Tag Archives: Australia

Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 20 January 2014

Scotish_drivein

UK: It might not have the most obvious climate, but a pop-up drive-in cinema concept is taking hold in Scotland. “Film goers will be able to drive into the scenery under innovative plans for drive-in screenings at some of Scotland’s most dramatic movie backdrops. US-style outdoor cinema shows are proposed for iconic big screen locations, such as the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall in Glencoe, to where Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench retreat in a vintage Aston Martin DB5.” Taking a leaf from the book of Future Cinema, Glasgow-based event firm Itison has already hosted two screenings and will show ‘Top Gun’ next to Edinburgh Airport’s runway next month. Link.

Australia: Meanwhile, someone has the same idea on the other side of the globe, where the climate would seem more conducive to outdoor screenings. “If you took all of the ingredients for a perfect summer and mixed them up into one big event, you’d end up with Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinema. This summer, Ben and Jerry’s will bring Sydneysiders movies, ice cream, live music and a bar, all from the ultimate beach destination, Bondi Beach.” There will also be sea and surf-themed films, like The Big Blue. Link.

Cinema Openings/Closings

India: “PVR Ltd has opened a Multiplex at Pacific Mall, Dehradun in the state of Uttarakhand. Out of 5 screens, 4 screens have become operational from January 17, 2014.” Link.

Kineforum

Indonesia. An architecturally fascinating temporary cinema. “Kineforum Misbar was a temporary open-air cinema built as part of the 2013 Jakarta Biennale, an international contemporary art event held in the Indonesian capital. It was the result of collaboration between architects Csutoras & Liando and Kineforum, a non-profit organization that runs the only cinema in Jakarta dedicated to international and local art-house and independent movies.” Link.

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Omnilab Media Lands Its First VPF Deal While Fighting Legal Dispute

Christopher Mapp of Omnilab Media

Omnilab's Christopher Mapp

Do you ever have days where you’re sorry curiosity got the better of you? Back on February 1st Omnilab Media Cinema Services announced that it had signed a virtual print fee agreement with Paramount Pictures. I decided not to post anything about it at the time believing that news of deals with additional studios would shortly follow.

It is highly unusual for a deployment entity to make public announcements about VPF deals unless they include three or four studios. In fact, some studios won’t allow press releases to be published unless an integrator has signed agreements with minimum number of studios. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that financing for most third-party rollouts can not be accessed until deals with several studios have been completed.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in thinking we’d quickly be hearing about Omnilab’s additional VPF deals. The company’s managing director, Christopher Mapp, stated:

“The negotiation process with distributors for VPF contracts has been long and complex, however, with the excellent cooperation of the major distributors we are set to sign several more agreements imminently. We are in the final stages of our negotiations with other major studios and are also intending to contract with many Australian independent distributors.”

This last bit is a given since any distributor wishing to play content on equipment deployed by Omnilab under a VPF agreement would be need to pay a VPF as per the the studio’s strict contracts. The issue of independent distributors probably relates more to Omnilab being selected last September as the preferred digital cinema integrator by the Independent Cinema Association of Australia (ICAA).

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Hoyts Expands With Acquisition Of AMC

Hoyts + AMC.jpg

Last week Hoyts Cinemas announced that it had reached an agreement for an undisclosed sum to purchase privately owned Australian Multiplex Cinemas (AMC). Based in Sydney, Hoyts presently operates 50 cinemas with 406 screens throughout Australia and New Zealand. After taking over the five multiplexes owned by AMC they will have a total of 448 screens which will account for roughly 25 percent of the AUD $1 billion box office in Australia.

Three of the five venues Hoyts will be picking up are located in Queensland, specifically Redcliffe, Stafford and Sunnybank. The other two are in Tweed Heads, New South Wales and Frankston, Victoria. This means Hoyts will now operate multiplexes in every Australian state, as Delfin Fernandez, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, pointed out in his press release statement:

“We are thrilled to build a truly national footprint of Hoyts cinemas by integrating these great assets into our network. We are particularly excited to continue the full digitisation of the AMC circuit in the first half of 2011, bringing Queenslanders greater opportunities to enjoy cutting-edge 3D technology and experience new content such as live sporting and music events.”

This isn’t the first time Hoyts has courted AMC. In October of 2008 Hoyts announced a bid to takeover AMC, which never came to fruition. Though this new deal requires regulatory approval, both circuits expect the sale to be completed sometime next month.

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“Avatar” Pirate Given A Pass Down Under

Here’s a new twist on the old story of camcorder piracy and movie theft. A recent news blip published in Australia’s Herald reported an incident in which movie theatre personnel at a cinema in Glendale spotted a man video taping a showing of “Avatar”. The catch is, the man was 88-years-old.

The cinema manager got the gentleman to stop recording and called the police. When authorities arrived the man, who was wearing large glasses and got around with the aid of a walking stick, informed them that he was recording the film for his wife who was unable to make it to the cinema.

While awfully kind of the man to be thinking of his wife, he was informed that such activity is illegal. The police proceeded to delete the movie from the man’s camcorder and let him sit through the rest of the film. As the Los Angeles Times points out, he may not have been let off the hook so easily in the United States, senior citizen or not. In 2005, the Motion Picture Association of America sued a 67-year-old man for $600,000 after pirated movies were downloaded onto his computer via a peer-to-peer service.

I wonder if the 88-year-old Australian man will get any credit simply for knowing how to work the camcorder or for his willingness to hold it through a movie that’s more than two-and-a-half hours long.

Daily Cinema Roundup – Monday 11 May – “I have been in this business since 1972, and I have never seen such a bad time.”

cctraintour
-We have come across cinemas on wheels, before, but Disney is going on step further by installing a digital 3D cinema in a train as part of its promotion for “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”. From the press release: “”Disney’s A Christmas Carol” Train Tour kicks off Memorial Day Weekend 2009 in Los Angeles, traveling across the country with stops in 40 cities, culminating in New York City in November. Visitors will be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the magic and the cutting-edge technology of “Disney’s A Christmas Carol.” Pictured above is the state-of-the-art 48-foot-wide, 3D theatre–the first inflatable 3D theatre ever to go across the country–which will be erected onsite in each city showcasing an exclusive sneak peek of “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” in Disney Digital 3D.”” Digital cinema projectors provided by Barco, server and 3D equipment by Dolby, touch panels by HP and trian by Amtrak – only no word who is supplying the distinctly rickety and non-plush looking chairs;

- Digital Cinema integrator Cinedigm (formerly AccessIT) has been thrown a financial life line by its largest creditor GE Commercial Finance. From the press release, “The amendment significantly relaxes the financial covenant ratios that C/AIX is required to meet every quarter through the maturity of the loan in 2013. In addition, the new arrangement allows C/AIX to pay approximately $5 million in cash to its parent company, Cinedigm, as well as increase its ability to pay annual fees to Cinedigm. Reflecting the current market conditions, the amendment increases the interest rate on the credit facility from 4.5% to 6% above LIBOR and sets a LIBOR floor of 2.5%. C/AIX will pay a 0.5% amendment fee on the outstanding balance of $183.9 million.” The deal is a vote of confidence and saves Cinedigm and Christie/AIX, but staying afloat and surviving is not the same as expanding and thriving;

- Of the 53 films screening at the Cannes Film Festival 50 will be screening in digital, but the press release from Christie frustratingly doesn’t tell us which three won’t. Instead we learn that “20 [films] screened digitally in 2007 and 37 in 2008” and “Christie will provide over 19 projectors for the world’s leading film festival,” but they don’t name and shame the digital refuseniks. Is it famous film fanatic Quentin Tarantino? Or some obscure Chinese director who smuggled out a Super16mm documentary in a concealed can? We want names. So if you are involved, feel free to leak them to us anonymously in an e-mail or in the comments section. We know you want to;

-Things are going from bad to worse in India, where the stand-off between the Distributors and the Exhibitors is turning into a WWI-style war of attrition. Now the single screens are becoming the collateral casualty, according to the Economic Times. “For those who could not survive with just cancelling shows, shutting shop was the only option. Single theatres like Regal and Roxy, and the multi-screen Apsara in South Mumbai, have been closed till further notice, while the 1,200-seater Liberty theatre, a Yashraj and Barjatya favourite, also closed shop for two weeks, though citing air-conditioning repair as reason. “I have been in this business since 1972, and I have never seen such a bad time.” Multiplexes are surviving partly thanks to revival of Marathi films, but the government is suffering from single screen closures as Maharashtra state has a 45 per cent entertainment tax on tickets, while Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state with 190m people) taxes single screens at 60 per cent;

- The Bollywood stand-off is having repercussions abroad, with Hollywood soaking up audiences left high and dry in the Middle East, according to United Arab Emirate’s The National. “Indian film has a major presence in the UAE, given the country’s large expatriate Asian presence, but the movies are popular with Arabs and other communities too, and most open to packed houses. Several have had grand premières in Dubai even before their releases in India, among the most recent being Jodha Akbar and Delhi-6. Last year Yash Raj Films, a leading filmmaker, entered into an agreement with Dubai Infinity Holding to build an entertainment district in the city themed around films made by the production house.” Anyone living in Mumbai knows that the city is effectively twinned with Dubai, so the ripples will be felt for some time across the Arabian Sea;

0805_shortwaveint- Up-and-coming London area of Bermondsey Square is getting a 50-seat ‘uniplex’ (pictured above) called Shortwave Cinema, described by the owner as “the first cinema to be built in 21st century Britain.” From Londonist, “The brainchild of “local DJ, filmmaker and renaissance man” Rob Wray, Shortwave has a pleasingly retro moviehouse look, with comfortable old seats re-housed from the Electric Cinema and a black and red colour scheme within. Matching the old-school aesthetic, the cinema intends to eschew blockbuster releases and instead program independent fare: they’re currently showing the adaptation of David Peace’s Red Riding Trilogy, while future releases include Chilean film Tony Moreno and a season of London documentaries from the 1950s.” Looks like a worthy successor to the frankly-not-missed Lux Cinema in up-and-already-came area of Hoxton;

- Australia is set to get its first all-digital multiplex as Greater Union unveils its latest multiplex at at Robina town centre on the Gold Coast. From Perth Now, “AHL says digital cinema technology means it can now screen everything from overseas concerts, to international operas, ballet, theatre and live sports. “From a satellite feed of a U2 Concert to the State or Origin on the giant Vmax screen, it is an exciting development,” it says. The centres will retain Greater Union’s popular premium luxury Gold Class program.” Hmmmm, Vmax – not to be confused with Imax;

- The booming North American box office has dragged Canada’s Cineplex Galaxy back in black, according to THR.com. “Toronto-based Cineplex Galaxy, which operates 130 multiplexes country-wide, posted earnings of CAN$3.7 million ($3.16 million) to March 31, against a loss of CAN$2.3 million in 2008. Revenue rose 11.2% to CAN$211 million ($180 million), compared to a year-earlier CAN$189 million. Total boxoffice receipts rose 11.5% to CAN$133 million ($113.5 million), from CAN$116 million in 2008.” Expect 3D to be big at Cineplex Galaxy as it rolls it out on 122 screens by the end of May.

Tutus and Popcorn Served Up In Australia

Australian Ballet In Movie TheatresLast Friday evening the Australian Film Commission, through their regional digital screen network (RDSN), beamed a performance of ‘The Nutcracker’ live via satellite from Sydney Opera House towns across the country including Port Augusta, South Australia; Yarram, Victoria; Devonport, Tasmania; Katherine, Northern Territory; Wagga Wagga, NSW; Singleton, WA; and Albany and Hervey Bay.

Free tickets for the event, which had been announced back in September, were completely sold out within hours of their being offered to the public. The Australian reported that some young girls attending the high definition broadcast actually dressed in their ballet tutus. I suppose that’s the same as young boys dressing up as wizards when they turn up at the theatre to catch the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise.

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When d-cinema leaves audinces in the dark

black screen You are not a frequent film goer if you have not sat through at least one instance of a 35mm reel breaking and the projectionist (or the kid who sold you the popcorn) taking forever to fix it. I once waited 45 minutes to get to see the last underwhelming five minutes of ‘Mission to Mars‘. Boy was that not worth the wait.

Thanks to the miracle of digital cinema, there is now a 21st century version of this annoyance, except now the film won’t even start and the chances are slim-to-none that even the most competent projectionist will be ever to sort it out, as several audiences in Australia recently found out. This from AdelaidNow:

PREMIERE Australian screenings of much-hyped 3D spectacular Beowulf descended into farce on Monday night when the digital projection technology failed simultaneously in Adelaide and Perth.

That follows a similar incident in Sydney last week. Cinemagoers at all three venues were unable to watch the 3D blockbuster after security access keys, provided by the distributor as an anti-piracy measure, failed to work.

Roadshow Films said they were confident the problem had been solved and would not affect audiences when the film is released tomorrow.

Ouch! Whoever was responsible for the Australia distribution of Warner Bros’ Beowulf (Paramount handled it in the US) will have been in deep trouble as a result of screwing up the KDM decryption keys. (Based on previous studio-lab digital relations I’m guessing Technicolor, but I could be wrong). Re-funding the audience is never cheap or popular, either with the cinemas, distributors or even audiences themselves:

Valley View resident Damian Woodards said he was disappointed. “We were all looking forward to the latest 3D technology that’s supposed to be getting more people along to the cinemas,” he said.

Roadshow Films general manager Joel Pearlman said he believed the glitch had been ironed out. “This was incredibly unfortunate and disappointing, but these are all issues to do with the security key which have been addressed,” he said.

Yes, but only until the next screw up. Even with 99.99% accurate KDM creation and matching, that will still leave hundreds of dark screenings every year. And it just doesn’t look as interesting as 35mm film getting stuck in the projection gate and melting. It’s just black and absolutely nothing happens. Call it the Black Screen of death for digital cinema.

Ballet beamed by satellite in Oz

Cinema goers in remote part of Australia will soon be able to watch live ballet from the Sydney Opera house at their local multiplex. It is the latest in the snowballing alternative content market for cinemas that truly began with the Metropolitan Opera’s live transmissions worldwide. The article in the Sydney Morning Herald tell us about the event set for 7 December in the Tasmanian city of Devonport:

Devonport is one of eight regional centres – the others are Port Augusta, Yarram, Hervey Bay, Katherine, Wagga Wagga, Singleton and Albany – which will get the live feed using the Australian Film Commission’s [AFCs] Regional Digital Screen Network [RDSN]. The 7pm performance will also be broadcast live to an audience on the Opera House forecourt.

Announcing the broadcast yesterday, the Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, said: “This is the first time in Australia that digital cinema technology has been used to give regional audiences the opportunity to experience a live performance by one of Australia’s flagship arts companies on the big screen at the same time as an audience in a metropolitan area.”

Given that like many of these cultural event they are subsidized by tax payer money (though not the MET), it is only right that people from all over the country should have access to them. So if people can’t come to Sydney or one of the larger cities that the Australian Ballet tours to, the ballet comes to the large screen near them. In this case Wagga Wagga. A similar thing has happened in Sweden – another sparsely populated country – where the Royal Dramatic Theatre will send a transmission of its latest Strindberg production live to digitally equipped cinemas in smaller villages in the outback later this year.

Australia’s RDSN has come under criticism because unlike the UK Film Council’s DSN it is not set up to comply with Hollywood’s digital cinema requirements, so it is interesting to see it finding use for spreading culture even other than those of Australian and independent films in digital.

Pacific Equity Partner Acquires Hoyts Cinemas

Australian exhibitor Hoyts has been sold to Pacific Equity Partner in a defeat to India’s Pyramid Saimira Theatre, which had pursued the deal aggressively. James Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. and West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd. are reported to have sold Hoyts Australian and New Zealand cinemas and stake in cinema advertiser Val Morgan in a deal valued at A$440m ($382m). The article by Bloomberg says that Packer is looking to sell media assets to invest more in gaming:

Pacific Equity plans to invest in Hoyts’s 40 Australian and nine New Zealand cinemas to reverse declining attendances. Third-quarter pretax profit at Hoyts fell 9 percent to A$8.5 million as a dearth of blockbuster movies hurt ticket sales.

“We believe there are opportunities for growth through further investment in digital entertainment and digital advertising media technologies,” Simon Pillar, Pacific Equity’s managing director, said in an e-mailed statement.

Publishing & Broadcasting and West Australian will each get A$150 million from the deal. The companies combined in January 2005 to acquire Hoyts from Packer’s private company, Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd., for A$347 million.

The deal is a blow to the international expansion plans of Pyramid Saimira Theatres, who were reported to have offered A$450m for Hoyts, i.e. A$10m more than Pacific, but for whatever reason they lost out.

Do games work on the big screen?

Odeon big screen games
Less than two dozen posts and we are fearlessly tackle the Big Questions About The Future OF Cinema in this blog, such as do games have a future in the multiplex. As games get more sophisticated in terms of graphics, plot and budget, attempts are being made to transplant them to the cinema environment.

In Australia researchers at the University of New South Wales‘ department iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research (yes, it really exists) have developed technology that the claim creates ‘an immersive experience’ whereby the audiences explore a film using a joystick. This from an article in Sydney Morning Herald:

One of iCinema’s projects, Place-Hampi, plunges viewers into a 360-degree re-creation of the temple ruins in Hampi, southern India. The filmed ruins are populated with animated Hindu gods and research is under way to allow viewers to interact with the virtual characters. “What we’re doing I don’t think will replace existing formats. It is quite distinct and different from going to the movies,” Professor Shaw says.

“The future of the cinema will be a whole family of different types of interactive experiences. There will be specific sites where you’ll go to have very large-scale and very sophisticated experiences like going to a museum, or a rock concert. But we also see enormous development in terms of interactive cinema in the home.”

iDomeThe iCinema Centre has built a ‘lounge room friendly’ iDome (Have they checked with Steve Jobs about the use of all these iTerms? – Ed.), which is apparently a a fibreglass screen just three metres in diameter. This sounds like little more than the CAVE type of 3D simulation already widely in use.

A more traditional type of cinema testing gaming is UK’s Odeon, which has equipped its Huddersfield multiplex with on-screen gaming in partnership with Big Screen Games. Here is how Odeon’s website describes it:

In line with the major entertainment milestones such as the moving picture, colour, surround sound and digital cinema, a new innovation in cinema history has been born. Big Deal Games, in partnership with ODEON, are introducing in-cinema gaming on the big screen!

Odeon Big Screen GamesBig Screen Games is the newest entertainment phenomenon and is exclusive to ODEON – an interactive game-show with the audience as contestants! Using interactive game consoles, players compete against each other right from their seats.

You can play fun and familiar games such as bingo, trivia and memory match and win cash and prizes! Hosted by popular comedian, Vic Reeves, Big Screen Games will revolutionise the cinema experience. Hundreds of people can play against each other, individually or in teams, right there on the cinema screen – an experience unrivalled in the world of entertainment!

Bold claim, but I’m sure Odeon will wait and see how it goes before it follows up on the plans to roll out the concept to other Odeon cinemas. For now you can test it for yourself at Huddersfield Mon-Wed after 8:15 pm. I tested the touch screen concept a couple of years ago and I can’t say that it attracts me to the cinema the way the latest ‘Bourne’ film would, but then maybe I’m not the target demographic.