Tag Archives: Disney

Hollywood Studios Embrace High Frame Rate For All Films (Sort Of)

CineAsia 2013

A large flat screen monitor displays trailers at CineAsia

It should come as no surprise that Warner Bros is showing off the trailer for “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” in high frame rate (HFR) at the current CineAsia trade show in Hong Kong. After all, that is how director Peter Jackson filmed it and wants audiences to see it. What is more surprising is that WB is also showing HFR trailers for its other films: “300 Rise of Empire” and “The Lego Movie”. What, you didn’t know that they were HFR? Then you will be even more surprised by the HFR trailers for films from Disney, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures. In fact ALL these studios’ film trailers were playing in HFR.

Seeing these trailers will come as a surprise to those who thought that Messrs Jackson and James Cameron were the only ones advocating and shooting in HFR and not expect auteurs like Wes Anderson or multi-hyphenates like George Clooney to also have embraced the format. But walk around the displays of WB, Disney, Fox and Sony and you will see the trailers on loop for all of their future films showing the same smooth, video-like HFR characteristics. Sony Pictures “Robocop” reboot looks just like the console game it will no doubt tie in with, while “Heaven Is For Real” looks like a shot-on-video TV film-of-the-week. Disney’s “Bears” looks just like a Discovery channel documentary while Angelina Jolie slinks about super-ultra smoothly in “Maleficient”. Over at Fox, Iceland is looking crystal clear in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” while “The Book Thief” and “The Monument Men” give us a video vision of World War II.

By now you might have worked out that none of these films were actually shot in HFR. But the way the big monitors from Samsung and LG have been set up with default 100Hz to 200Hz refresh rate, interpolation and edge enhancement, MPEG+ and other “image improvement” features they might as well have been shot in HFR for the look it creates. The only studio to have calibrated its display monitor to give a film look to its titles is Paramount, showing the new “Jack Ryan” and “Noah” trailers the way people will see them in the cinemas. (Universal only has a cardboard standee for “47 Ronin”).

This might seem like a trivial issue. After all, the studios show off the trailers on the big screen properly in their product reels. That’s where it matters, surely? But overlooking the trailers at a trade show, seen by exhibitors over and over is emblematic of a larger issue.

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Hollywood unites on satellite movie delivery – but is it too late already?

With the overwhelming majority of multiplexes in the US converted to digital, the largest cinema chains have now reached agreement with the majority of Hollywood studios for the satellite delivery of DCPs. The Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC) has added Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate to co-founding studios Warner Bros and Universal Pictures. DCDC was formed in 2012 between DCIP (the digital cinema arm of the three largest US exhibitors AMC, Cinemark and Regal), Warners and Universal, with Deluxe/EchoStar handling the integration, in what was crucially billed as a “not-for-profit” venture. “Our goal is to drive the cost of distribution as low as we can get it,” DCDC spokesman Randolph Blotky tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’d like to drive it to zero over the course of time.”

Satellite has long been seen as the most obvious way for distributing DCPs to multiplexes, at least for North America with its large geography and homogenous film distribution schedules. Several ventures had earlier promoted this concept, most notably Boeing Digital Cinema, but faced resistance from Hollywood studios that did not want a gate keeper or for a third-party operator to set up a business where previously only a strip of film separated them from the exhibitors. By being a joint studio-exhibitor operation that is non-profit, as well as run by the established service provider Deluxe, the DCDC arrangement seems the most palatable to all parties involved. Yet closer scrutiny of the deal raises several questions.

While THR’s headline states that ‘Five Studios Sign on for Satellite Movie Delivery’, it is in fact just two new studios (Paramount and Disney) joining the existing pair, with Lionsgate still only a mini-major. Absent are both 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures, who also happen to be Deluxe’s two largest studio clients. Fox has an on/off relation to satellite delivery, having ruled it out in the early days, but allowed for tests with the likes of Boeing.  While these two may come on board later, it is notable that even a not-for-profit satellite solution could not persuade all studios to join in. One could even ask whether satellite delivery of DCPs is an idea whose time has passed.

DCDC’s origin was a proposal from Joe Fabiano, then with Pathfire, which was in bed with Warner Bros (Television) at the time. Six to seven years ago satellite made sense over hard drives, but hard drive *hardware* costs have dropped faster than satellite bandwidth costs, which are fairly static. The only costs associated with HDD that have not gone down are logistics and handling. This means that exhibitors have more to gain than studios, since it removes the need to ingest and handle hard drives. At the same time, fibre optic and even wireless bandwidth capacity has increased while costs have fallen, which is why in territories such as Europe and parts of Asia, these channels are looking more compelling than satellite. It may also be that the two holdout studios simply do not want to commit themselves to one fulfilment technology. While satellite delivery makes sense for smaller sized DCPs (animation – hence Disney), it would take something like two days to deliver ‘The Hobbit’ in HFR 3D with Dolby Atmos over satellite. Satellite may be coming, but HDDs are not going away. The real winner from this will be NCM, DCIP’s sister company for cinema advertising, which needs a better fulfilment vehicle with the transition from small MPEG to J2K DCPs. Sending hundreds of ads over satellite still makes more sense than sending half a dozen feature films DCPs.

Disney Promotes 3D with Inflatable Theater

Disney's 'A Christmas Carol' Train TourYou’ve got to hand it to Disney for creating another innovative way to promote 3D.
To raise awareness of the format and the studio’s upcoming stereoscopic release “A Christmas Carol,” Disney has put together a 40-city promotional tour that will travel by train.
As part of the exhibition, at each stop Disney will put up an inflatable 3D theater that was specially developed for the tour with technology suppliers Dolby and Barco. The 50x 50 ft. theater stands 25 ft. high and can be erected in less than six hours, execs said.
Disney's 'A Christmas Carol' Train TourThe theater uses the Dolby 3D system, and its gear includes two Barco DP2000 digital projectors, Dolby servers and a Dolby sound system. There is freestanding 18 by 17½ ft. screen and seating for 125.
Here, guests preview 3D clips from Robert Zemeckis’ “A Christmas Carol,” which opens Nov. 6.
The clever theater design will no doubt have plenty of additional applications.
The “Christmas Carol Train Tour” opened over Memorial Day weekend at Los Angeles’ Union Station and wraps the weekend of Oct. 30 in New York. The tour schedule can be found here

Daily Cinema Roundup – Mon 20 April

– US box office is holding up, this weeks thanks to “17″, according to THR.com, “Industry wide, the $107 million weekend represented a 14% improvement over the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. Year to date, 2009 is pacing 8% ahead of last year, at $2.73 billion. The year-over-year improvement appears more modest than it might as the year-ago period boasted an extra winter weekend.”

- Indian multiplexes in Mumbai are turning to theatre in an attempt to offset loos of revenue from the on-going producers boycott, according to BusinessofCinema.com. “Inox Nariman Point will be staging the Divya Palat directed play 26/11 on 19 April at 12 pm. Tickets for the play are priced at Rs 250 and Rs 230.” Meanwhile Fame had previously shown a production of the “Vagina Monologues.”

- Gefen is promoting its digital cinemascaler at NAB. for cinemas that want to show DVDs, Blu Rays, games and PC content. “ AV Cinema Scaler Pro I and II both interface with all digital cinema projectors and integrate flawlessly with digital cinema audio systems.” Both products enable HDMI, DVI, VGA and component video inputs and both digital and analog audio inputs;

- German centre-left SPD party wants to support digital cinema conversion as a means of rescuing cinemas from closure, according to Der Tagesspiegel (in German, Google translation to English here). “The transition from analog to digital projection means for cinema operators that must be retrofitted. The costs are approximately 60 000 euros – per projector. The overwhelmed especially the smaller, financially weak cinemas. These are in Berlin, 58 of 98 cinemas. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) predicted in a study submitted in March, only 30 percent of them could be the wave of digitization survive if no help measures are initiated.

- Disney gave a sneak peak of the upcoming “Toy Story 3D” at NAB, according to Variety. “Custom-animated short shows Woody supervising the Toy Story characters as they improvise a sign for the pic, only to have Buzz upstage them all with a high-tech version. The Mouse House will re-release 3-D versions of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ in a double feature. “Toy Story 3″ bows June 18, 2010.” No word on funding of 3D glasses in the article.

- The Loft Cinema is voted Tuscon’s Best Cinema by Tuscon Weekly’s readers. “The edible fare sits high above the typical multiplex offerings as well. Where else in town can you get a microbrew or two, a slice or three of Fresco pizza, and a Fargo revival?” Sounds like our kind of cinema.

RealD and Cinepolis see Latin America in 3D

Cinepolis logo Mexican exhibitor Cinepolis has big 3D plans for the whole of Latin america. Its deal with RealD envisions 500 screens to be converted in the next few years. From the press release:

The rollout of these 500 RealD 3D screens has already begun with six new screens installed for the release of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and will continue through 2010. The partnership makes RealD the exclusive choice of Cinepolis for digital 3D and creates a strong platform in the market for the upcoming slate of over thirty major studio 3D releases in 2009 and 2010.

The press release then goes on to quote Jeffrey Katzenberg and Disney before remembering to sample the opinions of the two companies that made the deal happen, showing you where the TRUE power of 3D lies today (content, content and, yes, more content). THR.com‘s take is that:

Cinepolis and RealD are co-financing the venture, though Cinepolis declined to disclose financial details when contacted Thursday.

The deal provides a major platform for 3-D cinema in Latin America as Cinepolis continues to expand in the region. Cinepolis rival Cinemark also has a partnership with RealD.

and

Cinepolis, owned by the Ramirez family, currently has more than 1,800 screens. In recent years, as Mexico’s exhibition market has grown more saturated, the exhibitor has expanded into Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and Colombia. Moving forward, Cinepolis is eyeing Brazil’s underserved exhibition market.

So at the present screen count, one out of every 3.6 screens will be 3D. This is clearly a bit too high, so it is likely to come about when Cinepolis has increased its footprint across Latin America. It must also mean that the screens will embrace digital cinema in 2D first, though whether Cinepolis will finance this itself or with a third party provider is nit clear. This means that the deal might not be contingent on something like the delayed DCIP deal holding up Regal and Cinemark’s 3D plans.

Sony US follows Sony Japan in alternative content

Cirque de Solei dilerium Sony Pictures has woken up to the fact that the big screen real estate will not be occupied 100 per cent by feature films in the future and that third party operators like AccessIT and Arts Alliance Media are getting in on the game. That is why they have launched their own division for alternative content entertainment. From Reuters:

The new venture, dubbed the Hot Ticket, will launch in August with a presentation of the final staging of the music and dance extravaganza “Delirium” from Cirque du Soleil, which closed its worldwide tour in London in April.

In September, the final performance in the 12-year Broadway run of the hit musical “Rent” will be presented.

“Our mandate will be to identify the one-of-a-kind, and sold-out events that people around the country most want to see … and present them to audiences everywhere,” Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said in a statement.

Hot Ticket presentations will be shown in high-definition format for limited engagements, starting out on roughly 400 to 500 screens in theaters across the country, with audiences paying roughly $20 a seat, Bruer said.

What most US and western media covering this announcement, such as LA times, have failed to pick up on in regurgitating the press release is that this type of venture was already announced by Sony Japan several months ago and covered here at CelluloidJunkie.com when it happened. Don’t be surprised if other Hollywood studios follow suit, with Disney already halfway there through the ‘Hannah Montana/Milly Cyrus’ concert film, wildlife films in cinemas and ESPN’s deal with AccessIT.

Disney digs ESPN sports with AccessIT

Trust Disney to have foresight and show initiative when it comes to alternative content in digital cinemas. While the NFL is sending cease and desist letters to Wisconsin cinemas showing Packer games, Disney has teamed up with AccessIT through its ESPN division to screen live HD college football games in Texas cinemas. From the press release:

This is the first time Disney, ESPN and AccessIT have joined forces to provide a live sporting event to paying audiences following tests last year. It is also the first event at which AccessIT’s CineLive(TM) technology, providing live 2-D and 3-D streaming of alternative content to theatres, will be employed for a major sports spectacle since the product was announced last fall.

“One of the many reasons we’ve supported AccessIT’s leadership in transitioning the industry to digital cinema is to be able to provide events such as this one to eager audiences,” said Chuck Viane, President, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Distribution. “Fans get to enjoy the action of often sold-out games and the camaraderie of others without having to travel great distances, and each one gets the best seat in the house.”

Given Disney’s long history of digital 3D involvement – or Disney Digital 3D(TM), to give it its proper name – it should be no surprise if we are less than a year away from the first Disney/ESPN Digital 3D sporting event.

It reminds me of a digital cinema conference at least five years ago (a different eon in digital cinema terms) when I sat next to Bob Lambert, Disney’s Corporate Senior Vice President, Worldwide Media Technology and Development , listening to a panel discussion about alternative content. At one point he turned to me and said, “we’ve brought the cinema into the living room, it’s only natural that we take the living room back into the cinema now.” Surprised that a studio guy would be so cool about alternative content, I asked him if I could quote him on that. He thought about it for half a second, and said, “sure, why not.”

Now it helps that Disney happens to own ESPN, but mainly this has come about because there are a lot of very smart people working at Disney when it comes to digital. And Bob is a real mensch, as well as being one of the people who got digital cinema started way back in 1999, though like his then colleague Phil Barlow, is too modest to accept the full amount of credit that he deserves.

So a small amount of credit to Bob as well for the latest development.

Arts Alliance To Get Disney’s Digital Titles

Disney has lent some support to Arts Alliance Media’s European virtual print fee proposal to convert 7,000 screens across Europe, though the press release reads like there some reservations and that the deal is not as clear cut in terms of support as previous deals. Take the last sentence of the first paragraph:

Under the terms of the agreement, Disney will supply European exhibitors with its feature films in digital format and will make provisional contributions towards the digital cinema hardware costs of AAM-deployed DCI-compliant screens. [italics added]

So AAM’s digital screens will get Disney Digital titles (including the all-important Disney Digital 3D ones), but the payments for screening these are ‘provisional contributions’. That must means that no final agreement on payment has been concluded. Similar working arrangements were signed in the US by AccessIT as well as Technicolor with a number of studios, so it is not unheard of, but it is not good for market certainty in the longer term. What guarantees are there in place that Disney will not halt the payments in 12 months time? Only the AAM and Disney lawyers have an inkling.

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A Hannah Montana in your lap and a Miley Cyrus in your arms!

…was the tag-line that Disney sadly chose not to use for the digital 3D release of the concert film ‘Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour’ [Surely in questionable taste, given the target demographic? -Ed.]. Beating the digital 3D release of ‘U2 3D’ and counter-programming the Super Bowl weekend, the Hannah/Miley release straddles pre-recorded alternative content and 3D film. It is likely to do very good business (with record pre-sales already), though it is debatable whether this will prove the validity of digital 3D, cinema screenings of pop concerts or cross over from television, or all three.

A lot of column inches has been devoted to this phenomenon, nowhere more so than at the Hollywood Report, which examines the digital 3D production/post-production angle (‘Swift 3-D turnaround gives ‘Hannah’ a happening feel‘):

[Director Bruce] Hendricks says his aim was to focus on making a movie in terms of story and editing and not be intimidated by technology. He adds that some of his comfort with the format came from homework done over the years at the studio — Disney has been pioneering the digital 3-D format with such releases as “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinsons.” “Hannah Montana” happens to be the first live-action feature to open in digital 3-D.

3-D “events” are the next areas of exploration. As demonstrated with “Hannah Montana,” technology has reached a point where a production can be completed in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, distribution techniques have emerged that could enable live-event broadcasts to digital theaters.

“It’s very much in the near future,” Hendricks says. “It is being worked on for sporting events. I could even see concerts where live 3-D is broadcast.”

THR’s Carl DiOrio digs into the number of screens (not that many) and ticket price (pretty high) to try draw some conclusions about the films/event’s prospects (‘The tweens shall meet – ‘Hannah’ could draw $20 mil‘):

Disney’s “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” goes out in 3-D projection in 683 domestic locations, starting Friday. That’s just a fraction of the playdates of most other wide openers, but the screen count hardly tells the story of the studio’s extra-dimensional hopes for “Hannah.”

Indeed, “Hannah” — Montana is the performer’s TV show persona, Cyrus her real name — has a few things going for it that could help the concert film sing its way to No. 1 this weekend.

For starters, 3-D releases support higher ticket prices, and in “Hannah’s” case, exhibitors are expected to charge up to $15 per admission. That’s a particularly pricey ducat, considering that most ticketbuyers will be tweens and younger who normally would get a break from the adult-ticket price.

While the actual review of the HM/MC digital 3D happening acknowledges that it is pretty squarely aimed at the existing fan base and is thus unlikely to act as a warm up to ‘U2 3D’ in the next few weeks (‘Bottom Line: For the parents at least, this filmed concert is probably better than actually being there.‘):

Considering that it runs a scant 74 minutes — which includes numerous backstage scenes — the film clearly is not presenting the entirety of the live show. But it should offer enough to please most audiences, and director Bruce Hendricks has filmed the fast-paced musical action in sufficiently breathless fashion. As with the recent U2 concert film, the 3-D aspect — you’ll duck when the musicians throw guitar picks and drumsticks at the camera — adds greatly to the experience.

I will personally hold out for the first concert films that features a digital 3D stage dive.

Rumour mill: Technicolor loses a studio while Arts Alliance gains one

Two items from the unsubstantiated-but-strong-rumour department.

Whisper in earTechnicolor is said to have lost one of their two large Hollywood studio clients for prints and lab work. That would mean that either Warner Bros or Disney have opted to go with Deluxe – and another nail in the coffin for Technicolor. A contract like this would be worth tens of millions, or even hundreds. While digital cinema is set to sweep the Us in the next five years, there’s still a lot of print work to be done in that time and with a clearer end date for 35mm, there is more scope for a single player to dominate without fears of anti-monopoly lawsuits. Plus where print goes, digital tends to follow. It really does not look good for Technicolor at the moment, but it is too soon to write them off yet.

Secondly, Arts Alliance Media is said to be close to announcing a fourth Hollywood studio for its VPF deal, with fingers pointing at Sony Pictures. This would mean that AAM has nabbed four of the Big Six: Universal, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and SPI, with Warner Bros and Disney holding out. Impressive feat and it means that AAM has something that could conceivably entice European exhibitors. At least that aren’t looking to do a VPF deal directly with the studios themselves and cut out the third party middleman.