Tag Archives: Oscars

Though Major Exhibitors Still Boycott Simultaneous VOD Releases From Netflix, the Oscars Willingly Accept Them

Beasts of No Nation

Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation”

On Monday of last week, Deadline broke the news that Netflix was making another move into feature films by acquiring “Beasts Of No Nation” for a reported USD $12 million. This was followed the trade publication Variety which published three stories on the same subject in quick succession, the headlines for which could have been written before the news they detailed had actually occurred or been made public.

The first headline read, “Netflix Makes Another Bigscreen Splash With ‘Beasts of No Nation’” and laid out the information presented by Deadline less than an hour earlier, while adding their own take about how the acquisition was meant to “bolster its awards season status” (more on that in a moment).

The second and third headlines on the subject could have been predicted by anyone following the film industry over the last few years and came within 24 hours. By Tuesday morning Variety told us “Netflix Releasing ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Simultaneously in Theaters and Streaming Service” and by that afternoon was able to inform us “Major Theater Chains to Boycott Netflix’s ‘Beasts of No Nation’“.

Identical headlines are likely to appear every time Netflix purchases another feature length film it plans to distribute. The title of the movie is all that need be altered. We had seen similar headlines in the same sequential order last October when Netflix announced their intention to distribute the sequel to the martial arts classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” this August day-and-date in cinemas and through its subscription video-on-demand streaming service.

This latest Netflix pickup is from the much-in-demand director Cary Fukunaga fresh off an Emmy win for his work on the first season of HBO’s “True Detective”. Based on Uzodinma Iweala’s critically acclaimed debut novel of the same name, its story centers around a boy forced to become a child soldier in an unnamed African country. The film stars Idres Elba as a guerrilla leader who turns the boy into his protégé through a dehumanizing process meant to train him as a soldier.

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And the Oscar Goes to… Digital Cinema! (Specifically TI)

AMPAS Sci-Tec announcement

Last year the Motion Picture Academy’s Science and Technology branch effectively closed the book on film as a distribution medium for motion pictures by awarding the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar Statuette) to every single film processing lab in the world. So it is perhaps fitting and symmetrical that this year’s recognition would go to the technology that replaced it, i.e., digital cinema, or more specifically Texas Instruments’s team of engineers (and one from Dolby, more on which later).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or AMPAS (to give the Oscar Academy, or just ‘the Academy’ its full name) is staying true to the latter part of its name (‘Science’) by each year recognising those people behind the scenes that have contributed to the advancement of motion picture technology, and thus storytelling, by handing out the Scientific and Technical Awards at a ceremony prior to the red carpet Oscars. As AMPAS puts it:

The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.

It is important to remember that these are not awarded to companies but to people, though individuals given the awards have often made their achievements working for companies that have often also given the name to the technology being recognised. While it honors the technologies, it is the people behind them that are being feted.

There are furthermore three levels of recognition: the Technical Achievement Awards (which entails an Academy Certificate), the Scientific and Engineering Awards (gets you an Academy Plaque), the Academy Award of Commendation (Special Plaque), and finally the Award of Merit (an actual Oscar statuette). What is remarkable is that this year Texas Instruments was selected in not one but all three of the main categories, putting a big AMPAS seal of approval on the digital cinema technology that has defined the cinema business.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 3 March 2014

The UK’s first and oldest multiplex is set to be demolished, some 30 years after it first opened.

The Point, which resembles a giant red pyramid, was built in 1985 but the site is now set for retail development.

Campaigners have been lobbying to retain the structure, but planners have recommended the scheme be approved at a meeting on Thursday.

Site owners have said their proposals would “kick-start” local investment.

While there have been renewed calls for the building to stay intact as an important cultural site, plans to demolish it have been in the pipeline since 2012. LINK

While ambitious for its time – much like Milton Keynes’ itself, UK’s first purpose-built city after the Second World War – Odeon’s first attempt at a multiplex does not inspire much love these days. It was where budget airline easyJet’s founder tried the concept of budget cinema (easyCinema) a decade ago:

EasyCinema, part of Greek entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s no-frills empire easyGroup, will sell tickets for as low as 20p if booked a month in advance, applying the company’s yield management pricing structure used in businesses ranging from car rentals to plane tickets. Prices will rise nearer showtime.

The Point, which will start showing films at the end of May this year, will have no box office: tickets will be sold online at www.easycinema.com, and there will be a computer to purchase tickets in the lobby. Savings will be made by reduced staff numbers. LINK

But without digital such staff/cost reduction proved elusive, although these days rivals such as Vue have pushed hard into self-service ticketing. EasyCinema also shot itself in the financial foot by refusing to sell concession (presumably to save on cleaning staff), leading to others selling popcorn and sweets outside the cinema.


USA: More and more cinemas are looking to expand their offerings with alcohol and fine dining.

Muskegon-area moviegoers who frequent the area’s largest theater complex will likely have access to a new menu and in-service in the next year.

Celebration Banquets LLC has applied for a Quota Class C Liquor License in the City of Norton Shores for the Cinema Carousel theater complex it operates at 4289 Grand Haven Rd.

The Loeks Theatres, Inc.-affiliated, Grand Rapids-based company is planning a three part, $2.2 million project that will include renovating the auditoriums and adding new food and several beer, wine and cocktail selections to its current offerings. LINK

City Administrator Mark Meyer is quoted as saying, “I think the intention here is to not just have another bar or restaurant, so to speak. We really want to have something unique in the community.”


Laser: Christie Digital has announced that it will showcase its latest laser projection technology, using six primary colour lasers.

Christie® today announced upcoming demonstrations of the world’s most advanced laser projection architecture and Dolby® 3D, to be held in the Christie Innovation Theaters throughout CinemaCon 2014 (Caesars Palace, March 24-27) and the National Association of Broadcasters NAB Show® (Las Vegas Convention Center, April 5-10).

Christie DLP Cinema® laser projectors using 6-Primary (6P) color laser modules, earmarked for mass production in early 2015, will show how 3D light levels, image uniformity, viewing comfort, and a sense of immersion can be vastly improved, especially when combined with advanced separation technology like Dolby 3D, versus conventional 3D systems found in cinemas around the world today.

Christie is right to point out that audiences are put off by dim 3D projection and that a premium charge should go hand-in-hand with a premium experience. LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 25 February 2014

Two article’s on the challenger to ROH’s event cinema opera supremacy in the UK. First is The Guardian’s take on ENO’s Peter Grimes showing and decision to hire rock music director Andy Morahan to film it. Overall positive, bar a few technical glitches.

“English National Opera’s new venture into live-screened opera has attracted industry hype for several reasons. It was less than two years ago that ENO’s artistic director John Berry claimed not to be interested in such endeavours: they don’t create new audiences, he said, and “putting work out into the cinema can distract from making amazing quality work”. The company explained their about-face in December by announcing a fresh take on screened opera, promising rock ‘n’ roll camera angles, HD hyper-realism and a degree of intimacy and immersion that existing screenings from, say, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne or the Met don’t tend to offer.”


The BBC features an interview with the director, where he explains his thinking.

“Previous broadcasts have “tended to be shot in quite a flat way, just looking at the stage” he explains. “You don’t really get a sense of where you are and they miss out on some great angles. You can have reverse shots and even someone shooting while part of the chorus. You can make the stage itself the centre of the immersive experience.” Employing multiple cameras, Morahan likes “to keep them moving. Whether it’s little creeping zooms, dolly shots or jib crane shots. I always found with music videos that the more the camera moves, the more lyrical it looks.”"

Roll Over Britten! Link.


Pakistan: The perpetrator of the first of the two recent Peshawar cinema attack that killed three people has confessed – and it is a teenager.

“Fifteen-year old Hassan alias Israr, mastermind of the bombing at the Shama Cinema in which 14 people were killed and 21 others injured, on Monday confessed to his crime in a local court.

Recording his statement in the court of Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Ilyas Khan, the young attacker stated he along with three accomplices first reached the gate of the cinema. He stated that he and his other accomplice Bilal first offered body search at the entrance gate of the cinema and bought tickets.

Soon after the body search, he said they came out from the cinema premises and tied the hand-grenades to their legs. The second time, he said, they succeeded in carrying the grenades into the cinema hall, where they attacked the film viewers from behind after watching the film for some time.”

So that this does not give you a one-sided view of Pakistanis as a country of terrorists, contrast this despicable act with those of fellow 15-year old Pakistani school boy hero Atizaz Hasan . Link.

Event Cinema

UK: NT Live’s War Horse transmission will be 4K, thanks to the involvement of Sony.

“On Feb. 27 2014, National Theatre Live will broadcast “War Horse” live from the New London Theatre to cinemas across the world. The broadcast will be shown in Sony 4K at the Curzon Cinema in Chelsea, the production will be projected using a Sony projector. The recording will be available as a 4K DCP allowing many 4K enabled cinemas to also show encore screenings at a later date.

Creative Broadcast Solutions, technical producer for NT Live, with NEP Visions, NT Live’s long-term OB partner will work with Sony, using Sony’s F55 Super CineAlta cameras equipped with Fujinon Cabrio lenses to capture the performance. NEP Visions will provide the technical infrastructure and expertise to take the 4K content from camera to satellite, as well as recording and broadcasting a simultaneous HD version.


USA: It’s not just Oscar nominated films that will be playing in cinemas this Sunday in Cape Cod.

“Two local theaters will bring Hollywood glamour to the Cape on Oscar night, March 2. The Chatham Orpheum Theater will host its first annual “An Evening with Oscar” celebration. The 86th Academy Awards will be shown live from Hollywood in HD and Surround Sound in the historic cinema’s main theater.

In Dennis, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Cape Cinema and Eventide Arts will team up to present the “Red Carpet Gala.” The evening will start with pre-Oscar festivities at the museum followed by a live telecast of the Academy Awards at Cape Cinema. The buildings are adjacent to each other, both located on the grounds of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, on Route 6A in Dennis. And there will be an actual red carpet, the organizers say.”

Tickets are $25 and $75 respectively. Link.

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Disney To Release Sing-Along Version of “Frozen” In Theatres

YouTube Preview Image

Walt Disney Studios may have struck upon an inventive way to squeeze more revenue from moviegoers who have already seen their latest animated feature, “Frozen”. Hoping to get fans of “Frozen” back into theatres for some repeat business, Disney is releasing a sing-along version of the film on 2,000 screens in North America on January 31st.

Select showings of “Frozen” will include a snowflake that bounces across on-screen lyrics, encouraging audiences to belt out some of the movie’s many songs. Disney’s latest animated film has already grossed USD $773 million dollars globally, and the “Frozen” soundtrack has occupied the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart for three nonconsecutive weeks in January.

The sing-along concept seems like a natural extension of the “Frozen” release strategy. The music and songs for the film were written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez, the husband and wife team behind such Broadway hits as “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon”. The pair just earned a Best Original Song Oscar nomination for “Let It Go” one of the songs that appears in “Frozen”. Tunes from the movie have proven so popular that fans have flooded the Internet with videos featuring cover versions.

Every studio hopes for repeat viewings of their blockbuster films, however these days most movies don’t stick around as long as “Frozen” has to offer up such opportunities. I remember working as an intern in the public department of Twentieth Century Fox when “Home Alone” was released in 1990. It was a surprise hit and topped the box office for 12 straight weeks thanks to children who saw the movie multiple times. In the midst of its run Fox eve produced a television spot which featured moviegoers bragging about how many times they’d seen “Home Alone”.

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Does Re-Releasing Oscar Nominees in Cinemas Work?

12 Years A Slave

The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards (Oscars, to you and me) have been announced, insta-shared, tweeted, analysed, commented and blogged. The front runners that were all released in the fall will not be out on DVD or Blu-ray for at least a month: Gravity (25 February), 12 Years a Slave (4 March) and American Hustle (18 March), incidentally the same day as Disney’s Frozen. So will it drive people who have not seen them yet to want to catch them on the big screen? For the purpose of this article we will primarily look at North America, as many Oscar contenders such as 12 Years A Slave or Wolf of Wall Street have only just opened overseas.

American Hustle, which has taken over $100m in the US (and Canada) domestic market, is currently doing best with its number two position in the charts behind Lone Survivor and ahead of Frozen. But the film has been going steadily down, as witnessed by this chart from BoxOfficeMojo.com With over 2,600 screens still playing it, there is thus no need to “re-release” the film as it has not gone out of circulation.

12 Years a Slave, which has done extraordinarily well given its tough subject matter, taking in over $39m in the US box office, is currently 22nd in the charts. The film had a classic and steady week-by-week growth in the number of screens showing it: 19 – 123 – 410 – 1,144 – 1,411 – 1,474 (peak) – 1,165 – 1,082 – 497 – 301 – 154 – 151 – 114 and would seem to have largely run its course, as witnessed by the daily chart (same source again).

Gravity is more interesting, sitting three slots below 12 Years in 25th position. It has been out longer than the two above films and largely disappeared from circulation, though at 155 screens it is still ahead of 12 Years a Slave. Gravity displays what is typical for modern blockbusters in terms of spectacular opening ($256m in US to date) and then trailing off, though with more longevity (counted in weeks, not months) than others. It too seems to have largely run its course.

So it is interesting to note that Gravity is getting the biggest push. As reported in The Wrap,

“Warner Bros. will re-release “Gravity” nationwide on Friday, Jan. 17, one day after the Oscar nominations are announced. The exact number of theaters for the re-release will be determined next week, the studio said — though it’s expected to be more robust than a typical limited release. And there will be competition, as it was already shaping up as a crowded weekend.”

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Oscar Recognition For Film Lab Technicians – Every Single One of Them

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or AMPAS (Oscar academy) has just announced this year’s 19 scientific and technical achievement awards, who unlike the Best Film, Best Actor, etc are named and honoured prior to Oscar night, mainly to allow for more telecast time for the Angelinas of the red carpet business. These are typically individuals, often working for a specific company, whose technology has made a significant difference to the film industry, be it a new Kodak film stock, an Arri camera, a Dolby sound processor or a technical development like the Lowry film restoration process. They typically get a plaque or a medal, rather than an Oscar statuette, but it is no less of a recognition for those honoured. This year the Scientific and Technical Awards presentation ceremony on Saturday 15 February will be special in that it could see the stage swamped with hundreds of un-employed or soon-to-be unemployed film lab technicians getting a recognition for their work, just as their industry is about to die.

The list of 19 awards is a good illustration of how the motion picture (not ‘film’) industry has shifted. Two individuals, VFX supervisor and DoP Peter W. Anderson and post-production veteran Tad Marburg, are singled out for a special gong each. No less than 15 of the 19 recognition go to computer and software-related tools and developments, be it VFX, animation, rendering, color correction, digital modeling, or the likes. Two award go for separate helicopter camera systems and one of the 19 goes to the three people that designed ‘the Pneumatic Car Flipper’ that can send stunt cars flying through the air. So the scorecard is Digital: 15, Analogue: 3.

But the 19th award seeks to redress the digital-analogue imbalance by recognising an entire industry that is about to be no more: analogue film labs. Here is the commendation is full:

To all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry.
Lab employees have contributed extraordinary efforts to achieve filmmakers’ artistic expectations for special film processing and the production of billions of feet of release prints per year. This work has allowed an expanded motion picture audience and unequaled worldwide cinema experience.

With all the lab employees out of work with the shutting of the film labs of Deluxe, Technicolor and others around the world, it could thus get crowded on stage. However, it is a worthy and dignified tribute to the countless of unsung heroes whose work over the last century with lights and chemicals is what produced that thin strip of film that was the only thing that both separated and connected audiences and film makers. In my view, everyone who ever worked for a film lab should get to keep the Oscar statuette for one day before passing it along to a colleague.

Hollywood Trade Publications Aren’t Just For Christmas – Are They?

For Your Consideration Ads

Q: What do ski resorts, turkey farms, Christmas tree markets and Hollywood trade publications have in common?

A: They are all largely seasonal industries.

Ski resorts don’t have much business in the snow-free summer months, just as there only seems to be demand for turkeys and Christmas trees between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Similarly, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety  find their fortunes disproportionately tied to the awards season currently underway. Although it is true that the likes of retailers and book publishers also depend on the end-of-year season to pull them from red to black, it is worth asking whether the ground under the Hollywood trades has shifted so much that they can now be considered a truly seasonal industry and what implications this has for the publishers, journalists and the film industry at large.

With the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) recently asking studios and distributors not to call award nominees ‘winners’, it is an open secret that the true ‘winners’ in the run-up to the Academy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, etc. awards are the trade publications carrying the ‘For Your Consideration’ (FYC) adverts along with the public congratulations for nominees and winners.  The main beneficiaries of the distributors’ largess are Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Screen International, with on-line publications like The Wrap and Deadline Hollywood capturing a small percentage.  Let’s also not forget all those billboards that spring up across Los Angeles at the end of the year.  Awards season advertising has proven so lucrative that mainstream media such as the Los Angeles Times and even the New York Times have gotten into the game with special sections focused on awards contenders.  It is difficult to estimate the ‘bump’ that the awards season brings in the advertising revenue, but puzzling together different sources indicates that it lies north of $100m for the past year. It’s enough to make Vogue’s fabled September issue seem like a small fashion supplement.

The trades don’t simply sit back and order more paper for thicker issues, they have to provide the seasonal content tree that the glittering FYC baubles will be hung from in the form of round-tables, profiles and in-depth pieces on the people behind and in front of the camera that make the award contending films. There are also elaborate special web sections devoted to the many awards (leading up to the One Award That Truly Matters, i.e. the Oscar) for both Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Screen - as well as the LA Times and NY Times. A visit to these sub-sections will reveal a treasure trove of articles, opinion pieces, newsletters, special sections, video interviews, predictions and punditry. The one thing they lack is the raison d’etre for why they were written in the first place. Not the Oscars, but the adverts.

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For Your iConsideration: Internet Streaming Overtakes DVD Distribution For Awards Screeners

For Your iConsideration

For the first time ever, Internet platforms have overtaken DVDs for distributing the largest number of “awards screeners” to industry professionals voting for year-end accolades. This post gives a breakdown analysis of the various streaming and download formats, with iTunes and Vimeo battling for the top position while fending off smaller rivals.

With the movie awards season upon us, Hollywood studios and independent distributors are fighting to get their films seen by the voting members of AMPAS (the Oscars), BAFTA, HFPA (Golden Globes) and the various film professional guilds (DGA, WGA, SAG, et al). Though studios prefer voting members to see their films in cinemas, the reality is that many will have to watch them at home on so-called “screeners”, particularly given the glut of prestigious films released towards the end of the year. Traditionally this has meant sending out VHS tapes (in the 90s) and ultimately DVDs, which tend to have embedded watermarks that are either visible (‘This DVD screener is the property of Studio X and not to be re-distributed’) or invisible (identifying the voting member it was sent to via a unique code).

The cost of sending out thousands of DVDs to the various voting members can be enormous, even for big distributors, particularly if they are individually watermarked. For films released earlier in the year commercial DVDs are often used, but recent releases like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” need to be individually watermarked so they can be traced back to whom it was sent, in case this version is ripped and uploaded to the Internet, as has occurred in the past. Various attempts at new technology has been tried, such as Dolby’s encrypted DVD Cinea format, which involved sending a modified DVD player to each voting member of BAFTA and AMPAS. While working technically, it proved too cumbersome for voters who were often away from home over the holiday and couldn’t watch the encrypted DVDs on regular DVD players while traveling. Some studios have also begun sending Blu-Ray discs, with Warner Bros. first and Universal Pictures following last year.

This year Internet distribution has emerged as the cost-effective method preferred by smaller distributors, with many turning to streaming or downloading as the best way to catch the eye of voting members, at least in this case those of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

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New York Times and NPR Dissect Movie Trailers

New York Times Lincoln Trailer Timeline

As part of their coverage of this year’s Academy Awards, the New York Times has published an interesting (and technologically slick) interactive graphic that details how scenes from a film are used in their accompanying trailers.

The Times examines five of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture including “Amour”, “Argo”, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook”. They had trailer specialist Bill Woolery and Stephen Garrett, the founder of a trailer production house named Jump Cut, explain significant characteristics and aspects of each trailer. (Full disclosure: Stephen Garrett is an old friend of mine whose career as a trailer editor I’ve watched prosper over the past 14 years.)

Woolery and Garrett highlight how some trailers follow the chronological order of the film they are promoting (“Silver Linings Playbook”), while others might include footage not found in the version which gets released to theatres (“Argo”).

The feature provides a timeline for each trailer that shows where from the film a particular shot was taken; beginning middle or end. This makes it easy to see how the trailer for “Lincoln” jumps all over the place. Visitors can skim through the timeline with their cursor as a tiny video version of the trailer displays which shot is being viewed.

It’s a fascinating way to present how the multiple visual elements of a trailer are pulled from their source material and pieced together with specific promotional agendas in mind.

Yesterday NPR followed up the Times feature with an interview of Garrett during a 16-minute segment on Talk of the Nation titled Movie Trailer Math: Getting ‘Butts In The Seats’ In Minutes.