Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 12 September 2014

As you may have noticed Patrick von Sychowski is in Amsterdam attending IBC which means you must suffer my attempt at putting together a Daily Cinema Digest.  Be sure to check out all of Patrick’s coverage of IBC after catching up on the day’s (or in this case, week’s) cinema news.

Big Cinemas

Hey, remember when North American exhibitors built way too many multiplexes during the 1980′s and 90′s over extending themselves to such a degree that during the early 2000′s the industry began to consolidate with cinema chains buying each other out or merging?  Well, it seems this is a trend that might be hard to avoid.  India has been going through a huge multiplex boom over the past decade and now it seems has entered the consolidation phase of the business cycle.  Rumors are afoot that Carnival Films is in negotiations to acquire the majority of Reliance MediaWorks theatre chain Big Cinemas.  This would be the third such merger or acquisition for India’s exhibition industry in as many months:

Inox Leisure, India’s second largest multiplex operator, acquired Delhi-based Satyam Cineplexes Ltd for nearly Rs.240 crore, paying Rs.182 crore in cash and taking over its debt in a deal that expanded Inox’s presence to 50 cities, with 91 multiplexes and 358 screens; and Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) sold its multiplex business Broadway Cinemas to Carnival Cinemas for an undisclosed amount.

If the deal goes through Carnival would end up with 280 screens.  That really seems to be one of the main reasons for all the mergers and acquisitions; more screens a bigger market share of the box office and thus more leverage when negotiating with film producers and distributors over film rental.

According to the omnipresent anonymous source “familiar with the situation” Reliance isn’t looking to completely exit exhibition:

“The contour of the final transaction is yet to be arrived at, but Big Cinemas will not entirely exit the business. It will form a strategic alliance with an existing cinema exhibition chain that will run the daily operations and it will receive proportionate revenues from them as part of the partnership. Reliance MediaWorks will also invest in the venture as part of its growth strategy because it believes there is growth potential in this business.”

Don’t expect the consolidation of the Indian exhibition industry to slow down anytime soon.  Jehil Thakkar, head of the media and entertainment practice at KPMG, told LiveMint:

We certainly do see the cinema multiplex industry continuing to consolidate inorganically as the real growth opportunity lies there… Most of the big players are seeking inorganic growth options and scale is a very important part of this business.”

I just love that word “inorganic”.  Do you think since organic products usually cost more at stores that inorganic ones would cost less?  If so, maybe Carnival could get a discount on Big Cinemas since it would technically be considered “inorganic growth”.  LINK

Megabox

South Korea – The sale of exhibition circuits isn’t limited to India.  Over in South Korea an investment group is looking to cash out on their seven-year investment in Megabox.  Korea Multiplex Investment Corp.

Inside, though anonymous, sources have told various media outlets that backers Korea Multiplex Investment Corp., whose shareholders include the National Pension Service, Public Officials Benefit Association and Military Mutual Aid Association, are pushing for a sale of the company and have been reaching out to potential buyers.

Megabox is one of South Korea’s largest multiplex operators controlling 21% of the screens in the country as of last year. That figure is third to CJ CGV which operates 43% of screens and the film division of Lotte Shopping Company which controls 32%. Korea Multiplex, which owns 50% of Megabox (Jcontentree Corp. holds a 46% stake in the exhibitor), is hoping the circuit will sell for as much as 13 times its current earnings.

In 2013 Megabox netted KRW 25.6 billion (USD $24,745,216) on KRW 206.1 billion (USD $199,218,321) in revenue.  LINK

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East Bloc*Busters Exposes a Celluloid Utopia Once Concealed Behind the Iron Curtain

Competing Utopias

It turns out you don’t need a tricked out DeLorean to venture back in time, at least not to the middle of the 20th Century. All it requires is one step inside the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. That’s where the East Bloc*Busters screening was held last Friday evening.

Just inside the front door of the house visitors are greeted by one of the most famous specimens of East German design; Peter Ghyczy‘s Garden Egg Chair from 1968. It sits behind a glass cubicle in a nook alongside a 1969 phone directory from East Berlin and a vintage push button telephone.

A flight of stairs lead up to the main living quarters on the first floor of the house, which once served as the home and studio of famed modernist architect Richard Neutra. An unbroken line of of large windows stretches around the living room and dining area providing an unobstructed view of Silver Lake Reservoir and giving one the feeling the house extends past its physical boundaries. Hanging off the Frigidaire in the kitchen are a handful of picture postcards of distant landmarks such as the Salute Hotel in Kiev. In the living room a shortwave radio is ready to tune in signals from foreign lands and a coffee table is scattered with East German fashion magazines from the 1960′s and 70′s.

Down a window lined hallway are a pair of bedrooms, one of which had belonged to Neutra himself and is where he did a lot of his drafting. Spread out on the bed is an open suitcase and an Interflug Airline pilot uniform. In the solarium on the second floor a closet hides a stash of various surveillance equipment used bye East German Stasi to spy on unknowing citizens. The balcony gardens just outside the solarium windows float on top of a flat roof that can be flooded to form a reflecting pool.

Most of these artifacts and many others aren’t usually found at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences. They are actually a part of a special exhibit titled “Competing Utopias”. The installation, which opened on July 13th and runs through September 13th, required the removal of all the homes original historic objects to make way for Cold War pieces from the Wende Museum‘s collection.

The improbable “mash-up” of mid-century modernism from the west and Cold War design from the east was organized by both Neutra VDL and Wende. The latter institution is an archive and museum whose objective is to preserve cultural artifacts from Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

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When Reporting On Piracy Becomes Ethically Irresponsible, If Not Illegal

Expendables 3

I have been waiting for this day for what feels like an eternity. Today, August 15th 2014 is the day “The Expendables 3″ hits movie theatres worldwide. No, I have not been waiting two years since the “The Expendables 2″ was released and earned more than USD $300 million in worldwide box office. I’ve never even seen the first two ensemble action films in the franchise.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opening day of “The Expendables 3″ since precisely July 28th of this year. That’s the day I learned a high-quality version of “The Expendables 3″ was leaked online from an article on the technology blog The Verge. The article, written by the website’s assistant managing editor, David Pierce, was headlined “I torrented ‘The Expendables 3′ and I’m still going to see it in theaters“.

Putting aside the legality of Mr. Pierce’s actions for a moment, the article made me question whether it is ethically irresponsible to report on such matters. Freedom of the press laws may “allow” media outlets and journalists to report on pirated titles without becoming financially culpable for a producer’s losses due, though doesn’t such activity actually publicize the availability of specific content, thus increasing illegal downloading and ultimately the economic damage it causes?

It may seem like there are no easy answers to such questions, however in an age where theft can be conducted anonymously from the privacy of one’s own residence, what at first appears to be a gray area with murky boundaries comes into focus as one that should leave no room for confusion whatsoever. To help make our point we thought it best to wait until after “Expendables 3″ was released worldwide to publish this post.

To be sure, those of us who live in countries with a free and open press do not wish to hinder one of the most important tools in disseminating ideas and knowledge, as well as one of the most effective methods for keeping overreaching governments, corruption and wrongdoing in check. This is why I would have expected trade publications such as Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Wrap to run stories about “Expendables 3″ leaking online, which they all eventually did.

In fact, looking at when each of these outlets began covering the story, and the angle they took in their articles, speaks volumes about what they hoped to gain by doing so and who truly pays their bills.

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Powell’s Finds Its Sweet Spot With Outdoor Movie Night

Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Burlingame, CA

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Burlingame, California Promotes Its Outdoor Movie Night

Summer break is shortly coming to an end for school children in the United States. Very soon this year’s trips to the beach, summer camp and the county fair will be but memories. For my two daughters, aged eight and nine (and-a-half) years old, that means it’s time for the annual August visit with their grandparents in San Mateo, California.

This time around my daughters are particularly looking forward to spending a week at “pony camp” where they will ride, groom and care for their very own (though borrowed) pony. As fun as miniature equine can be, my daughters always look forward to one specific activity when visiting their grandparents; a trip to Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Burlingame.

Powell’s is a franchised candy store with retail stores in 14 California locations as well as single outlets in both Idaho and Oregon. Powell’s isn’t geared just toward kids. Each store is designed to stir up emotions in every adult that sets foot inside. Dozens of bins filled with every sweet treat or candy imaginable are meant to create the perfect sense of nostalgia as one searches for their favorite candy from when they were a youngster.

As the company’s website explains:

Everyone has an extremely vivid and pleasant memory of where they went as a child to get their favorite candy – whether it was the corner store or their Grandma’s candy dish. Powell’s Sweet Shoppes are a nostalgic re-creation of that classic and bygone era. On the surface we sell ice cream and sweets, but you don’t have to stand in the Shoppe too long before you realize that what we really offer are memories.

Upon arriving this week I noticed a hand painted sign on Powell’s window promoting an “Outdoor movie night”. Needless to say, I was curious and went inside to learn more.

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Can Filmmakers Really Help Kodak Craft A New Image?

Tired of Hearing Film Is Dead

The long standing uncertainty over the future of 35mm motion picture film was finally laid to rest this past week by the Eastman Kodak Co. causing the industry to heave a huge sigh of relief. That’s one way to look at the company’s announcement of an agreement with what the Wall Street Journal referred to as a “coalition of studios” for the guaranteed purchase of set quantities of film stock over the next several years. Another way to see the news is as a temporary stay of execution for the medium.

Whether the stay will turn into a permanent reprieve for film depends on many factors not the least of which are the length of the deal, the amount of film stock being manufactured and the continued creative preference of filmmakers. More importantly, it hinges on whether Kodak changes the strategy and approach of its historic motion picture business. If recent maneuvers are any indication, there may be some hope, however slim. Let me explain.

Mandatory Prerequisite Background
No story about the current state of the Eastman Kodak Co. or its future potential would be complete without reviewing the company’s last several years, specifically the time period leading up to and after January 19, 2012. That was the date the 124-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The adoption of digital imaging and photography both in the consumer and commercial markets devastated Kodak which wasn’t able to modify its business and product lines fast enough. The recent announcement about motion picture film stock finally gives us a little glimpse into the financial damage the company suffered during the transition to digital cinema.

According to Jeff Clarke, who took over as the CEO of Kodak this past March, the sale of motion picture film declined from 12.4 billion linear feet in 2006 to 449 million feet last year. You don’t need a degree from a fancy business school to know that a 96% decrease in revenue is a bad thing. The sale of film stock, once a profitable cash cow for the company, now accounts for under 10% of Kodak’s USD $2.2 billion annual revenue.

Since 2003 Kodak laid off 47,000 employees (and stand at around 8,500), closed 13 manufacturing plants along with 130 processing labs. The industry as a whole went from 260 motion picture laboratories capable of handling film in 2011 to 111 last year. As certain studios ceased the distribution of their releases on 35mm even giants such as Deluxe shuttered their film operations in the United Kingdom and United States, auctioning off their analog lab equipment.

This year Clarke reports Kodak will likely lose money manufacturing motion picture film and hopes to break even in 2015.

Examining The Past To Predict The Future
Much has been written over the past few years about how Kodak wound up in such dire straits despite having survived more than a century as one of the most widely recognized and dominant brands in the world. Most news stories focused on the company’s slow response to the transition toward digital photography. Though this may be true, Kodak may have avoided its financial difficulties if it had spent more time studying not only its own past, but also that of photographic technology which has never remained static for long.

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How Do You Make Marketing Movies Via Social Media Sexy? Ask Beyonce

This is one of those “in case you missed it” posts.

We have previously written about the use of social media in the marketing of movies and television. Yet, I can’t recall ever detailing the use of social media to promote the upcoming release of marketing material such as a trailer. Likely that’s because the most obvious examples would be banal Twitter posts announcing when a film trailer is debuting on YouTube.

However, the pop star Beyonce has managed to make teasing the launch of a movie marketing campaign via social media a lot sexier, as anyone who has ever seen her perform might expect.

On July 20th the pop singer posted a 15-second teaser to her Instagram account of the trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the film adaptation of the best selling erotic novel by EL James. Put another way, Beyonce published a teaser trailer for the trailer of a feature film. We can’t help but wonder if that’s a first.

Fifteen seconds is the maximum length Instagram allows for video clips, but Beyonce demonstrates her mastery of such social mediums by proving that, if done right, that is more than enough time to peak one’s curiosity and anticipation.

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Giving the Simons IMAX Theatre at the New England Aquarium a Closer Look

Simons IMAX Theatre

The Matthew and Marcia Simons IMAX Theatre at the New England Aquarium (Photo: J. Sperling Reich)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are probably aware I’ve been in New England over the past two weeks. (Thus the lack of posts from me). Specifically, I was in Boston.

While there I stumbled upon the Matthew and Marcia Simons IMAX Theatre at the New England Aquarium. Though “stumble upon” is hardly the proper expression and can only be used in the most figurative sense since the theatre is enormous and hard to miss. That’s kind of the point of this post.

I happened to be dining at Boston’s world famous Legal Sea Foods at Long Wharf just across the street from the aquarium and snapped a few photos of the asymmetric metallic exterior. I figured I could dash off a quick post featuring the photo with a humorous caption along the lines of “Is it just me, or is there something fishy about this IMAX theatre?”.

Upon downloading the photo from my camera I began to wonder who designed the theatre’s rippling metal exterior, as it reminded me of some of architect Frank Gehry‘s more recent work, such as Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles or the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. I hope the good folks at Verner Johnson, Inc. don’t mind that I mistook their work for Mr. Gehry’s.

Actually I’m glad my curiosity led me to investigate the Simons IMAX Theatre further to discover Verner Johnson, the only architectural firm in the United States that specializes solely in planning and designing museums. I’m surprised I wasn’t aware of them already since they have designed at least 15 IMAX theatres for museums and science centers throughout the U.S. (and even one in China).

What’s noteworthy about the Simons IMAX Theatre, and the reason I chose to expand this post beyond my questionably humorous caption, is an important feature of the auditorium that might otherwise go unnoticed; its ability to market both the aquarium and IMAX.

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GoWatchIt Is Making It Easier To Find Outdoor Movie Screenings

GoWatchIt Outdoor Movie Guides

When it comes to movie release schedules, summer in the northern hemisphere seems to be starting earlier and earlier (think late April). In reality, summer 2014 is only 10 days old, and as GoWatchIt reminded me last week, there are still two whole months left to watch a wide array of films in outdoor venues throughout the United States.

GoWatchIt is one of those websites and services that I signed up for years ago when it was in beta and have visited only a handful of times, if at all. In that regard, it’s kind of like the many apps download onto my iPhone, yet never use. (I’m looking at you RoadNinja, ShowYou, Jelly and Secret, among dozens of others).

GoWatchIt was developed by Plexus Entertainment as a resource that will inform you where, when and how a a movie can be viewed be it in a cinema, on DVD of video-on-demand. A user can visit the website (www.gowatchit.com) or pull up the app on their mobile device and search for a title or alternatively discover one via the site’s curation and social suggestion functionality. Users can also save movies to a queue and be alerted when titles are available for viewing in desired formats.

Sounds pretty simple and actually quite helpful for movie buffs such as myself. As far as I’m concerned there’s really only one problem with GoWatchIt; I always forget it exists, and thus, never actually use it. Maybe that’s because of the limited number of partners such as Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine, RogerEbert.com and The New York Times featuring the “Watch It” and “Queue It” functionality on their own websites. Even though the list of sources being tracked is inclusive, featuring the likes of Amazon, Fandango, Google, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Redbox and YouTube, I still never remember to visit the website or launch the app to search for or queue up a title I’m interested in.

Apparently I also forgot to remove myself from GoWatchIt’s email marketing list. In their most recent weekly email update, the website promoted their outdoor movie guide for New York City, which has recently been updated with a number of additional events. Thinking this would be of interest to Celluloid Junkie readers I clicked through to find more than 120 different outdoor screenings were still to be held in New York this summer, 69 in July and 52 in August. Cineastes can enjoy al fresco showings of Sundance selections such as “Happy Christmas” and other indie buzz films thanks to Rooftop Films, award winning blockbusters like “Gravity” in settings like the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum or even classics from yesteryear including West Side Story at Habana Outpost.

As if to prove just how much I have undervalued GoWatchIt, they have also been kind enough to create outdoor movie guides for both Los Angeles and San Francisco with dozens of upcoming events during July and August.

Daily Cinema Digest – Wed/Thur 18-19 June 2014

With Patrick von Sychowski still in Barcelona attending CineEurope, I have been tasked with curating the daily digest posts in his absence. Celluloid Junkie readers (i.e. you) have been telling us lately how much you like the daily digest and I’ll do my best to keep it up as best I can.

Needless to say, the past few days have been filled with news coming out of CineEurope. Not only do we have Patrick’s live blog of the conferences panel sessions, but there is no shortage of press releases being published by industry vendors. Here’s a summary of some of the releases which contained new, updated or relevant information:

Technology

JT Bioscopen Hilversum

Artists rendering of JT Bioscopen cinema being built in Hilversum Media Park

Barco: As is their custom during trade shows, the projector manufacturer has had their public relations department working over time during CineEurope. On Tuesday came news that JT Bioscopen will install a Barco laser projector at one of its multiplexes. More precisely, d-cinema integrator dcinex will install the Barco 6 primary Laser3D (6P) laser-illuminated projector at JT Bioscopen’s new seven-screen complex at Hilversum Media Park.

JT Bioscopen is the second largest cinema chain in the Netherlands (behind Pathé) with 21 multiplexes in 19 different cities. The circuit converted entirely to digital in 2011.

Here’s a nice little factoid front the release:

Known as ‘Holland’s Hollywood’, the Hilversum Media Park houses all major Dutch TV and radio stations, production houses, studios and other companies in the audiovisual and entertainment business.

You learn something new everyday. Granted, Barco was probably hoping that their announcement would help educate people about their 60,000-lumen laser projector which, thanks to the company’s Alchemy technology, can show 4K content at 60 frames per second or in 3D, all while minimizing speckle and thus the need for a mechanical vibrating-screen. But that bit about Holland’s Hollywood seemed like a good piece of trivia worth passing along. LINK

Now, while we’re on the subject of Barco, the company also announced that the relatively new Barco Alchemy Integrated Cinema Media Processor (say that ten times fast) is now fully integrated with Arts Alliance Media’s Screenwriter Theater Management System (TMS). Actually, Screenwriter is the first TMS to be support Barco’s new ICMP (which is how all the cool kids refer to the Integrated Cinema Media Processor). The good news is that any AAM customer already using Screenwriter will also get an upgrade featuring the Alchemy integration, not just customers that deploy the software in the future.

Naturally, Screenwriter already supports a multitude of cinema equipment from various industry vendors. It is, after all, a TMS. This is just the latest integration AAM has completed. Rich Phillips, CTO of AAM, explained this much better in the release, stating:

“We support all the key servers and media blocks, enabling exhibitors to use equipment from different vendors in the same facility seamlessly. We are delighted to be able to now offer the same support for the innovative Barco Alchemy product, giving exhibitors the freedom to make technology decisions that are not limited by compatibility with their existing systems.”

Yeah, Mr. Phillips did a much better job of what I was trying to explain.

Speaking of which, since it’s fairly new we should probably tell you that the Barco ICMP is what is known as an integrated cinema processor, or if you want to sound hip, an ICP. The DCI-approved module goes a step beyond decoding encrypted content as a media block and adds the functionally of a media server onto a single board. This is meant to reduce the amount of digital cinema equipment in the booth. Barco is putting the Alchemy ICMP into all of its new d-cinema projectors, though any of the company’s Series 2 projectors can support the technology. Hard to believe all that fits into the device shown below. LINK

Barco Alchemy ICMP

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