Howard Kiedaisch Departs Arts Alliance On His Own Terms

Howard Kiedaisch

Howard Kiedaisch

Late last night (or early this morning) before finally closing my laptop and logging off, I sent Howard Kiedaisch a hasty email to see if he wanted to have a quick conversation to catch up before CineEurope. When I had spoken with the CEO of Arts Alliance Media at the end of May he had told me the company would be making a few announcements on the run up to the conference. Though he provided a heads up about AAM’s plans for alternative content (more on that in a moment), Kiedaisch confessed he wasn’t ready to talk about one or two developments that were in the midst of being finalized.

Due to the time difference between London, where Kiedaisch and AAM are based, and Los Angeles, and knowing his replies to email are often swift, the first thing I did this morning was grab my phone check if he had gotten back to me. Indeed, there most certainly was an email from Kiedaisch, the contents of which shook off any remnants of sleep and jolted me awake. To be sure I wasn’t still dreaming however, I reread the press release Kiedaisch had pasted into his email. The one announcing after nine years as CEO of AAM, he would be stepping down from his position on July 7th of this year and will be succeeded by John Aalbers, the former CEO of Volubill, a telecom industry software developer.

Oh, and yes, the release also went on to detail the merger of AAM’s event cinema distribution division with Mr. Wolf, a content production and finance company that, like AAM, was founded by Thomas Høegh. The combined outfit will operate as Arts Alliance Limited and focus its commercial efforts on financing, producing, distributing and marketing event cinema (a.k.a. alternative content).

The integrated company makes perfect sense and combines the production and marketing expertise of Mr. Wolf with the distribution and cinema background offered by AAM’s event cinema division. There are natural synergies between the two companies which offered slightly overlapping services. Additional news and information about the new venture is likely to come out of CineEurope next week.

In hindsight, Kiedaisch stepping down is also completely logical. That’s why he thought of it five months ago and spent the intervening time orchestrating his departure in a way that would set AAM up for success. He explained to AAM’s board at the end of last that the company would have to decide which of its five businesses it truly wanted to support; digital cinema financing and management, network operations, software services, content services and/or alternative content. Kiedaisch rightly felt that the marketplace for some of these businesses was becoming overcrowded and by working in so many areas AAM may giving each short shrift.

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Volkswagen Public Service Ad Makes Impact In Cinemas

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Please Note: To experience the full intent of the advertisement being discussed, it is advised to watch the spot, embedded above, before reading this post.

These days for an advertising campaign to be considered a success it has to not only has to reach a large percentage of its intended audience, it often must work across multiple platforms. German auto manufacturer Volkswagen is providing us with a perfect example of such an ad campaign with a spot they created to prevent texting while driving.

The public service announcement, produced in collaboration with the international ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, is currently being shown in Hong Kong cinemas before movies. In fact, the ad was created to be shown specifically in movie theatres. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily unique, sincere there have been many ad campaigns produced solely for cinema, though in the case of VW’s spot, the effectiveness of the advertisement relies on being shown in a movie theatre.

In addition, the interactive nature of the ad means that it can’t just be dumped into a preshow at any old cinema, but rather one setup with a close-range, location based mobile messaging broadcaster. Let me explain.

The spot was setup to play before a film at the MCL Cinema in Hong Kong. VW and Ogilvy then filmed the presentation of the ad as shown in the clip above this post. It starts out with cinema patrons entering the theatre and auditorium, then shows them watching the advertisement on screen. The ad features a driver’s point-of-view through the front windshield of a car as they speed along a country road. The audience looks relatively bored. That’s when somebody is shown using a computer to broadcast a text message, an SMS, to all the mobile phones in the auditorium. When we cut back to the audience we can hear everyone’s phones vibrating and chirping as they receive the text message. Naturally, moviegoers reach for their phones curious to see who is pinging them and a second or two after their devices light up…. CRASH! The car on screen has swerved off the road and smashed into a tree, shattering the windshield.

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The Cannes Film Festival Overcomes Its Digital Dilemma

2014 Cannes Film Festival
As the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival came to a close last week, artistic director Thierry Fremaux scheduled a last minute press conference so that journalists from around the world could speak with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. The director was visiting the festival for a 20th anniversary screening of his second feature, “Pulp Fiction”, which premiered at Cannes in 1994 and won its top prize, the Palm d’Or. It’s a safe bet nobody predicted the lead story coming out of Tarantino’s 48 minutes with journalists would be about digital cinema and serve to underscore the learning curve film festivals are grappling with when it comes to the new technology.

Yet, every year in Cannes there is at least one press conference where a filmmaker or actor says something that gets tossed into the media echo chamber and published around the globe en masse. Director Lars von Trier’s comments about Nazis a few years back are a perfect case in point. In 2014, the honor went to Tarantino, whose animated, hyperactive Cannes press conferences are the stuff of legend. This year he managed to bolster his Cannes cred after negative comments he made about digital cinema were turned into headlines by every major media outlet in all languages.

As Fremaux pointed out while introducing Tarantino, the filmmaker’s name is closely tied to Cannes and the year “Pulp Fiction” won the Palm d’Or is an important milestone in the festival’s history. That is why Tarantino was asked to participate in a press conference, an activity usually reserved for filmmakers with movies premiering in Cannes. Fremaux also noted that “Pulp Fiction” was the only title in the festival to be projected using 35mm film. “Everything else is DCP, digital,” Fremaux reported. “But obviously we wanted this film to be shown in 35mm.”

With that said, it didn’t take long for Tarantino to turn his attention, not to mention his ire, toward digital cinema. “As far as I’m concerned digital projection and DCPs is the death of cinema as I know it,” Tarantino proclaimed. “The fact that most films now are not presented in 35mm means that the war is lost. Digital projection, that’s just television in public. Apparently the whole world is okay with television in public, but what I knew as cinema is dead.”

After comments such as that, you can only imagine how many headlines screamed “Tarantino Declares Cinema Is Dead”. More than likely you’ve already seen a few of the thousands of stories in which the filmmaker’s comments on the subject are extensively quoted.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going through a woozy romantic period with the ease of digital and I’m hoping while this generation is completely hopeless that the next generation will demand the real thing,” he continued. “I’m very hopeful that future generations are much smarter than this generation and realize what they’ve lost.”

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“Gravity” Takes Off At 15th Annual Golden Trailer Awards

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In an industry that loves to award itself with never-ending accolades it should come as no surprise that there is a trophy for those who produce the trailers used to market new releases. Even more so because we’ve previously written about the Golden Trailer Awards, an annual competition that recognizes the professionals who craft movie trailers, television commercials and posters for new releases.

This year’s Golden Trailer Awards were held this past Friday at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. The preview for Warner Bros.’ “Gravity”, produced by mOcean, won the top prize (Best In Show), as well as Best Thriller, beating out entries for other big titles such as “The Lego Movie“, ” The Hunger Games: Catching Fire“, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and many more. Sisters Evelyn Brady-Watters and Monica Brady founded the Golden Trailer Awards back in 1999 and report that a record number entries were submitted this year.

It’s a good thing then that there are plenty of chances for marketing professionals to take home a trophy. The Golden Trailer Awards has more categories (70+) than the Oscars (24); everything from Best In Show for the best trailer of the year to Best Film Festival Poster. There are even categories for Best Standee for a Feature Film, Best Pre-show Theatrical Advertising for a Brand and what must be a relatively new addition, Best Vine. Nor are the Golden Trailer Awards limited solely to motion pictures, as they include several trophies for marketing associated with video games.

My own personal favorite categories are Golden Fleece, which honors the best trailer produced for a bad movie, and the Don LaFontaine Award, which goes to the trailer with the best voiceover. (Don LaFontaine recorded voiceover narration for more than 5,000 trailers before his death in 2008 and is credited with coming up with the catchphrase “In a world…”). On Friday those awards went to, respectively, Dreamworks “The Fifth Estate”, produced by In Sync Advertising and 20th Century Fox’s “The Heat”, produced by Big Picture.

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“Sin City” Poster Too Graphic For MPAA’s Advertising Administration

Eva Green Sin City Poster

Every so often an incident occurs that serves to remind us just how many tasks need to be completed in the workflow leading up to the release of a motion picture. Tasks such as running your marketing material past the proper trade groups for approval.

Yesterday I took note that my never-ending Twitter feed was populated by numerous uploads of the same image. Over the course of a few hours the image popped up in tweets from industry professionals I follow on Twitter a dozen or more times. The picture featuring a scantily clad woman was hard to avoid noticing as it scrolled by in Twitter’s desktop app time and again. As it turns out, the picture was actually one of the posters (pictured here) for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, which according to Deadline, had been rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In case you weren’t aware, or had forgotten, the Advertising Administration of the MPAA must review all the collateral marketing material used to spread the word (i.e. advertise) any film that has been or will be rated by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Or in the MPAA’s own words, the Advertising Administration must review:

“…any material in any medium that is intended primarily to promote the exhibition, performance or sale of copies of the motion picture to the public and that is directed primarily to or for which a significant number of viewers are consumers in the United States.”

This includes a list of materials such as trailers, clips and footage, press kits, radio spots, Internet banner ads, billboards and, naturally, posters. And that’s just a fraction of a very long list. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the MPAA reviews “more than 60,000 pieces of marketing each year”.

So while most of us are zapping through commercials on our DVR and ignoring banner ads on our favorite websites, there is someone at the MPAA whose job it is to pay very close attention to movie marketing material. In regards to the material for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, the MPAA nixed a risqué poster depicting actress Eva Green shown in a sheer white dress that reveals just enough, though apparently too much, of what lies beneath. According to Deadline (and several other outlets) the MPAA’s approval was withheld “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

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Exhibitors Pin Their Hopes On Promotional Giveaways For Disney’s “Maleficent”

Regal Entertainment's Maleficent Giveaway

If Disney’s “Maleficent” fails to generate box office returns when it opens on May 29th it certainly won’t be due to a lack of marketing campaigns touting promotional giveaways. At least that’s the case in North America where the studio has partnered with two of the world’s largest motion picture exhibitors to run opening weekend promotions for the big budget movie which focuses on the villain from “Sleeping Beauty”.

Moviegoers buying a ticket to “Maleficent” at Regal Cinemas during opening weekend will get a free poster for the movie. It’s not clear from their promotional artwork (pictured above) or website whether the poster being given away is the official one sheet or if it’s a special poster created specifically for the Regal give away. Ironically, should the movie turn into a smash hit, it will be the latter which becomes more valuable in secondary markets such as eBay, since presumably such posters would only have been produced in limited quantities for the Regal promotion.

AMC Stubs Maleficent Pin Giveaway

That is the very approach being taken by AMC Theatres, which is using its “Maleficent” promotional giveaway as a springboard for a contest driven by social media. Anyone seeing the movie at an AMC cinema during its first few days will walk off with a collectible pin from “Maleficent” made exclusively for the exhibitor’s campaign. In an attempt to incorporate its own marketing push on top of the promotional giveaway, AMC is asking patrons to share pictures of themselves with their “Maleficent” pin on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One winner will be selected to receive a USD $25 AMC gift card from those that submit selfless with the hashtag #shareAMC and #maleficent. This type of effort is meant to spark a network effect that builds awareness of the new release and ultimately the cinema chain.

AMC is also feeding into a tradition that has cropped up around the Disney brand over the years. Many die-hard Disney fans have taken up the hobby of collecting and trading collectible pins that feature characters, rides, attractions, etc. from the company’s movies and theme parks. Disney not only sanctions the practice, but encourages it by selling each collectible pin only for a limited time. Visit any of Disney’s theme parks and you’ll see loads of people walking around with pins that sometimes go back decades. Park cast members (as Disney refers to its employees) often have pins stuck to the lanyards holding their staff badges.

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Why Arts Alliance Media Sold Its Content Services Business

Arts Alliance Media Content Services

Last week the digital cinema market continued its predicted consolidation when Arts Alliance Media (AAM), the London based cinema integrator and software developer, sold off its content services business to Motion Picture Solutions (MPS). Founded by managing director Ian Thomas and also based in London, MPS has been building a reputation over the last eight years as one of the leading providers of content services in Europe, competing directly with AAM.

At first glance this looks to be a situation where one company surrenders to a much stronger competitor in the same space, though as the Chief Executive Officer of AAM, Howard Kiedaisch, points out (see below) it’s actually a bit more nuanced and strategic than that.

The news shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise to professionals working in the motion picture exhibition or distribution industries. Over the past few years AAM has been making its name by financing digital cinema rollouts through virtual print fees, developing digital cinema software and distributing alternative content. While AAM also offered content services such as DCP mastering, KDM generation and content distribution, MPS actually focused on such solutions more heavily and has thus become widely known as a reliable provider of digital mastering and distribution services.

You might be asking why AAM would want to exit a business that was, if not an overwhelming profit generator, at least earned revenue. The answer is quite simple; content services and delivery is a very tough and competitive business. Just ask Cinedigm. Oh that’s right, you can’t since the company which was once a market pioneer in the satellite delivery of content to cinemas sold that side of its business to Technicolor back in 2011. No worries, you can always as Arqiva, Deluxe, DSAT, Microspace or Technicolor just how difficult content services can be.

And that’s just it; these days it seems anyone with encoding software and a Mac Pro hangs up a shingle as a content services provider, the market has become over saturated with such entities. Not all of these dozens upon dozens of companies are created equal either. The renown writer and professor Tim Wu refers to this sequence of innovation and openness, fragmentation and gradual commoditization as “The Cycle” in his 2010 book “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires“. Adding to this is that most large content owners (read: Hollywood studios or major distributors) sign long-term contracts with specific providers to obtain larger discounts. If you miss landing a contract with one such content owner, it could be five years before you’ll have the opportunity to put in another bid.

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Enlight Pictures Casts A Wide Net To Promote “My Old Classmate”

My Old Classmate Poster

If you were to look at the worldwide box office for this past weekend – and given how “international” receipts account for a majority of a film’s gross, why would you look at anything else – in the number five spot you’d find a release titled “My Old Classmate” which earned USD $17 million in a single territory. At this point in the history of the movie business you probably don’t need many guesses to figure out that the sole territory was China, for despite its English title, “My Old Classmate” is a Chinese film.

The movie, directed by Frant Gwo and staring Zhou Dongyu and Lin Gengxin, is described as a “youth romance” between two school friends that takes place over 20 years. It’s hard to know how accurate that plot line is since the two official trailers for “My Old Classmate” don’t exactly present a detailed summary. In fact, Enlight Pictures, the Beijing based company distributing the film in China, released two trailers for the title which are entirely different in their tone and approach.

After watching the two-minute teaser trailer, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking “My Old Classmate” was an action-suspense film that included a dramatic love story. It appears to be courting fans of filmmaker Zhang Yimou or the Jason Bourne franchise:

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A shorter trailer for the movie, appropriately titled “Hormone Trailer”, presents “My Old Classmate” as a raunchy teen comedy that would appeal to those who appreciate “Superbad” or “American Pie”:

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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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