How Smartphones Rule Cinema Ticketing in China

China mobile ticketing WeChat

The boom in China’s box office is mainly attributed to the growth in the number of modern multiplexes catering to a growing middle class. Yet an equally important role has been played by convenience of mobile ticketing, which enables flexibility, impulse buying and seat selection that is valued by the 80, 90 and 00 generations (i.e. born in those decades), who are the main drivers of China’s cinema growth.

Just how big this is and how fast the trend is growing was highlighted in an article by Chinese entertainment consulting firm Entgroup last month:

During this year’s summer profile, market share of online ticketing business accounted for more than 30%. As of the third quarter, the total box office mainland film market beyond 2013 full-year results of 21.7 billion, is expected to reach 30 billion annual box office revenue, and online ticketing service will reach 50%, micro-channel movie tickets will use its unique “ripple communication “vibration entire online ticketing market, and root out the 3-4 line market, in response to consolidation and mergers and acquisitions in the context of the total forest hot market making the message is “no one can integrate me, I do not accept integration. “

Financial website Tiger Sniffing Network (!) profiles the rapidly evolving market and interviews people from three of the leading Mainland mobile ticketing providers: Pull Movies founder Kai, a Cat Movie insiders (interviewed anonymously) and Micro-Channel Movie Tickets founder Lin Ning.

Mobile ticketing in China is considered an O2O (Online-to-Offline) business, which is described by Wikipedia (Chinese) in the following terms:

O2O (Online To Offline) mode, also known as the offline business model refers to the purchase of consumer online marketing online and offline operations driving under the wire. O2O through promotions, discounts, information, service book, etc., the next line of the message store pushed to Internet users, which will convert them to customers under their own line, which is particularly suitable for the goods and services necessary to store the consumer, such as dining, fitness, movies and shows, beauty salons, and department stores such as photography.

In understanding Chinese consumers, particularly 80/90/00, it is important to appreciate the mobile-first, as well as savvy bargain, discount and special deals mentality that underpins consumer behaviour.

Added to this there is a strong element of social networking, using WeChat (messaging), Weibo (Twitter-type ‘micro-blog’) and other social apps, whereby peer influences and decision guided purchasing decisions for both goods and services/experiences.

Mobile Enablers Create Win-Win Situation

The article begins by pointing out that mobile movie ticketing vendors are in a unique position in terms of being enablers, rather than just middle-men between cinemas and their potential audience.

Online seat selection is typical of the O2O industry, where they provide cash flow from online and complete the import line. A mobile phone app will be able to direct the attention of online marketing to generate transformed into the purchasing power of the line at the box office, it is probable that all the movie marketing companies currently can not match the “creativity.” They are closer to the audience than the cinema, so they have amazing box office pulling power to entice the film side more and more to cooperate with them.

There is thus a power that rests with mobile movie ticket companies that is stronger than in most other parts of the world. This change has not come about overnight and the article does a good job of providing a chronology of how ticketing software systems have evolved in China over the past two decades.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 24 November 2014

Imax

Imax plans to double its presence in the Gulf region over the next three years, the company’s CEO has revealed.

Imax Corporation, the entertainment technology company known for its network of giant cinema screens, is planning to invest between $10 to $25 million (AED36.7 to AED91.2 million) in the Middle East region in the next three years, according to a report from Gulf News.

The company’s CEO, Richard Gelfond, told the paper that his company planned to increase the number of IMAX theatres in the region from fifteen to thirty.

“By 2017, we would double our presence in the region and have about thirty theatres. It is a huge market,” Gelfond said.  LINK

YouTube Preview Image

Last week Dreamwork’s Animation SKG showcased its 360 degree 3D VR (virtual reality) film plans. The demo included a brief clip of a ‘Super Cinema’ scene with assets from Dreamwork Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise.

At a recent Samsung conference, Dreamworks unveiled “Super Cinema”, a technology that aims to deliver the robust CGI movies that its customers are familiar with in a virtual reality format. That means that Dreamworks would be moving from pre-rendered movies to real-time ones, because just like our video games, the movie has to respond appropriately to where the user is looking.

That might sound simple enough, but consider the fact that Dreamworks demands such a high quality in its films, that rendering a single frame can take more than a day on a given PC. There’s simply no way the company could deliver that level of detail in real-time, so it seems likely that what we’ll wind up with is a really high-quality real-time movie that uses a traditional game engine that makes good use of anti-aliasing. The challenges go beyond that, though.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Saturday 22 November 2014

Google trailer study

A study by Google called “Behind the Box Office: What Influences the Films We See” has found that trailers are by far the biggest determinant of what movies moviegoers chose. While the study come out in favour of YouTube, the infographics still has plenty of interesting facts and conclusions.

Google conducted a study, analyzing nearly two years of search data, to determine what makes frequent moviegoers choose which movies they’ll see. As you may have guessed, the carefully composed missives of yours truly (and my critical brethren) don’t really figure into the equation. But frankly, neither do filmmakers, actors, or even word-of-mouth. No, the biggest influencer is the movie trailer(which might help explain why there’s six or seven of them before every feature nowadays).

The study, which Google conducted with Millward Brown Digital, was focused on “how moviegoers research and choose the films they watch.” Unsurprisingly, they’re trumpeting the prominence of Google-owned YouTube, noting that four out of five moviegoers “use video sites to look for more information about a film” (well, duh). Thirty-nine percent report the official movie trailer influences their decision most — a factor more than three times as important as the runner-up, “information on the cast” (11 percent). “A friend’s opinion” is third (with eight percent).  LINK

Cnc France youth cinema study

France – Yet the Google study above is contradicted by another study by the French audio-visual authority CNC, that finds that word-of-mouth is the most important factor, at least amongst youth, but only by a small margin. Young people also tend to decide on the day of the movie visit what film to watch, which sets them apart from the rest of the cinema-going population. Very detailed study that points to clear generation differences and importance of social media.

When asked about the information channels to choose a movie, young people aged 15 to 24 cite, in order of importance, word-of-mouth, oral or via social networks (58.6%), the extracts trailers or seen on television (56.8%), trailers views cinema (56.4%).

Conversely, they are 17.8% cited advertising or articles in the press and 29.4% the criticism in the media, according to studies of the National Film Centre, based on surveys of Médiamétrie or Harris conducted with several thousands of people throughout the year.

The entire population, she favors ads on TV (51.6%) and word-of-mouth (47.5%). 32.5% rely on critical to their choice.

Unsurprisingly, social networks and video sharing sites, like YouTube or Dailymotion, playing a growing role for youth to learn about film releases.  LINK

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China Cinema Digest – Friday 21 November 2014

Interstellar poster China

“Interstellar” had a good week at the Chinese box office, boosted by Imax showings and holding off competition from both domestic comedies and Madagascar penguins.

Interstellar took $42.33 million in its first five days in China, dominating a week in which Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic went head-to-head with Johnnie To’s romantic comedy Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 and DreamWorks Animations’ Penguins of Madagascar in the world’s second largest movie market.

Starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as astronauts trying to save the human race, with an ensemble cast that also includes Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine, Interstellar racked up 7.14 million admissions from 149,316 screenings, according to the research outfit Entgroup.

That was fewer screenings than the second-place movie in the week to Nov. 16, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2, but the space film also showed on 170 Imax screens in China, which gave box office a major lift.  LINK

You might also be interested in this article about advance online ticketing sale for “Interstellar”, which set a new record.

China Imax

The success of Imax and Premium Large Format films in China prompts Broadcast HC 360 to look at the technology behind Digital PLF, both Imax and its domestic Chinese competitors.

Relative to the IMAX “silent like gold,” the theater construction market is more lively. Cinema operators to invest and build its own brand for use in its own theater, the movie started issuing investment Poly Films, is the development of a domestic IMAX DMR system POLYMAX Poly; Wanda independent development of the giant screen projection system “X-Land “; and in digital cinema technology research-based science and technology enterprises Chen Xing Digital technology introduced in 2013 Cinelab laser IMAX screenings of high-quality solutions. These domestic IMAX brand is undoubtedly herald the birth of the modern multiplex cinema building, will move towards high-quality IMAX hall main trends.

And particularly worth mentioning is Cinelab IMAX innovative laser from the light source to the electro-acoustic to build sound, IMAX is a qualitative leap in technological development milestones. IMAX movies the same environment and needs two Barco 2K projectors can only support up to 2K mode with a resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels, a contrast ratio of 2000: 1, Cinelab laser IMAX system simply uses a laser IMAX Simply using a Christie 4K projector with a resolution up to 4096 * 2160 pixels, with a 2100: 1 contrast ratio, while the same effect, it is easy to see, Cinelab laser relative to the giant screen IMAX giant screen, the screen resolution increases four times, four times the clarity also increased. Given the high brightness laser light source in the screening process 2D center maximum brightness of up 40FL, and IMAX is 15FL, IMAX 2D laser brightness increased 2.67 times, and further optimize the viewers 2D viewing experience.  LINK

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Smartphones Are Killing the Cinema Experience

TCL Chinese

Last week a man got maced in the face for asking a fellow patron in a cinema to turn off their smartphone during the screening of a film. What is shocking is not that the attacker was a woman, or that it happened during a screening of an art-house film, or that the woman was escorted off the premises rather than arrested.

No, the single most shocking thing is the defending silence from the cinema industry in the face of such an attack. Not only have no lessons be learned since the fatal shooting earlier this year over an argument over smartphone use in the cinema, but there appears to be no willingness to tackle this issue.

The use of smartphones in cinemas is killing the cinema-going experience more effectively than camcorder piracy. Let me repeat: smartphones use in cinemas is killing the cinema-going experience more effectively than camcorder piracy.

If it is not tackled it will contribute to the further decline of cinema attendance. There is an urgent need for concerted industry action. Sadly, there appears to be a lack of leadership and willingness to challenge prevailing social norms.

An Attack at the Epicentre of Films

The attack itself took place in the heart of Hollywood, at a screening of a film considered an awards contender at an iconic cinema located just a block away from the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) where the Oscar statuettes will be handed out in a few short months.

The man was at an American Film Institute screening of Mr. Turner when he asked a woman to stop using her cell phone, an eyewitness told Mashable. After asking several times, he tapped the woman on her shoulder. The woman had a violent reaction to the shoulder tapping, and stood up, turned on her phone’s flashlight app, screamed at the man and threatened to call the police.

People asked her to turn off the phone, but she began going through her bag and produced a bottle of mace. She used the mace on the man, who left the theater with a companion. The woman continued to watch the movie, which never stopped playing, until security escorted her out about 20 minutes later.  LINK

It boggles the mind that the alleged attacker would sit down to continue enjoying the film after she had temporarily blinded a fellow cinema goer.

But more troubling is that the management in the cinema apparently did not see fit to call the police or escalate the matter, but simply escorted the woman off the premise. No word on whether she was refunded the cost of her ticket on her way out.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 19 November 2014

What we did on our holiday

The UK CEO of Lionsgate has suggested cinema ticket prices should be lower for (small) British films than for (big) Hollywood blockbusters. This has been suggested before, but always met with resistance. Rather than Brit films becoming cheaper, expect big blockbuster prices to go up. But don’t expect Lionsgate UK CEO one out and advocate that.

Lionsgate UK CEO Zygi Kamasa has called for greater flexibility of cinema ticket-pricing, as a way to stimulate admissions and increase demand for British films.

“Exhibitors have to do something drastic in 2015 and beyond to counter the decline in admissions,” he told ScreenDaily.

“One way to do this could be to implement more price flexibility. Why is Marvel’s Avengers, for example, the same price as a film such as What We Did On Our Holiday?”  LINK

Kiss India Bollywood PVR

India – We contacted PVR to verify the claim made in this article but nobody has responded to our query.

When all is said and done about the moral policing along with the Kiss Of Love campaign here is something new. To steer clear of any indecency in the cozy and dark movie theatres PVR Cinemas have come up with a new technique. As per the reports, PVR Cinemas will be installing night vision cameras in all of their chains so as to bring down the incidents of public display of affection (PDA).

Although the news has not yet been confirmed, but this might turn out to be one of the grave changes till now. So if you are used to making out and feeling each other up in the dark surrounding of movie theatres, not anymore will you be able to do so. This will be a fresh change in the decency check for all the movie goers. But then again, maybe not! What do you think about this?  LINK

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Does Hangzhou Point to Bubble in China’s Cinema Market?

Broadway Hangzhou IMAX

Broadway Cinemas (IMAX) in Hangzhou

Talk about China overtaking United States’ cinema box office within a few years is predicated on the growth rate of the past couple of years continuing in an unbroken upward line. Yet too little attention has been paid to whether growth in multiplexes, screens and seats is outstripping demand for tickets.

Tier 2 City Focus

On-the-ground reports from markets outside of China’s half a dozen Tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) are starting to suggest that overbuild has resulted in blockbusters increasingly playing to empty auditoriums. Hangzhou is one such market.

According to Wikipedia, “Hangzhou is classified as a sub-provincial city and forms the core of the Hangzhou Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in China,” with Hangzhou prefecture having a registered population of 8.7 million inhabitants. It is considered a Tier 2 City, a group of around three dozen Mainland metropolitan areas increasingly targeted by investors, developers and multinationals in recent years. And as WSJ put it:

When it comes to China, the commonly used term “second-tier cities” is a misnomer, says Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an investment banker and author of How China’s Leaders Think. The so-called “second-tier” cities should actually be called “first-class opportunities,” given that these cities have been growth engines of the Chinese economy, boosted by huge amounts of investment, new infrastructure and an influx of new talent.

Multiplexes are at the forefront of these developments in Tier 2 cities, in some ways epitomising it as they combine entertainment, real estate and retail in one location.

Yet after several years of intensive development and investment, worrying signs of over-supply are starting to emerge, as indicated in the article quoted in Sina.com.cn from Qianjiang Evening News, headlined, “Hangzhou total of 49 cinemas, average of one theater added monthly.”

Hangzhou Cinemas: “Too Dense” – But Still Growing

The article points out that just in the last two months of this year will see the opening of a Jin Yi multiplex, a Wanda multiplex and a Shi Xiang Road multiplex – and this on top of an already saturated market.

The article then points out that in a five kilometer (3.5 miles) area there are five multiplexes, and that with 10 more multiplexes slated for 2015 it will be “too dense” and that next year many cinemas will “barely” get by.

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YouTube Now Supports High Frame Rate Playback (Sort Of)

YouTube Preview Image

Back in 2010, as debate raged over whether 4K was really necessary in movie theatres (it depends) and if consumers would ever adopt 4K television sets (they’re starting to), YouTube announced they would begin support of 4K video uploading and playback. The debate wasn’t entirely squelched though until Netflix began streaming content in 4K earlier this year.

YouTube may be squashing yet another film industry debate, this one over the benefits of content created and shown in high frame rate (HFR).

To date, the only feature film to be shot and released in HFR is Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. The franchise was both captured and projected at 48 frames per second (fps). There have been only a few filmmakers who have since suggested they wish to shoot HFR at higher speeds, notably James Cameron. This is likely due to the lukewarm reception HFR versions of “The Hobbit” received as well as an uncertainty over the install base of HFR-capable digital projectors.

Though the merits of HFR are still being questioned for theatrical releases thanks to a perceived lack of audience interest, a couple of months ago YouTube announced they would begin support of 48 and 60 fps video. Almost immediately YouTube began testing HFR playback with limited groups, however at the end of October the feature was opened up to all users.

There is a bit of noteworthy fine print on the feature as it is currently offered. For instance, the only way to watch video played back in 60 fps is to view it in HD by selecting the 720p and 11080p from the settings drop down of each video. As well, the only web browser capable of showing 60 fps is Chrome, though support for additional browsers is forthcoming.

Oh, and one last thing… YouTube will be in charge of deciding what videos will be given the 60 fps treatment. For now they want to limit its use to videos that are considered “motion intense”. They may as well have just said, we’re doing this for video game footage. Most PC and console games run at 60 fps and look choppy when played back at the standard 24 fps. Playing back video at a higher frame rate gives viewers the same experience and perspective as the person actually playing the game. I’m sure you’ll agree the sample video shown above looks crisp, clear and with smooth, fluid movement.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 17 November 2014

Cinemaxx

Germany – Cinema majors Cinemaxx and CineStar have formed a joint venture to promote cinema for business use. Not sure how far beyond regular cinema advertising this goes, but there is talk of “360 degree cinema communication.”

The company CinemaxX and CineStar planning a joint company for the holistic cinema marketing. This was confirmed by a CinemaxX spokeswoman to Hamburg Media Magazine ‘New Business’ (www-new-business.de). The two German cinema providers want so combine their reach, “to business customers providing an easier entry into the world of 360 degree cinema communication”.

The company would be open for the market to other cinema enterprises in Germany, says CinemaxX. Offices in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt are planned to headquarters in Hamburg. Currently, a fusion legal review of the project by the Federal Cartel is taking place.  LINK

reald-3d-glasses

USA (CA) – A long interview between Forbes’ Mark Hughes and former head of 2D-to-3D conversion company Legend3D Dr Barry Sandrews. The fact that both are bullish about the prospects of 3D is no surprise, given the title ‘Why 3D Will Dominate Cinema In The Future,’ but the article makes several good points.

It’s particularly notable that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was able to pull down $709 million worldwide due to a large amount of help from 3D that was best of any superhero film that’s been made, allowing it to rank as one of the year’s top-grossing films despite mixed reviews and the press focusing on a lot of negativity in reporting on the film (my own reaction to the film was decidedly more positive, as my review makes clear).

The next several years will see an expansion of 3D’s power at the global box office, with a series of brand new Star Wars films, Avatar sequels, and a huge growing slate of franchises and sequels in the popular superhero genre now that DC and Marvel characters will parade across the big screen at a rate double that of previous years (a total of more than 25 different superhero franchises will actively exist by 2020, as incredible as that seems). More than 70 3D films hit theaters in 2015 and 2016. And despite a modest leveling off of domestic audience attendance at 3D cinema since its modern reintroduction, it has held steady at home while foreign audiences continue having enormous appetites for the format. China in particular seems to love 3D.  LINK

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New MPAA and NATO Wearables Policy Is As Much About Social Norms As It Is About Piracy

Sergey Brin Wearing Google Glass

Google’s Sergey Brin shows off Google Glass

In his classic 1835 treatise on American society, Democracy In America, french historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote “Laws are always unstable unless they are founded on the manners of a nation; and manners are the only durable and resisting power in a people.”

This passage sprang to mind as I read the anti-theft policy update issued jointly on October 29th by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). The new policy focuses on wearable devices like smart watches and Google Glass, the latter being an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that attaches to prescription or custom eyewear. Many of these devices are equipped with a camera and thus the reason the MPAA and NATO felt obliged to revise the policy. Their statement read as follows:

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have a long history of welcoming technological advances and recognize the strong consumer interest in smart phones and wearable “intelligent” devices. As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown. As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time. Individuals who fail or refuse to put the recording devices away may be asked to leave. If theater managers have indications that illegal recording activity is taking place, they will alert law enforcement authorities when appropriate, who will determine what further action should be taken.

The two organizations already had a standing policy against the use of mobile phones in theatres. It is simply being extended now to encompass wearable devices. You might even say the decision was a “no-brainer” accept for the confusion that might occur in reference to the cinema patron who decides to use “no brain” by wearing such a device into an auditorium in the first place.

Unfortunately people do indeed wear electronic devices into cinemas as was demonstrated in January when a moviegoer in Columbus, Ohio was detained by federal authorities for wearing Google Glass during a showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”. The incident occurred when alert theatre personnel at the AMC Easton 30 noticed a patron wearing the “recording device” during the screening and contacted the MPAA, who in turn notified the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees movie theft.

Much in the way there were recently fuzzy policies and procedures on how to treat Ebola patients in the United States, there were no guidelines back in January for cinema operators on how to handle patrons with wearable devices such as Google Glass. It took the trade organizations a notably long time to update their anti-theft policy afterwards, however this may have more to do with the MPAA’s working relationship with Google and their desire to maintain it.

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