Tag Archives: Arts Alliance Media

Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 29 October 2014

Regal cinemas

“Psst, wanna buy a cinema?” That seems to be the not-so-subtle message from Regal, the largest cinema chain in the United States, which unexpectedly put a ‘For Sale’ sign on the front door. Speculations immediately focused on Alibab’s Jack Ma, though my gut instinct is that he won’t be following in the footsteps of Wanda/AMC, primarily because his background is not real-estate and there are no obvious Chinese-US synergies to be had from such a deal. A sovereign wealth fund if not VC outfit is more likely to be checking Regal’s numbers right now. Variety covers all the other angles.

Regal CEO Amy Miles was tight-lipped about the issue on an earnings call Monday with analysts and media, only offering that the company’s board felt it was “an opportune time to conduct a thorough review of our options.” But in an interview with Variety for a lengthy profile earlier this month, Miles may have inadvertently explained why Regal shifted from bidder to acquisition target.

“We’re all excited about the years 2015, 2016 and I’m going to be aggressive and say even 2017,” she told Variety at the time. “I think that (in the) environment of very healthy strong box office, it’s a natural time to think, ‘OK that might be a good time for an individual to exit.’ Value maximization happens in that environment.”  LINK

Dolby Doremi Logo

The European commission has give its go-ahead to the Dolby-Doremi merger. The approval was expected but was most likely sitting in the IN tray of some EU bureaucrat away on holiday, or it might have gone through earlier.

Dolby Laboratories (DLB.N) on Monday received EU clearance for its acquisition of digital cinema technology group Doremi, the European Commission said.

The Commission, which acts as the competition watchdog in the 28-member bloc, said that while there was overlap between the two companies in the digital cinema servers business, the merger did not distort the market.

“The proposed transaction would not lead to any anti-competitive effects because of the presence of alternative suppliers, the fast-moving nature of the market and the ease of switching for customers,” the Commission said in a statement on Monday.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 29 August 2014

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The poor US box office is the story of the summer. Weak slate or cyclical? Variety crunches the numbers, compares winners & losers and weighs the opinions. The good news is that “summer” matters much less than it used to and true to John Fithian’s wish, studios are now looking at a 12 month window of opportunity.

Despite an August thaw that saw “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” shatter expectations, the summer box office will likely finish at its lowest point in eight years. Ticket sales are running 15% below last summer’s.

Thanks to the magic of CGI, cities crumbled on a weekly basis, defended by a rotating band of masked superheroes. But are these scorched movie metropolises a metaphor for a business being bombarded by newer, snazzier forms of non-theatrical entertainment, or is this a momentary stumble for an industry that’s still soaring?  LINK

Seeking Alpha has its take on the summer and it leans towards the ‘secular decline’ camp.

Box office debate: Secular decline or smashing 2015 on tap? • 8:59 AM

Clark Schultz, SA News Editor

- Cowen Research analyst Doug Creutz thinks the soft summer box office season this year is evidence of a secular decline in domestic attendance as viewing habits evolve.
- The analysis runs counter to the line of thought of some media analysts who think a weak and uninspiring summer slate is the culprit.
- Creutz points out that the number of summer releases is in-line with historical averages, while box office bulls note tent-poles are spread out throughout the year more than in the past making the summer compare tougher.
- On tap in 2015: Blockbuster releases next year include Star Wars: Episode VII (Lucasfilm), Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel), Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Lionsgate), The Good Dinosaur (Walt Disney Pictures), Bond 24 (Columbia).

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On a brighter note, Italy was up in the first quarter this year compared to same period 2013. (No idea why they are flagging Q1 but not Q2.)

Italy was the only big EU market to grow in box office gross and admissions in 2013. Policy differences between Italy and Spain, discussed in the Q1 2014 Distribution Report, account for most of the box office and production growth.

- 30.3M Italians attended the cinema in Q1 2014, compared to 26.8M in Q1 2013.  LINK

Yet The Telegraph reports that there are fears that the Italian film industry is ‘going into a steep decline’ as only three of the 31 titles in competition at this week’s Venice Film Festival are Italian.

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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 – 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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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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Why Arts Alliance Media Sold Its Content Services Business

Arts Alliance Media Content Services

Last week the digital cinema market continued its predicted consolidation when Arts Alliance Media (AAM), the London based cinema integrator and software developer, sold off its content services business to Motion Picture Solutions (MPS). Founded by managing director Ian Thomas and also based in London, MPS has been building a reputation over the last eight years as one of the leading providers of content services in Europe, competing directly with AAM.

At first glance this looks to be a situation where one company surrenders to a much stronger competitor in the same space, though as the Chief Executive Officer of AAM, Howard Kiedaisch, points out (see below) it’s actually a bit more nuanced and strategic than that.

The news shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise to professionals working in the motion picture exhibition or distribution industries. Over the past few years AAM has been making its name by financing digital cinema rollouts through virtual print fees, developing digital cinema software and distributing alternative content. While AAM also offered content services such as DCP mastering, KDM generation and content distribution, MPS actually focused on such solutions more heavily and has thus become widely known as a reliable provider of digital mastering and distribution services.

You might be asking why AAM would want to exit a business that was, if not an overwhelming profit generator, at least earned revenue. The answer is quite simple; content services and delivery is a very tough and competitive business. Just ask Cinedigm. Oh that’s right, you can’t since the company which was once a market pioneer in the satellite delivery of content to cinemas sold that side of its business to Technicolor back in 2011. No worries, you can always as Arqiva, Deluxe, DSAT, Microspace or Technicolor just how difficult content services can be.

And that’s just it; these days it seems anyone with encoding software and a Mac Pro hangs up a shingle as a content services provider, the market has become over saturated with such entities. Not all of these dozens upon dozens of companies are created equal either. The renown writer and professor Tim Wu refers to this sequence of innovation and openness, fragmentation and gradual commoditization as “The Cycle” in his 2010 book “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires“. Adding to this is that most large content owners (read: Hollywood studios or major distributors) sign long-term contracts with specific providers to obtain larger discounts. If you miss landing a contract with one such content owner, it could be five years before you’ll have the opportunity to put in another bid.

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Latin American VPF Deals Hide Regional Problems – UPDATED

Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

[Ed: We have received lots of feedback and updated info from readers fram and active in the region. ¡Muchas Gracias/Muito Obrigado! The article has been UPDATED THROUGHOUT as a result.]

Much like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid headed to Bolivia after they had run out of banks in the Wild West to hold up, so too digital cinema integrators have moved on to Latin America, now that virtual print fee (VPF) coffers are empty in North America and Europe. Yet despite the flurry of Latin America-related VPF press releases at the recent CinemaCon, there are fundamental issues that will make it a challenge to migrate the continent to digital cinema.

We have already discussed the press releases from CinemaCon 2014, including those  related to Latin America, so for a full breakdown have a look HERE. We will not provide a full analysis or analyse each deal, but try to look at the context and outlook for the region, as it struggles to catch up with the rest of the world in going digital.

As we pointed out during ShowEast 2012 it was the last chance for Latin American countries to get a VPF deal and we are unlikely to see many more major deals after this one. Gary Johns from Sony Electronics commented then that their VPF deals for North America were available until 31 March 2013, i.e. almost exactly a year ago. While international deals do have a little longer to run, studios like Twentieth Century Fox have politely but firmly informed exhibitors, distributors and (perhaps most importantly) government representatives in Brazil and elsewhere in Asia that the end of 35mm prints is nigh.

GDC at the Forefront – of press release announcements

It is noteworthy that deployment entities like Scrabble and GDC have signed separate VPF deployment deals with Hollywood studios (here and here respectively), highlighting that the continent could not easily follow deployment patterns and terms even for non-US or EU territories such as India and China. Of these two entities GDC has been the more active, with no less than five announcements relating to Latin America, while Scrabble has been largely silent recently. So what’s the motivation to be aggressive on the VPF front in Latin America?

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CinemaCon 2014: Press Release Roundup

CinemaCon Logo

PLEASE NOTE: If we missed any individual press release it was not done purposefully. If you would like us to include a CinemaCon related press announcement in a future roundup, please forward it to tips@celluloidjunkie.com.

Historically companies and organizations doing business at trade shows and conferences have relied heavily upon press releases to get their message out to an industry. This has been especially true at CinemaCon and ShoWest before it. This year was no different.

The first day of the show always sees a flurry of announcements “hit the wire”. As the week (and convention) progresses the number of releases tends to dwindle. We thought it might be useful to sum up all of the announcements made at this year’s show, and when appropriate, provide a bit of insight or analysis. Here are the releases published during CinemaCon 2014 listed in alphabetical order by company name:


Arts Alliance Media
The London based digital cinema integrator and software developer is is always good for a few releases during industry trade shows. CinemaCon saw them release no fewer than four. The first announced the launch of a new software solution called AdFuser. The software was designed for all aspects of on-screen cinema advertising. The software is capable of planning campaigns and managing inventory, targeting ads to appropriate genres or audience demographics, automated ad playlist creation, ad content delivery, reporting and much more. AdFuser can be used in either an extremely granular or completely automated fashion.

Our Take: AAM’s cinema advertising software has been in development for years so it is interesting to see them finally launch the product. We have yet to have a close demonstration of the solution, but look forward to seeing it in action. The company is entering a niche market with a stiff competitor (Unique Digital) that has more than a decade head start in the space.

AAM announced a software deal with Vox Cinemas, a cinema chain based in the Middle East. The circuit will be employing AAM’s suite of software to manage their digital cinema technology and operations. This includes solutions such as Screenwriter Plus (Theatre Management System), Producer (Enterprise Circuit Management System) and Locksmith (Enterprise KDM Management) and Lifeguard (NOC Tools). Vox operates 9 complexes which account for 92 screens in Lebanon and the UAE.

Finnkino was already using AAM’s theatre management system (TMS) and will now upgrade to Screenwriter Plus, which has additional features for automation and monitoring. The circuit will rollout the new version of Screenwriter Plus throughout their 14 sites and at a later date has the option to include their 11 Forum Cinemas located in the Baltic.

AAM began as a digital cinema integrator with their own virtual print fees (VPFs) in Europe. They have now entered the complicated Latin American market with a series of partners, most recently Quanta-DGT. The trio announced three deals for VPF rollouts with three exhibitors in Uruguay; Grupo Cine, Life Cinemas and Movie.

Our Take: This agreement is a perfect example of just how complex Latin America can be for the motion picture business. While the combined 61 screens covered in the contract already have digital cinema equipment installed, these screens will now fall under AAM/Quanta-DGT’s VPF agreements.


Barco
CinemaBarcoThe Belgian based projector manufacturer was incredibly active during this year’s CinemaCon, showing up at the conference with half a dozen press releases. Many of the notices centered around their new CinemaBarco initiative, specifically the 60,000-lumen laser projector the company is bringing to market. The projector is DCI-compliant and capable of showing 4K content all the way up to 60 frames per second. The Barco 6P laser projector is capable of showing 3D content in 4K at 14 ftL and is fully integrated within the DCI-compliant projector. It will be commercially available immediately in the United States and China before being distributed in the rest of the world by the end of 2014. The company demonstrated the projector at CinemaCon without a “shaking” screen.

To prove just how market ready their laser projector is, Barco announced that Cinemark would be the first exhibitor to install the new technology. The release didn’t specify precisely which sites Barco would be installing its high-tech projector in, though don’t be surprised if Cinemark Century 16 South Point and XD winds up being the first. That’s the Las Vegas cinema in which Barco was conducting off-site demonstrations of its laser projector during CinemaCon.

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Arts Alliance Rethinks Its Alternative Content Strategy

Arts Alliance MediaHow hard is it to find success with alternative content? The answer is; very. So many variables have to fall perfectly in place to find success, much less profit. No matter whether it’s sports, concerts or cultural events, there are rights clearances to obtain, theaters to secure and screenings to promote. None of this is easy, though there are a number of companies that have managed to make a name for themselves in alt. content by routinely producing high profile events including, Arts Alliance Media (AAM), Cinedigm and Fathom Events.

So imagine my surprise when in late November I started to receive emails and phone calls informing me that AAM was getting out of the alt. content business. How could this possibly be? After all, I had just interviewed Elizabeth Draper, who heads up AAM’s alt. content efforts, for a story on marketing such events in Boxoffice Magazine.

Rather than contribute to the rumor mill by posting such news with third party confirmation, I figured it would be best to go straight to the source by getting in touch with Howard Kiedaisch, AAM’s CEO. His email response sums up rather nicely not only AAM’s approach to alt. content, but also the company as a whole:

“Over the last three years AAM have released over 60 alternative content titles. Some have been very successful for our content and exhibition partners but in many cases have left little net contribution for AAM. Meanwhile, AAM’s VPF rollout business continues to grow nicely while our software has become a tremendous success with our recent deals. In looking at what to do going forward on the AC side, we have been reviewing our business model including both the revenue opportunity and the overhead requirements. Through that review we found it necessary to reduce the permanent staffing of the AC department at this time.

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Cinema Digitaal Selects Arts Alliance Media For Netherlands D-Cinema Rollout

Cinema Digitaal and Arts Alliance Media

Cinema Digitaal, the organization overseeing the rollout of digital cinema in the Netherlands, has selected Arts Alliance Media to as their integrator to convert more than 500 screens throughout the country to digital.

Under the exclusive arrangement AAM will install and maintain digital cinema equipment and technology in a wide range of cinemas encompassing large exhibition chains and smaller art house venues. Circuits not participating in the rollout include Pathe, Euroscoop and Utopolis, as they will be handling their own conversions.

AAM will also provide their VPF deals with five Hollywood studios and is in the process of finalizing similar deals with the 14 local distributors that make up the NVF.

Cinema Digitaal was founded by the Dutch Association of Cinema Operators (Nederlandse Vereniging van Bioscoopexploitanten, NVB), the Dutch Film Distributors’ Association (Nederlandse Vereniging van Filmdistributeurs, NVF) and the EYE Film Institute. The Dutch government is funding 14 percent of the project with additional funds coming from the Netherlands Film Fund (Nederlands Fonds voor de Film) and bank financing.

With no VPF deals of their own, Cinema Digitaal needed to partner with an entity that had such agreements covering the Netherlands. Thus, it was really a choice between AAM, XDC and Ymagis.

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