Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 8 July 2014

Gerry Lopez, CEO of AMC Entertainment

Gerry Lopez, CEO of AMC Entertainment

Today’s big news is AMC spending USD $600 million on upgrading its cinemas, primarily introducing bigger and more comfortable seats. The strategy has been flagged before but now everyone is following. It is effectively an admission of defeat in terms of ever hoping that attendance figures will improve. Now it is about extracting as much revenue from the few people that still go to the cinemas (NB: though attendance is up in the renovated screens, but unlikely to boost overall national figures). WSJ has a good analysis:

The nation’s second-largest movie theater chain is spending hundreds of millions of dollars outfitting a number of theaters with La-Z-Boy-type seats that fully recline—a conversion that removes up to two-thirds of a given auditorium’s seating capacity. It’s a less-is-more approach to a business that has long thought bigger was better.

But AMC’s counterintuitive success with the program has converted skeptical competitors and become integral to the company’s pitch to new investors.

The conversions are AMC’s highest-profile campaign since it was purchased for $2.6 billion by China-based Dalian Wanda Group Corp. in 2012 and went public last December. The company plans to spend about $600 million over the next five years to “reseat” 1,800 of its nearly 5,000 screens. The renovations typically cost $350,000 to $500,000 per auditorium, with landlords often shouldering some of the cost. LINK

The WSJ blog also has a good point that you wio’t be finding this in the biggest cities (NYC and LA) as rent is too high already.

The conversions highlight a liability facing the country’s biggest film exhibitors: a supply of outdated theaters that rarely sell out, yet would be costly to tear down and rebuild.

Attendance in renovated AMC auditoriums has leapt 80%, on average, despite the drastic reduction in capacity to sometimes fewer than 70 seats. The company declined to say what the average before-and-after attendance numbers were, though Mr. Lopez acknowledged that the biggest attendance boosts would come in theaters that were weak performers, some of which were losing money. LINK

Event Cinema

Argentina: As the World Cup approaches its conclusion, one country is going all out to show the key game on the big screen. No, not the UK, but rather its old foe Argentina in their game against Germany tonight.

Over 100,000 people across Argentina have watched their national team compete in the 2014 World Cup at movie halls, which broadcast the games.

The National Cinema and Visual Arts Institute (INCAA) said in a statement that it has made 38 movie halls available for screenings of national team matches, featuring star footballer Lionel Messi, Xinhua reported.
Argentina Saturday defeated Belgium 1-0 to advance to the semifinals against the Netherlands in Sao Paulo Wednesday. The two nations haven’t disputed a World Cup semifinal since the 1990 edition in Italy. LINK.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 7 July 2014

Lotte Super Plex G Is The World's Largest Cinema Screen

What is the largest cinema screen in the world? According to Guinness World Records it is now in the tallest building in South Korea. So that’s officially official.

The screen of the multiplex cinema which will open at the Lotte Cinema World Tower, boasts its unparalleled size in the industry: With 622 seats — the largest available number of seats for a screen, the Super Plex G is an ultra large theater which looks like a two-storey opera theater in appearance. In its 34 meters wide and 13.8 meter long screen, 34 adults can lie on it together.

On July 3, a special ceremony was held to commemorate the recognition of the largest screen “Super Plex G” at Lotte Cinema World Tower by the Guinness World Records that confirmed the huge screen has been qualified as the world’s officially biggest screen. LINK

USA: THR asks what is behind the underperforming summer box office in North America, which is down nearly 20% up to the 4th of July holiday. Underperforming titles seem the culprit and no blame apportioned to World Cup (unlike Europe and Latin America).

What’s behind the summer drought? Hollywood studio executives and box office observers blame a lack of mega-grossing tentpoles, a dearth of doubles and triples and no huge animated family film. In other words, a number of films have underwhelmed (or bombed), including Fourth of July R-rated comedy Tammy, which posted a five-day debut of $32.9 million, Melissa McCarthy’s lowest recent opening (as a way of comparison, fellow R-rated comedy Neighbors launched to nearly $50 million in May).

Revenue for Fourth of July weekend hit only $130 million, down 44 percent from last year’s $229.8 million haul. Granted, the holiday fell on a Friday this year, a disadvantage, but revenue managed to reach $160.2 million in 2008, the last time the Fourth was a Friday. One reason for the dramatic downturn is that no big tentpole rolled out, probably because no one wanted to open in the wake of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which debuted June 27. LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 3 July 2014

Wanda Cinema Line

There can only be one story to top the Daily: Wanda Cinema Line being denied an IPO at the Shenzhen stock exchange by Chinese regulators. The reason given was insufficient documentation. It is far from alone to have suffered this ignominy as China Securities Regulatory Commission have rejected 597 out of 637 applications as of the half-year mark, with only 40 approved. THR’s Cliff coonan has done a terrific job of summarising the details, so I won’t rehash them. Read his article instead first.

Two points to be considered instead. The first is where does Wanda Cinema Line go now? The listing will go ahead, they have been quite clear about it. Wang Jianlin previously told Xinhua news agency:

“As long as we make profits, we can go public anywhere and on any platform. If mainland China doesn’t allow us to go public, then we can pack up our capital and go public in HK. We have all sorts of platforms,”

But Hong Kong is not as attractive a proxy stock exchange for China as it once was. Expect there to be furious courting by Singapore’s stock exchange going on right now. And if not Asia? New York is most likely out because AMC is already listed there and it would look strange and create problems to have two related yet separate cinema companies on the same exchange. My bet is London if Wanda decided to look outside of its own territory.

It is important to remember that Wanda has to be understood as a real estate company above all. Through a combination of luck (good timing) and clever strategy, the company did unexpectedly well with its AMC listing, doubling in value in just over a year. There is thus immense pressure for Wanda Cinema Line to follow the same path.

But the second point is that the Chinese cinema market continues to grow, but the fundamentals remain murky and the outlook troubling. Wanda’s cinema business will pull through any crash or slowdown in the Chinese exhibition market (for reasons we have written about earlier), but the fact that it was not able to get approval for an IPO in its home market is still troubling.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 2 July 2014

Cinema Popcorn Buckets

Here is some interesting and much needed research into the study of nutrition and eating habits of cinema goers. Dr. Rachel Crockett, Senior Research Fellow at London’s University of Greenwich Faculty of Education & Health, led the research that resulted in the “The impact of nutritional labels and socioeconomic status on energy intake: An experimental field study,” has been published in the international journal Appetite

People munching popcorn in a cinema don’t change their eating habits whether the snacks are labelled high fat, low fat or not labelled at all, even if they are concerned about their weight, according to a new study led by the University of Greenwich.

But add in a third factor – the socioeconomic background of eaters – and some quirky results emerge. When concerned eaters of higher status saw the low fat label, it made them eat more than their unconcerned counterparts.

Labels had the opposite effect on concerned popcorn lovers of lower status: they ate less of the low fat snack – and less of the high fat snack. But they did tuck in as normal to the unlabelled tub. LINK

Business

Germany: The German cinema trade body AG Kino-Gilde weighs in on the day-and-date release debate in an article with the headline “AG Cinema Guild makes front against distorted picture of Day & Date experiments”. But as so often the article/interview with Christian Bräuer is behind a pay-wall, so we only get teased with the intro paragraph. Obviously AG Kino-Gilde do not want this discussion to be widely read.

The pros and cons of the ultimately unsuccessful experiment of “Love Steaks” is discussed passionately in the industry (and beyond). It was repeatedly in this context recently that Thomas Paris wrote about the first wave of the EU-funded evaluation experiments that led the field, but it was limited in general to that excerpt that… LINK

Germany: Also behind the same paywall is the six-month figures for German cinemas. Not encouraging reading, based on the headline, with an eight per cent fall year-on-year according to data from Rentrak.

Rund acht Prozent Minus im deutschen Kinomarkt. Zum Ende des ersten Halbjahres steht laut Rentrak beim deutschen Boxoffice ein Minus von rund acht procent. LINK

Annette Mischke, Reinhard Abitz and Lars Baumgart

(From left): Annette Mischke, Reinhard Abitz and Lars Baumgart

An award has been handed out to the most outstanding small German cinema in the state of Schleswig-Holstein and the prize goes to the Savoy Cinema in Borderholm. It is good to see local government valuing their small cinemas and recognizing them as important centres for the wider community. Something for others to copy. AG Kino has a full list of all the honourable mentions.

In noble ambience and adorned with lots of socializing in a happy gathering yesterday evening 100 cineastes celebrated the awarding of the cinema prize to Schleswig-Holstein in Bordesholmer Savoy. In addition to 18 other winners from the entire country the team led by Lars Baumgart Schulstraße won one of the coveted awards. Nineteen cinemas won 18 prizes with a total of 27,500 euros.

The Savoy Cinema hosted the event because in the past year it had won 3500 euros in prizes. The Prize 2013 went to Bordesholm, because there is much more on offer than you can expect for a small place actually.

What makes a good cinema? The selection of films plays not only a role, even width effect, public relations and the atmosphere in the rows in front of the big screen also play a role. As well the Savoy is multi-function venue which scored a few points, especially after its rebirth in 1998 when the house was nearing the end and was revived by the initiative of many citizens. LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 1 July 2014

Google Glass

In what should be a non-story (or at least a Finally) we are forced to lead with the ‘news’ that UK cinemas have followed the lead of Alamo Drafthouse and requested its patrons not to wear Google Glass to film screenings. The Independent made a big deal out of it, with other media outlets and trades following:

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, said:

“Customers will be requested not to wear these into cinema auditoriums, whether the film is playing or not.”

The Vue cinema chain said it would ask guests to remove the eyewear “as soon as the lights dim”.

Although Google Glass lights up when it is capturing images, one early adopter has already been asked to remove his headset at a Leicester Square cinema as staff could not monitor whether it was recording. LINK

The move is perfectly sensible and it ought not be such a big deal. Just wait until Facebook starts measuring your mood while you wear Oculus Rift! It is important to remember that neither the CEA, Vue nor Alamo Drafthouse are technology luddites, but that this is an issue of film protection AND courtesy to fellow patrons. This last point gets overlooked too often and CEA are right to highlight this in their press statement.

As a courtesy to your fellow audience members, and to prevent film theft, we ask that customers do not enter any cinema auditorium using any ‘wearable technology’ capable of recording images. Any customer found wearing such technology will be asked to remove it and may be asked to leave the cinema.

It is worth noting that while wearable technology is a comparatively new phenomenon in the UK, in the US – where its use is already more widespread – not only cinemas but also casinos and many bars and restaurants have looked to limit or ban its use.

Business

USA: “Transformers: Age of Extinction” may have been making waves with its big opening weekend in both North America and China, but it is not enough to pull up the summer 2014 box office as it stands at the halfway mark. More worryingly, there are no more outsize hits expected that could reverse the trend significantly. Time for more Chinese co-productions!

But the summer box office is now at roughly $2 billion, nearly 13 percent behind the $2.3 billion of last year at this point. It’s a safe bet that it isn’t going to match last year, and that’s going to make it difficult for 2014 to match last year’s record-breaking $10.9 billion domestic haul. The overall box office, which was up 9 percent at the end of April, has now fallen just behind 2013.

It’s not that there haven’t been hits this summer. “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Maleficent” have all topped $200 million, and “Godzilla” will get there. But there’s been nothing to compare with “Iron Man 3,” which had taken in more than double that by this time last year. It hurt when Universal pushed “Fast & Furious 7” to next year in the wake of Paul Walker’s death, and there hasn’t been a breakout animated movie this year, either. LINK

And now some rival studios are even briefing against “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, saying that Paramount is being less than completely truthful about the USD $100 million opening weekend. LINK

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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.

 

CineEurope Grows With Confidence

The third annual CineEurope in Barcelona conclude yesterday on a strong and confidant note, with a clear voice and profile as the must-attend trade show for the Euro-Asia/EMEA cinema exhibition industry.

UNIC’s member territories represent almost 30 per cent of global box office. In some of the praise for China and rising Asian markets by the Hollywood studios (even at this show!) it is easy to overlook that this sometimes messy and fragmented part of the world still account for nearly a third of what a film earns across all cinemas. Unic is not about to let you forget.

The organisation has reasons to be proud of its stewardship of CineEurope (and the Sunshines/Prometheus for its management). Speaking at a press conference Unic’s President and CEOs Phil Clapp and Jan Runge, together with Jaime Tarrazon (Head of Spain’s Cinema Federation) outlined the growth and new milestones for the trade show event on the last day of the show.

Commenting on the convention, Phil Clapp said:

“We are delighted with the success of this year’s CineEurope. As our involvement in the event has grown in recent years, so we have managed to further increase the attractiveness of CineEurope. Alongside the vital continued commitment of our studio partners and key sponsors, we have also this year added several great European film companies to the screening schedule and increased the amount of conference sessions available to visitors. CineEurope now increasingly reflects the diversity of European cinema and we look forward to continue to develop the show together with our partners PGM in the coming years.”

There were several notable achievements. The show was expanded from 3.5 to full 4 days (though the last afternoon was quiet and dinner rushed for the sake of a World Cup match – so more like 3.75 days) and attendance was up by 5%. This might not seem like a record, but at a time of consolidation for both exhibitors and technology companies, this small growth should not be under-estimated.

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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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CineEurope 2014: Immersive Sound Focus Session

Immersive Audio Panel at CineEurope 2014

With just 60 seats in a temporary room the middle of the trade show, there are 30+ people standing at the back. Either the immersive audio session is a wild success or the venue is too small. And there is plenty of surround sound which can be seen throughout the rest of the show.  The following are highlights from the panel discussion as submitted via iPhone:

Dave Monk of the European Digital Cinema Forum says time is short and wants to gets to grips with, ‘what is immersive sound’.

Brian Claypool from Barco talks about Auro and a “natural sense of immersion” that was cost effective that could easily integrate with existing workflows. “Let’s have the premium experience at the cinema,” he says. Monk asks what key differentiator between 5.1 surround and immersive audio is. In one word, ‘height’. Three levels – two 5.1 plus overhead sound.

Stuart Bowling (standing in for Dean Bullock?) from Dolby says that sound had taken a backseat as a way to transport you away as a cinemas goer. “Pushing the envelope pushed us to Atmos. Sounds is that narrative of motion pictures that gives you an emotional response.”

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CineEurope 2014: The Future of Big Screen

The Future of Big Screen Panel at CineEurope 2014

Next panel-ette starts a bit early with IHS’s David Hancock saying he will try to “keep it short, sharp and punchy.” RealD and IMAX in the ring with him.  Here are some of the highlights from the panel discussion as submitted live via iPhone:

“How do you define large screen?” asks Hancock. Andrew Cripps of Imax cites Los Angeles Times article that reported that premium large format (PLF) screens are 20% larger than regular size movie screen but says in IMAX “a lot of other elements go into it.” RealD’s Bob Mayson notes irony of discussing big screen in a very small conference room. [Indeed].

Luxe is an Eastern Europe/Russia focused initiative. Mayson told me earlier that they announced in a recent investor call that they now have 22 PLF screens committed of which at least half should be in place before the end of this year.

Cripps talks about working with film makers and the ‘total experience’. Hancock asks what drives it. Mayson says premium ticket prices and the ‘thirst for a better experience, particularly when there is so much competition for the consumer’s dollars.’ He points out that when he was at Kodak he sold a LOT of film to IMAX. [that was before Cripps joined].

Cripps agrees with Mayson on the premium price/experience. Makes an analogy with Starbucks coffee. Hancock asks if smaller 2D screens are under threat. Mayson mentions small VIP seating, but acknowledges that’s not today’s topic.

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