Tag Archives: Release Windows

Good Dose of Reality Is the Perfect Antidote For All the Netflix Fear Mongering

Crouching Tiger Sequel on Netflix and IMAX

It’s been a week since streaming media giant Netflix announced two big agreements which signal the company is aggressively moving into a space once occupied exclusively by motion picture distributors and exhibitors. One calls for a sequel to the martial arts classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to be released next August day-and-date on Netflix and in select IMAX theatres. The other sees Netflix enter into a deal with actor Adam Sandler to finance and distribute four feature films.

In their pieces on the announcements journalists used phrases such as “landmark”, “game changer” and “paradigm shift” so often the words lost all meaning. A week later, it turns out the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, North American movie theatres were just as crowded as ever over the weekend and cinema goers still gobbled up popcorn while watching the latest releases.

This is not to say Netflix’s moves weren’t noteworthy or significant, but rather that the pots of ink (both virtual and otherwise) spilled covering the news were, more often than not, used to write overblown treatises filled with hyperbolic predictions of the industry’s demise crafted primarily to play on the fears of those who depended on it for their livelihoods. Now that everyone’s initial excitement has died down we hope to bring some sanity back into the conversation by examining a few often overlooked concepts.

Crouching Content, Hidden Sequel
Before last week, how many of you actually knew that a sequel was being made to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”? After last week’s Netflix news, you can more than triple the number of people who know about the movie, and that’s being extremely conservative. Mainstream media had hitherto paid little notice of the sequel being made to a fourteen-year-old Chinese-language film.

Sure, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was a blockbuster when it was released in 2000; the first foreign language film in the United States to earn more than USD $100 million and for years was the country’s highest grossing foreign language movie of all-time. The movie was also nominated for ten Oscars, the most Academy Award nominations ever received for a foreign language film, a record the film still holds. “Crouching Tiger” went on to win four trophies including Best Foreign Language Film and it served to jump-start the career of director Ang Lee, who was already a well respected helmer.

When it comes to the sequel none of that matters however, in part because so many of the elements which made the original “Crouching Tiger” film a success are missing. Stars Yun-Fat Chow and Ziyi Zhang are missing, leaving Michelle Yeoh as one of the few returning cast members. The screenwriters, including James Schamus, are absent as well. Perhaps most importantly, Ang Lee will not be directing.

Instead, Woo-ping Yuen has been tapped to direct the sequel being penned by John Fusco. Arguably an incredibly influential figure of the Hong Kong action genre, Yuen has only made one film in the past 20 years; “True Legend” in 2010 which cost RMB ¥122.6 million (USD $20 million) to make and only made RMB ¥46.5 million (USD $6.82 million). He has been working predominantly as a fight choreographer for movie such as “Kill Bill: Vol. 2″.

To be sure Yuen may be a fine and capable director, though currently is a bit of an open question due to his limited creative output in recent years. So too then is the quality of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” itself. When Netflix first announced they would finance and open the film it raised speculation that the sequel may not actually be any good. Realizing this, the movie’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, may have been trying to lay off some of their risk on the production, if not entirely recoup their expenditure, by selling Netflix the rights to distribute it.

Brooks Barnes of the New York Times echoed these sentiments as a guest on Showbiz Sandbox this week stating that The Weinstein Company “…got a huge big publicity pop for this sequel and that has to be viewed in that context. Yes it’s sequel to one of the best performing foreign films ever, but if you look closer at that film there are some questions about it…. you just kind of have to wonder what kind of sequel is this? Is this a route that gets them a big headline for something that may ultimately been a direct to home video title all along.”

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 30 April 2014

Jeffrey Katzenberg

There is really only one story to begin with today - Jeffrey Katzenberg is definitely off John Fithian’s Christmas Card list.

Not only did Mr Peabody and Sherman underwhelm at the box office, but now the head of Dreamworks Animation has suggested that the theatrical release window for first run feature films could shrink to just over two weeks.

“I think the model will change and you won’t pay for the window of availability. A movie will come out and you will have 17 days, that’s exactly three weekends, which is 95% of the revenue for 98% of movies. On the 18th day, these movies will be available everywhere ubiquitously and you will pay for the size. A movie screen will be $15. A 75” TV will be $4.00. A smartphone will be $1.99. That enterprise that will exist throughout the world, when that happens, and it will happen, it will reinvent the enterprise of movies,” he told the crowd.

And according to Katzenberg, this scenario will play out 10 years from now.  LINK

In fact, you don’t have to look as far into the future as 10 years to see this come true. This situation is already the case in the world’s second largest film industry – India – where a big studio film will appear on pay-per-view as quickly as two week after its cinema release. But only if it does badly at the box office. Like Mr Peabody & Sherman did.

My Cinema logo

Australia: A joint marketing a promotion initiative for independent cinemas in Australia has been launched on the first day of the  Independent Cinemas Association of Australia conference in Sydney.

ICAA is keen to see Australian films benefit from access to the My Cinema platform. Results would be measured against past performance to ensure the platform is effective in growing the market for Australian film, she said.

All 93 members of the association, representing 830 screens which equate to more than 80% of the independent sector, are automatically part of the My Cinema group. The initiative will result in cost savings in delivery and improve the box-office by giving indie cinemas greater visibility in the national market, she said.

Promo trailers, sneak peek clips and footage of interviews and events will be compiled for a My Cinema channel sent to participating cinemas and foyer screens.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 12 March 2014

QSC at AMC16 Theater 8

Audio: Immersive audio is set to be a big topic at the upcoming CinemaCon, with Dolby and Barco both pushing their Atmos and Auro solutions. But meanwhile there is on going discussion and work towards open standards. A very comprehensive document that charts these efforts have been published in the motion Picture Editors’ Guild website. Titled “Towards a SMPTE Standard - MDA Cinema Proponents Demo Open-Standard Surround-Sound Format“ by Mel Lambert is well worth reading by anyone who wants to understand where this issue stands and is headed, as well as the MDA tests at the AMC Burbank.

To date, the MDA Cinema Proponents Group has held two demonstrations of its proposed format for working group members and other industry professionals at the AMC 16-theatre complex in Burbank. Theatre 8 has been outfitted by QSC Audio Products with a total of 54 behind-the-screen, surround and ceiling loudspeakers, plus subwoofers to create an audio test bed for replaying various surround-sound configurations. All signal processing, including EQ, time alignment and crossovers, is handled by a QSC Q-Sys Core 500i processor; replay is from a Doremi cinema server. Playback material for the special demonstrations comprised a short video produced by DTS, entitled The Escape, accompanied by replay of a single MDA object-based soundtrack that was rendered in real-time through the Q-Sys processor to produce outputs appropriate to targeted loudspeaker channels.

Be sure to then read “MDA Immersive Audio Demo’d, and Openly (Patently?) More” by ever-knowledgeable CJ Flynn about what exactly ‘open’  means and entails.

Event Cinema

South Africa:  Ster-Kinekor will be screening extreme fighting matches in its cinemas this March

EFC AFRICA 28, taking place on Thursday, 27 March, will be screened at select Ster-Kinekor cinemas around the country for the first time, with an eruption of high-definition (HD), larger-than-life MMA action on the big screen.

In a partnership that has been in development for months, EFC AFRICA and Ster-Kinekor announced on Wednesday, 12 March that fight fans throughout South Africa will be able to watch all 13 bouts from every upcoming EFC AFRICA event, live.  LIVE

USA (CA): The Met Opera is not the only event cinema opera company in the US.

And, of opera moving into movie theaters: A series of high-definition films of three recent San Francisco Opera productions at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, which began with Tosca on March 3, will continue with Porgy & Bess on April 21, and Don Giovanni on May 26.

At $12, tickets are about half of the Met HD prices. These screenings mark the return of SFO presentations to the Kabuki, as part of the company’s Grand Opera Cinema Series, also shown in arts centers, independent film theaters, universities and other venues in the Western region of the country and around the world.  LINK

Cine Dining

Post-Second-Chance-Cinema

UK: Upmarket cinema is in vogue, including this pop-up venture in the UK.

Forget your local Odeon, Second Chance Cinema is a stylish cinema experience, held at luxurious locations, dishing up gourmet cinema food.

Taking place at Bethnal Green’s Old Town Hall Hotel, Second Chance Cinema will be screening some Academy Award winning blockbusters this week, with a lineup kicking off this Wednesday…

With Cinema Taster boxes on offer designed by award winner chefs of the hotel, you can wave goodbye to pick ‘n’ mix and say hello to luxury chocolate cigarettes and indulgent posh popcorn served by Second Chance Cinema’s 1950s usherette.  LINK

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Studios Find A Backdoor Into Shorter Theatrical Release Windows

Major Studio Release Windows

History may remember this past summer’s blockbuster season more as the one when studios successfully shortened the theatrical window by three weeks, rather than as the one in which numerous $200 million tentpole films failed at the box office. Sure, the latter seems to be getting all the press right now, but it’s the former that may prove to have a longer term impact on the industry.

Back in June, Sony and Disney made headlines by announcing they would experiment with streaming movies online while the films were still playing in theatres. Movies like “Django Unchained,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Brave” were all available for streaming before their theatrical runs were over. In case you’re wondering why you never saw them on Netflix or your local video-on-demand service, the pilot program took place in South Korea to test market feasibility and adoption. South Korea was a perfect target destination for such a pilot; not only is it the eighth largest film market in the world, it is also the currently the home of the fastest overall Internet connectivity on the planet. Make no mistake, if the trial proves a success, we will see theatrical releases streamed into the home in Europe and the United States.

Amazon, iTunes & DVDs

Much in the way television production companies have turned from traditional cable networks to services such as Netflix with shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”, movie studios have found a way to circumvent the DVD/Blu-Ray distribution chain (and its accompanying restrictions) by releasing films on iTunes and other VOD outlets before physical copies ever hits retail stores.

MacRumors reported in August that Paramount Picture’ “Star Trek Into Darkness” got an early release on iTunes and Amazon weeks before DVD or Blu-Ray. Movie fanatics with beefier ISP connections from providers like HughesNet and Verizon have bandwidth fast enough to watch Blu-Ray quality streams at the click of a button; no buffering required. “Star Trek Into Darkness” is one of the bigger titles to get an early online release and given how successful it’s been, will hardly be the last.

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Universal Cancels “Tower Heist” Premium-VOD Test

Tower Heist Cast

Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy Star In "Tower Heist"

Well that didn’t take long. Facing stiff opposition from exhibitors Universal Pictures has decided to scrap its plan of releasing “Tower Heist” on premium-video-on-demand three weeks after its November 4th release. The move comes a week after the studio originally announced its intentions to run a PVOD test in Atlanta and Portland which would make the film available to about 500,000 cable subscribers for USD$59.99.

No doubt the number of exhibitors willing to boycott the film outright had a great deal to do with the decision. Previously Cinemark, Emagine Theatres, Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres and an additional 50 screens owned by independent operators all publicly stated they would not be booking the film if Universal went ahead with the premium-VOD test. Then today National Amusements joined the list of exhibitors opting not to show “Tower Heist”. With 950 screens worldwide, National Amusements is one of the largest chains in the United. States. Bloomberg reported that of the 39,000 screens in the U.S., 12% were participating in the boycott.

If that figure directly corresponds to the drop in box office Universal could expect for “Tower Heist” then that’s significant. Given that it is predicted the film will make upwards of a USD $100 million or more, that could mean foregoing USD $12 million in receipts. It’s unlikely that Universal’s PVOD test would have brought in as much, even if the studio decided to roll it out nationwide. Try explaining that to talent whose contracts are tied to theatrical box office gross.

So earlier today Universal released a prepared statement reversing their decision to test PVOD with “Tower Heist”:

“Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment. Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”

Before Universal’s original plan was made public, they reached out to key theater owners to inform them of their desire to release “Tower Heist” on PVOD. I’m not sure what came of these conversations or whether they were more of a warning to exhibitors rather than a request or negotiation. Jon Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, who had been mum on Universal’s plans until today, referenced this ongoing dialogue in his response to the studios about-face:

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Universal Hopes “Tower Heist” Will Pass The Premium-VOD Test

Tower Heist

In what the Los Angeles Times called “an audacious move” earlier this week, Universal Pictures announced earlier this week that it would allow the Eddie Murphy action comedy “Tower Heist” to be shown via premium-video-on-demand three weeks after its November 4th release date. Naturally, if Universal finds premium-VOD to be profitable without gutting their theatrical box office receipts, you can bet every other studio will follow their lead.

Of course, exhibitors aren’t big fans of premium-VOD or shortening the theatrical window from its current 90-day average in any form. Their big fear is that patrons will be accustomed to simply wait for a movie to be available at home rather than head to the theater not only lowering attendance but also permanently damaging concession sales.

The biggest downside of Universal’s plan, besides ticking off exhibitors, is the whopping USD $59.99 cost of screening “Tower Heist” in the comfort of your own home. During a time when news reports have the world headed toward another recession that kind of price might cripple sales. After all, USD $60 is roughly the price of six tickets on average at a movie theater.

However, it is tough economic times in the first place that is causing the movie industry to experiment with premium-VOD as they try to replace sagging DVD sales. But you probably already know that. In fact, you probably also know that theater owners will be just a angry about Universal’s current plans as they were this spring when the studio, along with three others, struck a deal with satellite television provider DirecTV to make a handful of titles available for premium-VOD 60 days after theatrical release for USD $29.99.

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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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L.A. Times’ Patrick Goldstein Debates Release Windows

Patrick Goldstein (Los Angeles Times).jpg

Patrick Goldstein of the L.A. Times

If you’ve never read Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times, you’re really missing out. Especially this past Tuesday when the subject of his weekly column, The Big Picture, was none other than release windows.

Goldstein has been writing his column for as long as I can remember and it is one of my favorite reads each week. When he started blogging back in 2008, a form of journalism he had previously criticized, I made sure to keep up with his daily posts. As the tagline on his blog states, Goldstein covers the “collision of entertainment, media and pop culture”.

On Tuesday Goldstein was covering the collision of exhibitors and distributors over theatrical release windows and some of his observations are worth mentioning. Some of his well-made points I agree with, others I do not.

The columnist cites the recent release of “Alice In Wonderland” as a “dramatic tipping point in film history”, but not because its box office success has confirmed that audiences will come to see 3D movies even when they aren’t made by James Cameron. What Goldstein believes earned Tim Burton’s version of “Alice” a place in movie history is that “It finally put the nail in the coffin of movie theater owners’ mindlessly stubborn resistance to shorter DVD windows.”

In case readers weren’t paying attention to the recent tussle over “Alice’s” DVD release window, Goldstein fills them in on the history of Disney’s decision to release the film on DVD only three months after its theatrical bow. He then goes on to detail the record breaking box office returns the film earned; biggest U.S. non-sequel opening weekend of all time with USD $116 million and a current worldwide gross of USD $366.2 million. Given the amount of press coverage over Disney’s disputed release plans for “Alice” Goldstein figures most audiences knew the film was being released on DVD in just 12 weeks. Read More »

MPAA’s Glickman, NATO’s Fithian Deliver Upbeat Industry Prognosis

Gan Glickman & John Fithian (ShoWest - March 16, 2010).jpg

Dan Glickman and John Fithian at ShoWest

The National Association of Theatre Owners president, John Fithian, and the outgoing chairman of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Dan Glickman, trumpeted 2009′s record breaking box office grosses as well as advances in piracy protection during their annual “State of the Industry” address at ShoWest on Tuesday. What seemed more important to everyone in attendance however was that the speech marked the last appearance by Glickman as the head of the MPAA.

Not that Glickman plans on disappearing entirely. As he put it moments before walking onstage to deliver his remarks, “It may not be my last time at ShoWest, hopefully it is not. John has promised to invite me every year, but it’s my last time in this job.” Glickman is leaving his post April 1st to take over as head of the non-profit organization Refugees International.

Of course, technically this will be the last time Glickman attends ShoWest since NATO will be taking the show over next year and changing its name to CinemaCon. Glickman may not have to worry about getting an invite though, for Fithian had nothing but kind words to say about him. “He really has contributed an amazing amount of leadership and support to this industry over the last six years, from intellectual property to the ratings system to opening up new markets oversees,” Fithian said of Glickman. He’s been just a terrific partner. . . he will be sorely missed by those of us in the movie business.”

Speaking of the movie business, it’s apparently doing quite well, at least theatrically. Fithian highlighted the USD $30 billion international box office gross earned in 2009 with USD $10.6 billion coming from North American, an increase of more than 10%. The NATO exec credits the ongoing theatrical success to advances in technology which have allowed for better presentations at modern luxury cinemas and the ease of purchasing tickets on mobile devices or online. Studios were also major contributors by spreading out their releases according to Fithian:

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ShoWest Opens With Michael Lynton Keynote

Michael Lynton at ShoWest 2010

Michael Lynton at ShoWest 2010

The 2010 edition of ShoWest, the annual gathering of theatre owners and distributors, kicked off in Las Vegas earlier today with a keynote address from Michael Lynton. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment had both junk and theatrical release windows on his mind, and not necessarily in that order.

After opening his remarks with some cheerleading over 2009′s record breaking box office returns, Lynton detailed why he believed the industry was doing so well in the midst of a deep recession:

“People battered by the recession see in movies reasonably priced escapism. It is the most affordable way to take a break, get out of the house, take the kids or get away from them and be transported to another world.”

Lynton pointed to the industry’s willingness and ability to change as being one of the prime factors for increased theatrical revenue over the past year. Despite economic, social and technologic challenges, he praised both exhibition and distribution’s willingness to find new ways to overcome challenges and prosper.

But Lynton wasn’t all smiles. He highlighted the increasing economic difficulties faced by studios this past year. At the height of the DVD boom in 2005 and 2006 57% of Sony’s revenues came from DVD rentals and another 43% came from DVD sell-through, but today, thanks in large part to the recession, that split is nearing a 75% – 25% split. Read More »