certain scenes more action is visible on-screen vs. regular HDTV format of 16:9.

Batman: Expanded vs. HDTV format

Marvel films virtually saved IMAX from bankruptcy. Over the last decade, IMAX has grossed over $1.6 billion globally playing Marvel products, without which IMAX would be a relic of history.

As of July, Disney+ had amassed 116 million subscribers worldwide - 40% of which came from India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. However, subscriptions, to the two-year-old service, have dropped off substantially in recent months. Disney believes the IMAX format will give Disney+ a boost in subscriptions.

CMG doesn't think so, the films offered are essentially old products. The format isn't really that significant in terms of on-screen image (see photos) and who really cares?

Will Feud End For 'Fast and Furious' Stars?

 The Fast and Furious saga is coming to an end. The 10th and final, Furious (a two-part franchise finale) has been green-lite.

Johnson and Diesel

There was a riff between Van Diesel and Wayne Johnson in the past while filming prior Furious sequels but now Diesel wants Johnson to come back and co-star in the 10th Furious.

In an online message, Diesel wrote, "My little brother Dwayne...the time has come. The world awaits the finale of 'Fast 10'. I told you years ago that I was going to fulfill my promise to Pablo." Referring to his late co-star Paul Walker by his nickname. "I swore that we would reach and manifest the best Fast in the finale that is 10!"

Not too happy on set

So far, Johnson has not responded publicly. CMG believes Johnson will co-star in the final F&F 10.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

IATSE Deal Has A 50/50 Chance of Ratification


Homage to 'Rust' shooting

The negotiations between IATSE union leadership and the studios and streamers ended with an agreement that averted a nationwide strike. However, the agreement is not supported by many members as they say the deal struck did not go far enough to restore work-life balance and long hours on set.

The contract will go to a ratification vote sometime in the next few weeks. Member will vote electronically. The deal must win a majority of delegates from the 13 IATSE locals. It is not entirely clear what would happen if the membership rejects the agreement - my guess, the negotiations would go back to square one. 

One development that may impede the ratification is the recent deadly shooting on the set of 'Rust'. Supposedly, the crew on 'Rust' had been working long and stressful days in order to keep costs down on the low-budget, independent film, starring Alex Baldwin.

IATSE members are saying that the fatal shooting is an example of the dangerous working conditions that need to be eliminated. They say the game has changed with this accident and it is no longer business as usual.

CMG believes the negotiated deal has a 50/50 chance of ratification. Many union members are upset and feel their leadership sold them out. The Baldwin shooting incident adds fuel to the fire.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fall/Winter 2021 Will See Best Box Office in 3 Years

 'Dune' led the way last week, posting a global gate of $220 million. Warners and Legendary spent $165 in production and marketing so they needed that big first week and it paid off nicely. 

Note: In Theaters and HBO

The film premiered day-and-date with HBO Max streaming, but that didn't stop moviegoers from wanting the 'big-screen version. 

Original One-sheet

This fall/winter season will witness major returns at cinemas as moviegoers will flock to view the silver screen versions of movies. We should note that we do very much like the AMC Theaters TV ad with Nicole Kidman and the tagline "We make movies better". It is so true and moviegoers know it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Chappelle & Netflix Have CMG's Full Support


Dave Chappelle, Comedian

I believe there is too, too much sensitivity regarding social issues. Netflix should support Dave Chappelle and his humor regarding sexual preferences, racism, and other socially 'tabooed' topics. 

Terra Field, a trans Netflix employee, blog posted that Chappelle's comments and jokes were "transphobic" and that Netflix condoned this behavior - What Nonsense!

Terra, just go live your life. You made choices. No one is condemning your choice. You are a "symptom" of closed-mindedness and marginalization. And you don't speak for all transexuals. You can't put everyone in a box and label them this or that. For all we know many trans may have found Chappelle's humor great. You cannot speak for all LGBTQ+ people - this is what you feel. 

Transphobia is a word devised to 'label' and demean those who you feel are hindering your ability to function sexually as you prefer. This is not the case with Chappelle or Netflix. 

Go on with your life - be happy. 

IATSE vs. Major Studios & Streamers

 As a follow-up to the IATSE labor negotiations with the film and TV studios and content streamers, there seems to be a ratification vote in the offing.

The Union announced, on Saturday night, that a deal had been made. However, the deal received a hostile reception for the rank and file.

Strike signs are ready to go

But Union officials remain confident that the deal will be ratified. According to Salvador Rerez, president of the Costume Designers Guild, "Some members had unrealistic expectations that were never going to be fulfilled. We will now have a better contract than we ever had before, and we avoid a work stoppage."

The deal must be approved by a majority vote of the 60,000+ members - the voting is online. The Union released a Fact Sheet on the agreement. 

This is where things stand. If ratified it will avert a strike that would put a halt to all film and TV production throughout the country.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

We're 'Bond' Crazy

Moviegoers worldwide LOVE the Bond franchise. For almost a lifetime moviegoers have embraced the Bond legacy.

                                              Where it all started

Starting with 'Dr. No' in 1962 to the just-released 'No Time to Die' not only have we been entertained with, by and large, good if not great films but GREAT movie theme songs.

The 'Bond Theme Song' is, without doubt, one of the most recognizable of all movie themes...all you need to hear are the first several notes.

There are 26 Bond movie theme songs and in their wisdom, Variety just issued a list (worst to best - in their opinion) or all 26 - here it is, see if you agree.

26 - "Writing's on the Wall" Sam Smith (Spectre 2015)

25 - "License to Kill" Gladys Knight (License to Kill 1989)

24 - "The Living Daylights" A-ha (The Living Daylights 1987)

23 - "Another Way to Die" Jack White & Alicia Keys (Quantum of Solace 2008)

22 - "Die Another Day" Madonna (Die Another Day 2002)

21 - "From Russia With Love" Matt Monro (From Russia With Love 1963)

                                              One of my favorite Bonds

20 - "The World Is Not Enough" Garbage (The World Is Not Enough 1999)

19 - "Tomorrow Never Dies" Sheryl Crow (Tomorrow Never Dies 1997)

18 - "All Time High" Rita Coolidge (Octopussy 1983)

17 - "You Know My Name" Chris Corwell (Casino Royale  2006)

16 - "For Your Eyes Only" Sheena Easton (For Your Eyes Only 1981)

15 - "The Man With The Golden Gun" Lulu (Man With The Golden Gun 1974)

14 - "GoldenEye" Tina Turner (GoldenEye 1995)

13 - "Skyfall" Adele (Skyfall 2012)

12 - "A View To Kill" Duran Duran  (A View To Kill  1985)

11 - "Thunderball" Tom Jones (Thunderball 1965)

10 - "Moonraker" Shirley Bassey (Moonraker 1979)

 9 - "No Time To Die" Billie Eilish (No Time To Die 2021)

 8 - "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" John Barry Orchestra (On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969)

 7 - "Nobody Does It Better" Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me 1979)

 6 - "We Have All The Time In The World" Louis Armstrong (On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969)

 5 - "Live and Let Die" Paul McCartney & Wings (Live and Let Die 1973)

 4 - "You Only Live Twice" Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice 1967)

 3 - "James Bond Theme" John Barry Orchestra (Dr. No 1962)

 2 - "Goldfinger" Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger  1964)

 1 - "Diamonds Are Forever" Shirley Bassey (Diamonds Are Forever 1971)

                                        Bond's iconic Aston Martin DB5

As you noticed, Shirley Bassey performed three of the Bond themes. Only two have won Best Song Oscars: "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith and "Skyfall" by Adele.

In addition to the main themes, there have been songs used during the end credits of Bond films performed by The Pretenders, k.d. lang, and Patti LaBelle.

What's Your Favorite?

 Mine: "You Only Live Twice" https://youtu.be/hs8uYxTJ530

Strike of IATSE Against Content Providers Still Alive

 As a follow-up to a previous CMG post, the Intl' Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees says, "it's getting closer to seeking an agreement on its key priorities."

The key priorities needed to be agreed to with the Hollywood studios and streaming content providers are: curbing the long production hours and streaming pay scales.

The negotiations are in their first week but the Union has already voted to strike if the talks fail to produce a deal.

The Union issued a statement saying, "We are committed to reaching a deal. However, we're not going to let this drag out for weeks and weeks. We want to see significant movement quickly."

The negotiations are under a media blackout, but what is know is that the content providers have agreed to provide a 10-hour 'turnaround' between shifts for all production workers. Meaning that the maximum hours for any shift cannot exceed 10 hours.

The talks continue but it seems to be slow-going. The last thing the entertainment industry needs is a production stoppage - given all of the production shut-downs and delays caused by the pandemic. 

We'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Falling On Deaf-ears?

Members of the IATSE (Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) are planning a strike over long production hours among other issues.

To bolster their cause they requested that all members cancel streaming subscriptions and went online asking the public to do the same.

Are they kidding? It's a joke right?

I should cancel my subscription to Netflix in support of the IATSE - who are these people anyway?

Given their scale, the impact of a few subscription cancelations to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Disney is meaningless. In fact, at the moment, Netflix is offering its content free of charge to the whole country of Keyna.

The best the IATSE can hope for is to call attention to their cause. 

I should mention that one of the sticking points in the negotiations is that streamers with less than 20 million subscribers pay lower wages, ie. Apple + and Paramount +, then the larger streamers. Streamers in general also pay lower residual rates to the union pension and health plans than the studios. 

The wage disparity is large. For example, a lighting tech receives $15/hour from the smaller streamers and $45/hour from the larger ones. Another sore point is what is termed, 'Fraturdays' - workdays that start on Friday morning and end on Saturday morning.

Hmm... should I cancel my subs in support? Soon Netflix will be offering gaming. I am supporting the IATSE by writing this article - well I am.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Netflix for FREE!

 The world's #1 content streamer is offering its service FREE of charge - in Kenya.

Netflix's hope is that by offering a 100% free tier, which includes about one-fourth of the content available in its paid streaming plans, more people will try out the service and end up subscribing.  

Many Kenyans have never watched Netflix so this is a great way to experience the service. And, if you like what you see, it's easy to upgrade to the paid plan.

The free plan allows people to sign up to access Netflix ad-free on Android mobile phones. In addition to a reduced content lineup, the no-cost tier does not allow users to download titles for offline viewing nor does it allow casting to connected TVs.

Kenya's wildlife is spectacular

When Kenyans sign up for the free plan, no payment information is required. Users only need to enter an email address, confirm they are 18 or over, and create a password. "Then you can relax and watch many of Netflix's most popular series and films, as well as, enjoy our personalized recommendations, parental controls, and profiles", says Cathy Conk, Netflix Director of Product Innovations.

Netflix was looking for a new way to let Kenyans try out their service. The company has, in the past, offered free trials but only for brief periods. Kenya is the first market to try out this new, untimed free usage and study how effective it is in attracting its user to become paying subscribers. 

China Cracks Down On Fan Culture

 China's Internet and Media watchdog  'Cyberspace Administration of China' last week issued a pair of notices regarding information decimated over the internet and in films. 

China's President Xi announces crackdown on media and internet

In the first edict, CAC said that it would take punitive action against the spread of harmful information in celebrity fan groups and clubs by shutting down its sites and online channels. 

In the second edict, the CAC announced draft regulations for internet 'recommendation algorithms'. It is going to halt algorithms that encourage users to spend large amounts of money or spend money in a way that "may disrupt public order." Internet companies must make it harder to create fake user accounts and make it easier for users to turn off  'recommendation' systems. 

These RS systems are used by home shopping services, news sites, social media, and streaming platforms.

Chinese authorities, across a multitude of ministries and departments, are in the midst of a campaign to reign in the country's tech giants. They regard them as having grown too big, having infringed on user privacy, and encouraged vulgarity, anti-social behavior, and pop culture.

Media moguls and celebrities are being targeted. Authorities are seeking to cap celebrity pay packages and are threatening lifetime bans as punishment.

U.S.-based internet and media giants should be looking over their shoulders as their so-called 'self-regulation' isn't working. I anticipate that at some point in the future these giants may be broken into various pieces with much less social power and presence. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mad Max 'Crazy' Vehicles To Be Auctioned

 You knew it had to happen. Now, you too can play at being Mad Max, as 13 of the 'crazy' modified and chopped vehicles from 'Mad Max: Fury Road" are up for sale and going to the highest bidder.

Lloyds Classic Car Auctions will be auctioning off the post-apocalyptic vehicles. Blown, super-turbo charged and armed to the bumpers the machines that outran the end of civilization have been unearthed in the biggest barn-find ever. 

Termed, vehicles from hell, and designed for death and destruction all of the iconic vehicles from the film will be up for grabs. Even, The Doof Wagon, known in the film as the 'morale machine' that was used to rally troops and shown with mounted drummers and a fire-breathing electric guitar.\

Bidders will have just two days, September 25th & 26th, to make their secret bids. Winning bids can be paid in any currency including Bitcoins. Shipping is extra.

These are over-the-top rat rods and a piece of H'wood history.

Box Office Rebounds 68% Over 2020 Results

 Worldwide box office totalled $12b at August's end. That was the total reported in the full year 2020. At the current pace, 2021 will end the year at over $20b. That great!

On the flip-side, that performance will be over 50% below the $42.3b record set in 2019. But, the cinema is on the mend and barring any unforeseen mega-strain of the COVID should return to the $40+b level in 2022.

This forecast is well-founded and would place China as the world's largest box office. The pandemic and other political conditions, however, have made China's cinema industry much more insular and an increasingly difficult place for Hollywood to do business. 

At the end of 2020, only 56% of cinemas were opened for business on a global basis as governments responded to second and third waves of the virus by shuttering cinemas. At the beginning of September, this year, 88% of global cinemas were in operation. This was equal to the pre-pandemic peak in 2021.

The cinema is coming back and in a big way. I predict that the global box office will exceed forecasts and reach the $45b level.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Paw Patrol - Where To Watch It?

 Its first big-screen debut, the very popular children's TV series opened yesterday at cinemas. Movie distribution is in a state of chaos right now. Running at cinemas? Streamed? Both? Time wait to streaming? At cinemas, only, 

Multi viewing venues

So, where do I view Paw Patrol right now?

The 85-minute movie was released yesterday - 8/20/21 - day-and-date with Paramount +.  It is not available on Netflix or HBOMAX. The Johansson lawsuit will put a damper on this maneuver. Paramount+ was launched in March 2021. It cost $4.49/month and $49/yr. with ads, or $9.99/month and $99.99/year without ads. 

CMG Follow Up Story: Disney v. Johansson


Scarlett, Leading the Way to a Showbiz Upheaval

I have been covering this story from its inception and it has taken a twist I hadn't anticipated.

Disney has filed a motion to force Johansson into private arbitration to address the two parties' dispute over payment for the 'Black Widow' movie. Disney's position is that there is nothing in the Disney contract with Johansson that entitles her to any proceeds from streaming revenues of the movie.

Scarlett's attorneys have argued that Marvel's (owned by Disney) general counsel affirmed in 2019 that the "film would be released like all of our other pictures." Further, the suit was filed against Disney, not Marvel. 

For their part, Johansson's attorneys contend that the suit was filed because Disney and not Marvel interfered with Marvel's contract with Scarlett in order to boost its streaming channel Disney+.

"Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public? stated John Berlinski, Johansson's lead attorney. "Because Disney knows it cannibalized box office receipts by the day-and-date release of the film at cinemas and on Disney+."

Now we wait to see what happens to the motion for arbitration.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Wick: You Either Love It of Hate It

I really enjoy viewing the John Wick film series. Wick (aka Baba Yaga) portrayed by Keaue Reeves returns next year in 'John Wick: Chapter 4'. The not-kid-friendly Wick is currently in production and, as always, under some secrecy. 

 We do know that Clancy Brown will be in the next installment but we don't know if he will be a baddie or good guy. Best known for his 'Shawshank Redemption' role, Brown has appeared in numerous films, TV shows, and voice-over roles in movies and video games.

 Clancy Brown, 62

Reappearing in 'Chapter 4' will be Ian McShane as Winston, Lance Reddick as Charon, and Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King.

'John Wick: Chapter 4' is scheduled for a May '22 release.

The Mouse Fires Back at The Widow

 As a follow-up to last week's post on the legal dispute between Disney and Scarlett Johansson regarding the profits split from The Black Widow film, the battle escalated this week.

Johansson continues to lead the charge on the movie industry's short-changing the stars on the release of movies on both the silver screen and stream on a day-and-date basis. Just in the past two weeks, Disney released 'Jungle Cruise' in tandem at cinemas and on Disney+. Warners did the same with 'The Suicide Squad' on HBO Max.

According to Disney's legal beagles' language in Johansson's contract claims it is the prerogative of the studio to decide how best to release a new film. However, the star's legal team claims Disney's decision to put 'The Black Widow' prequel on Disney+ cost her bonuses that would have been hit if the movie only had an exclusive theatrical window. There have been talks between the two sides but nothing has been agreed to and the battle continues.

This case is being closely followed by all sides of the industry, as it is the first time a star is pushing back on the simultaneous release scheme - which seems to benefit the studio at the cost of the actor. The Screen Actors Guild is siding with Johansson. In a press release, SAG stated, "We are deeply concerned by the gendered tone of Disney's criticism of Ms. Johansson. Women are not "callous" when they stand up and fight for fair pay - they are leaders and champions for economic parity."

Whatever the outcome, this case will set a precedent of how upcoming films will handle the profit sharing.


Monday, August 02, 2021

The Rich Sue The Richer: Scarlett Sues Disney Over Streaming $$$

 The big uproar is H'wood at the moment is the fact that the A-listers aren't getting their fair share of the 'entire' box office gross.

The most recent example is Scarlett Johansson, who picked up a $20 million paycheck for 'Black Widow' says she deserves more! According to Johansson, Disney owes her big time. This stems from the battle regarding H'wood stars getting paid when movies are released and streamed day-and-date, as was 'Black Widow'. 

Scarlett's contract calls for her to get a salary plus a share of the gross box office, but with streaming from Disney+,  Disney says no dice. Compensation is only from the theatrical release.

Netflix, for example, side-steps this issue by paying big bucks up front. Disney, however, views it differently and feels actors should be paid a salary plus box office take.

This whole scenario is a lose/lose. The outcome will be something like this: Disney will settle with Johansson. Otherwise, it will find itself being sued by actors again and again. On the flip side, Scarlett appears greedy and not superhero-ish.

It's all great fun - isn't it?  

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Avatar 2 - Will It Break The Box Office Record?


'Avengers: Endgame' surpassed James Cameron's 'Avatar' as the highest-grossing film of all time at $2.79b (vs. $2.78b for 'Avatar' - note: its total was enhanced due to a re-release).

The sequel, 'Avatar 2: The Way of Water' is scheduled for a December 2021 holiday release. Then 'Avatar 3, 4, and 5 are set for 2023, 2025, and 2027 releases.

We all hope A2 will be as successful as the A1 and soars at the box office.

Cinema Industry Fights Back!

 'Black Widow' rocked the box office at an $80m debut weekend in the U.S. and scored the biggest gate since the pandemic struck. Opening in 4,160 screens it posted the largest box office since 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' in December 2019.

This performance demonstrated that consumers are ok with the idea of returning to cinemas - as in the U.S., 76% polled that they are now comfortable going back.

Disney went with a hybrid release. The 'Widow' opened in cinemas day-and-date with Disney+ streaming (for a $30 surcharge). This added $30m to surpass a $100m opening. 

Marvel fans, superhero fans, and critics all raved about the film. Exiting polling was a 4.5 out of 5 overall.

The 'Widow' was a great success for Disney and exhibitors as it demonstrated that moviegoing is returning and in a BIG way. 'F9' has generated over $541m globally. 'A Quiet Place - II' has gated $258m and 'Cruella' $205m. Moviegoing is back! The industry is recoiling and the second half of 2021 should be steller at the box office. 

As of July 7th, Comscore has reported that 90% of cinemas around the world are now open. According to a Comscore press release, "As the studios continue to ramp up the rollout of their most anticipated films, audiences are showing up at their local cinemas to enjoy the big screen experience."

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Mouse Moves From 'Golden' to 'Sunshine State'

 California, the Golden State, is losing its luster. More and more people and companies are moving out of CA and into other, more 'friendly', states. CA lost over 136,000 residents in 2020. 

                                               Walt Disney and Pals

Disney has decided to transfer over 2,000 jobs to Florida. A new 'campus' near Orlando is now open and ready to receive the Californians. The plan to move these high-salaried jobs has been in the works since 2019.

Florida offers a great climate, a lower cost of living, a safer environment, no state income tax, to name several reasons for the move. Employees will have 18 months to make the move. 

In a letter, Josh D'Amaro, Head of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products stated, "In addition to Florida's business-friendly climate, the new campus gives us the opportunity to consider our team and be more collaborative from a creative and operational standpoint." 

Disney employs over 203,000 worldwide of which over 60,000 are in Florida.

                                   Epcot Center at Disney World, Florida

Ever wonder why there are no mosquitos at Disney World? Over 52 million people flock to Disney World Park each year - the Magic Kingdom alone had over 20 million visitors.

Disney World is huge. It is twice the size of Manhattan, at 25,000 acres. Currently, only half the land is used and one/third is preserved for conservation.

But no mosquitos! The trick, don't kill the adults but their eggs - it's a policy of prevention. Hence, there is no still water in the Park of any kind and all of the water and water features are kept flowing 24/7. 

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Academy Invites 395 To Become Members in 2021

 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited 395 people to join its ranks in 2021. 

According to the Academy, the '21 Class consists of 45% women, 39% under-represented ethnic communities, and 53% from 49 countries outside the U.S. Of the 395, 89 are former Oscar nominees - 25 of which were winners. 

Membership selection is based upon professional qualifications with inclusion and equity remaining a priority.

The Academy had previously announced, "that in an effort to enable steady growth and support for all members" it was reducing yearly membership invitations. This year roughly half were invited vs 2020, which had 819 invitees.

To view the complete list of invitees go to the following.

Fast and Furious: Where Do You Go From Here?

F9 was total make-believe. To me, in a bad way. A Pontiac Fiero in outer space? Cars free-falling off 1,000 ft. cliffs and the drivers walk away? Dom and the familia have gone the superhero, total fantasy route.

Where does one of the most successful franchises in movie history go from here? The final episode, F10 is planned and it should move quickly, as the Toretto family members are getting a bit long-in-the-tooth and look silly in totally unbelievable roles as invincible superheroes.

Super great special effects and superb cinematography were offset by a ridiculous storyline, feeble script, and bloated cast (from Helen Mirren to Kurt Russell). The extended family is too big, too complex, and too 'who cares anyway'. 

F&F needs to get back to its roots. Perhaps we'll see this in the final installment, as the last scene in F9 has the family partaking in the familiar final scene BBQ at a partially rebuilt Toretto LA home. Suddenly, a blue Nissan Skyliner pulls into the driveway - the car driven by Brian O'Conner (who was played by the deceased Paul Walker). Hey, you never know what can happen in the F&F world.

                                 Main F&F cast with heights

F10 is supposedly the last film in the franchise. But, don't be so sure. F9 has racked up over $445 million and by the end of the 4th of July weekend let's put that at over $600 million globally. The cost of production and marketing $200 million. Making it hard to stop the momentum of the franchise.

 F&F the next generation. Don't forget, there is another generation of 'Torettos' waiting in the wings. Brian and Mia have two children: Jack and Gisele, Dom and Elena (deceased) had Brian, Hobbs has Samantha, and Vince (also deceased) had a son called Dom.

Whatever happens please just make it real! 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Moviegoers : Dazed & Confused

 Where, When, and How do You View the Latest Movie?

Not only can you not afford to sign up for every streaming platform but who would want to. Consumers are exasperated as new movie distribution is regularly established, re-scheduled, then reset again and again. 

For the last 100 years, there was only one place to view new films, at the cinema. Now, the line between streaming and theatrical release is very blurred. The burden of figuring out where and when a movie will be available rests on the consumer. It's a problem that will only become more pronounced as the theatrical window shrinks to 45 days or less. And, as tentpoles more between subscription streaming and cinema screening.

When the COVID forced cinemas to close, the tradition of debuting movies there, went out the window (no pun intended). That left cinemas out in the cold and the studios quickly moved to other distribution channels. But with that change came great confusion for the viewer. Most moviegoers couldn't tell the difference between, nor cared, if the movie they were going to see was from Paramount, Disney, Sony, or DreamWorks - NOW they do!

Virtually, every major movie being released this summer is arriving in a different distribution channel. Paramount's "A Quiet Place Part II" is playing in cinemas for 45 days before moving to Paramount +.  Warners' 'Space Jam: A New Legacy" and "The Suicide Squad" are debuting at cinemas at the same time as they are streaming on HBO Max at no extra cost to subscribers. Universal's "F9" and "The Forever Purge" are screening in cinemas for an unknown period before being offered on video-on-demand.

This is a problem and very confusing to consumers. Release schedules aren't even consistent by the studios.  For example, Universal's "The Boss Baby 2" is launching in cinemas on the same day it bows on Peacock for free. Disney's "Cruella" was offered in cinemas or for rent on Disney + for $30, while its "Luca" is going straight to Disney + free.

                   Streamers proliferate making viewing very complex and confusing

Nothing makes sense any longer in trying to decipher this distribution maze. Consumers are not ready to spend all of the time and money to do a picture-by-picture analysis on where and when something is available. People are also confused regarding when new films are debuting. 

The good news for consumers is there is so much choice of content, bad news is that you have no idea of how to find your choice. Marketing is the only means of making it simple for people to find an upcoming feature. The promotion of a new theatrical release must be repetitive and state the fact that it's playing "only in theaters". 

                         Cinemas reopened to low but steady and growing admissions 

Many consumers find it very hard to justify spending extra money to see one movie at home when they already pay a monthly subscription fee. This, topped with the mental exercise of remembering where new movies are playing is too much onus to place on the 'paying public'. 

Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Streaming Wars: It's All Good For Cinemas

 We don't want to get over-excited, as cinemas are just getting back to some form of normalcy, but the streaming war is raging and that can only be good for the movie exhibitors ... here's why!

The competition between content streamers is immense and vicious. The Players (big tech and big media) daily battle for subscribers and continue to grow by consuming every content producer no matter the price. The latest victim, MGM, was bought by Amazon for $8.4b last week. When asked how this purchase would impact Amazon, its CFO stated, "the purchase has no material impact to our financials or current operations as the transaction cannot be viewed as significant". Hey, it's only $8.4B. In Amazon-think the MGM content portfolio is significant
and historic and they get a solid production studio to boot. 

In addition to Amazon (which also manages Amazon Prime), there is Netflix (the most significant streamer), Hulu, HBOMax, Disney+, Apple+, Paramount+, VerizonWB, and over 50 other entertainment streamers from National Geographic to Acorn. At the moment, all of these competitors have made streaming very affordable entertainment, several offer subscription rates of only $4.95 per month.

What's at stake for all of the streamers is eyeballs. 70% of all viewed in-home content was through a streaming service - millennials streamed 60% of that content. The DVD industry is all but dead as the streamers allow subscribers to hold purchased content in their 'lockers'.


                                              The Battle for the Viewership

The current score on subscribers is as follows:

Netflix - 210m, Amazon Prive - 175m, Disney+ - 104m, HBOMax - 85m, Hulu - 41m, Paramount+ - 36m, Apple+ - 34m. This doesn't take into consideration the large Chinese streamers like TenCent and iQlyi and at least 50 more worldwide some with subscription bases as low as 100,000.

Content is king. For example, for Amazon, snapping up MGM - which has more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows in its catalog - is an easy and relatively cheap way to supercharge its Prime service with a slew of well-known titles. Which include franchises such as The Pink Panther, Rocky, and the Bond films.

Amazon's purchase of MGM came right after AT&T announced its decision to spin off  WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery Network. 

Why This Is Good For Movie Theaters

The streamers know that they need to keep their subscription prices low, at least into the foreseeable future, to remain competitive. To counter the low subscription price, several - Hulu, Paramount+, Discovery+ - are now including paid advertisements with their content streaming. So, we're back to the old game that the cable companies played. Charge a low monthly fee to start, then introduce ads, then raise the monthly fees as the situation permits. The problem is: that scenario doesn't work when consumers would need to purchase 4 or more streaming channels to get the content they desire. This can get very expensive when you consider that the household needs WiFi to get the streaming service delivered and may still want cable for broadcast TV content.

Current Cost of Streamed Content

Netflix $9/mo, $13/mo. HD

Amazon Price $9/mo. or included w/Prime $119/yr.

Apple TV+ $5/mo.

Hulu $6/mo. (ads), $12/mo. (w/o ads)

Paramount+ $6/mo. (ads), $10/mo. (w/o ads)

Disney+ $6/mo.

HBOMax $15/mo.

Everyone knows that the very top of the content barrel will be the Hollywood-produced tentpole films, and these will be exhibited in cinemas with an exclusive 45-day window (for the most part). If consumers want the very best in content they will have to go to the movies, or wait and view it on ???  If you don't have a subscription to Amazon Prime you're not going to see the latest James Bond film. The streamers will horde their content and stream it only on their channel.

This scenario provides cinemas an opportunity - as they, and they alone, will be able to exhibit content from all producers.