And the Oscar Goes to… Digital Cinema! (Specifically TI)

AMPAS Sci-Tec announcement

Last year the Motion Picture Academy’s Science and Technology branch effectively closed the book on film as a distribution medium for motion pictures by awarding the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar Statuette) to every single film processing lab in the world. So it is perhaps fitting and symmetrical that this year’s recognition would go to the technology that replaced it, i.e., digital cinema, or more specifically Texas Instruments’s team of engineers (and one from Dolby, more on which later).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or AMPAS (to give the Oscar Academy, or just ‘the Academy’ its full name) is staying true to the latter part of its name (‘Science’) by each year recognising those people behind the scenes that have contributed to the advancement of motion picture technology, and thus storytelling, by handing out the Scientific and Technical Awards at a ceremony prior to the red carpet Oscars. As AMPAS puts it:

The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.

It is important to remember that these are not awarded to companies but to people, though individuals given the awards have often made their achievements working for companies that have often also given the name to the technology being recognised. While it honors the technologies, it is the people behind them that are being feted.

There are furthermore three levels of recognition: the Technical Achievement Awards (which entails an Academy Certificate), the Scientific and Engineering Awards (gets you an Academy Plaque), the Academy Award of Commendation (Special Plaque), and finally the Award of Merit (an actual Oscar statuette). What is remarkable is that this year Texas Instruments was selected in not one but all three of the main categories, putting a big AMPAS seal of approval on the digital cinema technology that has defined the cinema business.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 15 January 2015

Cineworld lesbians

UK – Cineworld clearly has to work on more LGBT awareness (not to mention common sense) for its staff, after a lesbian couple were evicted for (wait for it) using the Ladies toilet. A £20 voucher and two free tickets hardly seem like an adequate apology for treating paying customers this way.

A lesbian couple were kicked out of the ladies’ toilets during a trip to the cinema because the security guard thought they were men.

Tracey Seaton and Keira Williams had just popped to the toilet after watching a film at Cineworld in east London.

But a guard followed them in and forced them to leave after insisting they were men.  LINK

Odeon wheelchair evict

UK – Meanwhile Odeon staff evicted a disabled man because a few people complained that his ventilator was making too much noise. Seriously, do UK cinemas feel that they have too many patrons to go throwing out ticket-paying customers like this? I mean it as a serious question. Tell me your views in the ‘Comments’ section below, please.

A cinema-goer with Duchenne muscular dystrophy was thrown out part way through a film after complaints his life-saving ventilator was a “noise nuisance”.

Richard Bridger, 31, was asked to leave an Odeon cinema in Epsom, Surrey, as he watched Taken 3, the Liam Neeson thriller, with his carer.

It happened just a week after volunteers from the Motor Neurone Disease Association were allowed to make bucket collections at the cinema, which is screening the film about the wheelchair-bound science genius Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 14 January 2015

AMC Wanda logo

USA (NV) – Is AMC going to ditch Imax for Dolby Cinema? Of course not, but this and other nuggets emerge from a Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference transcript with AMC’s Craig Ramsey, EVP and CFO, where he talks about the company’s five different strategies.

But to my point about our proprietary brands, I want to do a plug on — and we love IMAX. I’m not being negative against IMAX, because it’s been a great partner. But if you think about it, really there’s only one party that needs to make the decision on the proprietary brand whether a film is in the big auditorium with the big-screen, the big seats, and the Dolby Atmos sound system that you’ve spent a ton of money on, and it’s us. Because you don’t have to reformat that film.

And so you can deliver, I think, an IMAX-like experience over a broader range of product. Some that hasn’t been. So I think the growth opportunity, at least for us, we’ve got 17 of our private label and I think we have a big growth opportunity in more rollout of our AMC Prime proprietary product. In some cases where we also have IMAX, because the two can be complementary. LINK

Worth reading in full – this is after all the exhibitor that has 67% of the screens of Regal but generates 90% of the revenue that Regal does. Read about the ‘recliner’ strategy. Nothing is more important in the US exhibition business right now than seating. Repeat: nothing. Not even Imax/Dolby Cinema.

I don’t know if you’ve been — we operate — I said 344 theaters. 55 of those theaters we have remodeled, which has included taking out two-thirds of the seats. Where we had three seats, we have one. And that one is a plush, automatic, motorized recliner, which gives the moviegoer seat east and west more room, and north and south more room. We’ve — it’s been an unbelievable positive response from the guest, more privacy, greater comfort.

What you may be thinking well, but you’ve taken all that capacity out of the auditorium. You probably are missing some attendance because of the sellouts.

On the whole, our industry operates on about 11% capacity utilization. There’s a lot of room in this business to take seats out and deliver a better guest experience through a better seat. Recliner reseats, take two-thirds of the seats out, and attendance on average in these theaters has increased 50%. In an industry that is experiencing declining attendance, our recliner reseat theaters are growing attendance by 50% year over year. Pretty dramatic.

cineworld-logo.jpg

UK/Europe – Cineworld’s diversification strategy of spreading out across Central and Eastern Europe (and Israel) seems to be paying off in offsetting declines in cinema going in the UK, where higher ticket prices still kept profits ticking.

Cineworld has unveiled a blockbuster trading update, saying its full-year earnings will be at the top end of analysts’ expectations after it managed to persuade British cinema-goers to spend more on their tickets.

The company said that while admissions in its UK & Ireland business declined by 3.7 per cent during the year, this was offset by growth of 4 per cent in the average ticket price.

Visiting cinemas is not a declining trend across its entire business, however.  LINK

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Tim League Discusses the Alamo Drafthouse Smartphone Policy

Tim League Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse is the premier up-market cinema chain in the United States. Yet it is sometimes better known for its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to people using cellphones, smartphones or even Google Glass in its cinemas.

Following the big response we had to the topic of smartphone use in cinemas (‘Smartphones Are Killing the Cinema Experience‘) we got in touch with Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas’ founder and CEO to quiz him about the background and specifics of his chain policy and practices.

Celluloid Junkie: What was the origin of Alamo Drafthouse’s ‘zero tolerance’ towards cellphones, smartphones and wearable devices?

Tim League: For the first few weeks of operation back in 1997, we didn’t have a formal policy. About a month in, we had midnight screenings of “Blue Velvet” which sold out. We had a really cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon special that sold really well and we unfortunately had our first rowdy audience.

I went in the theater and it was out of control. People were chatting and shouting at the screen. I felt sick to my stomach. This wasn’t the theater that I wanted to build. That week I bought a copy of Final Cut Pro 1.0 and taught myself how to use it. I cut together our first Don’t Talk PSA and the zero-tolerance policy was born.

CJ: How was the policy formulated and what staff training was required to put it into practice?

TL:In the old days, I was there every day and I was the enforcer. When there was a complaint, I came in to sort the problem. These days, we have a good amount of training on how to deal with upset customers. We probably throw out 100 or so customers a year, but in general most people quiet down when they get their first warning.

CJ: Can you tell us about the ‘silent notification’ process?

If you have a loud table nearby, you just write down where they are sitting on paper supplied at the table. A server slinks in and takes the note and alerts the manager. A manager will stand in the theater until it happens again. When it does he or she will give the table a warning and tell them they will be thrown out without a refund if it happens again.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 12 January 2015

Glitz Cinema

India – Carnival group has acquired small Indian multiplex operator Glitz, having previously bought most of Big Cinemas.

After buying Anil Ambani’s Big Cinemas, the Carnival Group has picked up elder brother Mukesh Ambani’s majority stake in Stargaze which operates the multiplex chain “Glitz” for an undisclosed amount. Network 18 Media and Investments Ltd, on Thursday said its venture capital unit, Capital 18 has sold nine operational screens in Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal and UP and one non-operational screen. Network 18 has sent a brief notice to the exchanges. The latest acquisition take the Carnival group ,which has over 300 screens, closer to their top competition PVR which still leads at 462 screens. Around two weeks ago, the Shrikant Bhasi-led Carnival acquired Big Cinemas for around Rs 700 crore.  LINK

 There will be blood

USA – Will cheaper oil/petrol prices lead to more discretionary income and more cinema visits? This Seeking Alpha analyst thinks so.

The stunning collapse in the price of oil can be considered a “tax cut” that will allow for additional spending. To quantify the impact, it is expected that the average family will see an additional $500 in funds which can be earmarked as they see fit. With wage growth virtually stagnate over the past few years; the relief on the consumer due to lower energy prices will be welcomed. In my view, an investable trend has emerged where a clear path for higher discretionary spending. Unlike in recent times, I expect consumers to continue to be cautious with their spending and expect some of the funds to be earmarked for savings and debt reduction which will consume a portion of the savings. With this backdrop in mind, the stronger plays will be those companies that offer affordable luxuries to the masses. The theatrical exhibition chains neatly fall into the above definition as their product is affordable and offers a bit of an “escape” from the everyday routine. In the article below, I will detail the investment case for AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc (NYSE:AMC).  LINK

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Discovering How The ECA Uses Trailers To Promote Event Cinema

YouTube Preview Image

Rather than simply being a service that continuously clogs your inbox with email updates, it turns out LinkedIn, the popular social network, can be rather useful for discovering certain bits of industry information. Take, for example, a recent discussion on the site begun by Melissa Cogavin (née Keeping), the Managing Director of the Event Cinema Association (ECA).

By posting a message in LinkedIn’s Alternative Content & Entertainment group she let its 631 members know that the ECA had produced a new trailer which would be appearing in cinemas and online to promote event cinema.

Cogavin was using LinkedIn precisely as the company had hoped users would. Rather than being a network to visit when one needs to update their resume, look for a job or research someone’s professional credentials, LinkedIn created groups to help bring users back on a more regular basis. There are numerous LinkedIn Groups focused on the motion picture and entertainment industries wherein professionals from all over the world engage in ongoing discussions, debates and the exchange of information.

But enough about LinkedIn (for now). The only reason to bring up the social network at all is to point out how the ECA’s Cogavin used it to spread the word about her organization’s trailer, not only to those in the United Kingdom (where the ECA is based) and Europe, but throughout the world. While I am certainly familiar with the ECA, I had no idea they produced promotional trailers, the most recent of which can be seen above.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit not knowing about the trailer since when reached for comment about the latest one, Cogavin said the ECA has created 9 trailers to date; 4 per year since the trade group’s launch in September of 2012. “We produce one per season covering a 3 month period,” she explained.

All of the trailers produced by the ECA can be found on their YouTube page.

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China Cinema Digest – Friday 9 January 2015

away with bullets

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) has taken note of the danger to the cinema experience if films are shown in poor conditions, such as insufficient brightness (particularly for 3D) and poor audio. It has therefor put cinemas in notice, as well as giving audiences a way to complain (call Tel: 010-82024005 13901121804). If only other countries film and cinema bodies (France’s CST notwithstanding) were as forward looking. The first paragraph ought to be gold plated.

Bulletin

[If] film screenings technical quality can not be effectively guaranteed, it will harm the legitimate interests of moviegoers and film copyright holders, and film digitization has brought technological achievements do not match the long run, is not conducive to the sustainable development of the film industry, and will lead to the theater in market lost credibility. In order to further improve the quality of film screenings, are hereby notified of the following matters:

First, the film shows the vitality of the quality of films, the movie business is a concrete manifestation of good faith, must lead to radio and television departments at all levels and industry associations, cinema, cinemas highly valued, not for any reason reduce film screening criteria.

Second, each company must immediately cinema this notice will be forwarded to the respective theater, and the organization of specialized personnel to show the quality of the census, for the existence of film screenings quality is not up to the standard of the phenomenon must be promptly corrected. Each theater should seriously organize self, responsibility to the people, for the presence of screening quality problems, to identify the reasons for immediate rectification.  LINK

Wanda Group

Photo credit: Caixin Online

Are the wheels starting to come off the Wanda bandwagon even before the cinema IPO? In an article titled ‘Hong Kong-Listed Wanda No Longer Boy Wonder’ by Beijing-based Caixin Online it is pointed out that the Dalian Wanda Commercial Property IPO was expected to raise USD $5 billion to $6 billion but only $3.71 billion. Yet it is the anecdotal evidence that indicates that all is not well with the cinema portfolio either:

A recent business trip experience for a Hong Kong investment banker, who chose not to be named, highlights oft-heard concerns about Wanda’s future. The banker traveled to a Wanda resort in the seaside city of Sanya, in the island province of Hainan, with plans to stay three nights.

But the banker checked out after just one night at the Wanda Culture Center at Haitang Bay because, he said, the place was as lonely as a ghost town. Moreover, he said, in Sanya he saw an upscale, Wanda-owned movie theater that seemed much too remote to draw cinema-goers.

“It’s hard to imagine movie-goers going there because taxi drivers refuse to take you unless you pay a higher fare,” he said.  LINK

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Cinépolis Acquisition of Chile’s Cine Hoyts Signals Global Ambition

Cine Hoyts Chile Cinepolis

Mexican-based exhibitor major Cinépolis has acquired Chile’s largest cinema chain Cine Hoyts. The acquisition, reported in this article in El Financiero, means that Cinépolis is now present in 11-12 countries around the world. It also signals an intention to take on Wanda/AMC for the crown of the world’s largest cinema chain through further acquisitions and in-organic growth.

The deal, which has not been confirmed officially and with no price being revealed, gives Cinépolis Cine Hoyts’ 40% market share in Chile, with 96 screen in nine multiplexes across the Metropolitan Region and Region V. Cine Hoyts Group, which was owned by Chilefilms, which acquired it from Australia’s Hoyts in 2011, has 700 employees and includes 13 3D type four Premium Class and Vip screens, with Dolby installed in most other sites.

As the article points out, the deal gives Cinépolis a major international presence:

Until early December 2014, Cinepolis had a total of 401 multiplexes in 95 cities in Mexico and in 10 additional countries where it operates. Its 3,485 screens are 100 per cent digital, 13 IMAX, 71 XE Macro XE and 304DX totalling 635,430 seats.

With over 40 years experience and fourth worldwide among exhibition chains (the largest outside the United States), Cinepolis has a presence in countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, India and the United States.

In the middle of last year, Alejandro Ramirez told El Financiero that the firm moved into buying a cinema chain in Brazil.

In late 2014 Cinépolis completed the acquisition of Fun Cinema in India, giving it almost 200 screens in the growing territory, though it did not end up buying the larger Big Cinemas chain.

In 2015 Cinépolis plans to open more than 200 screens in Mexico, taking it to over 3,000 screens in its home territory.

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EDCF Guide Highlights Film Festivals’ Digital Nightmares

EDCF Film Festivals guide

The European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF) has just published ‘The EDCF Guide for Film Festivals in the Digital Age.’ The free guide, available to download on the EDCF website (PDF link) was created based on feedback from professionals responsible for running major international film festivals in the post-film age. Because while most of the technical wrinkles have been ironed out from regular digital cinema operations in cinemas and multiplexes, this is far from the case for film festivals.

The opening of the Guide, which, to give it its full title, includes the sub-heading “- technical operations, theatrical solutions and recommended practices”, makes clear exactly for what and whom it is aimed:

This is a beginner’s guide for people who are dealing with festivals in the evolutionary digital age. It is for operators, engineers, planners, managers, and everyone who has an interest in the long life of film festivals.

As Antoine Virenque, President of EDCF stressed in the Guide’s Foreword, “One of the aims of EDCF is to bring practical information to our members in the film industry. That is the purpose of this guide.” It follows in the footsteps of several previous EDCF guides, such as the ‘Guide to Digital Cinema Mastering’, ‘The EDCF Guide to Alternative Content for Digital Cinema’ and ‘Technical Guide for the Projection Booth in Digital Cinema.’

Typically these guides are written by leading digital cinema practitioners and companies from across Europe [and Jim Whittlesey] who share their expertise, experience and insights. In the case of the Film Festivals Guide the guiding spirit has been Angelo D’Alessio, who has been active with the Venice Film Festival and other events that have faced problems relating to the new digital realities.

With analogue film being a rarity at almost all film festivals showing new films – and even many showing restored and remastered archive films – the Guide is timely given the large number of problems film festival staff encounter with what can often at best be politely described as half-baked DCPs (digital cinema packages) and equipment often temporarily installed. The Guide is helpfully divided into sections that can be used even as stand-alone aids: ‘Understanding Key Terminology’, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, ‘Words of Warning’ (including ‘Lessons Learned’) and ‘Quality Management System (QMS)’.

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A Little Teaser For “Ant-Man” Is A Big Win For Marvel

YouTube Preview Image

Marvel Entertainment did not wait long before placing their mark on 2015. The Disney owned company is widely expected to have a banner year thanks to the release of both “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man”. Marvel rang in the new year by releasing an 18-second teaser trailer for the latter, once again proving their mastery of this specialized marketing medium.

Rather than simply post an 18-second spot online, which likely would have been enough to send fanboys the world over straight to their blogs, Marvel released a version of the teaser that demanded viewers give it a closer look… literally. Under the headline “1st Ant-Sized Look at Ant-Man” a video was posted to Marvel’s YouTube Channel on January 2nd. The video, shown above, features images and clips from the film sized perfectly for viewing by ants.

Of course, if you happen to be human, like most everyone with enough money to pay for a movie ticket, then this means the 18-seconds of footage is microscopic. Even the best squinters in the world would have a hard time making any of it out. Some dedicated fans discovered if the resolution of the video was increased to 1080p and blown up to full screen then the faintest of fuzzy images from “Ant-Man” could be made out. Maybe that’s why the video has racked up more than 6.3 million views on YouTube.

The following day, after dozens if not hundreds of media outlets had written about the tiny “Ant-Man” teaser, Marvel posted what they dubbed the “1st Human-Sized Look at Ant-Man” to YouTube. Shown below, it is the same exact video as the “ant-sized” version. This time however it was large enough to see by those of us who walk around on only two legs and who can carry a wallet, but nothing that is 5,000 times our own body weight.

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