Paramount Shows Some Alternative Thinking With Super-Sized “Anchorman 2″ Release

Anchorman 2 Super-Sized

By now you’ve probably heard that Paramount Pictures is rereleasing “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” on 1,000 North American screens this weekend. More accurately, the studio is putting an alternate cut of the film into theatres – one with the weighty title of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R Rated Version”. It’s a movie so big the title needs not one, but count them, two colons.

All joking aside (pun intended), the film’s director, Adam McKay, worked with his editors to cut a whole new version of the film that has 763 new jokes from alternate takes which weren’t in the original release. Apparently, the way McKay and lead actor Will Ferrell work on set is to shoot multiple takes of their comedy bits. Ferrell, who plays the role of a scotch swilling news anchorman, Ron Burgundy, is known for improvising while in character as the camera rolls on.

McKay, Ferrell and Paramount had planned on including the new R-rated version as bonus material for the film’s home video release. The studio is going a step further by booking the movie into cinemas for a limited seven day engagement.

This is a brilliant decision on Paramount’s part; one which takes advantage of the cost structures and distribution flexibility digital cinema provides. Let’s take a look at some of the points that led me to this conclusion:

Ratings Inflation

What surprised me most when I first learned Paramount planned to release an R-rated version of “Anchorman 2” was that the original cut was rated PG-13. I always assumed that with all the beer guzzling, scotch drinking and drug taking depicted in the movie, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) would have slapped an R-rating on it. In hindsight, the PG-13 cut only contains two uses of the F-bomb, buried in a sea of more milder profanity. I’m not sure why filmmakers or the studio felt it necessary to make “Anchorman 2″ PG-13 given that it’s a squeal to a 2004 cult hit “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy“. Any 13-year-old going to see the film would have been three when the first movie was released.

In the nine years since “Anchorman” was released it’s gained quite a following thanks to home video, so maybe there are a lot of teenagers out there who watched it on DVD and are big fans. Whatever the reasoning, Paramount now has the best of both worlds. After the PG-13 version played out its run to a broad audience, the studio can serve up a raunchier movie to a narrower group of hardcore “Anchorman” fans.

Here’s a thought; why don’t studios and filmmakers purposefully create two different versions of appropriate titles more regularly? This is done on movies for special use, such as a cut to shown on airplanes. While it may not always be viable due to production and distribution costs (or worthwhile creatively) it would be interesting to see a mature audience version of certain titles that, for business reasons, are released as PG-13.

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CinemaCon Refreshes Its Mobile App

CinemaCon 2014 Mobile App

This year’s CinemaCon is just around the corner (March 24 – 27) and organizers of the world’s largest convention for movie theatre owners are once again providing show attendees with an informative smartphone mobile app.

Canadian based Soma Media developed the app for the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) using their EventKaddy platform. The free app is similar to those made available for CinemaCon in past years. In fact, if you’re like me and never deleted the app from your phone, all you have to do is update it to the latest and greatest version.

This year’s app is available now for both iPhone and Android. Attendees with Blackberry or Windows devices can access the HTML5 web app through their phones’ browser.

NATO, which runs CinemaCon, got Fandango, the web ticketing company, to sponsor the app. It features the most recent event schedule, a directory of trade show exhibitors along with maps of the trade show floor and convention area, and information on Caesars Palace where the conference is being held. There are even ways to see what CinemaCon is posting on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Though the app is very basic, it gets the job done. I personally found the iPhone version to be quite useful during last year’s CinemaCon. I especially appreciated the push notifications the app sent, alerting me to the start of various conference events.

Dolby Acquisition of Doremi Makes Perfect Sense – Here’s Why

Dolby Doremi Logo

The motion picture industry jump started their week with the surprising news that Dolby Laboratories, Inc. had reached an agreement to acquire Doremi Labs, a leading manufacturer of professional audio visual equipment, for USD $92.5 million in cash. The deal also includes a four-year earn out of USD $20 million which is contingent upon performance and other factors. As is customary, regulatory bodies both in the United States and internationally will need to approve the deal, though the acquisition should be complete by the end of 2014.

Dolby hardly needs an introduction. They’ve been providing audio and imaging technologies to the motion picture, broadcast and music industries for just shy of 50 years. The San Francisco based company is best known their proprietary noise-reduction systems, though they have also been at the forefront of multichannel audio, compression and broadcast transmission technologies. Dolby has annual revenue that has climbed from USD $327.9 million in 2005 to USD $909.6 million last year and net income that has grown from USD $52.2M to USD $189.2 million during the same time period. Its best year for both revenue and net income was 2011 when it rang up USD $961 million and USD $309.2 million respectively. The company’s current market cap is USD $4.2 billion.

Doremi Labs, founded in 1985, may not be as much of a household name as Dolby, though over the past 14 years it has steadily built a solid reputation within the industry as the manufacturer of digital cinema servers. Its servers and integrated media block (IMB) is installed in over 47,000 58,000 movie auditoriums around the world and has been purchased by exhibitors of all sizes. The company, which has offices in Burbank, CA and France, also markets broadcast and post-production equipment as well as closed caption devices. As a private company Doremi doesn’t report its revenue and earnings.

If one needed another sign that the global digital cinema conversion was coming to an end, beyond Hollywood studios ceasing the distribution of film prints, there is none better than this deal. Here is why we believe this acquisition is a smart move and makes perfect sense for both Dolby and Doremi:

Doremi

As mentioned, after more than a decade the rollout of digital cinema technology around the world has reached a saturation point. According to a February 8th presentation delivered by Media Salles in Berlin on February 8th, upwards of 87% of the world’s movie screens have converted to digital projection as of January 1st of this year. Doremi has grown quite steadily due to the brisk sales of its digital cinema technology over the past decade. While the company brought in revenue from the sale of pro-A/V equipment and technologies, the lion’s share of its earnings is likely derived from d-cinema related products.

Doremi would have seen sales volumes of existing digital cinema product lines plateau (if it hadn’t already) and potentially decrease during the next three to five years. Demand for d-cinema equipment (servers, IMBs and projectors) will decline and new sales will be dependent on the construction of new theatres (new builds) and technology refresh cycles. This in turn leads to the risk of a loss in market share should exhibitors select equipment from other manufacturers.

From all appearances Doremi was in good shape to weather a cyclical sales plateau or decline. The company, headed by Camille Rizko its founder and President, was right-sized with only 130 employees. In addition, Doremi’s strong engineering team is working on a slate of new products that include new hardware and software. An example of their handiwork is CaptiView, a closed caption system which was introduced a few years ago but the market for which is growing. Add to this the extensive and multinational dealership network Doremi has built up to sell such products.

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Los Angeles Magazine and ArcLight Cinemas Hit The Road With March Screening Series

It has always been our goal here at Celluloid Junkie to bring our readers any of the interesting or noteworthy ideas we run across in the worldwide motion picture distribution and exhibition industries. The hope is that spreading the word about such items will help spur your own innovative efforts.

With that in mind, today I received an email promoting a special screening series taking place in Los Angeles (see below). In conjunction with the publication of their March issue which focuses on road trips, Los Angeles Magazine is teaming up with ArcLight Cinemas for a retrospective series of classic road trip movies. The screenings will be held at ArcLight’s Hollywood multiplex on Tuesdays and Sundays throughout the month of March.

Showing classic movies is not a new concept for Arclight Cinemas. The exhibitor has been holding Arclight Presents… screenings since 2002 when their flagship cinema first opened in Hollywood. If one of the most important factors in making such a series successful is marketing, then working with Los Angeles Magazine to help spread the word to a broader audience is a smart move on Arclight’s part.

Focusing on the theme of road trip movies may be a stunt, but not necessarily such a bad idea. It gives the program a hook, or at the very least a purpose, however slight it may be.

Now that digital cinema has been rolled out throughout North America, other circuits could just as easily curate and produce similar retrospective screening series to help boost attendance on days when admissions are traditionally low (e.g. Tuesdays and Sundays). Additionally, finding media outlets to work with in large urban areas should not be too difficult. Los Angeles Magazine is a part of the Emmis Publishing empire which publishes five additional regional magazines including Texas Monthly, Cincinnati Monthly, Indianapolis Monthly, and Atlanta. Modern Luxury is another regional magazine publisher with titles in Manhattan, Houston, Aspen, San Francisco among many others. Surely there must be similar outlets in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

Let us know what you think of Los Angeles Magazine and ArcLight Cinemas teaming up for the Road Trips screening series in the comments below. Good idea? Bad idea? Could such retrospectives work in other cities?

Arclight Presents... Roadtrip Movies

Michigan’s Rialto Theater Calls Attention to the Endangered Future of Small Town Cinemas

On Wednesday the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed piece by Jordan Stancil, who operates the Rialto Theater in Grayling, Michigan, providing him a forum to plead the case for saving independent cinemas, specifically those in small towns. With the conversion from 35mm film to digital projection, such theatres are finding it difficult or impossible to afford digital cinema equipment and are in danger of shuttering.
As we near the completion of the digital cinema conversion in North America, and as distributors (purposefully or forcibly) end the support of 35mm film the issue has slowly been gaining wider attention. Stories with headlines such as “Small Cinemas Struggle As Film Fades Out Of The Picture“, which ran on National Public Radio in January, are sure to be popping up more frequently, just as a year or two earlier the same outlets were running stories like “Ohio Movie House Screens Its Last Reel-To-Reel“.

It’s obvious why the Los Angeles Times would want to jump on the band wagon of this matter given their ties to a city dominated by the motion picture industry. They even went a step further by allowing a theatre owner to make a direct and impassioned appeal to readers. What’s more, the essay is as well written as the “Restore the Rialto Theatre” Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign it is meant to promote. This is despite a few suggested solutions which are non-starters or need more thought. More on this in a moment.

Presently no one is certain exactly how many cinemas are facing closure if they don’t convert to digital. The National Association of Theatre Owners put the number between three and four thousand screens at the Inter-Society meeting this past January. Like the Rialto, many of these theatres are located in small, remote towns of only a few thousand residents.

What makes the Rialto such an interesting case is that the cinema was originally founded in 1915 by Stancil’s great-grandfather. The theatre has remained family run throughout its history, which includes a fire that destroyed the original building. Before sound was brought to movies, Stancil’s great-grandmother provided piano accompaniment during showings. It very well may have taken the care, love and appreciation of a family to keep the Rialto afloat for almost 100 years. As Stancil explains in his piece, that family extends beyond his own to the citizens of Grayling for whom the theatre means quite a lot:

“When I consider what the Rialto means to this town of 1,884, I sense what a blow to rural America this loss of movie houses will be. The independent movie theater retains an outsize role in these communities that is quite unlike that of a city or suburban multiplex. In Grayling, our Art Deco theater (rebuilt in 1930 after a fire) is the architectural landmark on the main street of town. It is the only venue that draws large crowds to downtown year in and year out. Quite apart from any historical importance, closing this theater would irreparably deform the center of our town.

There is more at stake than just the fate of a speck on the map of northern Michigan. Small-town movie theaters still have a national purpose: the integration of far-flung places into our national culture. Every time we show a blockbuster on opening night, every time we screen a documentary or a foreign film, every time our audience feels empathy for a character the likes of whom they might never encounter in real life, we are issuing a reminder: yes, this little town is part of the wider world.”

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If At First They Don’t Succeed, MoviePass Tries, Tries Again

How MoviePass Works

Say what you want about MoviePass, the unlimited moviegoing subscription service, but one can not fault the startup for yielding to overwhelming market obstacles or folding at the first sign of serious industry pushback. Instead, when encountering hurdles to their business, the company, which operates in the United States, has been quick to pivot toward a model that worked better for themselves and their customers. MoviePass proved as much last fall upon announcing one of their most controversial modifications to date.

On October 31st of last year, MoviePass sent an email to subscribers with the subject “New Features”. One of its paragraphs read as follows:

We’re also excited to introduce a new feature: The Countdown Clock. This clock counts down the time until your next available screening. You will still be able to go to a movie each day, but there will be a 24-hour period between screenings. Your MoviePass app has already been updated, and you will notice these changes the next time you see a movie.

Maybe it’s best to rewind a bit here and provide a brief description and history of MoviePass. The company first tried to launch a beta version of its service in the summer of 2012, in which subscribes would be allowed to see an unlimited number of movies for a flat rate of USD $50 per month. There were several caveats though, including the fact that subscribers could only see one movie per day, each title could only be viewed once, 3D and Imax screenings would cost USD $3 extra and all tickets had to be purchased the day of the show via partners such as MovieTickets. Subscribers would receive a redemption code (mostly via a smartphone app) that could then be used at the theatre to obtain the actual ticket.

At the time, most found the cumbersome process to be complicated and confusing, and not at all convenient. It didn’t matter though since the exhibition industry was quick to squash the idea that they’d be working with MoviePass in anyway. This seemed to torpedo the whole concept, since MoviePass needed movie theatres to accept the redemption codes at each cinema.

However MoviePass had no intention of giving up. The company regrouped and by October that same year was back with a much more appealing model; the price had dropped to between USD $25 and $35 depending on where one lived, subscribers could still only see one movie per day, each title could only be viewed once, and no 3D and Imax screenings could be purchased. Subscribers were sent a MoviePass credit card which was to be activated using a mobile app while within 100 yards of a given movie theatre. Once activated, the card worked for 30 minutes at the designated cinema and could be used at the box office just like any other credit card.

By leveraging the existing credit card infrastructure, MoviePass removed the objections of cinema owners as an impediment to entering the market. A brilliant move that also enabled the company to shrug off any dissent from studios and web ticketing vendors like Fandango who had previously viewed the company as a threat.

At the time MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes was a guest on Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly entertainment news podcast I co-host. We talked about the company’s past and what the future held. Spikes suggested that there would eventually be different subscription levels that would include 3D and Imax films, or reduced rate subscriptions that only allowed for moviegoing on weekdays. One of the goals, he said, was to help fill theatre auditoriums for the majority of showings which are not well attended.

Spikes was also candid about the overall MoviePass business plan:

“In all subscription models there is usage versus cost variable and they all work the same way. If everybody overuses you have a problem. We have certain people, like in a gym membership, who are going to go everyday. They are going to work out at the gym everyday and they are going to have these sculpted bodies that we all hate in the summertime. But, there’s also people who underuse and they don’t use it as much and then in the middle you have seasonality. So you may go a lot during Christmas and then dip. There are different types of users that are in the system so overall there is a behavioral economics to it that balances everything out and makes for a profitable business.”

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New Chinese Box Office Records Come As No Surprise

Monkey King and Dad Posters

Thanks to a quota on foreign films limiting the number of imported titles to 34, movie studios have often struggled to get their movies released in China. Apparently there is no quota on box office bragadocio and Hollywood has been able to easily export its affinity for trumpeting their latest movie grosses.

Ironically, the Chinese have turned news of their country’s latest theatrical grosses into one of their own exportable goods. When China set a new single-day box office record by earning CNY ¥248 million (USD $41 million) on January 31st, it made headlines around the world. I get it; touting box office grosses helps promote specific movies. However, there actually happens to be good reason this week to take notice of China’s grosses, which I’ll get to in a moment.

This past weekend marked the start of the Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, a 15-day holiday that has grown into one of the country’s biggest movie going periods. This has been especially true in 2014. Based on box office alone the year of the horse has already been quite prosperous for the China’s homegrown movies, and presumably, its theatre operators.

Over the holiday weekend “The Monkey King”, starring Donnie Yen took in CNY ¥279 million (USD $46 million) in its first three days of release. Also opening with a bang was “Dad, Where Are We Going?”, and based on its CNY ¥205 million (USD $34 million) debut, I’d have to say the answer to that question is… the bank.

These grosses not only put “The Monkey King” and “Dad, Where Are We Going?” at the top of China’s box office, but were also enough to place them in first and second place on the worldwide chart. Thus the reason for the global fuss being made over the news.

Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Poi Soi Cheang “The Monkey King” is a big 3D epic adapted from Wu Chen-en’s beloved Journey to the West tales and it was widely expected to attract a big audience. So was “Dad, Where Are We Going?” which is based on a hit reality television show featuring celebrity fathers and their families. It’s first day gross of CNY ¥90 million (USD $15 million) is yet another record breaker; highest single-day gross for a 2D Chinese-language title. Because setting just one record in a weekend is so year of the snake (2013).

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Is Advertising a Movie During the Super Bowl Really Worth $4 Million?

Super Bowl XLVIII Movie Spots

In the run up to Super Bowl XLVIII last week a non-industry friend remarked how absurd they thought it was for Hollywood studios to spend $4 million to purchase a 30-seocnd television commercial during the game. That’s how much Paramount Pictures paid for its spots promoting “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and the Russell Crowe starrer “Noah”. Sony shelled out just as much to tease “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, as did Disney for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.

Spending what appears to be a big chunk of a film’s marketing budget on a single spot seemed wasteful to my friend and they just couldn’t see how the math penciled out. Initially, neither could I… that is until I sharpened my pencil and ran all the numbers as we’ll go over in a moment.

First, for those readers not in the United States (as we have many) and who aren’t familiar with the Super Bowl, it is the annual championship game in American football. Each season culminates with two National Football League teams emerging from a round of playoffs to square off in a single game that is watched on television by tens of millions throughout the U.S. alone. It is often one of the most viewed television broadcasts each year.

In fact, since the year 2000, when 88.5 million viewers tuned in, the average audience for the Super Bowl has increased 25% to 111.5 million viewers this year. At least that’s according to the official numbers published by Nielsen, the company that keeps track of such data. Three of the last four Super Bowl broadcasts have set average viewership records.

Super Bowl Viewership Graph

In that same time frame the cost of running a 30-second Super Bowl commercial rose 90% from USD $2.1 million in 2000 to this year’s USD $4 million price tag. Despite the high cost of advertising during the game’s broadcast demand for doing so has never waned and ad inventory has always sold out.

And here’s why. Super Bowl ad buys are a huge bargain.

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TCM Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Free Screenings of “Casablanca”

TCM's 20th Anniversary Casablanca Screening
It’s hard to believe the cable network Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is entering its 20th year. It certainly doesn’t seem like that much time has passed since TCM began broadcasting some of the most beloved movies ever made into homes.

Apparently, time flies when you’re presenting classic films, commercial-free and without any edits. The network launched on April 14, 1994, and now reaches 85 million homes in the United States alone. To celebrate their 20 years on the air, TCM is bringing “Casablanca” to select theatres so that audiences can see the Academy Award winning film on the big screen. The 1942 film stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a story of star crossed lovers that has set the standard for the genre.

I almost left out the best part of TCM’s plan; all of the “Casablanca” screenings will be free in honor of their 20th anniversary. The movie will be shown in 20 cities throughout the United States on March 4th of this year. The first ten markets have already been selected and include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. TCM is letting viewers cast votes to determine the remaining 10 cities in which “Casablanca” will screen. Voting is taking place online through February 10th.

The remaining markets will be announced on February 18th, at which point tickets will made available to all screenings will be made available via TCM’s 20th anniversary website. Tickets will be required for entry to each “Casablanca” screening.

According to the press release TCM published announcing the free screenings of “Casablanca” this won’t be the only anniversary event the network will hold, so stay tuned.