Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 24 April 2014

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In something other than sad news from South Korea, enhanced experience cinema seat maker CJ 4DPlex has revealed its global ambitions and roadmap.

To many movie fans, “300” is a Hollywood blockbuster about an epic battle between the Spartans and the Persians. But for CJ 4DPlex, the number has a different yet significant meaning.

For the CJ affiliate, 300 is the number of theaters worldwide in which it hopes to deploy its 4-D technology called 4DX that offers a new experience for moviegoers.

“We are going to hit critical mass once our 4-D technology platform is adopted at more than 300 theaters globally by the first half of next year,” CJ 4DPlex CEO Choi Byung-hwan told The Korea Herald.  LINK

CJ 4DPlex wants 4DX to become a major cinema brand like Imax and drive added revenue for exhibitors.

The idea of 4DX came from CJ Group chairman Lee Jay-hyun, who suggested CJ CGV integrate the concept and technology of theme park rides with cinemas to offer a different movie experience.

This came as the theater market has been facing strong competition from the home entertainment sector.

Lee’s 4-D insight was also in line with his vision for CJ’s media and culture globalization, which was to encourage global consumers to watch one to two Korean movies a year; eat Korean food at least twice a month, watch one to two Korean soap operas a week; and listen to one to two K-pop songs a day.

Here is another video that explains the technology in more depth (that I’m unable to embed).

ArcLight Santa Monica

USA (CA): The go-ahead has been given to one of the two ArcLight cinemas proposed for Santa Monica.

Council voted quickly and unanimously to approve the first new Downtown Santa Monica movie theater in decades.

An ArcLight Cinema with 10 to 13 screens and up to 1,500 seats will be built on the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall and could be completed by next year.

Council also voted unanimously to move forward in negotiations aimed at placing another larger ArcLight on Fourth Street where Parking Structure 3 currently sits.  LINK

Concessions (not the snack kind) made include a USD $120,000 contribution to the pedestrian Colorado Esplanade, funding Downtown wayfinding signage, closed caption devices at all its theaters, three screens made available for AFM and local hiring of staff.

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“Shatner’s World” Takes Multi-Channel Approach To Marketing Alternative Content

Earlier today while posting a link to to Twitter promoting our piece on Nikki Rocco’s retirement from Universal Pictures, I spotted a tweet from Regal Cinemas in my timeline that provides a great example of alternative content marketing. Specifically, it provides an illustration of how event marketing activation can work by using multiple channels to build awareness.

In this particular case, the event being marketed was “Shatner’s World“; a one night cinema presentation of William Shatner‘s autobiographical one-man Broadway show.

I initially saw social media marketing directly from the retail channel where the product was to be purchased. This was a Twitter post from Regal Cinemas containing an image of the poster artwork for the event:

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 23 April 2014

China_cinema_2144703b

Is China undergoing a 3D backlash? Speakers at the recent Beijing International Film Festival seemed to go to great lengths to condemn poor 3D.

Prominent members of industry like Yang Buting, chairman of China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association and China Film Overseas Promotional Corporation, lined up to have a go at the format. Director Paul Andersson (Resident Evil and many other 3D films) said that there were too many bad 3D films and exhibitors over-charging (see next item), which could lead China to follow the US lead of audiences switching back to 2D.

Take the numbers with a pinch of salt, however, as the most recent screen count in China is 20,007, which makes the first figure quoted nonsensical.

More than 20,000 movie screens in China can play 3D films and more companies are competing to sell their 3D projection equipment, which used to cost between 80,000 yuan and 150,000 yuan. Now equipment is no more than 20,000 yuan, said Yang.

“This kind of vicious competition has lowered the quality and cost of 3D films, thus upsetting viewers,” he said.

Paul Anderson told Xinhua that it is better to give audiences a choice.

“If you don’t give them a choice and you deliver bad 3D products, eventually they will stop going to the cinema. American people are choosing to watch 2D rather than 3D films,” he said.  LINK

It is worth remembering that films like RoboCop and Transcendence were released in 3D only in China, to qualify for the 20+14 foreign film import quota, while Noah was released in 3D everywhere around the world (except in muslim countries that banned it in 2D and 3D) except in the US.

red-blue 3D glasses

Not the glasses sold in cinemas

Chinese cinemas are also coming under scrutiny by city councils for the practice of charging a premium for tickets to 3D films, as well as requiring patrons to spend extra to buy 3D glasses.

Miss Xiao told reporters the she recently went to a South City theater to watch a 3D movie. After buying the tickets, she was told she would be required to purchase 3D glasses sold by the cinema or she would not be able to watch the 3D movies. “At the time, I felt very angry, but I did not want to think about spending more money to buy more than the ticket to affect my mood, so I spent more than ten yuan to buy 3D glasses trouble.” Consumers such as Miss Lee, Mr. Jin is one of many who suffered such things. City Council said yesterday, after investigating  theatres in Dongguan, that this situation does exist.  LINK

The City Council is threatening cinemas with actions for violating Article 26 of the “Consumer Protection Law” and urges them to “consciously safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.” Seems like there is trouble brewing here on multiple fronts.

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Why We’ll Miss Nikki Rocco When She Retires As Universal’s Head of Distribution

Nikki Rocco

Nikki Rocco, President, of Domestic Distribution, Universal Pictures

Arriving at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas for my return flight from CinemaCon last month I was greeted at the gate by a potpourri of industry professionals, as was to be expected. There were engineers and sales reps from manufactures such as QSC and Volfoni, studio distribution executives from the likes of Twentieth Century Fox and film buyers from exhibition chains both large and small.

Among this assemblage was Nikki Rocco, the president of domestic distribution at Universal Pictures, who at the time was using an iPad to work on something I could only assume must be very important. Earlier today Universal announced Rocco will retire at the end of 2014 after spending 47 years with the company, the last 18 as the first woman ever to head up distribution at a major studio.

Just three days before I watched Rocco walk CinemaCon attendees through Universal’s summer slate during the studio’s annual presentation of its upcoming releases. As I listened to Rocco skillfully introduce titles such as the raunchy comedy, “Neighbors”, Seth MacFarlane‘s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”, I was once again reminded just how talented and special she is as a person and an executive.

If spending nearly five decades at a single company wasn’t evidence enough to demonstrate just how special Rocco is, consider for a moment that the company at which she has spent her entire professional career is a movie studio. How many studio executives in senior management roles make it past the decade mark at just one company? Not very many. Especially ones that joined their studios as paid interns in 1967.

On top of that, Rocco has been able to survive as the head of distribution during several ownership and leadership changes at Universal. Seagrams purchased the studio the year before Rocco was named the head of distribution in 1996. This was after five trying years under the ownership of Matsushita Electric. In 2000 Universal was sold to Vivendi, a french water utility, transforming into Vivendi Universal. By 2004 Universal was sold again, this time to GE, which already owned NBC, the broadcast television network, thus creating NBCUniversal. Cable operator Comcast then bought a controlling share of NBCUniversal in 2011 and acquired the company outright in 2013.

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China’s Multiplexes Are Headed For a Crash – Statistics Show Why

Z Storm

Just 15%. Remember that figure as you listen to Hollywood representatives and trade press falling over themselves to laud the growth of Chinese cinemas.

At this year’s CinemaCon MPAA’s Chris Dodd marvelled at China’s USD $3.6 billion box office in 2013, representing a year-on-year growth of 27.5%, saying that “with China building 13 new screens every day more growth is coming.” The Hollywood Reporter breathlessly reported last week that  Chinese box office “first quarter revenues for 2014 have already exceeded the country’s full-year total for 2009,” and that it could surpass USD $4 billion for the whole year.

The opening of screens has also accelerated since Dodd quoted the 13 screens per day figure last month. “In the first quarter, there were 325 movie theaters built, for a total of 1,609 screens, which means an average of 18 new screens went up per day,” says THR. Thus, China presently has 20,007 cinema screens compared to the 40,000+ in North America.

There is just one problem with all this exuberance; if the rate of cinema openings outpaces Chinese box office growth, then it is not a boom but a bubble. Because we’ve been here before and it did not end well.

Gravity Defying No More?

Any news and analysis about China has taken place against the wider economic landscape of the mainland. Last week Reuters reported that ‘China economic growth slows to 18-month low in first-quarter‘ as China’s new leaders reign in credit and rule out major stimulus “to fight short-term dips in growth.” It is noted that “even three or fours years ago, growth of less than 8 per cent would have alarmed Chinese officials,” who have been used to double digit figures, but in January-March the economy grew just 7.4%. The housing market in particular was a source of worry. Keep that in mind.

Of course, there were plenty of pundits saying, “this time/one is different.” Yu Yongding, former President of the China Society of World Economics, wrote in the article ‘Fears of a Chinese crash are unfounded‘ that “the market is always in search of a story, and investors, it seems think they have found a new one this year in China,” noting that dire predictions about China’s economy have “abounded for the past 30 years.” He admits that “China’s real-estate price bubble is often named as a likely catalyst for a crisis,” but tries to assuage fears by pointing out that China does not have sub-prime mortgages.

Whether China’s economy as a whole is headed for a crash/slowdown/correction is beyond the scope of this article. But it should be noted that the property market is identified even by defenders of the economy as the weak point. Commercial real estate is more exposed than private housing and multiplexes balance most precariously on top of the countless, recently constructed, shopping malls.

But surely the Chinese middle class’ insatiable appetite for domestic hits, Hollywood blockbusters in 3D, giant Imax screens and popcorn ‘dyed in all colors of the rainbow’ and ‘coated with sticky sweet syrup’ (thanks Joel) will keep cinemas going? Statistics say ‘no’. Here is why.

The Worrying Piece of Data – 15%

While you wouldn’t pick up the worry about a Chinese cinema sector bubble from western media and trade press, the issue is debated fairly openly in the Mainland’s Chinese-language press. In an article originally titled ‘Perspective Hidden Behind the 20,000 Screens‘ [a reference to the total Chinese screen count] on CE.cn (source: Beijing Daily) author Lu Yang quotes:

“From the status of the overall development of the market, the growth rate of the domestic box office this stage and movie theater attendance is nowhere near the speed of construction, an increase of the ratio between the two is in an unbalanced state, which means that the national theater attendance is actually not ideal. “critic Liu Chang says.

Cultural Industry Research Institute of Peking University, the Beijing Daily reporter Chen Shaofeng pointed out, “statistics show that the average attendance was only 15% of the national theater. Oversupply in the market [means] the theater’s income will be diluted further. “

These are shocking and worrying admissions that should set alarm bells ringing. The 15% occupancy rate might be the norm for western multiplexes, but just like China needs a growth rate of above 7.5% to 8%, so too it cannot sustain its cinema sector with what passes for normal in the US and Europe. Consider the fact that IHS stated last year that in the UK “The average cinema has an occupancy rate of 20-25 per cent across the week.” So Chinese occupancy rate is way below a mature market like the UK that has gone through extensive consolidation.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 22 April 2014 (post-Easter Bumper Issue)

ABC Brussels cinema

Belgium: Save the Brussels ABC! One of the last 35mm adult film cinemas in the world closed last year when the ABC in Brussels shut its doors.  There is now a campaign to save it and turn it into an art-house cinema with exotic flare.  You can donate by PayPal. The campaign is 47% towards its target.

For over 40 years the ABC cinema screened adult films from 35mm – one of the last such cinemas not to have converted to digital – but in 2013 it shut its doors for the final time.

Earlier this year, a group from three of Belgium’s leading film and heritage organisations – independent cinema and archive Cinema Nova, festival organiser and programmer Offscreen/vzw Marcel and movie theatre heritage specialist La re?tine de Plateau – devised an ambitious plan to rescue the ABC for a life after porn.

Drawing on their experience, they believe that the ABC is the perfect size for repertory screenings and intimate-scale live events, and so they created the CINEACT Foundation, to raise €60,000 (approximately £50,000 / $83,000) to take out a year-long lease on the ABC.  LINK

Palace Theatre Orpheum Los Angeles

USA (CA): A great example of how to bring back a cinema from the dead and make it relevant for a new age and neighbourhood is provided by the former Orpheum (what an appropriate name) in Downtown Los Angeles, first opened in 1927 but in decline for a long time.

It stopped showing films 25 years ago, and then became the base for notorious television evangelist Gene Scott, who passed away in 2005. The entire building was sold in 2011 and earlier this year opened as the newest branch of the Ace Hotel. The upstairs offices were converted into bedrooms and the elaborate cinema at the core of the building was reopened with a Valentine’s Day show from Spiritualized.

As well as music, bringing movies back to the cinema was core to the brand’s rejuvenation of the building. The Ace got in touch with Cinespia, the Los Angeles-based classic movie screening organisation, to help. Cinespia founder John Wyatt had previously hosted one-off shows in the Downtown cinemas he calls “vintage jewels”, including La Dolce Vita at the ornate Los Angeles Theatre and Blade Runner at the Million Dollar Theatre, situated across from the Bradbury Building, which is featured heavily in the film. “I got really excited, one, because nobody was going to turn the building into loft apartments and two, because they were an interesting brand who might want to take some risks,” explains Wyatt.  LINK

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Wishing Our Readers a Happy Easter

Celluloid Junkie will be back next week with something MAJOR.

Ritzy staff strike for a Living Wage over Easter

Ritzy staff strike for a Living Wage over Easter

 

Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 17 April 2014


Regal Summer Movie Express

USA (TN): Discount tickets was a hot topic at CinemaCon. No update on that, but Regal will be showing older films for just USD $1 this summer, as it has for the past 22 years. Parent rejoice.

Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC), a leading motion picture exhibitor owning and operating the largest theatre circuit in the United States, today announces that the Summer Movie Express is back for its 23rd year. The launch of this summer’s program brings family movies for only a dollar to more than 350 Regal Entertainment Group theatres across the country.

“Many families make this a summer tradition and look forward to our announcement of the long list of fun movies coming their way. And for Regal, this helps us instill that love of moviegoing in another generation,” said Ken Thewes, chief marketing officer at Regal Entertainment Group. “The titles this year appeal to a diverse group of tastes, and we know there is a little bit of something for everyone.”  LINK

 

Cineworld Witney

UK: Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Cineworld, is what this upset letter writer from Witney seems to be saying.

Well, before the cinema opened, a spokesman for the company announced that as well as the usual 3-D screens which come with Cineworld, there was going to be a screen for arthouse/world cinema. But this has not happened.

No disrespect to people who enjoy Hollywood blockbusters, but not everyone likes those types of films, and when I used to go to the Corn Exchange for films which were not Hollywood blockbusters, there was always a good crowd there.

So what has happened?

I’ve tried getting answers from Cineworld themselves but they have never responded to my inquiries.  LINK

(Checking Cineworld Witney’s listings confirms that the most ‘art-house’ film showing is Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave. Not even The Grand Budapest Hotel is showing. He might have a point.)

Event Cinema

Driving Miss Daisy

UK: Driving Miss Daisy will be showing in cinemas, the play that is, not the surprise Best Film-Oscar winner.

Event screening for stage adaptation to screen at over 300 screens across the UK, followed by live Q&A with star Angela Lansbury.

As a result of strong demand for tickets at the BFI Southbank, Omniverse Vision has announced a special one-off screening of Driving Miss Daisy: The Play.

Starring Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, the stage adaptation will be broadcast via satellite to over 300 cinemas across the UK on May 25 and followed by a live Q&A with Lansbury, hosted at the BFI Southbank.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 16 April 2014

Phil Knatchbull Curzon

London’s Evening standard does an in-depth piece on British art-house major Curzon Cinema and its visionary CEO Phil Knatchbull.

The Curzon Victoria is part of a £6 million London expansion by the company behind the boutique Curzon cinema chain as it almost doubles the number of screens in the capital from 12 to 20. Curzon World is using other designers to rejuvenate the Curzon Soho and the Renoir in Bloomsbury, and is expanding beyond the M25 into Canterbury. The long-term plan is to have 50 screens at 25 sites.

Chief executive Philip Knatchbull explains he wants the cinemas to grow in importance as a showcase for the upmarket Curzon brand, even as the company diversifies by generating more income from other sources. Film production, cinema distribution and the online streaming of films, with its own Curzon Home Cinema on-demand service, are other parts of Knatchbull’s multi-pronged growth strategy.  LINK

I can attest that Curzon is not just the leading art-house cinema chain in the UK but perhaps one of the top in the whole world. They don’t just kit out their cinemas with the precision of Apple Stores (but less minimalist), but also operate their own day-and-date VOD service, have distributed more Cannes Palm d’Or winning films than any other UK distributor (they say) and even produce their own films. Much like every UK town would like a Waitrose supermarket, so to most high streets there would welcome a Curzon cinema with open arms.

Licensing

Penthouse Cinema Brooklyn Wellington

New Zealand: An art-house cinema in Sir Peter Jackson’s hometown Wellington won’t be able to serve alcohol over the busy Easter period due to planning restrictions.

The boutique Brooklyn venue applied for the licence to serve alcohol on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, after discovering it was no longer exempt as an entertainment venue since the introduction of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act in December.

Operations manager Kate Larkindale said she was stunned when a letter from the district licensing authority arrived on March 19, telling her she would have to apply for a special licence.

Under the new law, alcohol can be served on “sacrosanct days” – Anzac Day morning, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day – only with a meal, unless an exemption is granted for an “event”.  LINK

(Would it be churlish to point out that Jesus had to make do with drinking vinegar from a sponge up on the cross over Easter?)

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China Embraces Event Cinema With ‘Turandot’ and 3D ‘Farewell My Concubine’ (CJ EXCLUSIVE)

NCPA Turandot

China’s two major opera houses are joining the ranks of distinguished institutions like the Met Opera and the Royal Opera House with the first recordings and screenings of their operas.

Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) recording of Puccini’s Turandot opened this month’s Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), while the Shanghai Jingju Company will screen the 3D opera adaptation of Farewell My Concubine at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles later this year.

The decisive push shows that China is as ambitious in the field of event cinema as it is in conventional films for cinema, despite the lack of tradition of screening ‘alternative content’ in cinemas.

Yesterday the BJIFF hosts the screening of NCPA Opera House’s Turandot, which has been localised and given a Beijing-setting but sung in Italian. The event was captured in high definition in partnership with  Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and will also be shown at the upcoming 17th Shanghai Film Festival, which will have a special focus on opera movie screening.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the first screening of the event took place at the NCPA itself on Sunday 16 March, as part of the 2014 Opera Festival, where a special 6-meter-high and 16-meter-wide screen was erected on the stage for the HD projection, with the production crew, NCPA orchestra and choir members all present to see their work on the big screen.

Turandot cinema show

The BJIFF screening took place at the Xidan Joy City Capital cinema, which has 290 seats and recorded an attendance well over 70%. Much like western operas shown in cinemas, the audiences clapped and cheered ‘Bravo!’, despite the opera not even being shown live.

Interviewed afterwards by Xinhua news, the audience members were overwhelmingly positive to the new experience.

“The film version of the stage version of the opera and there are still differences.” Audience Li Wei said, “the stage version of the opera actor observed facial expressions, and the movie screen actor expression, subtle emotional changes have been enlarged, more have impact.” In his view, the film more fully meet the opera opera lovers’ visual enjoyment. When Princess Turandot tears appear on the screen, kneeling in prayer picture viewer Hu Fang Yankuangshirun. “I’ve seen the opera before,” Turandot “, but there is no sound in the cinema today feeling good, feeling listening to music today play exceptionally moving,” she said.

As in US and UK, the price is a major factor for the popularity, with tickets for regular screenings in cinemas across China starting from today, costing just 30-50 yuan (USD $4.80-8.00).

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