Friday, June 03, 2005

Clearing out the DWEEB odds-n-ends

EDITOR'S NOTE: IF I'M A GOOD GIRL, AND I EAT MY PEAS (METAPHORIC PEAS...MEANING NON-STAR WARS DWEEBLOGGING), I GET TO ADD STAR WARS ITEMS TO THE DWEEBING.

BUT PEAS FIRST (GIVE PEAS A CHANCE?)

SORRY......

HODGPODGING IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

SERENITY/FIREFLY:
Creator of TV's FIREFLY and its upcoming movie, SERENITY -- Joss Whedon, has penned a prequel comic series, based in part on an animated project that never got off the ground. The three-issue Dark Horse Serenity miniseries hits comic shops on July 6. EDITOR'S NOTE: ADRIAN AT 3RD P...SAVE ME A COPY OF THIS ONE?

"We had talked about doing an animated Serenity prequel, because Universal was into that," Whedon said in an interview. "Brett Matthews [Whedon's comic co-writer] and I worked on a story, and then Universal decided not to go ahead with the project. We thought, 'Well, we have exactly the story we want to tell, and it's almost like a prequel to the Serenity movie.' And so
we said, 'Comics might be the place to tell this story.'"


The Serenity comics tell the story of a heist gone wrong and old enemies out for revenge. Along the way Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (played in the film by Nathan Fillion) finds himself the target of a conspiracy between government and mercenary forces, and Reynolds' ragtag crew must try to unite behind their compromised leader. The comics will feature art by Will Conrad and Laura Martin. Each issue will also feature three different covers by such top artists as John Cassaday,
J.G. Jones, Bryan Hitch, Joe Quesada, Josh Middleton and Jo Chen. Whedon said that it was a challenge to bring the Firefly/Serenity universe to the printed page.

"You want everybody who has never seen the show to be able to enter this universe and get these characters," Whedon said. "But the big challenge was to find a compelling reason to put this between covers. We wanted to tell an adventure about these people that doesn't just say, 'They did this, and then they shot at these guys.' We needed a story that would let you know something about these characters that you might not already know."

Will there be future Serenity comics? "It all depends," Whedon said. "The comic is kind of a bridge between the TV show and the movie. For the truly faithful, this comic will take them from one place to the other. Hopefully it will be fun for those who never got into the TV show and don't know much about the movie. If the film does well, then there might be interest in more comics. If the movie doesn't do so well, and the comic is a big hit, that might be the place where the Serenity story will be told from now on."

The big-screen Serenity, which Whedon wrote and directed, hits theaters on Sept. 30.

Jerry Goldsmith Film Music DVD Due Out This Month
Music from the Movies is proud to announce the DVD release of Film Music Masters: Jerry Goldsmith.

The 1995 documentary will go on sale on May 30th on DVD for the first time, with two and a half hours of bonus material. The project has been two years in the making, during which time both Jerry Goldsmith and Fred Karlin (composer and director of the original documentary, released on VHS in 1995) tragically passed away.

The DVD features the original 70-minute documentary, directed by Award-winning composer Karlin, filmed in 1994, which chronicles Goldsmith’s career with film and music clips and contributions from his family (father, wife and son Joel, etc), directors (Paul Verhoeven, Franklin Schaffner, Richard Donner, Curtis Hanson, etc) and colleagues (Arthur Morton, Alexander Courage, etc). The doc also shows Goldsmith at work on Curtis Hanson’s film THE RIVER WILD.

In addition there are a number of special bonus features exclusive to the DVD:

Extended interviews with: Bruce Botnick, Recording Mixer (25 mins) Ken Hall, Music Editor (32 mins) Alexander Courage, Orchestrator (14 mins) Jo Ann Kane, Music Copyist (8 mins) Sandy De Crescent, Orchestra Contractor (9 mins) Arthur Morton, Orchestrator (11 mins)

Special feature: 60 minutes of extended scoring session footage from THE RIVER WILD. Watch Goldsmith rehearse and record 3 cues, working with the musicians and reviewing the film with director Curtis Hanson in the recording booth.

The DVD will be available to buy exclusively from the musicfromthemovies.com online shop from 30th May. It will be shipped from the United States, courtesy of Screen Archives Entertainment.

The release is limited to 1500 copies priced £19.95 each. The DVD is Region Free and will play on any NTSC compatible player.

Narnia Soundtrack Conundrum
Walt Disney Studios and EMI Music have paired up to produce not one but four separate soundtracks for the upcoming adaptation of C.S. Lewis' THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE COW ISN'T EVEN OUT OF THE BARN YET, AND THEY'RE MILKING IT TO DEATH. (POOR BESSIE)

One disc will feature mainstream Christian music artists, another will feature pop and rock acts, a third will provide the score and theme song, written by Harry Gregson-Williams, and the final disc is designed for children. The decision was struck to broaden appeal of the project for both religious and secular sects. EDITOR'S NOTE: 'SECULAR' SECT? IS THAT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE? A CULT? THE FORCE? WHAT?!

Mitchell Leib, President of Music and Soundtracks for Walt Disney Pictures, said that the unprecedented move ranks as the most ambitious rollout of film music he has participated in. "I would have to say that for both the company and for me personally, this is clearly the broadest breadth of music merchandising that we've ever been involved in," Leib said. EDITOR'S NOTE: MOOOO.....

Walt Disney Records will produce the official Chronicles soundtrack and will produce the soundtrack for young tots. EMI will work with Disney and Walden Media, who co-produced the film, to develop the Christian and pop-rock soundtracks. No names have been announced regarding participants.

The discs will roll out on separate dates, and begin premiering singles and music videos as soon as August, before the film's release Dec. 9th.

Despite the impending glut of media attention Disney and Walden hope the releases will net the film, Walden Media VP of Motion Picture Music Lindsay Fellows said their first priority is maintaining the integrity of Lewis' vision: "EMI's team understands this and their musical contributions will have a major impact on his legacy and this amazing film."

Crowe Does Commentary for GLADIATOR
The Hollywood Reporter has announced that DreamWorks is readying an extras-packed "expanded" edition DVD of GLADIATOR which will include 17 minutes of additional footage as well as commentary from Russell Crowe.

The new DVD will include such special features as Scott's storyboard sketches, a feature-length documentary on how the filmmakers had to digitally salvage Oliver Reed's final performance as Proximo after the actor died during filming, and interviews with filmmakers detailing the story's historical origins and its transition from script to screen. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S ONE THING FOR A 20TH ANNIVERSARY 'SPECIAL EDITION' THING. OR WHEN PETER JACKSON ANNOUNCES IN ADVANCE THAT HE'S DOING AN EARLY, THEATER-VERSION RELEASE AND THEN A LATER EXTENDED VERSION.

BUT WITH THIS SORT OF THING, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO BUY A DVD? IF YOU LIKE A MOVIE AND WANT IT FOR YOUR COLLECTION, YOU WANT THE BEST VERSION. IT'S ONE THING FOR UNCLE GEORGE TO COMPLETELY REMASTER SOMETHING EVERY 10 YEARS. IT'S ANOTHER FOR THESE WANNABE'S TO TRY TO COME BACK TO THE WELL OVER AND OVER. CRASS AND GREEDY. GIVE US THE GOOD VERSION UPFRONT!

POWER TO THE (DWEEB) PEOPLE!!!

This three-disc set will be released on August 23 with a retail price of $25.

Back to the FUTURE
Agenda Pictures is currently producing a new documentary on the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy. The film, directed by Darold Crotzer, features over 20 new interviews with cast and crew members and is being made to commemorate the series' 20th Anniversary, which is being celebrated this year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NOSTALGIA FOR THE 80'S.....CUTE. MISGUIDED AND A LITTLE SAD. BUT CUTE.

LOOKING BACK AT THE FUTURE is nearing completion and will be finished later this year.

Release Window for DVDs Shrinks
Films Rush to DVD

Studios are starting to release DVDs for recently released films quicker than ever.

Paramount Pictures has scheduled SAHARA for release on August 30th, just 144 days after its big-screen release. A Paramount spokesman said, "The fact of the matter is, the closer a video release is to a film's theatrical opening, the higher the awareness and, generally, the better the sales." EDITOR'S NOTE: IN OTHER WORDS, WE ALL HAVE A.D.D., SO THEY'D BETTER GET THE DURN THING RELEASED BEFORE WE FORGET IF WE CARE.

Several other "underperforming titles" including MISS CONGENIALITY 2 and XXX: STATE OF THE UNION are coming to DVD later this summer. While 20th Century Fox's FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX will hit stores on DVD just 74 days after its December release. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND ROTS? WHEN DOES THAT COME OUT???!!!

AND SPEAKING OF WATCHING DVDS.....

With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home
By
LAURA M. HOLSON
LOS ANGELES, May 26 - Matthew Khalil goes to the movies about once a month, down from five or six times just a few years ago. Mr. Khalil, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, prefers instead to watch old movies and canceled television shows on DVD.

He also spends about 10 hours a week with friends playing the video game Halo 2. And he has to study, which means hours on the Internet and reading at least a book a week.

"If I want to watch a movie I can just rent it on DVD," he said. "I want to do things that conform to my time frame, not someone else's."EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL WELL AND GOOD ,BUT NO BIG SCREEN TV TAKES THE PLACE OF GOING TO THE MOVIE THEATER. (SPEAKING AS ONE WITH A GOOD HOME ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM, MUCH AS I LOVE HAVING THAT, IT IS NOT THE SAME EXPERIENCE AS SEEING A FIRST-RUN FLICK IN A CINEPLEX).

Like Mr. Khalil, many Americans are changing how they watch movies - especially young people, the most avid moviegoers. For 13 weekends in a row, box-office receipts have been down compared with a year ago, despite the blockbuster opening of the final "Star Wars" movie. And movie executives are unsure whether the trend will end over the important Memorial Day weekend that officially begins the summer season. EDITOR'S NOTE: LATE BLOGGING ALLOWS FOR HINDSIGHT....THE TREND CONTINUED DOWN. SLIGHTLY, BUT DOWN.

Meanwhile, sales of DVD's and other types of new media continue to surge.

With box-office attendance sliding, so far, for the third consecutive year, many in the industry are starting to ask whether the slump is just part of a cyclical swing driven mostly by a crop of weak movies or whether it reflects a much bigger change in the way Americans look to be entertained - a change that will pose serious new challenges to Hollywood. EDITOR'S NOTE: A LITTLE OF BOTH. AND THE COST FACTORS TO GOING OUT, COUPLED WITH THE IMPROVEMENTS IN RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE HOME THEATER.

Studios have made more on DVD sales and licensing products than on theatrical releases for some time. Now, technologies like TiVo and video-on-demand are keeping even more people at home, as are advanced home entertainment centers, with their high-definition television images on large flat screens and multichannel sound systems.

"It is much more chilling if there is a cultural shift in people staying away from movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the Exhibitor Relations Company, a box-office tracking firm. "Quality is a fixable problem."

But even if the quality of movies can be improved, Mr. Dergarabedian said, the fundamental problem is that "today's audience is a much tougher crowd to excite. They have so many entertainment options and they have gotten used to getting everything on demand."

Last year Americans spent an average of 78 hours watching videos and DVD's, a 53 percent increase since 2000, according to a study by the Motion Picture Association of America, the film industry's trade group. DVD sales and rentals soared 676.5 percent during the same period, and 60 percent of all homes with a television set now also have a DVD player. DVD sales and rentals alone were about $21 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.

Discs are now released just four months after a film's debut, and the barrage of advertising that accompanies the opening in movie theaters serves ultimately as a marketing campaign for the DVD, where the studios tend to make most of their profits.

By contrast, movie attendance has increased 8.1 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to the association. Many in the movie industry point to that figure as a sign of overall health. But attendance was down in three of those five years, and the sharp increase in attendance in 2002 is attributed to the overwhelming success of "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones."EDITOR'S NOTE: SO DWEEBS ARE THE ONLY HOPE FOR MOVIE THEATERS?

More recently, the number of moviegoers has dropped, sliding 4 percent in 2003, 2 percent in 2004 and 8 percent so far in 2005.

Time spent on the Internet has soared 76.6 percent and video game playing has increased 20.3 percent, according to the association. Last year, consumers bought $6.2 billion worth of video game software, an increase of 8 percent from 2003, according to the NPD Group, which tracks video game sales.

This does not mean that the $9.5 billion theatrical movie business is anywhere near its last gasp. It still plays a crucial role for the studios in generating excitement. But movie makers recognize they have to be more on their toes if they want to recapture their core audience.

"There are a lot of distractions," said Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 2003 as well as the successful "CSI" television franchise. "You need to pull them away from their computers. You need to pull them away from their video games." EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A PRETTY FUNNY COMMENT, IF YOU THINK ABOUT. SINCE AREN'T MOVIES THEMSELVES A 'DISTRACTION'?

Consider Matt Cohler, a 28-year-old vice president at Thefacebook.com, a Silicon Valley company that creates Internet student directories on college campuses. Mr. Cohler likes movies, but lately, he said, little has grabbed his attention.

He liked the new "Star Wars" and a documentary about the collapse of Enron. But of the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn big-budget thriller, "The Interpreter," Mr. Cohler said, "It was only O.K." He has few plans to see anything else this summer, and said he was content to spend his free time online or writing e-mail.

"I feel quite strongly that, with a few exceptions, the quality of movies has been declining the last few years," he said. EDITOR'S NOTE: BS. THIS IS REGURGITATING SOMETHING HE READ IN NEWSWEEK OR PEOPLE, NO DOUBT. MOVIES ARE GETTING BETTER. AND WORSE. AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY GOOD ONES, AND FAR TOO MANY OF ALL CALIBER TO MAKE SUCH A BLANKET STATEMENT VALID.

Amy Pascal, the chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's motion picture group, said, "We can give ourselves every excuse for people not showing up - change in population, the demographic, sequels, this and that - but people just want good movies." EDITOR'S NOTE: BLAHBLAHBLAH. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? NOTHING. WHAT IS A 'GOOD' MOVIE TO ME, MIGHT NOT BE TO YOU. YES WE ALL WANT 'GOOD MOVIES'. BUT THAT REQUIRES VARIETY. WITH 200+ CABLE CHANNELS, PEOPLE ARE USED TO BE CATERED TO RATHER SPECIFICALLY. WHICH MEANS THE SPLINTERING OF TASTES, WHICH MEANS WHAT EQUALS SUCCESS AT THE BOX OFFICE MIGHT NEED TO BE RE-THOUGHT BY THE STUDIOS.

She predicted that "Bewitched," a romantic comedy about a producer who unwittingly hires a "real" witch for the lead role in a remake of the television show, would have a broad appeal. "If it was a straight-ahead remake of the show," she said, "we would have been guilty of doing the ordinary."EDITOR'S NOTE: LET'S NOT HAVE ANY KIND OF GENERAL DISCUSSION OR ANY ATTEMPT AT DEPTH OF THOUGHT. LET'S THROW IN A PLUG FOR WHATEVER YOUR LATEST 'FLAVOR' IS. SNICKER....

Jill Nightingale, 37, who works at IGN Entertainment in ad sales, is the type of moviegoer - older, female and important to studios - that "Bewitched" should appeal to. But video games increasingly have taken up time she otherwise might spend watching television or going to the movies. The last two theater showings she said she attended were "Star Wars" and "Sideways," which she viewed in December.

She plays a video game for 30 minutes each night before bed. Two weeks ago, five friends joined her at her San Francisco condo to drink wine and play "Karaoke Revolutions" on her Sony PlayStation, where the would-be American Idols had a competition, belting out everything from Top 40 hits to show tunes. EDITOR'S NOTE: YA PITY HER NEIGHBORS, HUH?

"Party games are great for dates," she said. "A few years ago I would have been at a bar or at a movie." EDITOR'S NOTE: DATES? WHAT BE THAT?

But what could well have the greatest impact on theater attendance is the growing interest in digital home entertainment centers, which deliver something much closer to a movie-style experience than conventional television sets.

Brian Goble, 37, a video game entrepreneur, said he had not been to a movie theater in two years, except to see "Star Wars" with his wife and four friends. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE FILM BIZ IS GONNA MISS UNCLE GEORGE, HUH? THE ONLY THING BIG ENOUGH TO GET EVERYONE IN THIS ARTICLE OFF OF THEIR SOFAS HAS BEEN "STAR WARS". THAT ISN'T WHAT THE ARTICLE IS ABOUT, BUT IT IS TELLING, ISN'T IT?Instead, he stays at his home in a Seattle suburb, where he has turned the basement into a home theater with a 53-inch high-definition television screen and large surround-sound speakers. He no longer has to deal with parking and jostling crowds, he said, a relief now that he has two children.

" It's really just not as comfortable and fun as being at home," he said. "You can pause, go to the bathroom, deal with a crying kid."

Mr. Goble rarely watches video-on-demand ("The quality is poor," he said.) Instead he has an account with Netflix and orders his movies online. When the Nicholas Cage movie "National Treasure" was released last November, for instance, he added it to his Netflix list so he would be sent a copy when it came out on DVD.

His prime regret about seeing the final installment of "Star Wars" was that he could not watch it at home. "The only reason to go to the theater these days," he said, "is because it is a movie you must see now." EDITOR'S NOTE: I REST MY CASE. (AND SOON WE'LL HAVE ROTS AT HOME, AND WE'LL NEVER NEED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE AGAIN!!!)

AND SPEAKING OF THE COMING MOVIE-THEATER ENDTIMES....

Closing windows make exhibs hot
By Nicole Sperling

If Mark Cuban has his way, theatrical distribution may never be the same.

2929 Entertainment, the company Cuban founded with partner Todd Wagner, is determined to collapse the traditional distribution windows by simultaneously releasing films across theatrical, home video and cable.

But even though the experiment has barely begun, it already is running into steely opposition from theater owners across the country who are up in arms.EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL, DUH.

While 2929 announced late last month that it plans to produce and then release six Steven Soderbergh films on the three platforms simultaneously,EDITOR'S NOTE: SO WE'LL NOW HAVE THREE WAYS TO NOT CARE VERY MUCH FOR SODERBERGH. (THRICE THE ENNUI!) exhibitors already are saying they will refuse to play the director's new fare.

As the owner of two of those three distribution outlets -- it controls Landmark Theatres and the high-definition cable channel HDNet Movies -- 2929 has the ability to fulfill its agenda on a limited basis.

But if the company aspires to distribute Soderbergh's product beyond Landmark's 209 screens, it faces a formidable roadblock in that many commercial theaters have refused to play product that is released in other formats at the same time as it is offered to theaters.

"Our policy will continue to be that we don't exhibit films that are already in the market on DVD or pay-per-view," said Mike Campbell, president and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. theater chain. "We believe the plan is ill-conceived and won't receive much support from the traditional exhibition or distribution community."

Said Tony Karasotes, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Karasotes Showplace Theatres: "I just think it's a wrong-headed approach. The way to properly distribute film is to use the traditional sequential pattern set up by the studios. EDITOR'S NOTE: SPOKEN LIKE A GENUINE DINOSAUR. THIS MAY STILL BE THE BEST WAY, BUT ITS SUPREMACY AND EFFICACY ARE SLIPPING (SEE PREVIOUS ARTICLE). TIME TO OPEN YOUR MIND TO WHAT ELSE MIGHT BE WORAKABLE. BEFORE YOU GO THE WAY OF THE DODO. (2929's plan) is ass-backwards, and I don't want to encourage that kind of approach because I own motion picture theaters."

AMC Theatres, Loews Cineplex, Cinemark USA, Pacific Theatres, National Amusements and Wisconsin-based Marcus Theatres, among others, all have declined to play films with simultaneous release in the home market.

"We just have to show them results," Cuban said. "By pricing the DVDs at a premium for day-and-date delivery, I think we help create a better value for in-theater viewing. By leveraging day-and-date, we can spend more on P&A, which should also help."

Soderbergh's first announced project is "Bubble," a murder mystery set in a small Ohio town and cast with nonactors. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH GOOD. ANOTHER UNION TO YELL AT THEM!

If the six films Soderbergh creates for 2929 all resemble that model, they might well receive little distribution beyond Landmark's art houses. At least on paper, "Bubble" sounds like an experiment in the vein of the director's R-rated 2002 release "Full Frontal." Even though that film had the benefit of such stars as Julia Roberts, David Duchovny and Blair Underwood, it grossed just $2.5 million after bowing on 209 screens.

"It's really a break for all of us that these films are being released by 2929 and not a Warner Bros., which has to make Soderbergh happy because they have the next 'Ocean's Eleven,' " said one exhibitor at a leading chain who asked not to be named.

Theater owners, of course, have a vested interest in the current distribution model; in many cases they have signed 20-year leases, taken in cash infusions from enthusiastic investors and turned their popcorn-selling, seat-filling operations into profitable businesses.EDITOR'S NOTE: PROFITABLE? NOT LATELY. NOT MOST OF THEM.

But even though 2929's proposal threatens to upend a system that guarantees theaters to be the exclusive venue for new film titles, the vision of the future also has a certain logic of its own.The company first tried its hand at the model, albeit in a more limited fashion, last month with the release of the Magnolia Film documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Produced by HDNet, 2929's low-budget film production arm, and distributed by Magnolia Pictures, the Alex Gibney-driected film opened in Landmark Theatres and had an exclusive day-and-date release on the HDNet channel on DirecTV. "Enron" has earned $2 million theatrically since its April 22 bow, a respectable gross for a limited-release documentary.

Cuban said HDNet subscriber additions won't be available until next month, but the executive said the response to "Enron" has been great. "From subs, from people who told us they just subscribed, and the continued boxoffice success of the movie will only continue to benefit us," he said in an e-mail.

And while the film originally opened in three Landmark Theatres, it has since expanded to other circuits, including Los Angeles-based Laemmle Theatres.

"We felt that HDNet didn't have a significant market penetration," Laemmle Theatres president Greg Laemmle said. "It wasn't like going day-and-date with cable or DVD, and therefore we felt the boxoffice wouldn't be negatively impacted."

While Laemmle was willing to experiment with a film simultaneously bowing with a day-and-date premiere on HDNet, he won't go down the path of exhibiting titles that also are available on home video. "It's a whole different ball of wax," Laemmle said. "A lot of people have DVD players, and a lot of people who see art films have DVD players. I have no interest in encouraging that sort of thing. That said, if someone shows it can work, I don't own that decision, and we'll choose to re-evaluate as the situation demands."EDITOR'S NOTE: THERE YA GO. IN THIS DAY AND AGE, NEVER SAY NEVER.

Other theater chains might be forced to re-evalute the situation as well. At the Milken Institute's Global Conference in Beverly Hills last month, studio heads admitted that the cost of piracy is forcing them to rethink the time between a theatrical release and its home video availability.

Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros., predicted that in the future "your premiere will be in Wal-Mart."EDITOR'S NOTE: SHUDDER.

While many distributors are paying lip service to the exhibitors, agreeing with them on the dangers of collapsing traditional windows, some of them actually are looking forward to 2929's test of its strategy.

"It's going to be an interesting test," said one distributor who declined to be named. "On the issue of piracy, it would certainly help eliminate some of the concern about the amount of money we spend trying to protect against piracy. Marketing costs are another thing no one has been able to control. If we go video, theatrical and pay-per-view all at once with a well-known title, you could bring in $100 million in one night, similar to a (pay-per-view) fight." EDITOR'S NOTE: SO HENNY PENNY...THE SKY MIGHT NOT BE FALLING AFTER ALL?

Shari Redstone, president of Boston-based National Amusements Inc., disagreed. "It's a short-sided approach -- not just for exhibition but for the people making these decisions. It will diminish the total revenue that can be generated by any one product. People do want to see movies in different venues: You see it in a theater, you buy it, you rent it, you watch it on TV. When you start to merge these windows, the total revenue starts to go away. You may get a big hit on the opening weekend, but it doesn't go further."You also reduce the 'wow factor' of seeing a movie in a theater," she added. "If it's just seen in the home, you decrease the excitement and energy for entertainment and the movies."EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL PROBABLY VERY TRUE. BUT THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING. BEST TO EXPERIMENT WITH WAYS TO DEAL WITH THESE CHANGES. (BETTER TO PULL THE CART, THAN GET DRAGGED ALONG BEHIND IT).

Cuban doesn't seem all that concerned with exhibition's opposition. Added the billionaire, "If all else fails, we focus the movies we make towards the Landmark chain. If we are successful, we can lever that success and expand the chain."

One argument for 2929's approach is that it will reduce overall marketing costs, since all markets could be reached at once. However that scenario plays out, one marketing exec said that the challenge to bring consumers to the theater only will grow."The challenge will be to get these people to pony up the money to go to the theater when it's available everywhere else," said one studio marketing president who declined to be named. "We always hear from focus groups whether (they deem a movie) a rental or something they want to see in the theater. For most people it's a real financial decision, and there has to be a reason they need to see it in that environment. Releasing simultaneously on different platforms takes away a lot of that reason." EDITOR'S NOTE: IF THEY TRULY BELIEVE THIS, THEN THEY HAVE NO IDEA THE VALUE OF THE THEATER EXPERIENCE. AND IF THE OWNERS DON'T PUT A PREMIUM ON THE MOVIE-AUDITORIUM/GOING OUT THING, HOW THE HECK COULD THEY POSSIBLY DO THE MARKETING OF THAT EXPERIENCE JUSTICE? (WE MIGHT HAVE STUMBLED ON A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM?)

While Cuban and Wagner are pioneering the new model, other distributors want to see ongoing tests to determine whether the promised benefits -- curtailing piracy and lowering marketing costs -- outweigh any hits to theatrical revenue."It's a little premature, but somebody is going to do it," said one distributor who asked not to be named. "It's inevitable that the industry will move in this direction. It opens the opportunity for a bigger window while the bloom is still on the rose."

But for now, it's the exhibitors who are determined to keep things as they are. EDITOR'S NOTE: I HAVE A BUSINESS THAT'S SLOWLY GOING BANKRUPT. (THE MOVIE THEATER EXHIBITION BIZ).

BUT LET'S NOT CHANGE ANYTHING TO SEE IF WE CAN TURN THE TIDE. LET'S NOT EXPLORE NEW DISTRIBUTION WINDOWS.

LET'S NOT UPGRADE THE EXHIBIT TECHNOLOGY (AS UNCLE GEORGE HAS BEEN BEGGING THEM TO DO).

LET'S NOT MARKET THE THEATER, BUT SIT ON OUR DERRIERES AND LET ALL THE PROMOTION BE ABOUT THE FILMS (WHICH, WHEN YOU DON'T UPGRADE THE TECHNOLOGY OF PRESENTATION, ARE INCREASINGLY BETTER VIEWED ON UPDATED HOME THEATERS).

AND GOD FORBID WE DO ANYTHING TO RE-THINK OUR CONCESSION STANDS. (SOME OF WHICH HAVE HAD THE SAME POPCORN....I MEAN THE EXACT SAME BATCH...SITTING THERE SINCE JESUS WAS A SMALL CHILD).

BUT BY ALL MEANS LET'S RAISE THE PRICES.

AND WHINE. (WHINING IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT).

Vid game strike up to voters
By Jesse Hiestand
Ballots were mailed Tuesday to determine whether members of SAG and AFTRA want to go on strike against a group of leading video game companies.

Results of the referendum are expected to be announced June 7, about six days before the industry's final offer is set to expire.

The strike question has been put to the 1,900 SAG members and 1,000 AFTRA members who worked under the recently expired contract during the past three years.Union officials say a "yes" vote almost assuredly will lead to a strike over the industry's refusal to pay residuals for the use of actors' voices, likeness and performance in video games.

"The issue of profit-sharing is one of fundamental importance to the actors who work in video games and who make these products come alive through their performance," SAG spokesman Seth Oster said. "The time is long past for these companies to step up and give actors their fair share."

Still, the referendum was necessitated by a division that has developed in the unions.

A strike-authorization vote taken during negotiations -- and clearly intended as leverage -- was overwhelmingly approved by the few hundred members who attended the meetings in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. A subsequent vote taken after negotiations broke off May 13 signaled that members in New York and San Francisco no longer were in support of a strike, according to union officials.

Strike authorization now requires the support of 75% of the affected SAG members and 66.7% of AFTRA members.

Although the decision to strike will be made by only a small percentage of union members, it would prohibit any of SAG's 120,000 members and AFTRA's 80,000 members from working for the seven companies that were attempting to negotiate a new contract or for the 60 others who were signatories.

At the same time, the unions have jurisdiction over only 10%-15% of their members' work in the video game industry, leading to concern that a strike could jeopardize even that toehold.

Proponents of a strike argue that they always have had to fight to establish residuals in a new industry and that they tend to win when they fight.

In the event of a strike, the gaming companies have vowed to rely on nonunion talent in the short and long term.EDITOR'S NOTE: PICK ME, PICK ME! (OOO...BAD SCAB).

One of SAG/AFTRA's proposals was that residuals be paid only on games that sell more than 400,000 units, which they say would have been fewer than 30 titles in 2004.The companies' final offer includes a 35% wage increase as well as an additional 125% of compensation if a title is licensed for "remote delivery," like an online subscriber service, or if the performance will be re-used on another game. Those terms will be withdrawn or reduced if they are not accepted within 30 days of the May 13 breakdown in negotiations.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AND NOW.....A FEW TOTALLY RANDOM ITEMS. (AS IS THE WHOLE BLOG, I SUPPOSE....)

Keillor Tells E&P a Talk With Dave Barry Helped Lead to New TMS Column

Early one morning last year, humorists Garrison Keillor and Dave Barry were sharing a van as they headed to the airport from a Spokane, Wash., hotel."We were having a little conversation about newspaper columns, and I was telling Dave why he ought to keep doing his," Keillor recalled in an E&P phone interview. "He said, 'Why don't you do one?'"

Barry didn't take Keillor's advice, but Keillor took Barry's.

On July 3 -- about six months after Barry began an indefinite leave of absence from his Miami Herald/Tribune Media Services column -- Keillor will start writing a feature for TMS.

What approach will the host of radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" take in his weekly column?

"I'm not a pundit," replied the Minnesota-based humorist. "I'm not an authority on the Mideast, Congress, or taxation. I'm not a crusader or an apologist." Keillor said his feature will instead be "an odd amalgam" of the sensibility of local newspaper columnists -- who he called "real treasures" -- and national newspaper columnists as he discusses the big-picture meaning of "small current events."

When asked for an example of this approach, Keillor recalled recently standing in a South Dakota parking lot watching a woman from Los Angeles interacting with local residents. "She was taller than I, because she was wearing 8-inch heels, and she had atomic orange hair," said Keillor. Yet the woman and residents were interacting in an amicable way.The lesson for Keillor -- and what he might say if he wrote about this South Dakota scene in a column -- is that "this red-state, blue-state business is horse hockey. I find it irritating."

Keillor's politics lean more liberal than conservative. For instance, he's a big fan of progressive New York Times/New York Times News Service columnist Paul Krugman. But Keillor also admired the conservative Times column by William Safire that ended this winter.

The 1942-born Keillor reads the Times national edition and the Minneapolis Star Tribune every day, and also loves perusing other newspapers during his frequent travels. "I cannot begin a day without a newspaper in my hand," he said. When there's no newspaper outside his hotel-room door, or in the hotel's gift shop, or in a vending machine on a nearby street, Keillor goes roaming until he finds a store that sells one.As a longtime newspaper reader, Keillor knows what he likes and doesn't like about the medium. "A newspaper is the most efficient way to keep abreast of the news," he said. "You can read what interests you and skip the rest."

Keillor does think many newspapers these days "are too positive and upbeat on the mistaken assumption that that's what readers are looking for." He'd also like newspapers to run more of "what people really say" (rather than the prepared words of press conferences, speeches, and promotional interviews); more about what people actually eat (rather than fancy recipes); and more police reports."I'm continually fascinated by what people steal and what people do when they're drunk," confessed Keillor.EDITOR'S NOTE: LOL!!!

Given that the humorist can have his say during the weekly "Prairie Home Companion" radio show (which began in 1974), in books (he's authored more than a dozen), and in magazines (he writes periodically for Time and has also contributed to The New Yorker), why is Keillor doing a newspaper column?

One reason is length. "I love the short form," said Keillor. "On my radio show, I can use 5,000 words if I want. The newspaper column is 800 words. The beauty of it is the limitation of it."

Keillor has received offers to write a newspaper column in the past. One reason he turned them down was because syndicates told him such a feature wouldn't be that time-consuming. Writing the best that one can write isn't easy, Keillor said, and "takes as much time as it's going to take."EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL WHATEVER HE WRITES WILL SURELY BE WITTY AND ENTERTAINING AND INCITEFUL. (HERE'S HOPING HE'S CARRIED IN THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE)!

Dick Wolf Lays Down the Law, Keeps Order
By Alex Ben Block
A little more than a year ago, the union of NBC and Universal had to wait until one producer renegotiated his contract, which tied him to both partners in the merger. Of course, he wasn't just any producer. For two decades, Dick Wolf had been a mainstay of both Universal Studios and the Peacock Network. His "Law & Order" franchise was and still is central to the success of both companies.

A year later, Mr. Wolf isn't pleased.

Though he will have three "Law & Order" shows on NBC in the fall, the network's new schedule does not include his latest spinoff, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," which has been on only one season.

"I don't understand the decision. I've made that clear to anybody who has asked," Mr. Wolf said, his anger still smoldering more than a week after NBC announced its fall schedule in New York.

Mr. Wolf would like to remind NBC of its own history. In 1990, when the late, legendary Brandon Tartikoff, then head of the network, put the first "Law & Order" on the air, it wasn't an instant success. Mr. Tartikoff kept it on and nurtured it into a hit. That spawned a television empire. The most successful of the "Law & Order" shows at present is "Special Victims Unit."

"To have the history they [NBC] have to draw on," he mused last week, "this is the exact profile all the shows have had in their first year, and then they grow. ['Trial by Jury'] would have settled into that time slot very comfortably, I am quite certain."

Mr. Wolf says that by his count Kevin Reilly is the 31st head of programming with whom he has dealt. His count may be questionable, but there is no question Mr. Wolf has been a key to the success of NBC for two decades. For the most part he has great creative freedom. He has earned that trust.

That is why it seems likely NBC will eventually find a way to make him happy once again.

Already there are rumors. Though it isn't on the fall schedule, Mr. Wolf has heard through back-channel network sources that "Trial by Jury" may not be dead.

"I keep hearing tangentially the door is open," he said late last week, "but nobody's called me."EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT AN ODD AND INFANTILE BUSINESS. IF THEY DEAL WITH THEIR TOP GUY THIS WAY, CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT THEY DO TO THE LITTLE FOLKS?!

Mr. Wolf's logic is that the "Law & Order" shows make the company a lot of money, not just on the network, where they remain profitable even if the ratings have been down on two of the three remaining shows (the original and "Criminal Intent"), but also because they have proved extremely strong in reruns and on cable channels such as A&E (which lost the rights), TNT and the USA Network.

After his deal was renegotiated last year by NBC and Universal, he said it became more of a "partnership." Mr. Wolf thought the parties were in agreement. "Since everybody's in the same company and eating out of the same bowl, we should work together," he said. "The long-term planning is much more in agreement, which is to keep the shows on as long as possible."

Due to its Wolf-designed economic model, "Law & Order" doesn't have as big a problem with soaring star salaries as the show ages. Over time, star salaries soar and production costs mount.

On "Law & Order," the show is the star. While there may be recognizable performers, none stay on forever. "In its 16th year, 'Law & Order' on a cost basis is still less than most third- or fourth-year shows, because of the ensemble nature and the fact that we do things much more efficiently than most production companies. We know how to control costs," he said. "You're also dealing with stuff that was billed years ago. A lot of costs on new shows, in terms of getting it up and running, has all been taken care of."

Mr. Wolf likes to freshen up his casts, and by doing so keeps salaries under control. "The fact is on a revenue basis these shows are making more money than they ever have," Mr. Wolf said. "This is not a secret. In 2004 the three shows on the air generated more than a billion dollars in advertising revenue. Not many groups of shows that are part of network schedules generate that kind of revenue."

Mr. Wolf grew up around show business. His mother worked in TV publicity. His father was head of production at two ad agencies in the days when agencies produced many of the shows. He found his first success in advertising, where he authored lines like "Scope fights bad breath without medicine breath."He learned about branding by observing companies such as Procter & Gamble. Just as P&G can sell numerous versions of Crest toothpaste, his vision was to extend the brand of his franchise shows and sell it on multiple platforms on a global scale.

He moved west in 1977 and started writing for "Hill Street Blues" and "Miami Vice," which led him into producing. He has had flops, but Mr. Wolf has been able to build on his successes, spinning off more shows.

He is currently developing an untitled comedy for NBC, to be directed by the legendary James Burrows, whose touch has helped launch shows such as "Cheers" and "Two and a Half Men." It could be for midseason on NBC.

"When you come out of advertising you understand the programming," Mr. Wolf said. "Television is free because of advertising. Commercial television is merely a life-support system for commercials."

That is cause for concern these days, Mr. Wolf added, because of new technology such as TiVo: "It affects everything. It's one of those things that is an increase in technology that may not accrue to the benefit of the people who are pushing for it right now."

That doesn't mean Mr. Wolf is ready to give up on network TV. He said the success of "Desperate Housewives" proves broadcast remains vital. "The thing I found exhilarating about this season is that it shows once again that the imminent demise of network television has been overreported," he said. "There are troublesome things on the horizon, from TiVo to video-on-demand. How do you monetize this? What are advertisers going to do? But it's still out there. There's still no other way to consistently reach 20 [million] or 30 million people at a pop."

"And the good news," he added, "is when good shows are on, even at the same time, people will come. It's still the 800-pound gorilla, and on some nights it can be the 900-pound gorilla again."EDITOR'S NOTE: A SHARP BLEND OF REAL-WORLD SAVVY, WITH A NICE SOUPCON OF OPTIMISM. BRAVO MR. WOLF!

Among producers, Mr. Wolf remains one of TV's 900-pound gorillas. Whoever is on screen in his ensemble shows, the real star is Mr. Wolf himself.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AND SPEAKING OF CREEPY ADVERTISING TRUTHS....


Selling From the Grave
Company Extending Its Q Likability Ratings to Dead Performers Whose Appeal May Be Useful to Advertisers
By Wayne Friedman
After 40 years of giving its noted Q scores to alive and kicking television performers, research company Marketing Evaluations will tabulate scores for actors who aren't so robust.

Now culling research for dead performers, the Long Island, N.Y.-based company is calling its new product Dead Q.
EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE. OUCH.

It's a research tool designed to help marketers and TV programmers, who are increasingly using performers of the past-such as John Wayne and Fred Astaire-in commercials or attached to new programming.

Increasingly, said Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations, companies are using new video technical insertion capabilities to use performers from the past. In the late '90s Fred Astaire could be found dancing in commercials with the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner.EDITOR'S NOTE: NOTHING MAKES ME WANT TO VACUUM MY HOUSE QUITE LIKE A DANCING DEAD GUY. (OH BE REAL. NOTHING MAKES ME WANT TO VACUUM MY HOUSE).

Mr. Levitt added that for cable networks such as Turner Classic Movies, AMC and Fox, which schedule older movies, Dead Q can be a helpful research tool.

For instance, Dead Q could help a network decide which actor to feature in a Friday-night movie marathon.

"There are infinite possibilities for something like The Biography Channel," Mr. Levitt said. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL...NOT 'INFINITE'. (UNLESS YOU START MAKING STUFF UP).

Marketing Evaluations also thinks the U.S. Postal Service could be a source of business, since the Postal Service releases collectible stamps bearing the likenesses of deceased celebrities.

Dead Q is the latest in a series of products the company has released.

It has number of products evaluating TV shows, products and sporting events. Its longest-running product is its original service, now called Performer Q, which began in 1964.

Performer Q surveys twice a year the recognizability and likability of more than 1,700 performers. The company has a panel of more than 40,000 homes, representing over 100,000 people, who respond to mailed questionnaires.

Mr. Levitt said the highest score ever was for Bill Cosby, who garnered a 70 score (out of 100) in the 1980s.

More recently movie star Tom Hanks has been regularly sitting at the top of the list with a 50-plus score.

Likability Score

Companies can benefit from using Q scores to make an educated guess about a celebrity's potential as a marketing tool.

For instance, Mr. Levitt said "ER" star Noah Wyle had a low recognition score but a high likability score when the series first began. That could have been valuable opportunity for a marketer to sign a Mr. Wyle as a spokesperson, exploiting his likability without having to pay him a large fee.

Recognition doesn't always follow likeability. For instance, though recognition of Martha Stewart is high, her likability score is in the "single digits," Mr. Levitt said.

For the most part, creative executives at ad agencies use Q scores to determine whether to hire a spokesperson for their clients' products.

TV programmers are the next biggest clients for Q scores, since casting directors will use the data to make decisions.

And media agencies use the research.Brad Adgate, senior VP and corporate research director of Horizon Media, wonders if Q data is necessary these days. "A lot of people may feel they can do this research on their own," he said. "You can go online and find out about people pretty easy. We live in a information age with a celebrity-obsessed culture right now."Mr. Adgate, though, liked the Dead Q product idea. "That's interesting. The one thing about dead people is that their image really isn't going to change. They are not going to suddenly get busted for spousal abuse or drunk driving."EDITOR'S NOTE: OH GIVE IT TIME. ONCE THE AD RESIDUALS START ROLLING IN, THOSE DEAD FOLKS ARE SURE TO START DRINKIN AND WHORIN.

Lyle Schwartz, senior VP of media research for Group M's Mediaedge:cia, said he uses the Q scores perhaps two or three times a year when evaluating talent on TV shows that his clients may purchase."We try to figure out who would be good to draw an audience," he said, "and who would be good as a lead [performer] in a program. For some performers you look for a trend, to see whether someone is wearing out their welcome."

Mr. Schwartz said some agencies may want to do their own research, but the key problem is in getting demographics, which is something Q scores offer.Marketing Evaluations' new products look to serve these specific research niches.

For instance, some years ago the company started a Q product for cable programming to evaluate the worth of specific cable shows. Mr. Levitt said with many cable shows getting tiny and indistinguishable Nielsen Media Research 0.1 and 0.2 ratings, Q scores offer deeper analysis for TV marketers and programmers. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO MANY PEOPLE WITH MBAS, SO LITTLE COMMON SENSE. WHAT A SAD, SILLY BUSINESS I'M TRYING TO ESCAPE. (BUT THAT 'DEAD Q' TITLE IS GOING TO MAKE ME GIGGLE ALLLLLL DAY)!

MAY I GO BACK TO STAR WAS NOW? PEAS ALL DONE?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Karla!! said...

Too much dweebing ... all at once ... ferret shock.

Anyway, when it costs $10 or so a person to go see a movie, but 20 people can see the same rental for the same price, why wouldn't people watch movies at home. Not to mention that a lot of CRAP and remakes are the menu these days. Doy.

4:07 PM  

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