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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Perfect Casting: The Weinstein Saga

 If you were casting for a biopic on the whole sorted Weinstein saga you couldn't get a better portrayer for the Weinstein role than Harvey himself.

Look at Harvey. If there were anyone that fit the role of a sexual predator it's this guy.


"I'm Losing Teeth. Four So Far!"

Harvey's extradition to LA continues to be delayed. On April 12th Weinstein's attorney requested postponement due to "his client's scheduled critical health procedures, to treat his failing vision and save his teeth." Norman Effman, Weinstein's lead attorney, told the judge, "he is almost totally blind and in need of surgery and shots. He's also has major dental issues. He's already lost four teeth at this point". Arguing that leaving New York, where he is serving a 23 year sentence for rape and sexual assault charges, would be an undo hardship on Harvey. 

Los Angeles filed sexual charges against Weinstein on January 6, 2020. He is accused of rape and sexual assault in a number of separate incidents. If convicted on all counts the penalty would be over 140 years.  

"We believe we have a very good defense on all of the California charges and believe it will result in an acquittal" said Effman.

Judge Kenneth Case said that even if he ordered extradition, Weinstein has the right of appeal. So, he granted the request to postpone until April 20 the filing of papers opposing the extradition.

In a separate request, filed on April 6th, Weinstein asked the New York Court of Appeals to throw-out his conviction and grant him a new trial, stating that the Judge in his first case made several errors that denied him an impartial jury. We await the Appeal Court's decision on whether to hear the appeal or not.

And so, the saga continues. 



Monday, April 05, 2021

Monsters Hit B.O. Big

 


$48.5 million gross for 'Godzilla vs. Kong" was a pandemic record for a 5 day opening. This represented about half of what would be a 'normal' debut gate but represented a clear indicatioon that the cinema will return. Globally, the film raked in $285 million.

This bodes well for summer releases such as: "F9" (the Fast & Furious sequel), "Top Gun - Maverick", "Crulla", to name several summer tentpoles, The summer admission's ramp-up is tailor-made for viewing in the theatrical way - as bigger is always better for movie viewing.

"It Wasn't Me...It Was The Judge"

 Last Monday, Harvey Weinstein filed an appeal of his New York State conviction on sexual assault and rape charges, arguing that the judge made numerous errors that "resulted in a rigged trial". 

Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 with two counts of 3rd degree rape and one count of 1st degree assault. He is serving a 23 years sentence with his earliest parole being 2039.


He is also awaiting extradition to Los Angeles to face an additional 11 counts that carry a potential sentence of 140 years. 

It should be noted that New York State Governor Andres Cuomo, also being investigated on sexual misconduct has retained Weinstein's legal council. 






Monday, March 15, 2021

Special CMG Report: Where Does The Cinema Go From Here?

 Background

The movie industry took a direct and profound hit from the pandemic. The business model is now deeply challenged and must undergo a complete revamp to meet the demands of the digital world. The role movie theaters will play post-pandemic remains unclear.

There are two truths we know for sure:

1. More people are viewing movies at home, and

2. Studios and other content streamers are quickly developing their own direct-to-consumer digital-based services.

Studios derive about one-half their revenue from theatrical releases. If there is a diminished cinema release window it could force changes in the way content deals are struck. However, streaming may not be the best place to be for the studios in terms of profit. Premium video-on-demand (PVoD), where first-run movies are streamed directly to consumers has had mixed results and a full 68% of consumers express a desire to watch movies in theaters. So, clearly it will not be simple nor advantageous for the studios to shift to a full streaming model.


 'The theatrical window is in fact an anchor to finance production'


Currently, box office sales account for 46% of total studio sales - which is not something the studios want to disrupt.  On average, studios share 45% of box office revenue with the theaters. Further, most movies make 75% of their total box office gross within 17 days of their theatrical release.

Traditionally, the 'windowing' system ensured that each release platform was protected by a set release timeframe, for example, cinemas had a 90 day exclusive. Furthermore, the theatrical window's performance determined, in many cases, how revenue from subsequent windows was negotiated. Therefore, if more movies skip theaters in favor of digital platform release, down-stream revenues are sacrificed. 

This scenario places studios in a pickle. Reach more people through streaming but in doing so undermine cinemas' big revenue generation. These facts must be considered in light of front-end financing of productions, existing distribution agreements, and licensing terms. The theatrical window is in fact an anchor to finance production.

Premium Video on Demand (PVoD)

As it now stands, studios either lose money by delaying theatrical releases or stream first-run movies directly to consumers. Only 18% of U.S. consumers have attended a theatrical screening since the pandemic began placing huge financial pressure on the studios and cinemas. Therefore, PVoD emerged as a viable alternative, but posed a treat to the traditional windowing system.

Revenue per window or revenue per user? Typically, digital platforms generate much more data regarding viewer' engagement than cinemas.  Viewer tastes and interests, demographics, and location are several. Although only the largest studios manage streaming platforms the need for original 'blockbuster' content is evident. The trick for the studios is to measure how different types of content perform on different distribution channels.  



Some movies are well-suited to long theatrical releases while others merit shorter cinema exclusivity and some none at all. The challenge for studios is to understand which distribution channel is appropriate for which type of content and marketing it to the 'right' audience. 

On the content front, the studios are now competing against tech and telecom giants. These corporations that don't need their media operations to turn a profit because their main revenue drivers are elsewhere. This kind of deep-pocket competition put studios in a very precarious position regarding purchasing content, selling it, or producing it.



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Not Apples-to-Apples

Measuring box office admissions vs. streaming or PVoD revenues is not an apple-to-apple comparison. When the pandemic lifts, the role of cinemas will have changed. When consumers feel safe in a cinema there may very well be a strong rebound in cinema attendance. 

I believe studios will continue to deliver 'big cinema' content but how theaters adapt and demonstrate moviegoer value against a growing at-home market will determine their fate.

COVOD 19 hit the movie industry hard but with it came the opportunity to revamp old traditions and prepare for new ones. Streaming has become a necessity and the movie industry must recognize this and forge forward as the future is fast approaching.


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

DOWN, But NOT OUT!

 The movies have always adapted to 'BIG' changes and the COVID impact will be no different. 

The Movies Depict Our History


One of the issues this year is that the Oscars will not have any 'major' contenders. The studios mouth-balled their tent-poles, including such films as 'Dune' and 'West Side Story'.

The Awards will be dominated by 'small-fry' films which are great for the small screen but not so for the silver. Up until the pandemic, all filmmakers assumed their works would be viewed on the big screen. The Best Picture prize was relegated to epic productions or fantastic stories with great acting and directing. 

Now the new mantra is films that make the audience 'feel like its inside the film'. Much of the streamed content is 'modified to fit' the home screen and highly censored for a more 'family friendly' audience. Let's face it, a movie seen at home is not the same as seeing it on a big screen at a cinema - too much detail is lost.

Moviegoing is NOT Going AWAY!

Think I'm crazy. Well, since ever people have congregated to listen to storytellers - there is a need for a shared entertainment experience. Furthermore, there are too many people with too much at stake to see the industry disappear. It is financially important.

I've written before about how the movie industry survived TV and radio in the 1950s, the home video boom of the '80s, and 'pay-per-view' of the '90s and beyond. The pandemic will be no different.

In 1953, Walt Disney commented, "The movie industry requires constant adaptation and adventures in showmanship. We like to enjoy ourselves in crowds, at sports arenas, at picnics, fairs, and carnivals, at concerts, and in the theatre.  People are always going to demand and enjoy movies in the theatre. Movies will survive."

Well said Walt. I couldn't agree more!


Thursday, February 04, 2021

Cannes Festival Moved To July Good For Film Industry

 There may be hope for the Cannes film festival attendees and the movie industry in general as the date of the festival has now been set for early July. 



This will be the first major film festival that will be 'live'. After a year of virtual film fests, the prospect of celebrating great filmmaking sounds fantastic. Most festival attendees, be they distributors, filmmakers, actors, agents, producers, and buyers believe that even if the pandemic is not over by July, with the vaccines the lockdowns and group restrictions will be behind us. 

This news of a July festival is very positive for the film buyers. The normal (live) May festival was not in the cards. With the whole film industry in turmoil, a bit of normalcy at the biggest film market in the world is great. 

The July reschedule is reassuring because it's a delay that's not too long and therefore won't impact the commercial life of films but long enough not to disrupt the whole endeavor. To most, the date change was a huge relief. 

There are many distributors with movies waiting to be released once cinemas reopen fully.  They have to clear up their slate of overdue releases. The ideal game plan for a distributor is to use Cannes as a launchpad for new films to either streamers or cinemas.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Biden Admin. - Good/Bad For Cinema

 Will the Biden/Harris Administration be a good friend to the cinema industry?  Many in H'wood believe this will be the case.


George Clooney and Cher raised over $14m for Biden 

 Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are long-time supporters of the film industry and the H'wood elite were huge backers and, more importantly, big donors to Biden's election.

The Dems spent over $4.6b on the Presidential election - a record, and twice as much as the previous election cycle. And, a good portion of those contributions coming from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street. However, of this triad of large givers only H'wood has taken a major hit due to the pandemic. 

Biden is well aware of H'wood's suffering and the great cultural contribution it makes, as well as, the significant employment numbers it carries - 2.1 million direct jobs nationwide. Both of these facts will not go unrewarded by the Biden Administration. 

H'wood has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with Democratic administrations but I think the Biden White House will be less huggy-feelly and more pragmatic given the impact of the pandemic and the current significant divide between Republicans and Democrats. Biden will be an ally to the industry.

The cinema industry as one of the most severely impacted and remains so. Let's see what the Biden Admin. can do to get the industry moving and get moviegoers back into theaters. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Movie Theaters' New Life: Tiered Admission Pricing

Anyone who has read my articles knows that for years now I have predicted that cinemas and online streaming of movies would eventually go day-and-date. However, I never envisioned it would take a pandemic to spur-on this change - 2020 has forever changed film making, distribution and exhibition.

My new prognostication is that cinemas move to a tiered admission pricing structure - having different admission pricing dependent upon the movie being screened. Blockbuster tentpoles premium priced while lesser films a regular admission price. This simple tactic will get more people back to the cinema again and would keep them coming back.
The rise of streaming services, which received a huge boost as viewers were forced to stay home, placed added pressure on the old, ironclad theatrical release window. Cinemas were forced to close and the studios had to completely recast their release schedules - moving dates out years and sending some production to streaming services or digital rental platforms. That widened the cracks that were already present in the release window's panes resulting in a total rethink of movie distribution.

As cinemas reopen they are realizing that their bargaining power has been lost. For example, if they wanted to screen 'Wonder Woman 1984' they had to accept a very shortened exclusive window. Rebuilding the Theatrical Model Both the studios and exhibitors know that the 90 day exclusive release window is now history. What remains is a studio-by-studio negociation for release rules and, I believe, it will be a film-by-film model. For example, 'Fast and Furious 9' would warrant a longer window than a lesser film. I don't believe that the major blockbuster films will go day-and-date that often. However, the exclusive window would be weeks and not months.

Universal has worked out a deal with AMC, Cinemark, and Cineplex whereby the exhibs will get a piece of the digital profits of certain films to compensate for the shortened release window. This may be the best scenario for all concerned.

Consumers are now used to viewing films in the comfort of home-viewing, but there is a tremendous pent-up desire by people to get out of their homes and experience the full scale and impact that only the silver screen can bring. This is where the tiered pricing comes into play. Consumers are now used to paying a low subscriber price for their movie viewing - mostly in the $10-15/month range for any of the streamers. Cinemas will not be able to have a one-price-fits-all for films. They cannot charge, say a flat $12 (or $20 in NYC and LA) to see any film on the marquee - that model justs doesn't work any more. The COVID pandemic, in the long-term, may turn out to have been a good thing for the cinema industry if you agree that the changes it forced were going to happen in time anyway.