Tag Archives: Paramount Pictures

Answering A Few Hypothetical Questions About the “Interstellar” Unlimited Ticket

Interstellar Unlimited Ticket Meme

Two weeks ago AMC Theatres and Paramount Pictures announced they’d be teaming up to provide members of the cinema chain’s loyalty program, AMC Stubs, an opportunity to see “Interstellar” as many times as they’d like.

The Interstellar Unlimited Ticket, as the offering has been dubbed, costs between USD $19.99 and USD $34.99 depending on location. Stubs members who have already seen the movie can purchase an upgrade for USD $14.99. “Interstellar”, the latest film from director Christopher Nolan; a science fiction epic that was released to a great deal of buzz and in numerous formats, including traditional 35mm film, 70mm film, IMAX and digital.

In the press release sent out by Paramount announcing the program, Elizabeth Frank, AMC’s executive vice president and chief content and programming officer, stated:

“Christopher Nolan has created a masterpiece that movie fans are saying gets better every time they see it. The Interstellar Unlimited Ticket gives these fans an opportunity to experience the spectacular cinematography and heart-warming stories as many times as they would like – at any AMC location, any showtime, in any format, including IMAX.”

Not sure who these fans are with enough free time to sit through multiple viewings of a three hour movie, nor if that says anything about the unemployment rate in the United States, however “Interstellar” was one of this year’s most highly anticipated films and got pretty decent reviews. So, putting the question aside of whether there is actual demand to see “Interstellar” an unlimited number of times during its initial run, we contacted AMC hoping to get a few questions answered in an effort to write up a post that went beyond simply regurgitating the press release.

Thus, we are inserting the following obligatory statement:

AMC did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking additional information and comments for this story.

We even went so far as to send the appropriate personnel at AMC some of the questions we had about the the Interstellar Unlimited Ticket, yet heard nothing back. Left with no way to cover the announcement in a manner that doesn’t come off as pure promotion, we came up with the concept of providing answers to the questions we had hoped to ask AMC. We’re not saying our answers are accurate, but simply educated opinions based on our own research and knowledge of the industry. Let us know what you think of them, and feel free to provide some of your own constructive answers in the comments section of this post.

When did the idea for the unlimited ticket program come about? Was it before the film’s release and, if so, how long did it take to put together?

The idea came about before “Interstellar” was released. One way to take a movie from being a strong success to an outright blockbuster is getting fans of the filmmaker or cast to see the movie more than once. Thanks to shortening theatrical release windows and the increased quality of home entertainment systems, the practice of seeing a release more than once in cinemas has decreased to an insignificant number.

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Early Release Of “Interstellar” On Film Is A Nostalgic Marketing Coup

Interstellar Film Ad

A heated industry debate was sparked last week by the announcement that Paramount and Warner Bros. would release director Christopher Nolan’s next movie, “Interstellar”, on film. Many of you may recall film as the sprocketed acetate material used by the motion picture industry to shoot, distribute and exhibit movies for more than a century before Hollywood studios “forced” cinema owners to install digital projectors. Adding insult to what some theatre operators see as injury, “Interstellar” will open two days early in theatres showing it on 35mm, the rarefied 70mm and IMAX.

I can understand the frustration certain exhibitors must feel at such news. Having shelled out millions to upgrade their facilities, they wind up watching those using analog technology get rewarded with exclusive access to a highly anticipated title (even if only for two days).

Maybe because of my age and generational ties, or maybe because I was trained at an educational institution commonly referred to as a “film school”, I am rather excited “Interstellar” will be shown on good old fashioned celluloid. I believe, with certain caveats, the decision can help boost the movie’s box office across all sites in which it is booked, no matter the method of projection.

Let me explain.

I used to own a phonograph. I don’t anymore, though kind of wish I did. My last turntable was part of a component stereo system which I purchased upon graduating high school. It was 1989, a time when record stores still stocked vinyl alongside shiny compact discs. Heck, it was even a time when record stores still existed. Ultimately, those reflective CDs took over more retail space and pushed vinyl records into a small corner of most stores. Some merchants just stopped carrying vinyl altogether.

I lugged that turntable around for the next 16 years from dorm room to dorm room and between every shack, apartment, and home I ever leased or owned. Even though I stopped unpacking my crate of vinyl records after moving into a new home, I’d still make certain to set up the phonograph… just in case someone stopped by with a first pressing of Led Zeppelin’s last album. At some point shortly after Napster had decimated the music industry through digital file sharing, I realized the absurdity of continuing to make room for the record player in my stereo cabinet. It was relegated to the garage… stored next to the crate of records it was meant to be playing.

The phonograph sat there gathering dust for a few years as any sentimental or psychological attachment I had to it withered. I finally gave it away to some friend of a friend. I can’t even remember who exactly. Of course, I would never give up my crate of records. There are some real gems in there dating all the way back to my days in primary school, including an autographed copy of “Bob McGrath Sings For All The Boys and Girls“.

At this point you might be wondering what my record player has to do with “Interstellar” being released on film. Technically, it doesn’t. Emotionally however, there are direct ties. To me, a phonograph and vinyl records evoke a certain nostalgia of a “simpler” time when musicians performed on real instruments, when recorded music sounded better than the compressed bytes we now listen to and when music was considered more important than it is today. Of course, the reality is that musicians were often playing instruments that required electricity, the audio quality of compact discs was far more consistent over time and music is just as important today as it was when vinyl records were en vogue. Still, the vinyl medium and technology are tied in my mind to memories that are generally positive.

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Can Filmmakers Really Help Kodak Craft A New Image?

Tired of Hearing Film Is Dead

The long standing uncertainty over the future of 35mm motion picture film was finally laid to rest this past week by the Eastman Kodak Co. causing the industry to heave a huge sigh of relief. That’s one way to look at the company’s announcement of an agreement with what the Wall Street Journal referred to as a “coalition of studios” for the guaranteed purchase of set quantities of film stock over the next several years. Another way to see the news is as a temporary stay of execution for the medium.

Whether the stay will turn into a permanent reprieve for film depends on many factors not the least of which are the length of the deal, the amount of film stock being manufactured and the continued creative preference of filmmakers. More importantly, it hinges on whether Kodak changes the strategy and approach of its historic motion picture business. If recent maneuvers are any indication, there may be some hope, however slim. Let me explain.

Mandatory Prerequisite Background
No story about the current state of the Eastman Kodak Co. or its future potential would be complete without reviewing the company’s last several years, specifically the time period leading up to and after January 19, 2012. That was the date the 124-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The adoption of digital imaging and photography both in the consumer and commercial markets devastated Kodak which wasn’t able to modify its business and product lines fast enough. The recent announcement about motion picture film stock finally gives us a little glimpse into the financial damage the company suffered during the transition to digital cinema.

According to Jeff Clarke, who took over as the CEO of Kodak this past March, the sale of motion picture film declined from 12.4 billion linear feet in 2006 to 449 million feet last year. You don’t need a degree from a fancy business school to know that a 96% decrease in revenue is a bad thing. The sale of film stock, once a profitable cash cow for the company, now accounts for under 10% of Kodak’s USD $2.2 billion annual revenue.

Since 2003 Kodak laid off 47,000 employees (and stand at around 8,500), closed 13 manufacturing plants along with 130 processing labs. The industry as a whole went from 260 motion picture laboratories capable of handling film in 2011 to 111 last year. As certain studios ceased the distribution of their releases on 35mm even giants such as Deluxe shuttered their film operations in the United Kingdom and United States, auctioning off their analog lab equipment.

This year Clarke reports Kodak will likely lose money manufacturing motion picture film and hopes to break even in 2015.

Examining The Past To Predict The Future
Much has been written over the past few years about how Kodak wound up in such dire straits despite having survived more than a century as one of the most widely recognized and dominant brands in the world. Most news stories focused on the company’s slow response to the transition toward digital photography. Though this may be true, Kodak may have avoided its financial difficulties if it had spent more time studying not only its own past, but also that of photographic technology which has never remained static for long.

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Deluxe To Close Hollywood Film Lab

Deluxe Laboratories in Hollywood
Well, we all knew it was coming. With the motion picture industry’s transition away from 35mm film to digital production and distribution it was only a matter of time before the need for film laboratories would disappear entirely. The industry took a step closer toward that end when on Tuesday when Deluxe Laboratories announced the company would close its Hollywood film lab on May 9th.

Along with Technicolor, Deluxe grew into one of the largest processors and handlers of 35mm film in the world, with offices in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. The company’s Hollywood facilities date back to the founding of Deluxe in 1919, when they opened their doors adjacent to Fox Film Corporation. Both companies were founded by William Fox, one of the industry’s first movie moguls.

News of the closure came from Warren L. Stein, Deluxe’s Chief Operating Office for North America. An excerpt of the memo Stein sent out with the announcement read as follows:

The capture and exhibition of motion pictures has transitioned from film to digital in recent years. Our processing volumes have declined sharply and as a result, the laboratory has incurred significant financial losses. This has forced us to make this very difficult decision.

Following the recently-announced closure of the Deluxe laboratory in London, our only remaining film processing facility will be the small front end facility in New York.

I would like to thank all of our employees for their incredible contribution to the success of Deluxe, their dedication to meeting the needs of our many customers and their loyalty in recent years as the business declined. Our employees have been the key to all of our successes as a film processing business.

While emotionally attached to our 100 year legacy with film, we are firmly focused on the future of Deluxe. In this historic time in our industry, we wanted to thank our customers for their business and for their trust. We look forward to servicing their needs in the entertainment media marketplace for the next hundred years and beyond!

Earlier this year Paramount Pictures made public their intention to stop supporting film and only release films digitally starting with their holiday release “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Given the number of studios that Deluxe counts as clients, this is clear indicator that, as we predicted, other Hollywood distributors will soon be following Paramount’s lead.

Deluxe provided no information on whether closing its Hollywood operations will result in layoffs and if so, how many employees would be affected. Nor did the company make clear what it intends to do with the facilities in the long run; whether they intend to sell the plant or utilize it for their ongoing service offerings.

Ironically, if that’s even the correct word, it was just this past Sunday during the Oscars telecast that most of us saw a clip of director Christopher Nolan at February’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Scientific and Technical Awards accepting an Academy Award of Merit bestowed upon “all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry”.

William Fox Studios & Deluxe Hollywood

Paramount Shows Some Alternative Thinking With Super-Sized “Anchorman 2″ Release

Anchorman 2 Super-Sized

By now you’ve probably heard that Paramount Pictures is rereleasing “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” on 1,000 North American screens this weekend. More accurately, the studio is putting an alternate cut of the film into theatres – one with the weighty title of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R Rated Version”. It’s a movie so big the title needs not one, but count them, two colons.

All joking aside (pun intended), the film’s director, Adam McKay, worked with his editors to cut a whole new version of the film that has 763 new jokes from alternate takes which weren’t in the original release. Apparently, the way McKay and lead actor Will Ferrell work on set is to shoot multiple takes of their comedy bits. Ferrell, who plays the role of a scotch swilling news anchorman, Ron Burgundy, is known for improvising while in character as the camera rolls on.

McKay, Ferrell and Paramount had planned on including the new R-rated version as bonus material for the film’s home video release. The studio is going a step further by booking the movie into cinemas for a limited seven day engagement.

This is a brilliant decision on Paramount’s part; one which takes advantage of the cost structures and distribution flexibility digital cinema provides. Let’s take a look at some of the points that led me to this conclusion:

Ratings Inflation

What surprised me most when I first learned Paramount planned to release an R-rated version of “Anchorman 2” was that the original cut was rated PG-13. I always assumed that with all the beer guzzling, scotch drinking and drug taking depicted in the movie, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) would have slapped an R-rating on it. In hindsight, the PG-13 cut only contains two uses of the F-bomb, buried in a sea of more milder profanity. I’m not sure why filmmakers or the studio felt it necessary to make “Anchorman 2″ PG-13 given that it’s a squeal to a 2004 cult hit “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy“. Any 13-year-old going to see the film would have been three when the first movie was released.

In the nine years since “Anchorman” was released it’s gained quite a following thanks to home video, so maybe there are a lot of teenagers out there who watched it on DVD and are big fans. Whatever the reasoning, Paramount now has the best of both worlds. After the PG-13 version played out its run to a broad audience, the studio can serve up a raunchier movie to a narrower group of hardcore “Anchorman” fans.

Here’s a thought; why don’t studios and filmmakers purposefully create two different versions of appropriate titles more regularly? This is done on movies for special use, such as a cut to shown on airplanes. While it may not always be viable due to production and distribution costs (or worthwhile creatively) it would be interesting to see a mature audience version of certain titles that, for business reasons, are released as PG-13.

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Paramount Reportedly Stops Delivery of Film Prints

35mm Film Platter

Well, it may finally have happened. Everyone working in any capacity of the motion picture industry knew the day would come when Hollywood studios would stop distributing their releases on 35-millimeter film prints. If Saturday’s story in the Los Angeles Times is to be believed, that day may finally have come.

More precisely, it came and went. According to the Times, who relied on anonymous sources identified as “theater industry executives”, Paramount Picture’s Oscar-nominated release “The Wolf of Wall Street” was distributed in North America solely in digital format, i.e. without the use of 35mm film prints.

That should finally answer the longstanding question which arises at every industry standards meeting or trade conference; Has any studio released a title in digital-only and, if not, what will be the first title for which no 35mm prints are distributed? That the answer should be “Wolf of Wall Street” is an irony likely not to be overlooked by many.

The movie is helmed by Martin Scorsese, a director who has been a longstanding advocate for the preservation of film. Arguably a poster child for film historians, Scorsese is often credited with having an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium. His 2011 film, “Hugo”, was an ode to F. W. Murnau and the early days of cinema.

Paramount’s move toward all-digital wide releases seems to have only affected the distribution of titles in the North American market. According to the Times, the studio will still be sending out film prints in international territories such as Europe and Latin America, where the conversion rates for digital cinema are not as high.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) estimates that over 90% of the 40,000+ screens in the United States have converted to digital. This is especially true of the big exhibition chains which were able to finance large scale, expensive digital cinema deployments over the last five to ten years.

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Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’s Massive Marketing Campaign

'Anchorman 2' Teams Up With Jockey

If “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” should fail at the box office when it opens in most territories on December 18th, it won’t be for lack marketing. In fact, Paramount Pictures, the studio releasing the film, and actor Will Ferrell, who plays the movie’s title character, have been on what seems to be an unprecedented campaign to build awareness of the movie’s upcoming release. At this point if you don’t know that “Anchorman 2” is hitting cinemas in a couple of days, you may not be human or might possibly be living on another planet.

The movie is a sequel to the 2004 comedy “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. Set in the 1970s, the film features Ferrell as a Scotch soaked San Diego newscaster who gets demoted after being demoted upon the arrival of a female anchor, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Along with reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), Burgundy cooks up a plan to get his old job back. A modest success theatrically, the film made USD $91 million worldwide, though become a pop culture sensation once it hit home video.

The marketing efforts for “Anchorman 2” got underway even before principal photography began. In March of 2012, Ferrell put in a surprise appearance on Conan, a late night talk show, dressed in full Ron Burgundy regalia and tooting on the faux newscaster’s trademark flute. Never breaking character Ferrell, as Burgundy, told the ecstatic audience that there would indeed be an “Anchorman 2”. That kind of viral marketing stunt has been duplicated en masse as the initial release of the sequel nears.

“Anchorman 2” has so many cross promotional deals, marketing tie-ins and licensing deals it is hardly possible to cover them in a single blog post. I wonder if there is even anyone at Paramount Pictures that has been able to keep an accurate count. (I’m sure there is, though they’ve probably had to put in a ton of overtime). This doesn’t even take into account press appearences and social media campaigns, all of which have been shuffled into the marketing deck en route to achieving total awareness of the movie.

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Paramount’s Unique “Super 8″ Twitter Promotion

Super 8 Twitter Promoted TrendLate last Thursday my Twitter list of entertainment journalists lit up with posts about “Super 8“. It was the evening of the all-media screening Los Angeles and as soon as the credits rolled journalists and critics began praising the film on Twitter. That kind of buzz can’t be bought, or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

Realizing the positive word-of-mouth the film was receiving on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Paramount, the studio releasing the film on June 10th, has decided to stoke the fire. They have partnered with Twitter to offer users of the service advanced tickets to a sneak preview screening on June 9th. Paramount is also holding separate, private screenings for Twitter users with large numbers of followers, and even one for Twitter employees. Attendees of all screenings will be encouraged to post messages about the film on Twitter.

To facilitate the offering, Paramount has sponsored the hashtag #Super8Secret as a Promoted Trend on Twitter. Users who click on the trending topic are provided with a link to purchase advanced tickets to the “Super 8″ sneak previews taking place at 325 theaters throughout the United States. Paramount is also offering free popcorn as part of the promotion.

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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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“Paranormal Activity 2″ Trailer Too Scary For Cinemark

YouTube Preview Image

When was the last time you heard about a movie trailer being pulled out of theatres because audiences complained it was too scary? Especially a teaser trailer? It seems unimaginable doesn’t it?

Well, apparently it’s not impossible as this is just what happened last week when Paramount Pictures was lucky enough to get the teaser trailer for “Paranormal Activity 2″ to run in front of “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” at certain Cinemark locations. After the initial midnight show on opening night, as well as one in the wee hours of the morning, the theatre chain received a number of complaints from patrons in Texas claiming the “Paranormal Activity 2″ teaser trailer was too scary. Many felt its content was inappropriate to be placed in front of a film aimed at teenagers.

Sure enough, Cinemark had to inform Paramount a day or two into the run that they would be pulling the trailer from a number of theatres. There was no word on whether the trailer was tacked onto the front of another film title.

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