Author Topic: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption  (Read 10293 times)

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wilder

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #30 on: September 10, 2015, 03:23:37 PM »
+1
I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmaker's Oral History of a Vanished Era will be published September 24, 2015




From Critical Press' website:

For a generation, video stores were to filmmakers what bookstores were to writers. They were the salons where many of today’s best directors first learned their craft. The art of discovery that video stores encouraged through the careful curation of clerks was the fertile, if sometimes fetid, soil from which today’s film world sprung. Video stores were also the financial engine without which the indie film movement wouldn’t have existed.

In I Lost it at the Video Store, Tom Roston interviews the filmmakers–including John Sayles, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and Allison Anders–who came of age during the reign of video rentals, and constructs a living, personal narrative of an era of cinema history which, though now gone, continues to shape film culture today.


“This is a book that was waiting to happen, and fortunately it was Tom Roston who wrote it. After we lost it at the movies, a later era of cinephiles lost it at the video store, and this is their story in their words–nostalgic, vivid, and important, because video germinated a new generation of great filmmakers.” –Peter Biskind, author of Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film

“Informative, hilarious, a little sad, but mostly just exuberant: This chronicle of a lost era details not just how the video-rental revolution shaped a generation of filmmakers, but how it changed the ways we watch and talk about film. It may even make you nostalgic for rewinding.” –Stephanie Zacharek, Chief Film Critic, The Village Voice

“A Proustian madeleine of a book, I Lost It at the Video Store celebrates the images and textures of a nearly-gone era, as well as examining its importance to a generation of artists.” –Matt Zoller Seitz, editor-in-chief, RogerEbert.com

“[Video] stores themselves have faded into history, but their now-famous onetime inhabitants – Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Doug Liman and Darren Aronofsky, among others – remember them well. Their stories, assembled here, provide a memorable chronicle of a golden age of pure movie love.” — Kurt Loder, film critic and former MTV host

“What a terrific read. It’s a blast to revisit those (delightful, maddening) hours I spent trying to pick a movie, from the perspective of Tarantino, Sayles, and the rest of the all-star cast Tom Roston has assembled. These smart, funny, and sometimes-clashing voices from the other side of the VHS box reveal how video-store culture worked, how it influenced filmmaking, and what’s lost and gained in the streaming world that’s replacing it. The result is an entertaining story that goes way beyond nostalgia: It will make you appreciate why the video-shop era mattered, whether you lived through it or not.” –Rob Walker, author of Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are



Read an excerpt from the book at Entertainment Weekly.

jenkins

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #31 on: September 30, 2015, 01:30:36 PM »
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i'm about to have a panic attack trying to decide which topic to post this in, but i wanna btw fyi fwiw that Kentucky Audlley is being adorable.

the run down is he decided to make this hat:



which he describes this way:

Quote
It's important to spread the message about movies. Most people like TV shows and virtual reality better now, or even internet games, but we shouldn't forget about movies, because there's been some good ones over the years like Diner and American graffiti. If people forgot about movies, we're in deep shit. So that's the main reason you should wear this hat. And don't be afraid to use it as a conversation starter. If someone asks you, "so what's the deal with the cap?" Just answer: "spreading the gospel, my brother". Be extra nice, since if you wear the hat, you're representing all movies. It's a lot of responsibility so don't take it lightly, like Spider-Man.

he's been interviewed about its creation:

Quote
How did you come to navy blue and white?

I tested out several other colors, like green and red, but I liked the way navy blue looked the best. The hard part was picking out the font. And putting a slight curve on it.

this is his Facebook post that first led me to suspect he was being adorable:

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Blown away by how many people want the ’movies’ hat. 76 in 2 days! Can’t wait to wear these things with everybody.

it's inspired social discussion:

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Eleanor Wilson Am I the only woman who wants the 'movies' hat? We should probably discuss the gender gap in the hat industry.
Quote
Eliza McNitt I'd like to keep the sun off my face bc I burn

if you have a genuine interest in this hat and/or want to see its Kickstarter, here's its Kickstarter (w/video):
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1040326930/a-hat-that-says-movies-on-it
Every perspective is an act of creation.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #32 on: September 30, 2015, 01:53:18 PM »
+1
Movies themselves are largely to blame for driving "discerning consumers" to TV. When the majority of theatrical releases are reboots or sequels or involve superheroes, you really can't blame people. And now we're at a point where those are the only things that seem to reliably make money.

Obviously digital releases and home theater systems are also to blame. People, myself included, are not as excited to pay a premium to see indie films at their local Landmark when they can get a roughly equivalent version at home at the same time or earlier. The threshold for needing "the theatrical experience" has been pushed pretty high.

There's also the fact that TV shows are (1) significantly more addictive and (2) almost infinitely convenient to consume. A potent combination.
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jenkins

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #33 on: September 30, 2015, 02:20:06 PM »
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you said movies themselves are to blame, then you said that's because bad movies are the ones that people go to and which make money then you said people yourself included choose to stay home instead then you mentioned the good reasons for liking tv.

so i definitely wouldn't agree that the problem is movies themselves, and i just wanted to talk about this hat and adorableness
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #34 on: September 30, 2015, 03:18:34 PM »
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To be fair, that's a really simplistic paraphrase. It's a complex issue. When I say "movies are largely to blame" I'm talking about the movies that are in theaters, that are marketed and supported. I'm not saying "cinema itself is to blame!" so don't worry.
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jenkins

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #35 on: September 30, 2015, 03:48:20 PM »
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you said movies themselves are to blame

Movies themselves are largely to blame for driving "discerning consumers" to TV.

then you said that's because bad movies are the ones that people go to and which make money

When the majority of theatrical releases are reboots or sequels or involve superheroes, [...]And now we're at a point where those are the only things that seem to reliably make money.

then you said people yourself included choose to stay home instead

Obviously digital releases and home theater systems are also to blame. People, myself included, are not as excited to pay a premium to see indie films at their local Landmark when they can get a roughly equivalent version at home at the same time or earlier.

then you mentioned the good reasons for liking tv.

There's also the fact that TV shows are (1) significantly more addictive and (2) almost infinitely convenient to consume. A potent combination

did you mean simplistic or concise? and now you're adding "complex issue" and ideas about marketing and support as if that was obviously there the entire time in subtext, which is absurd, and i don't think herd mentality is a complex issue.
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #36 on: September 30, 2015, 04:16:40 PM »
0
Yes I mean simplistic, and to an insulting degree, as your second response also demonstrates.

I think we're even mostly on the same page. Can you de-escalate a bit? You introduced a topic and I engaged in a civil manner, but your response to that was to attempt to mock my response and end the discussion. Are we not adults here?

I think it is in fact a complex issue, because "movies are largely to blame." The interplay between what's presented to consumers and what we choose to support is interesting and worth talking about. How much is technology (and the title of this thread) to blame, how much are we to blame, and how much is "Hollywood" to blame?

Given the niche value of TV, I don't there's much herd mentality happening there. People don't herd toward Orange Is the New Black. They don't even herd toward Netflix, now that Amazon Prime and Hulu are viable alternatives. Moving away from theaters toward TV is like a cascade of splintering.

There's some herd mentality when everyone goes to see The Avengers, sure. But I think that's more about a common denominator. You could argue that people herded to see Gravity ($274 million domestic), because the word quickly got out that you really needed that theatrical experience. So is that herding or being a discerning consumer of media? Even this sub-issue is a complex issue.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

jenkins

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2015, 04:34:53 PM »
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JB, to whom i've said before we could have a romance that's a Todd Haynes movie, here we are now in that such romance.

as i've time and time again demonstrated, to my own detriment, owing to my abrasive introductions of ideologies, i'll hear the other side and talk things out to the end. i must concede that i use abrasive conversational methods, as indeed people should be listened to now and then, and that appears to be a subject agreed upon by many.

but what i want to denigrate is your fundamental perspective, not you as a person, though of course your philosophy is mixed with you as a person, that is tricky. i hope this is a conversationally cleansing moment because my adoration for you JB has been publicly stated.

you're an American. bless. me too. we live in a country aware of the powerful and damaging effects culture by numbers creates. we're a nation painfully aware of injuries caused by popular opinion. there is always, yes, the bigger picture, but it must also be remembered that the bigger picture can be ugly. the bigger picture can want to stomp the little picture, and that's not a very 2015 philosophy. there's a lot of personal decision that comes with life.

i don't have anything against tv, in fact i've been apologetic about criticisms i've made against it. and this was literally a post about a hat and a man being cute, which turned into a conversation where obviously tv is better than movies. that's politics. that's cultural electricity. about a man and his hat that says movies. nah come on. a bit of this fight is personal choice.

movies make me happy and help me find happiness in life. i adore movies. i have a bias. it's not against tv shows. it's toward movies.

sorry if we got steamy but, again, Todd Haynes romance and kisses.
Every perspective is an act of creation.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2015, 05:22:33 PM »
+2
this was literally a post about a hat and a man being cute

It very clearly was not that. I know I'm taking the bait here, but... you did open your initial post with a quote that started this conversation.

which turned into a conversation where obviously tv is better than movies

I'm not sure if you're teasing me here, but I hope that's not actually what you got out of my posts.

I sincerely regret that we can't have conversations.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

jenkins

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2015, 05:32:51 PM »
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you just made me a Luciferian torch of the US shadow government about tv shows. sorry if it wasn't clearly about the hat, with facts about its color, how it brings facial shade to women, numbers about people wearing it, and i brought up the personality of Audley.

i've taken the bait too. there could definitely be a conversation about the cultural electricity of television through its sternly self-proclaimed golden age. i mean tv is shining brighter, if that's what you're saying, and movies aren't enhancing their own glow. we gotta work on that and there could be a topic about it. oh i'd prefer a movie about it but [slaps knee]

stern conversational ends, is that an "atmosphere" you're reflecting? i'm a clear advocate of self-detriment but like i said, you gotta listen to the people now and then and JB, Todd Haynes romance, this post, what do i gotta say here?

ok i'll say it: i love movies, and that was obvious in the initial post, which made a reference to tv, but threw down on Diner and American graffiti.
Every perspective is an act of creation.

wilder

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #40 on: January 21, 2016, 06:39:09 PM »
+1
Peter Bart: Is There Life After Sundance? Billionaire Charles Cohen Builds Art House Empire
via Deadline



It’s called the “now what” moment. It’s that moment of truth for filmmakers who, having won applause at the Sundance Film Festival and perhaps even secured distribution, now have to ask themselves that dreaded question: How will their film avoid instant oblivion? How will it find an audience?

For Charles Cohen, the “now what” moment at the 2008 Sundance prompted, not defeat, but an ambitious business plan — one involving not only his film, Frozen River, but also scores of others searching for a home in the art film universe. Fortunately, Cohen, a billionaire real estate maven, had the resources, and the taste, to implement his grand design. And since I love “grand designs,” I decided to track down Cohen and ask him about it.

Cohen told me he’d concluded that his passion for art films would make financial sense if he could essentially resurrect the vertical business model of Hollywood’s founders. That meant controlling the intellectual property, the film rights, the distribution and even the theaters where they will exhibited. To that end, the 63-year-old realtor set about to acquire libraries embracing over 800 vintage movies, plus producing a dozen or so new movies. In addition, he is soon to open several new or totally renovated art house theaters where he can proudly show his product.

And he’s having success within his confined universe. One of the scores of French films that Cohen controls, Mustang, has just earned an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film, his second nom in a row (last year’s nomination was for Timbuktu.)

When I first heard about Cohen and his ambitions, I wondered if he was yet another billionaire searching for a new playground. But when I met him I realized his passion for art films was downright contagious. Under his plan, when a filmgoer visits a new Cohen art house, he will see a foreign-language film along with a curated array of vintage shorts, docs or even newsreels – and the place may even smell good. In short, the experience should actually be fun.

By buying libraries like those of Rohauer or Merchant-Ivory, Cohen now controls over 850 rare and vintage movies – old Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields and D.W. Griffith films as well as memorable works like Howard’s End or Shakespeare Wallah. Cohen either owns or licenses over 100 foreign-language (mostly French) films which he intends to showcase. (Mustang has played for eight weeks in New York and Los Angeles and how has some 56 additional playdates.)

In terms of exhibition, Cohen plans by summer to open a completely renovated Quad Cinema on New York’s West 13th Street and is rebuilding the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach. In Los Angeles, Cohen owns the sprawling Blue and Green Whale structures in West Hollywood, each of which will have formidable screening facilities.

“I want to make it a fun adventure again to see an art film,” he explains. “Movie theaters of this sort are going the way of bowling alleys. But why shouldn’t people be able to enjoy seeing a fine movie and also experience different generations and different nationalities of filmmaking talent?”

Again, does Cohen have the muscle to bring this off? A second generation realtor, Cohen Brothers has vast holdings – perhaps 12 million square feet of real estate. He has hired an infrastructure of executives to implement his scheme, led by Daniel Battsek, who once headed Miramax under the Weinsteins. He’s developing a small slate of films for U.S. production, to follow up Hitchcock-Truffaut, a doc, and My Old Lady, released last year. He plans to release Rams, the Icelandic film, on February 2 and six other films later in the year.

But he’s not going to Sundance this year. “Sales agents have bid up the prices to such an extent that it’s all but impossible to make acquisitions,” he observes. “I’ll save my festival adventures for Cannes.”

Can his venture ever become profitable?

“I’m not doing this as a non-profit,” he tells me. “But as I bring this off I won’t have much competition. I’m investing in quality. I collect art. I collect art films. It’s a lot more fun than trying to make a tentpole.”

wilder

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Re: Alterative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #41 on: July 17, 2016, 11:08:07 PM »
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It's now up to $432 million worldwide. And only $47 million of that is domestic.


Thought Warcraft Tanked? Nope — It Changed Blockbusters Forever

OVER THE WEEKEND, Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft opened in the United States with just over $24 million at the box office. For a summer blockbuster that cost an estimated $160 million to make, that’s a flop any way you look at it; in fact, it made less in its opening weekend than recent summer flops Battleship, The Lone Ranger, even Fantastic Four.

But in China, Warcraft isn’t just doing better than it did in the U.S.—it’s breaking records. In five days, the film raked in $156 million, beating out last year’s Furious 7 to become the country’s highest-grossing opening for a foreign-produced film. To put that in the context of last year’s undisputed global hit: in China, Warcraft made more in five days than Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens did in its entire theatrical run ($124 million).

http://www.wired.com/2016/06/warcraft-and-the-future-of-blockbusters/

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #42 on: July 20, 2016, 06:46:26 AM »
+2
In keeping with the above Warcraft article…

In the video interview embedded below, from January, Ted Sarandos talks about Netflix’s content becoming progressively more uniform globally, with the continued goal of releasing original and licensed content day-and-date on the platform in every single country (now 190 countries, 130 of which were added in January of 2016), as old contracts and old deals expire.

Right now the US market for Netflix content is still bigger than its international counterpart, but in the final minute of the interview Sarandos predicts that in a couple of years the split between US and foreign subscriber numbers will flip to be 20/80. 

Quote
(re: “Making a Murderer”)

Is that something that was data-driven - you saw that people were watching a lot of true crime, they were watching a lot of murder mysteries and you said: Hey, we know that our audience will like this, let’s make this documentary, or, are you making more decisions now based on your gut, what seems like good creative, the meetings that you take?

It’s a little bit of both. I really look at it as informed hunches. So you have a hunch and you either use the data to confirm the hunch or dismiss the hunch, or the other way around, which is you start seeing patterns in the data…

Another interesting anecdote: He notes that "Better Call Saul" is able to be produced with such a high caliber of production value because even though the series first premieres on AMC, Netflix’s licensing dollars figure into its budget, and it ends up premiering as a Netflix Original in most other parts of the world.

Curious how this will influence what they produce down the line. Made me think about "Stranger Things", such a hybrid of US cultural icons (80s Spielberg, Stephen King), and how culturally specific programming will be affected once the whole world gains an appetite for Netflix's pipeline. The four 190 quadrant tentpolizing of serialized television seems to have begun (if it ends up getting that far)...



wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #43 on: July 25, 2016, 05:43:49 AM »
0
Brexit, Part 2
7/23/16
via Film and Digital Times

Yasuaki Mitsuwa conducted two interviews from Japan about the impact of BREXIT on film production.

Ronan Girre
-Chief Executive & Head of Studies of ace (ateliers du cinema european) in Paris, France. Ace is a center for training and development to help independent European producers.
-IMDb Credits

Yasuaki Mitsuwa: What do you think about Brexit?

Ronan Girre: Brexiters apparently did not expect to win and were probably the first ones to be surprised by the result of the poll. French observers think that the pro-Brexit campaign was mostly a political marketing campaign by some politicians who wanted to get more visibility but did not actually plan to leave the EU so fast. Maybe for that reason they had not really prepared a plan for the “day after.” Now, apparently, no one knows exactly what to do with this new situation in the UK. To me, it looks like there is no strategy.

How do you think Brexit will influence film production in the UK, Europe and Hollywood?

I believe it will have an impact mostly in the UK. In a way, the film business in the UK has gradually withdrawn from the European game for a number of years.

Over the last 10 years, the UK has withdrawn from the main EU film organizations. Eurimages (European Cinema Support Fund) is an example. The UK system is rather co-production unfriendly: private funds are reluctant to invest in continental productions as they are focused on Hollywood big business. Public funds (BFI) are focused on British films as they have very little money available (about the same as a medium-sized German region like NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia). The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax shelter excludes international coproduction as it requires full control of the film by British companies. The shooting incentive requires 1 million sterling minimum spending in the UK and is targeted mostly at big Hollywood productions shot in Pinewood … and maybe a few French ones shot in town.

According to observers, the UK might have less money available for films — and for everything else.

Service companies and studios may have fewer US customers. Being labelled British may not provide the same advantages they do today to access the EU market (as “Harry Potter” has). Cheaper studios may become the new favorite venues for US projects. (Czechs? Bulgarians? Germans? They are all potential alternatives.)

British films are not performing very well in their own domestic market compared to their US competitors. However they might lose the European market (as they probably will not be eligible for  EU distribution support and other helpful EU devices any more. Furthermore, they might be submitted to TV quotas as other non EU films are.)

On the other hand, UK distributors do not buy many EU films  now (except Curzon and smaller companies releasing them in one or two theaters). Most multiplexes in the mainstream market are already owned by US companies who do not exhibit EU films. Before Brexit and after Brexit may make very little difference for  EU films in the UK market.

In summary, we could almost say that, in a way, Brexit already happened 10 years ago in the film business.

Any comments on Brexit and future prospects of the motion picture industry in a borderless world?

The UK commercial cinema cannot really compete with Hollywood big productions for budgetary and cast reasons (except a few films like “The King’s Speech.”)  They have the same problem as  Canadian English speaking films, Australian films and films in New Zealand: they keep a very small share of their domestic market compared to other non-English speaking countries whose market is naturally protected by their native language.

On the other hand, the UK’s main art house cinema market happens to be France, and to a lesser degree, the EU. This market may become more difficult to reach. Therefore, my UK friends are very pessimistic at the moment.

Another important element to keep in mind is that Canada is joining Eurimages in 2017 and will almost be considered as an EU country in regards to film production. For French companies, shooting in English will be easier in Toronto than in the UK when they will need to. (As a reminder, French law gives access to all kinds of advantages when the film is shot in the language of the producer or in the language of the co-producer. French companies need to raise money in an English-speaking country when they want to shoot in English).

However let us not be too pessimistic. The new British government has apparently decided to wait a very long time before actually implementing Brexit. They might wait years and years—and not only for cinema’s sake—because they have many other more important problems to solve.


Adam Torel

-British producer living in Japan.
-CEO of Third Window Films,  distributing Japanese and other Asian films in the UK. 
-Third Window Films: http://thirdwindowfilms.com/
-IMDb credits

Yasuaki Mitsuwa: What do you think about Brexit?

Adam Torel: I think that many people obviously did not understand the facts and what impact leaving Europe would actually have on their individual lives. I don’t even believe that many of the people who promoted the movement expected that it would actually happen (as proven by the resignation of Farage) and for sure they have no plan about how to stop the sinking ship of a country they are left with. Personally I think that it will be looked upon as one of the biggest mistakes in history that a country has ever made.

How do you think Brexit will influence film production in UK, Europe and Hollywood?

Personally, as a distributor of Japanese films in the UK, it will be much harder to acquire titles for the UK due to the weakness of the UK’s Pound Sterling against the Japanese Yen. Also, if the UK plunges quickly into a bottomless pit of economic recession and general depression, the younger population (our target audience) will have less free cash to spend on niche entertainment. In terms of production, with the UK’s film production market being so closely linked (both financially as well as in terms of staff/talent) with Europe and the US, I’d imagine that making films in the UK will be much less appealing to investors and creators.

Any comments on Brexit and future prospect of the motion picture industry in a borderless world?

You say borderless world, though England has now made very sturdy borders—so they may find it very hard to continue being part of the global industry.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #44 on: July 28, 2016, 04:22:53 AM »
+1
Just Withnail shared this link, and it’s a doozy. Go upvote him

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Box Office Meltdown: Hollywood Races to Win Back Summer Crowds
7/26/16
via Variety

From “Jaws” to “Jurassic Park,” few directors can rival Steven Spielberg in the blockbuster arena. But even Spielberg’s magic touch couldn’t save “The BFG” at the box office.

On paper, the film, a $140 million adaptation of a beloved children’s book with a script by “ET” writer Melissa Mathison, had all the makings of a hit. Instead, the movie collapsed at the multiplexes, eking out less than $20 million in its opening weekend.

It’s a stunning fall for one of cinema’s highest-flying talents — a director whose finger was affixed to the pulse of mainstream tastes for decades. Yet “The BFG” is only the latest high-profile casualty in a summer that’s seen a slew of big-budget domestic bombs. Indeed, red ink has spilled out from such misses as “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Warcraft,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” each of which had production budgets north of $130 million, along with steep global marketing and distribution costs. The failures could cost their studios tens of millions of dollars.

More troubling is what the downturn may portend for the future of the film business and moviegoing overall.

“The theater business has weaker prospects going forward than at any time in the last 30 years,” says media analyst Hal Vogel. “It’s encountering visible strain this summer. It’s a superhero, mega-blockbuster, tentpole strategy run amuck. There’s too much of it, and it’s not working.”

Those weak prospects will likely affect financing. Chris Spicer, Akin Gump entertainment and media partner, says investors may move away from film into other media, such as gaming or virtual reality. “They will look at financing opportunities in the broader media context,” he argues.

There have been hits, particularly for Disney, with Pixar’s “Finding Dory” and Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” together racking up $1.8 billion worldwide.

Year to date, receipts are up 2%, thanks largely to winter hits such as “Deadpool” and “Zootopia.” Blockbuster season is a different story. Ticket sales are down roughly 10% this summer, but the slide is more precipitous than those numbers suggest. Rising ticket prices, fueled by 3D, Imax, and other premium formats, have enabled the industry to paper over a huge gulf in attendance. On a per-capita basis, the moviegoing audience is at its lowest levels in nearly a century. Most disturbing, millennials are avoiding theaters.

The audience of 18- to 39-year-olds has declined over the past five years, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

“There are pockets of age groups and demographics that have not been inspired by what they’re seeing in movie theaters,” says Bud Mayo, president of Carmike Cinemas’ alternative programming and distribution division. “With social media, the reaction time is instantaneous. If kids don’t like it, word spreads.”

“Repeating the same kind of content over and over doesn’t really make sense. If you don’t give people something that’s fresh and new, they’re not going to show up.”
MIKE MEDAVOY, PRODUCER

As studios cater to fanboys, flooding theaters with superhero films and diving deeper into the comic-book canon, the business becomes more niche. Frequent moviegoers, defined as those who go to theaters at least once a month, are responsible for nearly half of domestic revenue. In 2015, total tickets purchased by this group increased by 2.9 million, but the ranks of these habitual consumers fell by 3.7 million.

At the same time, TV and online content continues to be compelling, with production values that rival those on the big screen. For a new generation of cinephiles, Ned Stark being separated from his head on “Game of Thrones,” or Walter White cooking meth in his underwear in “Breaking Bad,” are pop-culture totems. Little of what’s in the cineplex has that kind of impact.

“There has been a shift in the way that people are consuming content, and it’s moving away from the big screen,” says Bruce Nash, founder of the box-office tracking site The Numbers.

Producer Mike Medavoy says the box-office malaise is symptomatic of the larger problem of engaging moviegoers who have a wide variety of alternatives, from Netflix to Pokémon Go. “I’ve been deeply concerned for a long time by the fact that there are so many other options besides movies,” he says. “Millennials can play games or watch movies at home on a big screen, so repeating the same kind of content over and over [at the movie theater] doesn’t really make sense. If you don’t give people something that’s fresh and new, they’re not going to show up.”

It’s a looming disaster that’s been more than a decade in the making. Some of it is self-inflicted, brought about by a mixture of greed and fear, aided by a profound and troubling lack of imagination. The consequences add up to a business that feels increasingly irrelevant.

What’s lacking is originality. So far, only one new blockbuster franchise has emerged out of the summer — Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets.” Warner Bros.’ big-budget bet, “Suicide Squad,” a hotly anticipated superhero movie, is tracking well, but it’s not entirely new, springing from the DC Comics cinematic universe.


FEWER SALES PER PERSON


As ticket prices have soared, per-capita annual purchases in the domestic theatrical market have plummeted






FADING FRANCHISES


Today, it’s hard to predict which movies will resonate with audiences and which will be spurned. To safeguard against the vagaries of popular taste, studios have banked increasingly on sequels and spinoffs, with diminishing returns. That hasn’t meant just cooking up new chapters in popular franchises; it means raiding the pop-culture waste bin to revive moldy, dimly remembered pieces of intellectual property.

Fox resurrected “Independence Day,” only to find that audiences had little interest in revisiting the alien-invasion yarn 20 years after it took the box office by storm. Likewise, Sony is trying to reinvigorate “Ghostbusters” three decades after the paranormal investigators hung up their proton packs. But, as Variety critic Peter Debruge noted in his review of the new film, which debuted to middling receipts, Sony’s female-driven relaunch “suffers from a disappointingly strong case of déjà vu” and lacks its own identity.

And that’s not all: Studios have other pricey redos in the works, including another “Blade Runner,” a remake of “Ben-Hur,” the umpteenth “Spider-Man” reboot, more “XXX” adventures, and a fourth “Beverly Hills Cop.” Spielberg also will return to the well, reuniting with a 73-year-old Harrison Ford on a fifth “Indiana Jones” film, despite the fact that the last one, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” represented a nadir for the series. Depending on your perspective, having Indy crack his bullwhip once more is either cinematic validation that seniors today lead longer, more active lives, or an indication of Spielberg and Ford’s refusal to leave the stage gracefully.

“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” and “London Has Fallen” are just a few of the high-profile sequels that performed worse than previous installments in their franchises.

In 2010, Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” topped $1 billion globally, but six years later, the follow-up “Alice Through the Looking Glass” has made barely a quarter of that, and could result in a $100 million writedown. Other flops, such as “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” “Ride Along 2,” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” raise questions about the knee-jerk impulse to sequelize: Were these characters so beloved, and were their stories so rich, that audiences demanded part two?

“It may be a fantasy of mine as a creative producer, but I hope this will remind the studios that you could make five really good movies for the cost of one sequel to a movie that didn’t merit a sequel,” says Matt Baer, producer of “Unbroken.”





The sequels that have the most trouble are those that try to hew too closely to the style and format of the originals, says one Hollywood producer. The second “Independence Day,” which merely upped the size of the alien invasion, left audiences cold. But Marvel/Disney’s “Captain America” franchise — which morphed over three episodes from war movie to paranoid conspiracy thriller to “Fast and Furious”-style buddy movie — kept viewers craving more.

The last “Star Wars” installment signaled to audiences months in advance that it would not just roll out Han Solo and Princess Leia again and hope for the best. This fresh take was announced in the trailer when a Storm Trooper not only pulled off his mask (itself a novelty), but also revealed a new character, played by John Boyega, showing the franchise’s commitment to more diversity in casting.

Yet such new thinking has been the exception. Instead of pulling back with their sequels, studios are plowing ahead, announcing follow-ups even before a first film hits theaters. Lionsgate, for instance, plans to make seven “Power Rangers” movies — never mind that audiences won’t get a peek at the rebooted version of the Mighty Morphin team until 2017.

After coming down with a case of Marvel envy, Warner Bros. unveiled a sprawling DC Comics cinematic universe, scheduled to deliver up to two superhero films a year through 2020. But things got off to a rocky start after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” bowed to withering reviews and tepid fan reception. (The film did gross $873 million worldwide, though some say it needed to do more to justify the creation of sequels.) Now, the studio must retune the engine in midflight, promising to fix tonal issues on “Justice League,” its 2017 answer to “The Avengers.”

Universal has been deeply engaged in its own universe-building. The studio has tapped Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to oversee the creation of intersecting monster movies featuring the likes of the Mummy and Dracula. Those films will begin rolling out next year.

As Disney proved with Marvel, the rewards for getting it right can be limitless.

Hits spawn toy lines, theme-park rides, stage shows, and the untold riches that come with success. However, the costs associated with launching these franchises is ever escalating, and the dangers of making a false move can be cataclysmic.


INCOME INEQUALITY


All is not equal at the box office. Fewer movies now account for a greater proportion of ticket sales. In 2015, five films were responsible for a staggering 25% of ticket sales. As media analyst Doug Creutz noted in a recent report, the top five films from 2000 to 2014 averaged 16% of grosses.

This year, the trend of a higher concentration of box-office wealth is continuing. When a film hits, the rewards are huge. Halfway through 2016, six films have topped $300 million domestically; that’s double the number that hit that milestone in all of 2014.

But as the highs get higher, the lows get lower. Though 2015 saw the two biggest domestic openings in history — the $248 million bow of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the $209 million debut by “Jurassic World” — it also included some of the lowest-grossing wide-release bows in history. “Victor Frankenstein,” “Burnt,” “We Are Your Friends,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and “Rock the Kasbah” rank among the worst debuts for films released on more than 2,000 screens. This year, “Hardcore Henry,” a point-of-view thriller that sparked a bidding war at the Toronto Film Festival, joined their ranks.

The income gap is being felt in another way. Disney spent more than $15 billion to snap up Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, giving the company the rights to Iron Man, “The Incredibles,” Luke Skywalker, and scores of other iconic characters. That pop culture arsenal has allowed Disney to dwarf its rivals.

“They’ve had hit after hit this year,” says Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “It’s incumbent on the other studios to up their game.”

Disney is responsible for four of the year’s five highest-grossing films. It has crossed the $5 billion mark at the box office at a record clip. And the Burbank studio’s revenues tower over those of its big studio brethren: The company has gobbled up 31.3% of domestic market share. Its closest competitor, 20th Century Fox, commands roughly half that, with 16.9% of ticket sales.

If Disney were to rename its animated classic after the current studio scene, it would be “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs,” Creutz quips, counting Lionsgate with the five other major studios.

That raises questions about whether the business can continue to sustain this many studios. At the Sun Valley media conference earlier this month, Barry Diller, the former Fox and Paramount Pictures chief, predicted that the movie industry will soon experience consolidation. “It will contract,” he said.

“With social media, the reaction time is instantaneous. If kids don’t like it, word spreads.”
BUD MAYO, CARMIKE CINEMAS

Each studio has the incentive to follow the formula of making sequels and tentpole films like Disney, even though, collectively, the strategy means further cannibalization, since audiences won’t support the surfeit of big films coming to the cineplex, Creutz says.

He argues that by making a narrow range of films, the studios “have gotten themselves in the position that they are in, and really constrained the interest of the audience to go to the movies at all. They are essentially wrecking their own economics.”


SHRINKING MOVIE STARS


It’s lonely on the A-list. As the business focuses on comic-book movies featuring masked avengers, the clout of the men and women who save the planet on screen has diminished. The club of actors and actresses who can open a movie with their name above the title has plunged in recent years. It’s a group in the single digits, one whose members include Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Downey Jr., and, maybe, Tom Cruise and Will Smith. With the exception of Lawrence, these actors are middle-aged and have been in the public eye since the 1980s or ’90s.

The bloodletting has continued in recent months. Johnny Depp’s days of commanding $20 million a picture evaporated when “Alice Through the Looking Glass” flatlined. Pairing Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys” and sending them on an extensive media tour failed to excite people about the R-rated comedy. And Matthew McConaughey’s McConaissance wasn’t powerful enough to rescue “Free State of Jones.”

From “Dances With Wolves” to “Reds” to “The Passion of the Christ,” the history of the movie business is rich with instances of stars using their box-office prowess to bankroll challenging films that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day. Without star clout to get passion projects made, studios aren’t taking big swings. That means many of the types of movies that have been held in the highest regard are nearly impossible to will into existence.

“Studios aren’t making the kinds of films they made a decade ago, the ones that skewed toward adults,” says Celine Rattray, an executive producer on “American Honey” and a producer on “The Kids Are Alright.”

Rattray cites “Eye in the Sky,” the drone thriller with Helen Mirren that became an art-house hit, as an example of a business in transition. “I could have seen a studio making that 10 years ago,” she says. “Now it has to be financed independently.”


CHINA RISING?


The Chinese movie business has been a source of comfort within the industry’s challenges. New theater construction and a burgeoning middle class have fueled explosive growth in the country, pushing ticket sales up nearly 50% last year. At some point in 2017, China is expected to pass the U.S. as the world’s largest market for film.

That’s a sign of the increasingly globalized nature of the business. But studios are ambivalent about China’s rise. After all, Hollywood companies are getting only a small cut of the riches. Last year, China’s ticket sales hit $6.8 billion, but that was driven largely by local productions. Even though foreign films — including those that Hollywood exports to China — racked up $2.6 billion, the Chinese government maintains such tight restrictions on outside content that studios received only 25% of receipts (half of what they get in the United States). That means their share of that record-shattering year was just $650 million.


THE SKY MAY NOT BE FALLING (YET)

But there is hope. After a bruising start to summer, ticket sales have begun to rebound. “The Secret Life of Pets” soared to a $104.4 million debut, and “Suicide Squad” and “Jason Bourne” could yet lift revenues, ending the popcorn season on a high note.

Their success will lift spirits, but the movie industry’s issues are more systemic. It faces shifting tastes, increased competition, and a business model that seems to have been built for a different age. Breaking out of the rut will require bold, persistent experimentation, and a willingness to embrace fresh ideas. Of course, that’s only possible with a wider range of films.

 

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