Tag Archives: Hollywood Reporter

NATO Reports Declining Ticket Prices

Movie TicketsIn Technorati Media’s “State of the Blogosphere 2011” report it is noted that the number one influencer of bloggers, whether professionals or hobbyists, is other blogs. Over 60% of all bloggers surveyed say they look to other blogs to find topics and subjects to write about. All the copy-cat posts on the same news story or subject have led some to criticize the blogosphere as nothing more than an echo chamber of people all writing about the same ideas in the same way.

Such an effect was demonstrated over the past two days with a news story about the decline of movie ticket prices. I first saw the story posted yesterday on The Wrap followed shortly after by one published on the Hollywood Reporter‘s website. They stated the National Association of Theatre Owners had announced the average ticket price for the third quarter of 2011 had dropped to USD $7.94. That’s lower than the second quarter’s record setting USD $8.06, but higher than the USD $7.86 price of 2011′s first quarter.

The publications “attributed” the price drop to having fewer 3D releases in the quarter, in comparison to the higher number of titles released in the second quarter. Both stories were short and practically carbon copies of one another leading me to believe they must have been citing a press release of some sort.

I waited for NATO’s press release to arrive via email for confirmation of the news, though nothing ever arrived. So, I went to the press release section of the organizations website, but found nothing had been published since October 14th.

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A Deeper Look At Sony’s Battle With Exhibitors Over 3D Glasses

RealD Glasses

Some industry professionals will look back at September 27, 2011 as the day motion picture studios took their first step on what may be a long road to end the practice of subsidizing 3D glasses for their movies. Others will remember it as the day the inevitable finally happened.

For those who still aren’t aware of the events of the past week, I’d like to be the first to officially welcome you to the planet earth and invite you to join us as we read between-the-lines of this latest industry scuffle. On Tuesday of this week The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Sony Pictures Entertainment had sent a letter to North American theatre owners stating as of May 1, 2012 they would no longer pay for 3D glasses. What makes this major industry news is that Twentieth Century Fox tried a similar move back in 2009 with the release of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” but retreated when exhibitors revolted en masse. They now fear Sony might succeed this time around causing other studios to follow suit. Talking to the Reporter, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution. Rory Bruer said:

“This is an issue that has to be resolved between us and our exhibition partners. We are trying to give them a very lengthy lead time in regards to the change in policy.”

As one might expect, it didn’t take long for the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade organization which represents exhibitors, to respond to Sony’s move. Their press release dated September 28, 2011 stated:

NATO believes Sony’s suggestion is insensitive to our patrons, particularly in the midst of continuing economic distress. Sony’s actions raise serious concerns for our members who believe that provision of 3D glasses to patrons is well established as part of the 3D experience… we are concerned that Sony’s attempt to change this business model would unilaterally upend long-standing industry practices… Sony would be well advised to revisit its decision.

There were some grumblings from theatre owners and the media that NATO’s statement had no bite, though making sweeping threats is not necessarily their responsibility. This is not true of the organization’s members, like Amy Miles, chief executive officer of Regal Entertainment, who said if Sony stuck with their announced plan to stop paying for 3D glasses, then her circuit might show 2D version’s of Sony’s films in the future.

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Katzenberg Discouraged Over Decline Of 3D

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg

There has been no greater champion of 3D than Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg. Except maybe filmmaker James Cameron, there have been few, if any, industry cheerleaders as vocal about 3D than Katzenberg. As far back as 2007, Katzenberg could be heard at trade shows and in the press hailing digital 3D as “the single most revolutionary change since color pictures”.

To paraphrase an old cliché, Katzenberg should be careful what he wishes for, he just might get it. Four years after he began touting the new motion picture format digital 3D films have flooded the market in search of incremental box office from ticket surcharges. Though as a string of movies featuring poor 3D conversions hit theaters during a global economic downturn, a majority of moviegoers are choosing the 2D version of recent releases such as Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda 2″.

Now Katzenberg is lamenting the “decline of 3D”, calling it “heartbreaking” in an interview published earlier today by The Hollywood Reporter. Katzenberg stated:

“I think 3D is right smack in the middle of its terrible twos. We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust — whereas a year and a half ago, there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3D films that actually delivered a quality experience. Now that’s been seriously undermined. It’s not in any fashion, shape or form the demise of 3D, but until there are 3D experiences that exceed people’s expectations, it’s going to stay challenged. It’s really heartbreaking to see what has been the single greatest opportunity that has happened to the film business in over a decade being harmed. The audience has spoken, and they have spoken really loudly.”

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Did Sony Leak The Red-Band Trailer For ‘Dragon Tattoo’?

YouTube Preview Image
Over the weekend the Internet lit up with news about a pirated version of the red-band trailer for the English language remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. It wasn’t long before speculation arose that Sony Pictures, the distributor releasing the film, had actually planted the trailer on YouTube as part of a viral marketing campaign.

Adapted from the first novel in Steig Larsson’s best selling trilogy, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is being directed by David Fincher and is due to hit theatres worldwide before the end of the year. A Swedish adaptation of the novel was a worldwide hit when it was released in 2009.

The online appearance of the red-band trailer had movie bloggers frothing at the mouth for a number of reasons, including the popularity of the source material and Fincher’s stature as a modern day American auteur. But what really got their juices flowing was a growing conspiracy theory that Sony had purposefully leaked a trailer.

The Hollywood Reporter and Mashable were some of the many media outlets to point out a few inconsistencies:

  • While the trailer starts out looking as if it was captured secretly with a camcorder inside a dark movie theatre, after the first few seconds the off-center, shaky image becomes more steady and clear.
  • The quality of the audio is much better than traditional camcorder versions of pirated movies and the video can be viewed in HD.
  • The red-band trailer for “Dragon Tattoo” was only released in theatres internationally, however the online footage begins with the MPAA’s red-band advisory notice. This poses the question as to why international markets would show a an advisory from a U.S. ratings board.

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First Run Movies Headed Into The Home At Premium Prices

Prima Cinema Logo.jpgThe debate over motion picture release windows heated up again last week as two studios spoke openly about their plans for allowing limited home viewing of movies shortly after their theatrical opening. In addition, news came of a pricey new service looking to make films available in living rooms day-and-date with their theatrical launch.

On Tuesday, Sony’s CFO, Rob Wiesenthal, said that his company was not only looking to cable and satellite operators to provide early releases for the studio’s titles, but has high hopes for its new streaming video service, Qriocity. The service was established earlier this year to beam content directly into Sony’s consumer electronics products (televisions, video game consoles, Blu-Ray players, etc.).

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Wiesenthal spoke of the “big white space” between theatrical and home video release dates for movies, stating there was “a real consumer desire for a premium offer” for such content. He did not cite any studies or reports to back up the claim that consumers were clamoring for such services.

In fact, it often seems that the only people making such statements publicly are the studios themselves, rather than moviegoers. This is probably because a number of studios are exploring premium video on demand models that will enable them to release movies for home viewing during their theatrical window but with significantly hire prices; around $30 per viewing.

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Will “Clash” Unleash A Titanic Backlash Against 3D?

Clash of the TitansRelease the Kraken,” Liam Neeson’s Zeus commands in the WB’s “Clash of the Titans” re-make, but Hollywood should be more concerned that the film itself might release a backlash against the 3D format. There are several indicators that point to a perfect storm brewing against what has come to be regarded as the cinema industry’s digital savior.

Amongst Hollywood filmmakers there has been unusually vociferous attacks against Warner Bros.’ decision to go for a rushed eight-week conversion of “Clash of the Titans” to 3D.  The conversion is a true test for Prime Focus whose technology is unproven on such large scale projects.  Fresh off the global success of “Avatar” James Cameron weighed in against “slapdash conversion” in a recent BBC article that re-hashed Mike Fleming’s more in-depth Deadline article, where Cameron said that after the success of his award-winning epic:

“Now, you’ve got people quickly converting movies from 2D to 3D, which is not what we did. They’re expecting the same result, when in fact they will probably work against the adoption of 3D because they’ll be putting out an inferior product.”

Micheal Bay threw more fuel on the fire in a Deadline post and even appeared to take a direct swipe at Prime Focus, an Indian based post-production company that has been doing the bulk of the work on “Clash of the Titans’” conversion from 2D-to-3D :

“I’m used to having the A-team working on my films, and I’m going to hand it over to the D-team, have it shipped to India and hope for the best? This conversion process is always going to be inferior to shooting in real 3D. Studios might be willing to sacrifice the look and use the gimmick to make $3 more a ticket, but I’m not.  “Avatar” took four years. You can’t just sh*t out a 3D movie. I’m saying, the jury is still out.”

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THR bemoans the loss of film critics

The Critic Many good films are suffering at the box office because newspapers are doing away with film critics, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

Reviews from established media outlets are the only reason many low-budget films make it to theaters today, because they trigger word-of-mouth and DVD-ready quotes vital to the indies’ true profit source: home video.But as more and more indie films have flooded the market (up from 501 in 2006 to 530 last year), they are overwhelming critics. “The number of films opening in New York City has exploded in the last three years — 14, 16, 18 titles some weeks, many of them shot on video and playing for a single week in one theater on the way to video,” says New York Post chief film critic Lou Lumenick, whose paper also skipped a review of the DGA Award-winning docu “Ghosts of Cite Soleil.” “We simply don’t have the space or the staff (three reviewers, all of whom have other responsibilities) to review them all, so we make tough decisions on a case by case, week by week, basis.”At the same time, newspaper film departments have been hit at a breathtaking pace. Critics have recently been laid off, bought out of their contracts or left and were not replaced at the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, New York Newsday and more than 15 papers around the country.

The writer does recognizes that “he Internet has taken up the slack” to some extent, though it is not seen as a ideal substitute. In the end audiences ought to demand more from their papers. If they are not getting the reviews for the films playing at cinemas in their city, they ought to write in and complain to their local paper. Or at least send an e-mail.

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.

Beowulf Spells Bad News For Digital 3D Business

‘Beowulf’, the first ‘grown-up’ digital 3D release, is out and while it conquered the box office and heaps were praised on the 3D animation, the underlying numbers spell bad news for digital 3D.

There’s been an avalanche of press releases, news, announcements and comment pieces on the digital 3D aspects of ‘Beowulf’ in the run up to the films US and international release. Everything from the number of Russian screens showing it in digital and digital 3D (24, in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link) to how many countries will be showing it using the Dolby system (12) – though at 75 screens in total it is less than the 86 screens in the US that Dolby screened the first digital 3D films on two years ago, then using the RealD system. One of the best overviews is provided by the always-worth-reading Carolyn Giardina in The Hollywood Reporter (‘Beowulf’s’ bow takes 3-D to the next level). There we learn amongst other things that:

Real D was the first 3-D system out of the gate and represents the lion’s share of current installations. At press time, it was expected that there would be about 620 Real D-equipped auditoriums showing “Beowulf” in 3-D this weekend. Real D’s technique requires the use of a “silver screen” and “circular polarized” glasses. It enables 3-D on screens maxing out around 47 feet high. For any system, screen size comes down to how much light can get to the screen from the projector.

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IMAX goes for digital cinema and 3D in 4K

IMAX BeowulfLarge format (LF) exhibitor IMAX is slowly pulling the curtains back on its long-gestating plans for digital cinema and how to hang on to the 3D cinema market segment, just as digital 3D is about to go mainstream with ‘Beowulf‘.

Few people remember that IMAX was once going to conquer the digital cinema space when it bought UK projector maker Digital Projection International (DPI), which was on of the the three DLP Cinema(TM) licensees. Having failed in this venture and hived off DPI to NEC (who have made an only marginally better job of it), IMAX promised that they would still show the world IMAX-digital with their super-secret projector project. Then things went quiet for a long time. Until now.

At the recently concluded ShowEast IMAX announced that it l install the first prototypes of its digital technology in mid-2008 in three of its theatres. According to the article in Hollywood Reporter:

Imax previously pointed to late 2008 and early 2009 as the likely rollout dates for its digital projection technology.

After the first six digital projection systems meet unspecified “performance specifications,” Imax said it planned to proceed with a full rollout in the last half of 2008.

The Imax digital projection system, now in development and trials, will enable theaters to receive movies on a hard drive for digital projection. That eliminates the need for costly and heavy Imax film prints that require loading via forklifts on clunky projection systems.

Unfortunately it is not only the ‘performance criteria’ that are unspecified, but the underlying technology as well. Fortunately there is more details in a news/analysis item from Screen Digest that tell us that:

No further details about the technicality of the system were revealed, but initially it was stated that each screen would be fitted with two Sony 4K digital cinema projectors, coupled with custom lenses, a high bandwidth server and Imax Image enhancement engine.

This fits in with previous speculation and rumours about IMAX’s plans. It also makes sense from a technical perspective because two IMAX projectors aligned would give enough brightness for a large format screen and also enable 3D with each projector providing left eye/right eye image. However, if I was Sony I would NOT be trumpeting this use of their technology, because it risks giving the perception that 4K is specialised large format (LF) standard for a niche market at a time when they want to compete with DLP 2K for the multiplex mass-market.

However, from a quality perspective it is true that 2K is closer to 35mm release print quality while 4K is closer to 70mm. It also highlights that at the moment you need two Sony 4K projectors to display digital stereoscopic images. But we won’t know the details for sure until 2008.

In the meantime IMAX have been quick to make sure that they too are part of the expected ‘Beowulf’ 3D bonanza by announcing that the film will go out in both digital 3D and on IMAX (traditional film) 3D. Having been the first to mass market 3D with ‘Polar Express’ IMAX have still not forgiven DLP digital cinema from snatching away the 3D crown in recent years and even went so far as to attempt to sue digital 3D companies In-Three – but failed.
In the meantime IMAX has been picking up new exhibitor deals, including a major one with Regal and even in Morocco.

To finish off on the subject of digital 3D, Wired has an article looking at the various aspects of 3D ahead of ‘Beowulf’ with some good insights for the average reader. Money quote:

But the spine-tingling moments weren’t when Ray Winstone, playing Beowulf, thrusts his sword at the audience — a 3-D cliché from the ’50s. They came when he faces a digitally enhanced Angelina Jolie playing the mother of the monstrous Grendel, in a dank, forbidding cave. Jolie makes for a stunningly seductive sorceress, so it’s all the more terrifying when her features momentarily morph into a death mask. A 3-D sword can make you jerk back in your seat, no question. But 3-D is even better when it draws you in — into the endless shadows of a cave, or into the vortex of a shrieking face.

The following day, the screenwriters were ecstatic. “It was like a third eye opened up in my forehead,” gushed Avary, who was already plotting out Beowulf when he wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino more than a decade ago. “It’s so large and extraordinary and hyperreal that I can’t be anything but giddy. When I left the theater, I wanted the rest of the world to look like that.”

Hollywood is betting that audiences will feel the same way.

Not just Hollywood, but IMAX and a lot of cinemas and equipment makers too.