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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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 16 June 2014

CineEurope Logo

Patrick von Sychowski has been at the Cannes Lions in Cannes, France over the last four days and is presently traveling to Barcelona, Spain to attend CineEurope. While Patrick is traveling I will be doing my best to keep up our daily digest of news related to motion picture exhibition and distribution. Please bear with me. Patrick is scheduled to be back online tomorrow, June 17th, with live coverage from CineEurope.

People

Bill Beck

Barco: The company is taking its move into laser projectors seriously. The digital cinema projector manufacturer has hired industry veteran Bill Beck to assist the company’s research and sales efforts. Beck is the co-founder and former chairman of the Laser Illuminated Projector Association (LIPA). He has spent the past 30 years developing and working in and around photonics. Beck was previously the Executive Vice President of Laser Light Engines, a company he founded in 2008.

In the press release announcing the move, Todd Hoddick, Vice President of Global Entertainment for Barco, pointed out that Beck had become the go-to guy when it came to laser illumination technology”

We simply call him ‘The Laser Guy’… For more than 10 years, he has been on the leading edge of laser technology and focused his efforts on the image quality and operating benefits of laser illumination for cinema exhibition and other high-performance projection applications.

LINK

Audio

QSC: The audio technology firm is bringing its latest product offering to CineEurope; the SR-1290. It is the newest entry to the company’s SR Series of surround sound speakers, that was developed with the requirements of emerging immersive audio formats in mind.

QSC's SR-1290

In the press release announcing the SR-1290, Barry Ferrell, Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and Business Unit Manager for QSC’s Cinema Group, explained how the new speaker can help theatre owners overcome some of the challenges of immersive audio:

“A properly configured system requires many more surround loudspeakers and amplifier channels, which can mean a significantly higher cost compared to a 5.1 or 7.1 system. The loudspeakers must be capable of producing higher output, with features allowing them to be mounted in non-standard locations, and to be aimed with more precision. And more amplifier channels are needed to power all of these extra loudspeakers. The new SR-1290 addresses all of these needs. Since it is a coaxial design, the front baffle area is much smaller relative to a conventional ‘over-under’ horn and woofer configuration, resulting in a smaller enclosure, making mounting and aiming easier. Its high power rating and 4 ohm impedance means it draws more power from the amplifier and produces greater output compared to most 8 ohm loudspeakers in its class – which also means smaller amplifiers can be used to achieve maximum results, minimizing overall equipment costs.”

If you understand some of the tech-talk in Ferrell’s quote, then you might care about a few of the specs for the SR-1290 Cinema Surround Loudspeaker:

  • High-power, long-throw 12″ (305 mm) low-frequency transducer
  • Coaxially-mounted 1.75″ (44 mm) titanium diaphragm compression driver
  • Smaller enclosure design, coaxial alignment also creates frequencies perfectly aligned through the crossover region
  • Enclosure can be rotated with no effect on the coverage pattern
  • Safe and secure overhead mounting
  • Cabinet constructed of 15-mm Baltic birch plywood with internal bracing for superior structural integrity.
  • Four mounting points centered on the cabinet’s rear panel

QSC estimates the SR-1290 will be hitting the market in September 2014. LINK

Technology

USL's CMS-2200

USL: The cinema product manufacturer has been awarded a patent for innovations found in its CMS-2200. The DCI-compliant device is an integrated media server that plugs directly into a digital cinema projector and negates the need for external storage thanks to four solid state drives. The CMS-2200 also employs the DTS Multidimensional Audio engine for immersive audio and also supports 13.1 surround sound. Trying to pin down specifically what technology the patent was issued for was not successful, though this likely be due to our search methods.

USL product manager Bill Cribbs, pointed out a few of the CMS-2200′s newest features in the press release announcing the awarding of the patent:

“The CMS-2200 now has Cue bundling, which is the ability to group any number of automation cues into a bundle, greatly simplifying playlist creation. When used with the CMSA controller this provides an incredibly powerful automation solution. In the alternative content area, the CMS-2200 now supports HDMI auto switching, which means HDMI presentations can be placed directly into one playlist. An intermission feature was also added to playlist creation, which allows a user to insert an intermission playlist inside of a feature presentation.”

USL will be showing off the CMS-2200 during CineEurope. LINK

Digital Signage

NEC: No trade show for motion picture exhibitors would be complete without some news from companies supplying display signage of some form. Have no fear; NEC and Coca-Cola have admirably filled that role for this year’s CineEurope.

These days most of the signage being installed by cinema owners is digital. NEC Display Solutions and Coca-Cola are teaming up at the conference to create an interactive lounge that will demonstrate such capabilities as motion-activated movie promotions, synchronized monitors and video walls. According to the release:

Coca-Cola invited NEC Display Solutions, YCD Multimedia, Littlebit Technology and Intel to provide digital media and digital menu signage presence on its booth on the Trade Show. LINK

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

YouTube Preview Image

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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