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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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 15 August 2014

China Film Giant Screen

China’s Entgroup Consulting has released an investment report on the Chinese exhibition business. While current growth is strong (14.5 screens per day), the report predicts that “the future number of Chinese cinema will be flat to down” and that there will be significant industry consolidation with just five to ten major players. Overview of report can be found here.

Arts and Grace advisory issued “2013-2014 Chinese Theater Investment and Development Report.” The report shows that Chinese cinema audiences growing at an annual rate of more than 30% of rapid growth. Data show that in 2013 China’s sustained rapid growth in the development of the theater, the new theater within the range of 903 theaters nationwide, up to 4583 the total number of cinema. The number of new screens for 5280, the new daily average 14.5 screen. Cinema growth rate dropped 6.9 percent compared to 2012, was 24.5%; screen count growth rate was 40.3%, down 1.0%. Arts and grace that the current investment market there are still many theaters are not rational investment, the future number of Chinese cinema will be flat to down. In the long term, the integration of acquisitions become inevitable between theaters, a few years later, eventually in the formation of 5 ~ 10 large-scale leading theaters.  LINK

New York Indian cinema audience

The New York Times looks at what small cinema in New York City’s boroughs are doing to stay open and attract customers – lower prices and more mixed programming seems to be key. It also features our favourite NYC cinema, the Nitehawk.

Independent movie theaters are an endangered lot as they compete with corporate multiplexes while facing declining ticket sales and the prohibitive cost of converting to digital projection. Many independent theaters have closed in recent years.

For those that remain, staying in business means coming up with creative ways to put people into theater seats, particularly in the boroughs outside Manhattan.

“There’s a very diverse ecosystem of theaters and some interesting things going on,” Matthew Viragh, the founder of Nitehawk Cinema, said.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 14 August 2014

Kino Femina in Warsaw

Polas are increasingly turning their backs on multiplexes in favour of smaller cinemas – preferring cheaper tickets, fewer adverts and more varied programming – according to the latest data from the Polish Central Statistical Office.

The share of the largest, multiplex cinemas has declined from 58.1 percent in 2012 to 55.2 percent last year.

Smaller cinemas are slowly gaining ground. Those with three to seven screens now have 30 percent of the market, compared to 27.4 percent in 2012.

The smallest venues, with one or two screens, have increased their market share from 14.5 percent to 14.8 percent. This translates into some 100,000 viewers more year-to-year.

The upward trend is also visible in the number of smaller cinemas. In 2013 there were 58 of the smallest ones in Poland, compared to 51 in 2012 and just 6 in 2001. LINK

Huayi Brothers Media

China – Having only bought into the cinema market last September, Huayi is selling out and more than doubling its money.

Huayi Brothers Media has agreed to sell its 20% stake in Jiangsu Yao Lai Studios Management, a regional cinema operator.

Huayi is selling to Songliao Automobile and will receive RMB464 (US$75 million) for the stake.

Jiangsu Yao Lai will remain 60% controlled by Beijing Sparkle Roll company.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 13 August 2014

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown LA

Alamo Drafthouse is coming to downtown Los Angeles.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the quirky Austin-based theater chain known for its beer and food service, is expanding into downtown Los Angeles.

The cinema chain, which specializes in independent and repertory films, will open its first L.A. theater at 7th and Flower streets next year, company executives said. Alamo has developed a cult following for its special events, in-seat food and drink service, and themed movie nights.

The Alamo Drafthouse Downtown will have nine screens and seat about 800 people. It will be a high-profile tenant for the mammoth redevelopment project named the Bloc, catering to the expanding population of downtown residents.  LINK

It is heating up the cinema competition in the City of Angels, taking on the nearby Downtown Independent, the Sundance Cinemas in West Hollywood and ArcLight Cinemas, which is expanding to Santa Monica next year, as well as majors such as AMC, Cinepolis and the neighbouring Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14.

Perth rooftop silent cinema

Australia – A Perth car park roof is set to get an outdoor cinema with a difference – you will need headphones. Interesting idea.

PERTH’S first “silent cinema” will open on the rooftop of a rundown multistorey car park on Scarborough Beach, under revised plans.

Concerns about noise means moviegoers will be provided with wireless headphones at the proposed Sunset Boulevard outdoor cinema.

Plans for the rooftop venue — which also includes a beach club bar, cafe and pilates/yoga studio — were rejected by the City of Stirling last November.

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, the State Government’s redevelopment agency, has since gained planning control for Scarborough Beach.  LINK

(The concept cinema seems to be showing a black & white version of ‘Dr. No’. Interestingly one of the first major decisions about the first ever James Bond feature film was to shoot it in colour).

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China Cinema Future – Barrage 2: Return of the Tucao

Cinema barrage

We were quite overwhelmed by the response to last week’s article about how China is inventing the future of cinema with the concept of ‘barrage’. (Thank you for all the tweets, Facebook posts, emails, LinkedIn mentions and other shares.) So we have decided to do what Hollywood always does when it has an unexpected hit on its hands, which is to quickly rush out a sequel.

The cinema barrage concept also stirred a lot of interest in China (we’ve found no less than 353 articles). In the last piece we focused on the trial involving The Legend of Qin (a.k.a. Qin’s Moon). This time we look at the other film to have tried this concept in a slightly different format at the same time, Generation 90 blockbuster Tiny Times 3.0.

Putting it all on the screen

Unlike the Legend of Qin special ‘barrage’ screening you can see from the picture above that for Tiny Times 3.0 the barrage was overlaid on the main screen showing the films, rather than projected onto the walls on either side of the screen. This makes the tucaos harder to ignore, so it is obviously only something for those cinema goers who seek out this activity, rather than casual cinema goers.

Call it striking up a conversation with the auditorium or turning the cinema screen into a graffiti wall for people to sign temporary messages.

JRJ.com interviews Wang Jun, who was responsible for the Tiny Times 3.0 barrage trial.

Mr Wang was keen to point out that this was an early experiment and is not something that should be expected to be rolled out to every screen any time soon. But the first question was about the equipment and cost.

Wang says that “the barrage is not complicated. There are numerous equipment package available now that add up to about 100,000 yuan [USD $16,240].” He then goes on to elaborate:

First, the film technology currently requires a digital movie player is a secret key [KDM?]. Simultaneous subtitles during playback and video cannot be implemented under the current terms from the policy. This broadcast mainly relies on our software. Only a screening device hardware is not speculation that the two were a movie projector screen with a barrage content superimposed on each other.

The current software was designed for 200 simultaneous participants, which Wang admits is a problem when you have sold 250 tickets. Questioned about whether the wifi network can handle that many simultaneous streams, Wang points out that because these are only short messages there is actually relatively little data being handled.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 11 August 2014

Vista Veezi ticketing software

New Zealand – Ticketing software company Vista is off to a good start after debuting on the Kiwi boeurse.  

Shares of Vista Group International rose as much as 8.1 percent on their NZX debut, after the cinema software and analytics company raised $92 million in an initial public offering to pay existing owners and fund global growth.

The shares recently traded at $2.53, touching a high of $2.54, after an IPO at $2.35, giving the company a market capitalisation of $201.9 million between Pacific Edge and Hallenstein Glasson Holdings. Some $51.7 million of the funds raised went to existing owners who retained a 47 percent stake, while $40 million in new capital was raised to drive its international growth plans.  LINK

Tricycle Theatre

UK – A troubling decision by a London-based cinema Tricycle Theatre to expel the UK Jewish Film Festival, because of current events in Gaza and a grant from the Israeli Embassy.

The chairman of the UK Jewish film festival has spoken for the first time about the row that led to it being withdrawn from a north London theatre, and said he felt “sick to my teeth” when the theatre’s director demanded to scrutinise the list of films to be shown.

“This was most definitely the thin end of the wedge. Who is she to say this film is right and this film is wrong? We have our own creative curator and our own 15,000 attendees. Why am I having to defer to her about what films she can defend?” said Stephen Margolis, chief executive director of the festival.  LINK

Cineworld Cinema City

UK – Despite a slow summer, with sports and good weather conspiring to keep cinema goers away, Cineworld has managed to post good numbers, helped by the merger with Cinema City.

Hits such as The Lego Movie helped, but Cineworld also has its merger with Cinema City to thank for an expected sharp increase in half-year profits to £20million.

Cineworld’s UK and Ireland box office revenues were down by 0.6 per cent in the year to the week before the end of July, but its total box office revenue was up 27 per cent compared to the same time last year.

This was due to the acquisition of Cinema City, a cinema business based mainly in central and eastern Europe, in February. Cineworld’s first half profits are expected to be up 13 per cent when it releases results on Thursday, reckons investment bank Numis.  LINK

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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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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 8 August 2014

China online cinema ticket machines

Wondering about the above picture? That’s no less than ten (10!) different ticketing machines in the lobby of a cinema in Beijing. Online ticketing has exploded in China along with the growth of multiplexes, Imax screens and attendance. But it is not what you are used to in the West with one or at most two operators in addition to the cinema handling online ticketing. Different prices and different service levels means that there is a lot of competition in this field, which is only set to grow.

According to Art Consulting released data show that in 2013 Chinese film market grossed 21.7 billion yuan [USD $3.5 billion], the total volume of transactions reached buy movie tickets online 3.64 billion yuan [USD $562 million], accounting for 16.8%; market size of online movie ticket seat selection broke through the 1.2 billion yuan [USD $195 million], accounting for 5.5% of the overall size of the market. 2013 National viewing trips 620 million, of which up to 129 million people online ticketing, accounting for 21%. At the same time, the country has opened online seat selection feature close to 30% of the national cinema theater data.

Insiders predict that the next three years, the national online movie ticket in the domestic share of total box office or over 50%. U.S. group net Xu Wu, director of the opal film products more optimistic data from May this year it seems, online ticket market share has more than 30%, with a few important files and the second half of the summer schedule of the national archives, Lunar New Year stalls, etc. heat the film to enhance the overall market is expected by the end of this year, the national online ticket market share will exceed 50%. “This is an explosive growth in the market, cat’s-eye movies formally launched in January 2013, the sales volume in May this year compared to last year has increased by nearly five times.” Xu Wu said.  LINK

Online ticketing brings convenience such as seat selection and for films such as ‘Transformers 4′ the rate of online tickets sales was a high 40%. Perhaps more interestingly, the avrage ticket price of tickets sold online56 yuan, compared to average national ticket price of 20 yuan, highlighting the domination of sales in multiplexes and Imax/CGF PLF screens in Tier 1 & 2 cities. While online tickets also offers operators the chance to gather data on customers there are fears in the industry of a new round of price wars. Those ticket machines aren’t just fighting for floor space.

9900 Wilshire

USA (CA) - Fresh news that Dalian Wanda, the parent company of US exhibitor AMC, is planning to build a HQ on 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The company has already donated USD $20 million to the AMPAS (Oscar) Museum.

Dalian Wanda Group, which controls the second-largest US cinema chain, won the bid for a piece of land in Los Angeles as the Chinese company sets its sights on Hollywood.

Wanda, the Chinese developer controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, plans to invest US$1.2 billion (RM3.85 billion) after beating more than 10 bidders for the 32,000 sq m plot in Beverly Hills, the company said in a statement on its website.

Wanda plans to set up an office in the city and help China’s entry into Hollywood’s film industry, it said.  LINK

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IBC 2014 Big Screen Experience – Q&A With Exec Producer Julian Pinn

 

Douglas Trumbull

Keynote speaker Doug Trumbull (not Julian Pinn)

With digital cinema conversion completed in most of the world, this year the IBC Big Screen Experience (running 12-15 September in Amsterdam’s RAI) has be re-vamped extensively to focus on the latest issues facing the industry. Sessions such as EDCF have been moved from their traditional slot (now Sunday evening, followed by drinks) and new areas of coverage introduced.

Significantly the Big Screen Experience conference strand will be completely free to anyone attending the IBC trade show, which means that anyone can come and hear leading industry experts discussing the issues affecting the industry today and tomorrow at no extra cost. There is also the traditional Hollywood blockbusters, only this year it’s Apes with both Atmos and lasers, also free (thanks to 20th Century Fox) as part of #IBCbigscreen

Celluloid Junkie caught up with industry veteran Julian Pinn (founder and consultant for Julian Pinn Ltd) who is the Executive Producer for this year’s Big Screen conference, to ask him what those planning to attend should make room for in their no-doubt packed IBC diaries.

Celluloid Junkie: This is the first year that IBC’s Big Screen conference stream is free to all attendees of the show, what’s behind this change?

Julian Pinn: For IBC registered delegates, the IBC Big Screen Experience is indeed a free-to-attend programme of carefully curated, editorially lead conference sessions, exhibitor product demonstrations, and Big Screen movies. The minimum IBC registration one needs to gain access to the Big Screen Experience is an Exhibition Visitor Pass, which itself is free if booked before 21 August 2014. This is an initiative by IBC to add value to the overall IBC experience and to remove barriers and complexity to those who are looking to make the most out of their busy schedule during the entirety of IBC2014.

CJ:  Is there a theme running through all the sessions?

JP:  IBC Big Screen in recent years has focussed on the transition to Digital Cinema. With Digital Cinema done and dusted in most parts of the world, this year’s IBC Big Screen conference is looking at the disruption taking place in cinema and the wider industries:

- disruption due to a wealth of scientific innovation that digital has unlocked, and what that means to the artists’ abilities to create new stories and to move their audiences in more powerful ways, and

- disruption due to the new entrants, new commercial realities, and new ways of doing business not only within the cinema business but within the wider industry from big screen to small screens.

CJ:  What new issues and topics will be discussed at this year’s Big Screen?

JP:  Not a quick answer I’m happy to say! The conference kicks off this year on Friday afternoon when we will be asking for the first time if the Big Screen and Second Screens can coexist peacefully and profitably—experiencing first-hand the technologies from Shazam and Cinime.

Saturday will feature a mixture of sponsored sessions, from Red and ARRI, with a couple of editorial sessions new to IBC in recent years. The first is on Event Cinema—a new sector to the business that is predicted to grow to 5% of the overall global cinema box office by 2015; we will be seeing examples and discussing important questions about the challenges of merging the two disciplines of broadcast and cinema from technological, artistic, and commercial perspectives.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 7 August 2014

Berr in cinema

The City Council of Bristol, Tenn, recently voted 3-2 in favour of allowing beer sales in the local cinema, clearing a first hurdle and in line with a larger national trend.

National Association of Theatre Owners Director of Media and Research Patrick Corcoran said wine, cocktails and suds in the cinema are becoming another selection at the concession stand at theaters across the U.S.

At last count, nearly 900 movie houses — including ones in nearby Asheville and Knoxville — have alcohol alongside the popcorn and Goobers in food vending areas or in restaurants confined within the theater, which allow consumers to take their meals and spirits in to see the show.

“It’s moving more into the mainstream as some of the larger theater companies are getting into it,” Corcoran said. “There’s a growing adult market. The percentage of the older population is growing and theaters are looking for better ways to attract that demographic. One of those is through alcohol sales and dine-in theaters.”  LINK

An interesting footnote is that one Hollywood studio was initially dead set against the idea of beer in cinemas. Have you already guessed which one?

Corcoran said independent movie theaters and larger chains began selling beer and wine in the mid 1990s, leading the Walt Disney Co. to not release its films to some locations because they did not want their family films associated with the sale of alcohol. Disney later relented after sales became successful in those areas with the beer concept.

Cineplex

Canada – Cineplex has announced its quarterly figures and Canada’s largest exhibitor noted year-on-year growth, but it as mainly the in-organic (screen acquisition) kind and the company is not immune to the malaise that is gripping the box office south of the border.

“Total revenue for the second quarter of 2014 increased 7.2%, or $21.9 million compared to the prior year, due largely to the 2013 acquisitions of 24 Atlantic theatres and digital signage company Cineplex Digital Networks,” said Ellis Jacob, President and CEO, Cineplex Entertainment. “The box office was impacted by the underperformance of a number of big summer titles and the shifting of release dates on certain films which resulted in a same store decrease in box office revenues of 4.2%, compared to the prior year quarter.”  LINK

The silver lining was “diversification in related businesses including media, digital commerce, gaming, food service and alternative programming” to counterbalance under-performing films, plus the SCENE loyalty program reached 5.8 million members (an increase of 200,000 members in the quarter).

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