Tag Archives: Sony Pictures

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

CineAsia 2013

A large flat screen monitor displays trailers at CineAsia

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

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

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

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

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Viral Video Marketing Campaign Builds Awareness For “Carrie” Remake

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One movie marketing trend that has proven most effective over the past several years is the use of viral videos. These short videos are crafted to promote and build awareness of a specific movie by having viewers pass them along to friends and family, thus marketing a new film.

The most recent example of such a marketing campaign was produced by Sony Pictures for their upcoming release “Carrie”, a remake of the classic 1976 horror film which is based on a best selling Stephen King novel. The previous adaptation starred Sissy Spacek and was directed by Brian De Palma whereas the most most recent iteration is helmed by Kimberly Pierce and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.

Rather than feature footage of the movie being marketed, these viral videos play off the themes and content of each film. The video for “Carrie” is a well rehearsed stunt rigged and staged in sNice Cafe, a New York City coffee shop chain with three locations, including one in Greenwich Village. The concept plays off reactions of unwitting cafe patrons who are shocked and frightened as a disturbed woman uses here telekinetic powers to throw a man across the room, scatter the restaurant’s tables and chairs and send books flying from shelves.

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

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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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Fandango To Donate “Karate Kid” Ticket Revenue To Starlight

Starlight Logo.jpgNorth America’s largest movie ticket website is feeling quite charitable lately. In fact, over the next two weeks (June 7th through June 20th) Fandango will be donating $1 to the Starlight Children’s Foundation for every ticket they sell to “The Karate Kid” which is being released today by Sony Pictures in the U.S. and Canada.

The partnership seems rather complimentary given that Starlight’s whole mission of aiding critically ill children and their families revolves around entertainment. The 25-year-old charity uses entertainment as a distraction from the pain, depression, fear and isolation a child may experience during an illness. The organization presently has more than three million family members in their network.

A single dollar may not seem like much, but according to the press release published to announce the program Starlight manages to stretch a dollar quite far:

  • $1 enables a child with cancer to play Starlight’s Fun Center video games for almost an entire day while going through chemo therapy
  • $1 enables a teen who is too sick to leave home to spend a day finding supportive friends on Starlight’s Starbirght World
  • $1 helps a family get away from hospital treatments to have fun for a day at a Starlight Great Escapes event

Over the last five days “The Karate Kid” has accounted for 52% of Fandango’s ticket sales and the film continues to outpace the sales of this weekend’s other new releases.

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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 »

Daily Cinema Roundup – Friday 8 May

orange-wedensday-witch

- Catch someone taping a film off the screen? You have little choice but to let him (it’s rarely a ‘her’) walk free in the UK, according to Sky News. “Tim Richards, who runs Vue cinemas, told Sky News that while his staff are getting better at catching film pirates, he invariably has to let them go. He said: “We catch these individuals and we can’t do anything with them. It’s extremely frustrating.” But the police say sales of illegal pirated (usually elsewhere) DVDs are a bigger problem and the UK government urges cinema to go after the cinema camcorders with the Fraud Act. Yes, really, don’t laugh;

- UK mobile phone carrier Orange has been running its two-for-one mid-week offer for five years and have clocked up 14m uses (that’s 7m couples). From newmediaage, “The Orange Wednesdays offer has encouraged an average of 300,000 people to go to the cinema each week, saving them an estimated £30m, the operator said. The five most prolific users have redeemed the offer an average of 70 times each.” Apparently “Mamma Mia!” has been the most popular film.Notice that the Orange Witch [Surely she's green and wicked, not orange? - Ed.] from the advert (below) is brandishing a Celluloid Junkie icon popcorn box knock off. Definitely not authorised by us;

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-Imax‘s finances are slowly improving, with Q1 of 2009 showing a narrow loss as the company waits for digital to kick in, according to THR.com. “Toronto-based Imax posted a loss of $2.6 million to March 31, compared to a loss of $10.2 million in 2008, on revenue up 43% to $33.7 million, against a year-earlier $23.5 million. Imax recorded sharply lower R&D costs compared to 2008 when it incurred steep digital projection rollout costs. The first quarter operating profit was $2 million, compared to a loss of $5.6 million in 2008.” Perhaps more interestingly than digitla itself was that revenue from bigged-up Hollywood releases such as “Watchmen” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” doubled from around $15m to over $30m in the quarter;

- Sony PicturesAngels & Demons” had its world premiere in Rome using Sony Electronics 4K SXRD projector. From the press release, “Oliver Pasch, head of digital cinema in Europe at Sony Professional says, “We’re delighted to have played a part in helping Sony Pictures  premiere Angels & Demons. The studio understands the phenomenal value of 4k projection and how it allows audiences from across the world to see more detail than ever before, thus creating a truly unique cinematic experience.”" The film will be released in 4K, so best place to catch it will be Norway or an AMC cinema – click here for full list of 4K locations.

-With the stand-off in Bollywood between Indian film distributors and multiplexes still not showing any sign of ending, exhibitors are starting to look for small films to distribute themselves. From liveMint.com, “In a clear signal that the gloves are off in the dispute with
producers, Fame India Ltd has joined forces with its fellow leading
national cinema chains INOX Leisure Ltd, Cinemax India Ltd, Adlabs
Films
Ltd, Fun Cinemas and PVR Ltd and set aside around Rs40 crore [$8m] to
acquire a film on the open market for release in multiplexes, where the
deadlock has seen all new releases being put on ice since 4 April.
” A handfull of candidate films are hten listed. Meanwhile distributors are saying that they will release their films in single screens and independent multiplexes. Still no word if Hollywood distributors will soon start releasing their films during the stand off;

– If you think Indian multiplex operators have it hard, spare a thought for their colleagues in Iraqi, where cinemas are dying a slow death. From LA Times, “Before the 2003 invasion, Baghdad had 40 cinemas; now there are only
eight. In those days, the theaters opened at 8 a.m. and closed just
before midnight. Today, the theaters shut at 1 p.m. Hashim says only
the riffraff and lowlifes frequent his theater…. Other theaters have closed rather than cater to the new
market — the owners of the now-shuttered Nujoom (Star) cinema
described their clientele after 2003 as “drug addicts, alcoholics and
freaks.”
” We have highlighted the plight of Iraqi cinemas before, but it is sad that there appears to be no hope in sight;

- Reasons why 3D is plenty D’s enough, from UK’s The Mirror. “A cinema at a National Sea Life Centre is so realistic it is causing visitors to feel seasick. Bosses at the £1million 4D screen in Birmingham are handing out sea sickness bracelets after customers complained the images of giant waves, vibrating seats and water spray made them ill.” Isn’t ayone complaining bout the water sprays making their popcorn wet?

– A novel way of attracting customers to cinemas? Bag of cocaine found in Reel Cinema in Grantham by 10 year old. From the local paper, “”Obviously this is a family entertainment venue and children are present. It is very worrying when a ten-year-old comes into possession of drugs like this.” Jonathan had only recently started to let his son do things on his own but the experience has made him worry. He said: “What if a child had picked it up and thought it was sherbet? Or what if he had walked in to find someone taking drugs?” I’ve heard of weed smoking to Cheech and Chong and LSD for “2001: A space Odessey”, but cocaine to “X-Men Originas; Wolverine” seems like a desperate way of improving the film;

Daily Cinema Roundup – Fri 24 April

- Imax’s presence in China is expanding through a new deal, according to THR.com’s Asia edition. “Imax on Thursday signed a deal with China Film Group to open a super-size screen in a new multiplex in Tianjin, China, this October. The deal brings to 41 the number of screens Imax expects to have by 2012 in China, its second-largest market after the U.S.” We also note and congratulate our friends and colleague Patrick Frater, who has joined THR Asia, thus completing the hat trick of working for Screen, Variety and now THR, having done stellar work at them all;

- Projector makes Christie has given details about its digital cinema NOC (network operation centre). The press release gives some impressive stats, “Christie Managed Services currently provides round-the-clock monitoring of 32,431 devices, including 3,780 digital cinema screens and 4,700 pre-show advertising screens in over 830 sites across North America. It is staffed with over 180 remote and customer service personnel and field technicians.” Make sure you visit it if you ever pass through Cyprus, CA. Any time. We hear its open 24/7;

- The first European live 3D broadcast over satellite went out to multi locations across Italy on April 19th, showing a of a complete basketball game. This was part of an announcement at NAB about the coming together of several stereoscopic distribution pioneers, “International Datacasting Corp and Sensio Technologies announced today the beginning of their first operational roll-out of live 3D in high definition for digital cinema in Europe” and “OpenSky has formed the 3D Stereoscopic group (3DSG), a partnership with dBW Communication and Eutelsat for the end-to-end production and distribution of 3D live events across Europe.” Expect to see more in the coming year;

– On an adjacent frequency, Dolby has formed a partnership with Arqiva to deliver alternative content across Europe, according to today’s press release. “Dolby Laboratories today launched Dolby Direct Distribution Services—a pan-European satellite content delivery network for digital cinemas. The service is provided in association with leading digital network solutions provider Arqiva and uses their international satellite infrastructure to distribute feature movies, trailers, and advertising content direct to their participating exhibitors and cinemas throughout Europe.” The interesting question is whether they will open up this network wider and be a service provider, rather than equipment vendor;

- Sony does deal with Sony for digital cinema in Asia, is the essence of this press release. “Sony Pictures Releasing International Corporation (SPRI) has entered into an agreement with Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Solutions and Services (DCSS) group for 4K DCI-compliant digital cinema deployments in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.” But trust us, even a seemingly semi-internal agreement like this is much more difficult to orchestrate than you might think. Now the challenge will be to get more Hollywood studios to sign up. And why no India?;

- UK’s Cinema Exhibitor’s Association (CEA) is kicking off a digital road-show this coming Monday in Manchester. “The events, which the CEA is running jointly with the UK Film Council and with the support of Screen Digest, are intended to give all of those attending an opportunity to hear a comprehensive and objective summary of the challenges and opportunities presented by digital cinema projection, with discussion of funding, operational and technical matters.” It is 8 1/2 years since the last major road show in UK (‘Celluloid or Silicon?‘) that discussed the implications of all things digital cinema. [insert joke about digital cinema's long time in the coming HERE];

- Want to sell liquor for consumption with screenings of operas and sporting events in your cinema? It’s not as easy as you might think, according to this article from Grand Rapids News. “Celebration Cinema owner John Loeks Jr. must spell out the type of “special events” at which he wants to serve alcohol before city planners will allow him to uncork any bottles or tap any kegs.” Asked to define ‘special events, Loeks told the commission, “I’m not sure there is a precise definition.” So much for grouping it together under the moniker of ODS (other digital stuff);

- And yet more proof if needed that box office is doing well across the globe, this time from China, courtesy of AFP. “China may be a paradise for addicts of pirated DVDs, but the box office is also booming thanks to a growing audience of well-off young urbanites and more big-ticket Chinese films… “The crisis is actually a godsend because as everyone talks about the economic crisis, people want to go to the cinema to relax,” said Zhao Jing, a Beijing marketing executive with cinema operators Wanda Group.” Wanda (pictured above) is expanding from 40 cinemas to 100 by 2010. As noted in the article, a pirate DVD may cost one tenth of a cinema ticket, but it just does not give the same EXPERIENCE;

- Only India appears to be suffering badly, with the non-release of new Hindi films entering its fourth week. A journalist from Indian Express took a tour of the deserted cinema halls and chats to employees. It’s grim. ““We’ve closed down one screen for renovation and are on a cost-cutting spree. We’ve switched to low voltage bulbs and keep half the lobby lights switched off. The air-conditioning too is not switched on till before the show.”” Not even any major Hollywood films are opening this weekend (unless you count “My Mom’s New Boyfriend“). Soon weevils will start blowing through the corridors;

- But it’s even worse for one Indian exhibitor. “Sebi on Thursday barred Pyramid Saimira Theatre promoters Nirmal N Kotecha and CMD PS Saminathan from trading in the equities market, accusing the latter of allegedly forging a letter from the markets regulator, the revelation of whose contents last December sent the company’s stock price soaring. The Sebi letter had purportedly asked the promoters to make an open offer to buy out minority shareholders.” Ouch, but the Securities & Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) can come down hard at times;

- Ending on a semi-positive note, at least if you are living in Detroit. ‘Unemployed? Movie theaters offer free tickets.‘ The headline says it all.

Sony Pictures VPF Deal With Regal & AMC Makes Warner Bros The Only Hold-Out Studio

sony-pictures-logo Sony Pictures has become the next-to-last  Hollywood studio to sign a virtual print fee (VPF) agreement with DCIP, the digital cinema integrator representing the three largest US cinema chains (AMC, Regal and Cinemark). This should help DCIP re-start the intended 3 1/2 year roll-out of digital cinema to all of its screens as of this summer, when credit is predicted to start flowing again. Variety only did a brief item on the announcement, covering the bare basics:

Sony’s deal with the Digital Cinema Implementation Group, a consortium repping Regal, AMC and Cinemark, means that Warner Bros. is the odd man out. Every other major, as well as Lionsgate, has already signed its own agreement with DCIP.

DCIP intends to use the studio deals as collateral in securing a multimillion-dollar line of credit that theaters can use to pay for the cost of the conversion. Those efforts have been sidelined by the economic crisis.

THR.com went a little more in depth with the analysis and implications, particularly as to why Warner Bros might be holding out:

“We’re in the middle of negotiations,” Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said. “We’re close. So we might be the last one, but we’re going to get there.”

Sony signed its VPF pact with Digital Cinema Implementation Partners several weeks ago, but the news was delayed pending internal review of the formal announcement.

Through VPFs, studios volunteer to pay the equivalent of print costs for years after switching to digital distribution as a means of defraying most exhibitor costs to convert auditoriums. Sony refers to its VPF as a “digital conversion fee.”

For Warners, set to release more films this year than any other distributor, the cost of a VPF is likely to run considerably higher than that for studios with lower annual output. Sony also is among the most prolific film distributors.

Neither of the two articles makes an explicit link between the SPE-DCIP deal and the earlier announced deal between DCIP member AMC and Sony Electronics to equip its cinemas with SXRD 4K projectors. While the SPE deal would not have been contingent on the AMC-4K deal, it most likely didn’t hurt and may have acted as a sweetener.

So what does WB have to hold out for? Noit much. Coming in last amongst all the studios means that the it will benefit from whatever best terms have been previously agreed under the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) provisions that states that DCIP cannot offer a better deal to a future studio unless those terms are offered retroactively to those already signed.

This means that DCIP will be resisting getting squeezed on VPF terms by WB, who in turn (as the biggest releaser of 35mm prints) will have seen the price of celluloid prints [acetate prints actually, as true celluloid was phased out decades ago, only 'Acetate Junkie' doesn't sounds as good; Ed.] drop significantly as Kodak offers cheaper and cheaper film stock prices to maximise what is left of the film print stock business. Why pay a VPF of, say, $725, when a print has dropped to, say, between $600 and $500. Particularly in these times of plunging DVD sales.

If DCIP want to blame anybody for the delay in Warner Bros signing a VPF deal, the telephone number for Kodak’s switchboard in Rochester, NY, is 1-800-621-FILM. See how far you get arguing with a sunset industry.