Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 31 October 2014 (Halloween)

Zolten cinema Kiev fire

An apparent arson attack has destroyed the oldest cinema in Ukraine’s capital. While nobody was injured, this appears to be a despicable hate crime attack that could have had even more tragic consequences.

The oldest movie theater in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev was seriously damaged as fire swept through the historic building during the screening of an LGBT movie in a suspected arson attack.

There were no injuries reported among the 100 moviegoers, who attended the screening of the French film ‘Les Nuits d’Ete’ (Summer Nights) as part of the Molodist film festival program.

However, the landmark Zhovten movie theater, which was opened back in 1931, suffered severe damage in the incident.  LINK

Curzon Soho Victoria

The same week that Picturehouse (Cineworld-owned) announces that it said would sack staff from the Brixton ritzy after lengthy strikes for a Living Wage (see next story), rival Curzon has agreed to pay its London staff the UK capital’s version of minimum wage.

The arthouse cinema chain Curzon, which runs nine sites around the country, has agreed to pay front-of-house staff the London living wage at its six cinemas in the capital.

It follows a year-long negotiation with media union Bectu as well as an online Change.org campaign, and sees wages rise from around £7 an hour to £8.80.  LINK

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IHS: 72 PLF Brands Compete With Imax (But Only Two Are a Threat)

PLD Premium Large Format

IHS Technology recently published an Insight Report on “The market for Premium Large Format (PLF) cinema” as part of its Cinema Intelligence Service. Authored by Principal Analyst Charlotte Jones, the report does an excellent job of providing a comprehensive and data-focused overview of the PLF market.

With “Interstellar” shortly set to lift off in Imax, PLF and 70mm screens, it is thus worth shining a bright light on the biggest of all screens in the cinema business.

Premium large format (PLF) is a market that was practically invented by Imax but only took off when the large format (LF) operator switched from 40-50 minute documentaries in museums and institutions to showing first-run Hollywood films multiplexes.

Having survived the “Lie-MAX” backlash in 2009 of retrofitting Imax screens into too-small multiplex auditoriums, Imax has grown strongly on the back of the initial popularity of 3D films (think: “Avatar”) as well as major international expansion.

But Imax strict business terms and high licence fees, coupled with advances in digital cinema technology, has led many cinema chains to launch their own-brand PLF screens, often in competition or in parallel to Imax’s screens.

The PLF space has received a recent boost from the launch of the Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro 11.1 immersive audio (IA) formats that help distinguish PLF screens from non-premium screens, as well as the imminent launch of laser projection for high-brightness stereoscopic 3D on even the largest of screens. High frame rate (HFR) and 3D on the other hand are by themselves not sufficient enablers for PLF, as the report notes, even though they often command higher ticket prices.

It is the brand(ing) that has proven the key differentiator for Imax, with own-brand PLF screens struggling to match it in terms of cache and perceived value. (If you don’t believe us, we invite you to read on-line reviews of cinemas’ own-brand PLFs to see comments littered with ‘rip off’ and ‘pretend Imax’ vitriol). Yet though the report only hints at it, there are two operators/brand that post a significant threat to Imax at least in two key PLF cinema markets, which we will get to later.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 29 October 2014

Regal cinemas

“Psst, wanna buy a cinema?” That seems to be the not-so-subtle message from Regal, the largest cinema chain in the United States, which unexpectedly put a ‘For Sale’ sign on the front door. Speculations immediately focused on Alibab’s Jack Ma, though my gut instinct is that he won’t be following in the footsteps of Wanda/AMC, primarily because his background is not real-estate and there are no obvious Chinese-US synergies to be had from such a deal. A sovereign wealth fund if not VC outfit is more likely to be checking Regal’s numbers right now. Variety covers all the other angles.

Regal CEO Amy Miles was tight-lipped about the issue on an earnings call Monday with analysts and media, only offering that the company’s board felt it was “an opportune time to conduct a thorough review of our options.” But in an interview with Variety for a lengthy profile earlier this month, Miles may have inadvertently explained why Regal shifted from bidder to acquisition target.

“We’re all excited about the years 2015, 2016 and I’m going to be aggressive and say even 2017,” she told Variety at the time. “I think that (in the) environment of very healthy strong box office, it’s a natural time to think, ‘OK that might be a good time for an individual to exit.’ Value maximization happens in that environment.”  LINK

Dolby Doremi Logo

The European commission has give its go-ahead to the Dolby-Doremi merger. The approval was expected but was most likely sitting in the IN tray of some EU bureaucrat away on holiday, or it might have gone through earlier.

Dolby Laboratories (DLB.N) on Monday received EU clearance for its acquisition of digital cinema technology group Doremi, the European Commission said.

The Commission, which acts as the competition watchdog in the 28-member bloc, said that while there was overlap between the two companies in the digital cinema servers business, the merger did not distort the market.

“The proposed transaction would not lead to any anti-competitive effects because of the presence of alternative suppliers, the fast-moving nature of the market and the ease of switching for customers,” the Commission said in a statement on Monday.  LINK

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China Cinema Digest – Tuesday 28 October 2014

 

China online ticketing

Beginning in November, China will start reporting box office number and info using social media in an effort to improve transparency. The move is good news for Hollywood studios, but will also provide a better picture of the exhibition market in the world’s second largest cinema territory.

In July, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television introduced an updated ticketing system, which gives better real-time information.

This week, Li Dong, head of a special unit of SAPPRFT which looks at ticketing and box office issues, said the watchdog was planning to release the information through popular social media, such as Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, and WeChat, which has parallels with WhatsApp. It wasn’t immediately clear at what frequency the data would be reported.  LINK

Wanda Cinemas Logo

The re-submission of their IPO prospectus has lead to plenty of coverage of Wanda Cinemas, including the astonishing revelation that the operator can manage the construction of an entire multiplex in just 105 days from start to finish. Lots of data, number and statistics in this article on China’s largest cinema operator, which still “only” accounts for less than 15% of total Mainland BO takings.

Coupling that is pure theater assets invested directly by theaters, cinemas and theaters all assets owned by relying on the model, capital and Wanda Cinema mode as a link for the film, its unified management, unified row theater piece. Since its inception in 2005, grossing Wanda Cinema faster growth each year, in 2011 box office revenue reached 1.785 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of the movie grossed 13.61%; 2012 box office revenue reached 2.456 billion yuan, accounting for the movie box office income ratio was 14.39%; 2013, box office revenue reached 3.161 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of the national film grossed 14.52%; 2014 January to June, the box office revenue reached 1.988 billion yuan, accounting for the proportion of movie box office revenue was 14.46%, continue to maintain the country’s first cinema box office revenue.

Wanda market share

Development of Wanda Wanda Plaza cinema into projects and tenant lease non Wanda commercial real estate development business projects, Wanda Cinema is the only strategic partner Wanda Plaza theater format, along with the rapid expansion of Wanda and other commercial real estate projects, Wanda cinema investment flourish, construction accelerated.

Wanda cinema investment and construction process is divided into the project site, theater design and theater construction, single Wanda cinema construction period is usually 105 days or so, in other words, after the completion of the siting and design of the theater, Wanda only three and a half months will be able to Wanda opened a theater. LINK

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Why We Are Not Covering ShowEast (This Year)

ShowEast 2014 - Hollywood Florida

With ShowEast presently underway in Hollywood, Florida many of our readers have been asking why they can’t find coverage of the event on Celluloid Junkie. ShowEast is exactly the kind of industry event CJ has built a reputation of covering in great detail and we’re truly flattered (not to mention a little surprised) that so many of you noticed its absence.

Rest assured, we did not forget about ShowEast. Unfortunately, despite contacting ShowEast organizers multiple times to arrange accreditation to attend, we never received a response or heard back from them. Whether this was simply an oversight we don’t know.

With no assurance that CJ would be provided access to properly cover ShowEast, and given the expense such coverage requires, we made the difficult decision not to attend this year’s conference.

As such, we regret to inform our readers that other than this post we will not be writing about ShowEast 2014 or covering any press announcements that specifically reference the show.

This is a disappointing situation but we felt it was our only choice. We do however appreciate all of your inquiries and understanding.

- Celluloid Junkie Editorial Team

 

Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 27 October 2014


regal-entertainment1
Regal lawsuit

Regal has escaped a major anti-trust lawsuit brought on by a small chain complaining about unfair film booking practices that favour larger cinema chains. Major implications in an age when 35mm scarcity is no longer a reason for denying smaller chains film “prints”. This is bad news for Look Cinema and other small exhibitors.

On Thursday, just a few days after The Wall Street Journal revealed that the DOJ was asking questions about these types of arrangements, a federal judge in California dismissed a lawsuit brought by Starlight Cinemas, the owner of a few independent movie theaters in California, against exhibition giant Regal Entertainment Group.

According to the lawsuit, filed in June, Starlight operates a state-of-the-art 15-screen movie theater in Corona, Calif., but has been suffering because Regal has been having more success licensing the blockbuster films from the likes of Sony and Universal. Regal operates an upscale 18-screen theater in Corona, but is advantaged by the fact that it controls approximately 575 theaters and 7,631 screens. So if studios wish to effectuate a “wide release,” they need cooperation from the likes of Regal. But according to the allegations, Regal demands exclusivity for that privilege.  LINK

Brixton Ritzy

UK – It proved a short-lived victory for the staff of the Brixton Ritzy cinema (owned by Picturehouse/Cineworld), who won the right to a Living Wage, only now to be told that a quarter of them will be laid off.

Picturehouse Cinemas said that the cost of increasing basic wages at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton to £8.80 an hour would be absorbed by reducing the number of staff by at least 20, with a redundancy programme starting next month.

Two management posts will be axed along with eight supervisors, three technical staff and other front-of-house workers from its workforce of 93.

BECTU, the union that represents cinema staff, today described the move which follows a year of strikes and negotiations as a “kick in the teeth”.  LINK

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CJ@SMPTE Conference – Bringing It Home: The Future of More Delivery

SMPTE Conference 2014 - HPA El Capitan Marquee

In an effort to provide updates on the proceedings of the 2014 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition presently taking place in Los Angeles, CA, this post was written live, and in the present tense, during one of the event’s panel discussions. Comments attributed to panel members are paraphrased unless denoted specifically by quotation marks.

A half-hour is spent with Deluxe’s Stephen Ferguson and cinematographer Dave Stump, ASC looking at high resolution and high frame rates images with specially created test materials. The MOS footage was created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science Sci-Tech Council so that there would be royalty free material to test high dynamic range and high frame rate capability, among other features. Look for the new Academy StEM material to be made available soon, with detailed descriptions and appropriate licenses.

Then Jerry Pierce, Vice-President of the HPA and Technical Advisor at the National Association of Theatre Owners, kicks off a panel featuring Mitch Singer, formerly the Chief Digital Strategy Officer at Sony, Shaun Lile of Elemental Technologies and Pete Putnam, the president of ROAM Consulting. The focus is on how to get all the new fangled technology discussed previously in the day into the home, rather than cinemas.

Singer is the first to air his thoughts on the matter and he starts off with an axiom that has become a national anthem in the entertainment industry over the past several years. “Can I access the content I want to access when I want to access it and the device I want to access it on?” he asks rhetorically. “I think in this group [SMPTE] we focus on the quality of the content without focusing on the consumer experience. It’s really challenging as a consumer to pay more money to get higher quality content. I think we sometimes overlook that when we distribute high quality content. In the end it’s just a movie or a television program and you want to be entertained. Unless I can see it and see the difference I’m probably not going to be pay extra money for it.”

Singer gives a real-world example of how during a demo of native 4K on an 84 inch Sony television set versus a scaled HD image, he couldn’t tell the difference, so why spend the extra money? Alas, marketing groups have gotten their hands on the term 4K and won’t let go. “I’m not sure that 4K is going to sell anything,” he says. “However, I did see HDR, and the moment I saw HDR I brought everyone from Sony Pictures to see the demo. That’s the one thing I could actually see across the room. I really hope we get to that as soon as possible. I’m not sure if studios will be able to monetize it but I know that audiences will be able to see the difference with HDR.”

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CJ@SMPTE Conference – Listen Up: Immersive Sound

SMPTE Conference 2014 - Immersive Sound

(from left) Sara Duran-Singer, Gabe Guy, Ben Wilkins, Dennis Baxter and Hanne Stenzel

In an effort to provide updates on the proceedings of the 2014 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition presently taking place in Los Angeles, CA, this post was written live, and in the present tense, during one of the event’s panel discussions. Comments attributed to panel members are paraphrased unless denoted specifically by quotation marks.

After the immersive visuals of Howard Lukk’s high dynamic range footage, the second afternoon session of the SMPTE 2014 Symposium deals with the subject of immersive audio. The panel discussion is moderated by Sara Duran-Singer, a senior post-production and production executive formerly with Walt Disney Studios. The panel itself includes Dennis Baxter, who has engineered and designed the sound for more Olympics telecasts and sporting events than anyone can count, Gabe Guy, a sound mixers from Walt Disney Studios, Hanne Stenzel who is working in the field of 3D audio at the Fraunhofer Institute and Ben Wilkins a sound designer and mixer at Technicolor.

The opening remarks touch on the first immersive audio technology developed by Iosono back in 2004, bringing us into the present day with Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro. Duran-Singer asks the panel the benefits of immersive sound.

“At Disney we’re really into immersing the audience and providing the audience with new experiences” Guy answers. His team is trying to elevate what all the artists have created onscreen with audio of a similar caliber. He is mixing in “native Atmos” by listening and monitoring in an 11.1 setup. His group will then listen to the 7.1 and 5.1 fold-downs “just to hear what it sounds like”.

Most, if not all, of Guy’s experience in immersive audio is with Atmos and he reports the new technology hasn’t made the post-production process more complicated. “We wouldn’t be able to do something like Atoms if it added a lot of time or complexity,” he says. “We managed to make it work in our existing workflow so that it adds as little as one day. We’re able to do all of that complexity and work up front. Our whole goal is to not add additional time and treat it as much like a normal mix as possible.”

As for specific benefits Guy tells the symposium attendees, “It’s taken the handcuffs off. It allows you to be more specific and take dialogue off the screen. The effects are much more precise in panning. The composers said they really enjoyed hearing their scores on Atoms because it can separate out the instruments.”

Guy also appreciates the way individual characters and their dialogue can be separated during action sequences.

Whether to add immersive audio to a production is always a decision that comes down to money, adds Wilkins. “It’s the balance between art and commerce,” he says. “Is Atmos going to increase ticket sales?”

Certainly it can increase costs by a minimum of USD $10,000 and is a choice that is best made before post-production begins on a movie. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a show where they’ve ever gone back and said let’s make it Atmos,” states Wilkins. “It’s an economically and fairly tough decision to do that. It effects everything including how we record sounds.”

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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 24 October 2014

Ymagis and dcinex

The acquisition of dcinex by Ymagis has finally been approved by shareholders. This is the single largest and most important digital cinema consolidation in Europe as dcinex/Ymagis is without a pan-European competitor of similar size, facing instead competition on the national levels. From the translated French-only press release.

“We are convinced that the combination between dcinex Ymagis and will in the short term, create synergies creating value for all shareholders Ymagis” says Bart Diels, outgoing Chairman of the Board of Directors and Partner of dcinex GIMV (1).

Creation of the European leader in digital technology for the film industry

With the acquisition of dcinex, Ymagis performs an operation that will create a European leader in the provision of financial services and technology to the film industry.

Following this acquisition, Ymagis becomes:

The financier No. 1 Park cinemas in Europe deployed VPF contract with nearly 5800 auditoriums in 14 European countries;

The European leader in the sale and installation of cinema equipment operators with a share estimated at 20% of the European market;

Operator No. 1 st European network routing dematerialized content, with more than 3200 theaters in 15 countries connected in Europe;

Technical partner No. 1 Park cinemas in Europe as outsourcing and maintenance contract with nearly 7200 screens (about 36 000) under contract in 21 countries.  LINK

Dolby Logo

Dolby – Quarterly earnings from Dolby show revenue at USD $227 million, which was slightly above their own projections and full year-on-year revenue is up 6%.  Licensing revenue outweighs product and services revenue by more than 11:1 (USD $208.9 million to $18.1 million), so don’t be surprised that Atmos was not the first thing discussed in the earnings conference call (transcript courtesy of SeekingAlpha). They do say that “The amount of revenue we get from the Doremi acquisition in Q1 will depend on the actual timing of the close,” which is still pending approval in Brussels.

Turning to cinema. We’ve seen tremendous growth with Dolby Atmos, increasing our screens by 150% this year to over 750 screens committed globally. Providing content to these screens is a key focus, and we now have more than 200 titles released or announced in Dolby Atmos; which includes content from all of the major studios. 14 of the 15 highest grossing titles in 2014 were in Dolby Atmos and we have a strong slate for the rest of the year, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  LINK

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CJ@SMPTE Conference – Howard Lukk Presents HDR Footage From “Emma”

Emma Preview at 2014 SMPTE Symposium

In an effort to provide updates on the proceedings of the 2014 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition presently taking place in Los Angeles, CA, this post was written live, and in the present tense, during one of the event’s panel discussions. Comments attributed to panel members are paraphrased unless denoted specifically by quotation marks.

The afternoon session of SMPTE 2014 Symposium begins with a preview of footage from “Emma”, a short film directed by Howard Lukk, formerly the Vice President of Production Technologies at Walt Disney Studios. “Emma” was shot in high dynamic range by Lukk and cinematographer Daryn Okada.

Four minutes of the 13 minute film is shown. To maintain eligibility for film festivals Lukk can’t show the entire piece. Nor can he show it in true HDR at the symposium since the projector being used isn’t capable of HDR. Still, Lukk says what he is showing should give attendees a good sense of the latitude HDR gives filmmakers.

Emma” was shot in Los Angeles over four days in May and June of 2014. Locations included Griffith Park, the historic Mount Pleasant House and a sound stage. Okada used an Alexa camera with an open gate to facilitate a scope picture shooting ARRIRAW in the ACES color space.

Since the piece is a suspense thriller Lukk and his cinematographer strove to get rich contrast. Lukk cites the work of cinematographer Greg Toland on “Citizen Kane” as an inspiration.

One of the biggest problems on set was monitoring, says Lukk, “We were shooting an HDR movie and using and SDR monitor.” As such Okada had to rely on his light meter to estimate light drop-off in certain shots.

Lukk reports that HDR allowed his team to rely heavily on natural light, but that in closeups the use of (too much) makeup was an issue. “When we went in for the closeups you can see a lot of flaws in peoples faces,” he recalls. “I wanted to see those realistic things.”

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