Archive for March, 2010

‘Paranormal 2’ to face off with ‘Saw VII 3D’

March 31, 2010


Paramount is committed to meeting the Oct. 22 release date for “Paranormal Activity 2,” which pits the sequel directly against “Saw VII 3D.”

Move sets the stage for one of the biggest Halloween B.O. battles in recent times.

“Saw VII” has already tried to bloody “Paranormal 2” once. Kevin Greutert was circling to direct “Paranormal 2” when Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures exercised an option requiring Greutert to direct the seventh installment in the “Saw” franchise.

“Paranormal 2” didn’t get a director until just last week, when Tod “Kip” Williams inked a deal to helm the pic. Williams is new to the horror genre, having directed indies “The Door in the Floor” and “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole.”

That left some wondering whether “Paranormal 2” would indeed be ready by Oct. 22.

Insiders involved with the film say that still leaves plenty of time to shoot and edit the sequel. Par and filmmakers are currently casting.

It’s unlikely the sequel could shoot in eight days, like the first “Paranormal Activity” — but the quickie shoot set a precedent for low-budget pics with high expectations.

“Paranormal Activity,” produced for roughly $15,000, became a runaway hit at the box office following an innovative viral-marketing campaign, grossing $107.9 million domestically and $84.8 million internationally for a worldwide total of $192.7 million.

Cume makes “Paranormal Activity” one of the most profitable pics in Hollywood history, much as the micro-budgeted horror pic “The Blair Witch Project” was in 1999.

“Blair Witch” grossed $140.5 million domestically and $108.1 million overseas for a total of $248.6 million.

For Paramount and the “Paranormal” producers, which include Jason Blum and Oren Peli (Peli directed the first “Paranormal”), the trick now is to avoid the fate suffered by “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”

The “Blair Witch” sequel fell flat with auds, grossing $26.4 million domestically and $21.3 million overseas.

Both “Blair Witch” and “Paranormal Activity” began as guerrilla indies picked up by Artisan and Paramount, respectively. But Artisan couldn’t replicate the grassroots appeal of “Blair Witch,” one of the first films to break out at the B.O. after a viral marketing campaign.

Paramount has far more production and marketing muscle than an indie like Artisan. But sequels can be tricky, particularly when the sequel in question is a follow-up to something of a cultural phenomenon.

After bowing “Paranormal Activity” in just a few theaters, Paramount expanded each week after asking fans to go online and vote to see it in their cities.

On Oct. 29, in its fifth week, “Paranormal Activity” grew its location count by 1,182 to 1,945 theaters as Lionsgate opened “Saw VI” in 3,036 theaters.

“Paranormal” grossed $21.1 million against $14.1 million for “Saw VI.”

The next “Saw” will be the first in the franchise to play in 3D, which could give it an edge, though the last few installments have seen progressively lower B.O.

At this point, Par has no plans to release “Paranormal 2” in 3D.

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In This Digital Age, What Is A Filmmaker?

March 31, 2010


Today’s guest post is from Chris Dorr.

Isn’t it curious in this age where more moving images get created and distributed digitally that there is this group of people who still call themselves “filmmakers”?  It seems a term that is so archaic, so analogue, so yesterday’s news. But is it any of these?

I think filmmakers look for three opportunities that truly define them as filmmakers.

They are:

1.  The ability to tell a visual story from beginning to end, without any interruption, as a complete, continuous experience.  This is what separates them from people who create stories for TV as most TV series are produced with commercial interruptions or different viewings (episodes) in mind.

2.  The chance to have an audience gather in a theater and watch this visual story together, as a shared experience in time and space.  In the course of a film’s distribution it may be seen in a lot of different settings, public or private, but the filmmaker is making the film with this key audience in mind.  This is the primary target of all his/her imaginings.

3.  The opportunity to see his/her film with an audience.  Filmmakers want to physically experience the film with an audience. The filmmaker wants to see if they laugh or cry when he/she intended, if the audience got the point–to see if their film really succeeded at reaching another human being.  As every filmmaker knows who has done this, it is a genuinely scary moment.

So each of these opportunities really goes to the heart of what is most essential about calling yourself a filmmaker.

Think of them as a set of principles about the relationship between the creator of a film and the audience for which it is intended.

And here is what is most surprising as we move from the analogue past to the digital future.

These opportunities are not disappearing into the analogue past.

In fact, they are just beginning to open up.

Chris Dorr has been a movie producer, studio executive and creator of online and mobile services. He consults on digital strategy and business development. Find Chris at

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Video Could Drive A 40-Fold Spike In Mobile Data Over Next Five Years

March 31, 2010


A UK consultancy is predicting that tiered pricing plans for mobile internet are inevitable, given the dramatic rate at which mobile data—and especially video—is expected to rise in the near future.

By 2015, U.S. mobile consumers are expected to consume 327 petabytes of mobile data a month, rising at a compound annual growth rate of more than 117 percent, according to Coda Research Consultancy, which released the 87-page report today. As Mobile Crunch points out that represents a 40-fold increase in data consumption over five years.

At the core of this massive growth is mobile video, which Coda predicted will rise even faster. In 2015, video will consist of 224 petabytes of data a month, representing a compound annual growth rate of 138 percent.

One of the biggest topics at this year’s CTIA was how to keep up with consumers’ increasing mobile appetite. Whether this particular forecast turns out to be right, most carriers are looking at obtaining more spectrum and rolling out 4G to handle the curve. Steve Smith, co-founder of Coda, said carriers will cope by offering different rate plans for different levels of consumption. In a release, he said: “Flat-rate pricing has helped drive mobile internet adoption, but we envisage that as smartphone penetration rises and as carriers roll out 4G, carriers will have to move toward tiered pricing.”

Coda said that peak capacity is not as much the main concern as general capacity—which makes it even more scarier because that means the networks could be tapped out all the time, not just at big events, like a conference or baseball game. “As carrier networks now stand, network utilization will reach 100 percent in 2012 during peak times,” Coda said. At that same time, smartphone penetration will reach 40 percent in the U.S.

Other findings:
—the number of people accessing social networks from their phones is supposed to rise 21 percent annually between now and 2015.
—the number of mobile video users will rise by 34 percent annually to reach 95 million in 2015.
—non-SMS data revenues will climb at 17 percent annually, and will form 87 percent of all data revenues in 2015.

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Breakfast briefing: Google has its eyes on your TV set

March 30, 2010


• Everybody and their dog has been developing web-enabled TV sets recently, so perhaps no surprise to see that Google – the company that can’t keep its finger out of any pie it comes across – is working with Intel and Sony to create Android-compatible tellies. Somebody unlikely to be impressed by the 7,194th Google project, however, is outgoing US Federal Trade Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, who laid into the company for launching products “where the guiding privacy policy seems to be ‘throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks'”.

• Most of us probably wonder what information other people might know about us through our social networking profiles – but do we ever wonder what law enforcement can find out? Just weeks after the controversy over Microsoft’s “spy guide”, Electronic Frontier Foundation has released documents showing how US investigators obtain evidence from social networks. Worth reading… not that you’d ever do anything illegal of course.

• If you’re looking to have your mind boggled, then think about the chaos caused when more than 100 cars were shut down in Texas over the web. The suspect, apparently a disgruntled worker with access to a controversial online immobilising system used by car dealers, went on a remote shutdown spree that must surely call into question whether we could end up making our vehicles too connected.

You can follow our links and commentary each day through Twitter (@guardiantech, @gdngames or our personal accounts) or by watching our Delicious feed.

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DirecTV dives into 3D

March 30, 2010

ESPN also will offer on-demand and pay-per-view content


From nature documentaries to the Major League Baseball All-Star game, DirecTV is diving head first into the 3D broadcasting market.

The satcaster plans to roll out its 3D content in June, including 3D pay-per-view, on-demand channels as well as ESPN 3D and its own N3D channel.

DirecTV senior VP Steven Roberts told Variety, “We made the decision late last year that we were going to continue with our innovation with providing our customers with a great experience in terms of entertainment and taking 3D and really running with it.”

For its N3D channel, DirecTV has paired with Panasonic and various programmers, including Fox, MTV and CBS, to produce 3D content that will include films, documentaries, sporting and entertainment events.

The ESPN 3D channel plans to showcase at least 85 live events during its first year, beginning June 11 with the 2010 FIFA World Cup match between South Africa and Mexico.

The X Games 16 and college football’s ACC Championship are set for later this year, with the 2011 BCS National Championship game, college basketball and NBA games to follow in 2011.

“There is going to be specific content where people aren’t going to want to watch in just plain 2D any longer,” Roberts said.

DirecTV is providing a free software upgrade that will happen seamlessly in June for customers with Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung TVs. With the upgrade, DirecTV customers with an HD package and a 3D flatscreen with glasses will be able to watch the stereoscopic programming.

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IPTV World Forum embraces hybrid future

March 30, 2010


The sixth annual IPTV World Forum in London showed signs that the market is maturing and the scope of internet protocol television services is expanding. IPTV is no longer synonymous with the ambitions of telecommunications providers to deliver telco television. There are now around 33 million subscribers to IPTV services, up from around 20 million a year ago, but that still represents only 10% of broadband homes, 5% of the multichannel market and less than 2% of television homes worldwide. As this convention demonstrated, more significant growth may come from hybrid broadcast and broadband network connected devices and displays. 

The conference talk has largely moved on from discussions about how to deliver video over data networks to how to differentiate the resulting services from traditional television operators. 

Operators like AT&T and Verizon are now showing sophisticated services that deliver on the promise of teleco television and giving the entrenched cable companies a run for their money. 

Cable companies are ultimately able to migrate all their services to internet protocols. There is plenty of bandwidth in their existing hybrid fibre coaxial infrastructure to deliver very high-speed internet protocol services. Some of the established cable companies appear characteristically conservative and reluctant to replace set-top boxes and face the future while they can continue to extract revenues from their existing plant. 

The most significant development may be the emergence of hybrid broadcast and broadband services that combine the benefits of efficient distribution of traditional channels over conventional satellite, terrestrial and cable networks with video on demand services delivered over internet protocols. 

It is also becoming clear that given the bandwidth, open networks are quite capable of delivering high quality video over the internet on a best efforts basis. That means there are opportunities for consumer electronics companies to create connected television propositions. 

On the exhibition floor most vendors were reporting high levels of interest but it still feels like a sideshow to the main broadcast conventions like NAB. Nevertheless, the concentration on internet protocol networks means that this event is now a firm fixture in the convention calendar. 

Cisco was among those pushing the line that telcos need to become media companies, moving from being network service providers to experience providers. Generally, however, technology providers seem to have very little appreciation of the world of entertainment. 

NDS was showing Oona, a conceptual user interface that incorporates social networking features. 

Ericcson had a concept remote control that includes a touch screen for exploring and previewing programming. That could be a strong selling proposition for operators, but what is really needed are standards to allow users to control their television experience from any device, from an iPad to their mobile phone. 

An awards dinner recognised the achievements of the last year, which extended beyond the usual suspects. 

Award winners 

PCCW received the award for most innovative new service with its eye2 device, a wireless touchscreen table providing television and multimedia services, as well as video and voice calling. 

China Telecom was recognised for best subscriber growth, reflecting a 275% increase in subscribers to reach 750,000 users at the end of 2009. 

The best interactive television service or application went to ADB for the ‘n’ service in Poland. 

Amino received the best consumer device award for its Freedom hybrid digital terrestrial television and internet media centre. 

The best quality improvement solution award went to Witbe for its quality of experience measurement system, deployed with a number of operators, including Deutsche
Telekom, KPN, Orange, Singtel, Telefonica and Vodafone. 

Echostar Europe received the award for best hybrid broadcast and internet protocol video solution with its Slingloaded hybrid digital video recorder. 

The best on-demand technology award went to Ericsson for its WatchPoint content management system. 

Netgem, with its NetgemTV hybrid IPTV middleware, combining broadcast and broadband delivered media, was recognised as the best IPTV service delivery platform. 

The best internet television technology award went to Cisco for its content delivery system, allowing service providers to support video on both set-top boxes and internet streaming. 

First Media picked up the award for best client software for its client resident m-QM video monitoring system. 

Raoul Roverato received the special merit for outstanding industry contribution for his work at Orange.

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Sky 3DTV launch marks European first

March 30, 2010


The Sky 3D television channel will be the first in Europe when it launches in early April, kicking off with live coverage of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea. Football will be followed by other sports, movies, entertainment, arts and documentaries later in the year. Initially the Sky 3D channel will be available at no extra cost to customers on premium packages with high-definition, using their existing Sky boxes. They will need a new 3D compatible display and a special pair of dark glasses. The future’s so bright, we’ve gotta wear shades. 

The official launch of the Sky 3D service follows match coverage of Arsenal and Manchester United broadcast in January to a limited number of venues. Over a thousand pubs and clubs across the United Kingdom and Ireland have since signed up for Sky 3D, with more expected to join them. They will have some of the first 3D TV screens available in the country, following a deal with manufacturer LG. Sky 3D is also on show at various locations, including the O2 venue in London and other retail sites.

Allowing the public to experience 3DTV will be critical to its future. “With 3D, seeing really is believing,” said Brian Lenz, Sky’s Director of Product Design and TV Product Development. “So it’s great news that over a thousand pubs across country will be able to show the magic of 3D to their customers.”

 Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have all confirmed that they will have sets on sale soon. Sky 3D is compatible with these and works with displays that use either passive polarised and active shuttered glasses. The choice is partly a matter of preference. The polarised glasses are cheap and easy to replace, while the active glasses are heavier, relatively expensive and require a small battery to power the liquid crystal lenses that are wirelessly synchronised with the screen.

3DTV sets will be scarce initially and are likely to command a significant price premium, but the actual cost of production is little more than for a conventional high-definition display and in time 3D Ready displays will be widely available and prices will come down. How ready consumers will be to replace their existing flat screens for 3D compatible versions is another matter.

 Sky 3D is broadcast using a normal HD broadcast channel, over existing Sky infrastructure. Two separate scenes are captured, corresponding to the images for the left and right eye. These are broadcast side by side in a normal high-definition signal, effectively halving the horizontal resolution. Sky+ HD customers will be able to use their existing set-top box and can record 3D programmes in the normal way.

 How the stereoscopic images are presented depends on the display. In a passive system they are displayed so that when viewed through glasses fitted with polarising filters they are split into separate images for the left and right eye. In an active system liquid crystal shutters are synchronised with the screen to present images alternately to each eye.

 Gerry O’Sullivan, director of strategic product management at Sky, for the moment at least, is a passionately persuasive and impressively rational advocate for 3D. He understands that vision is a phenomenon of perception that goes beyond simply seeing two slightly different stereo images and that 3D production requires a different approach to direction, opening up new creative opportunities in much the same way as high definition and colour before it.

 As part of restructure to create two separate groups for research and development, Gerry will be leaving Sky after over a decade in which he has led developments like the Sky+ digital video recorder and Sky Broadband, together with Steven Nuttall, who led initiatives in online and mobile video.

 Sky 3D is an example of how the pay-television operator is continuing to drive developments in British broadcasting, forging ahead of the BBC. It is no accident that the Sky 3D showreel features not only sports but ballerinas from the English National Ballet performing Swan Lake.

Sky believes that like 3D, like HD, will be applicable to many more genres of programming than just sports and movies, bringing a new dimension to natural history and allowing people to watch theatrical productions from the best seat in the house.

 There is still a lot to learn about how to shoot and present stereoscopic productions. Certain subjects seem to benefit more, while the effect may be marginal in long shots. On-screen graphics require special attention, while issues such as eyestrain need to be given serious consideration.

 3DTV may initially be seen as something of a gimmick and while it is evidently successful in cinemas it is not clear how accepted it will be in the home, beyond special events and early adopters. The usage of television and the social viewing environment within the home are very different to that of the cinema. So long as it is necessary to wear dark glasses to watch 3DTV it will remain a novelty. However, games and adult entertainment are likely to be popular and 3D screens could become a premium feature of hotel rooms.

 Amazingly, there has been very little rigorous academic or medical research on the subject. It is not even known how many people can actually perceive stereo vision correctly. Up to one in ten may not, for one reason or another. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people may experience headaches as a result of processing the conflicting visual depth cues with which they may be presented. It is a field that informitv will continue to follow with interest.

 William Cooper of informitv will be speaking on a panel at the MPEG Industry Forum Master Class at the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas and chairing a session at the 3D TV World Forum in London.

 Coverage of the match between Manchester United and Chelsea starts at 12.00 noon on Saturday 3 April. The Sky 3D channel will appear in the electronic programme guide before then. To access preview programmes customers will need to call Sky with details of their 3D television to activate the channel. There will be at least a further five Premier League matches shown in 3D before the end of the current football season.

 see original article here

Endemol Sets Up Global Brands Business

March 30, 2010


By Kristin Brzoznowski
Published: March 29, 2010

LONDON: Endemol’s new division, Endemol Worldwide Brands, will focus on extending the company’s properties across multiple platforms, including investment in product development and the creation of games applications and branded entertainment.


Serving as CEO of the new division is Oliver Gers, former senior executive at FremantleMedia and IMG Media. As part of his new role, Gers will be responsible for Endemol Group’s key digital activities following the integration of digital into the company’s core commercial business. Gers takes up the post with immediate effect and is based at Endemol Group’s offices in London, reporting to Tom Toumazis, Endemol’s chief commercial officer. Joerg Bachmaier, former senior VP of digital media business development at Endemol USA, has been named senior VP and general manager for the Americas at Endemol Worldwide Brands. Further appointments will be announced in due course.

Toumazis commented: “The launch of Endemol Worldwide Brands represents another significant step forward in our ongoing strategy for growth; one which we believe will add considerable value to our IP. Olivier has a proven track record in the media industry as an innovator with extensive strategic and operational experience. His expertise in brand enhancement through digital media, original content creation and commercial extensions makes him ideally suited to lead this new worldwide venture.”

Gers added: “Endemol is perfectly positioned to launch a successful international business in this space. Its brands are recognized worldwide, attract a huge fan base and can cross over seamlessly into other forms of content and consumer products. This is an extremely exciting opportunity and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge and to working with Endemol’s leading operations around the world.”

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3D: Eye-popping economics

March 29, 2010


Auds embrace 3D but ticket fees turn heads



Surely there can never be too much of a good thing in Hollywood. Right?

For years, a hot-button topic was the conversion of movie screens to digital projection, an innovation heralded to bring about the revival of 3D on a grander, more immersive and more lucrative scale.

Now that the revival is in full blush — with three consecutive years of record box office bolstered by 3D, especially in 2009 — the economics of such eye-popping filmmaking are playing an increasingly major factor in Hollywood planning.

They’re also raising questions as to how long the boom will reverberate and how deep auds’ appetites for 3D are, especially as the ticket upcharge rises dramatically. Some studios are worried that exhibs might price people right out of the theater.

As evidenced by “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avatar,” 3D can increase a movie’s gross by as much as one-third. In just 17 days, “Alice” grossed $265 million domestically and $300 million internationally for a total of $565.8 million. “Avatar” is the highest-grossing pic, at $736.9 million domestically and $1.94 billion overseas through March 21.

It’s found money. Nobody ever dared increase the tickets by as much as 50%,” one studio exec says. “Now, they have something to do it with: 3D. And guess what — the public is buying it. Let’s say ‘Alice’ cumes $300 million domestically. At least $70 million comes from 3D.”

3D revenues also help to offset the dramatic downturn in the DVD market. “It’s a new revenue stream for content creators,” one veteran exec says.

Generally speaking, the box office split between studios and exhibs is 50-50 domestically and 45-55 overseas. And while the same splits hold true for 3D titles, those revenues are offset by the costs associated with creating the 3D experience.

For the studios, shooting a film in 3D from inception begins at a base cost of $20 million above a film’s core budget. Opting to convert a 2D film to 3D after shooting comes with a lower pricetag, averaging about $10 million, but the figure also can be higher.

Warner Bros.’ late decision to convert “Clash of the Titans” to 3D raised eyebrows across Hollywood. Some say the conversion cost $5 million; others put it much higher. Warners won’t say, but points out that it successfully converted Polar Express.”

If “Clash” works in 3D, other studios are sure to follow suit and begin converting some of their event titles with the after-production conversion process, too.

As part of their deals with exhibs, studios also have to pay for 3D glasses, whether disposable or reusable. That bill can average $5 million to $7 million per picture domestically.

And, of course, theater owners are still paying to convert more screens to digital 3D. The cost of converting a screen to digital — a prerequisite for showing 3D — can be more than $100,000. Studios are helping to defray some of these costs by paying a “virtual” print fee, at least for the time being. The amount of virtual print fees are something of a secret, but insiders say they are usually capped at around $1,000 per print.

For theater owners, the lure of 3D — much as it was in the 1950s and ’60s — is in providing a unique experience that can’t be replicated at home. Getting auds into theaters is primarily a gateway to selling them pricey treats at the snack bar.

As a result, theater owners have been loath to raise ticket prices much. Increases typically ranged from 20¢ to 30¢ a year; a 40¢ rise would have been frowned upon.

However, exhibs are savoring the added gravy of the 3D ticket upcharge.

The profits for exhibs come from concessions,” says one studio exec. “If a person comes in with a $20 bill, he pays $7 for the ticket and $13 on food. They’re making 75¢ on the dollar off concessions, but only 50¢ on the dollar at the box office, if they’re lucky.”

Now, all of a sudden, they are getting a bigger percentage of (their revenues from) the box office,” says another exec.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America and the National Assn. of Theater Owners have long touted moviegoing as the least expensive form of entertainment, since sports, live theater and theme parks cost much more.

But on a percentage basis, the escalation of ticket prices driven by 3D represents an enormous jump in a short span of time. The exhibition biz is unique in being able to get away with such increases in tough economic times.

In the year since pics like DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” Disney’s “Up” and 20th Century Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” helped pioneer higher prices for digital 3D — with a typical $2 to $3 extra premium on every ticket — the cost of getting a 3D eyeful is growing downright eye-popping in some markets.

Last week, ahead of the high-profile releases of “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Clash of the Titans,” Wall Street media analyst Richard Greenfield released a survey of 3D ticket prices at 10 theaters. It revealed that the average upcharge on a 3D admission had risen 8.3%. One theater instituted a 26% jump.

But Greenfield’s report was just a general barometer of the dramatic boost in 3D premium charges. An informal survey by Variety finds that circuits, including AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment, are starting to charge at least $3.50 to $4 more for 3D titles, with a handful of theaters in marquee markets such as New York and Los Angeles pushing added fees even higher. The previous upcharge average was $2 to $3.

At AMC Century City 15 in Southern California, for example, the upcharge for a 3D ticket is $5 — meaning adults could pay $18.50 on the weekend to see a 3D title; children, $14.50.

Prices are going up even in smaller markets. The Regal Edwards Bakersfield 14 in Bakersfield, Calif., charges $3.50 more for a 3D ticket. Usual prices are $10 for adult ($10.50 on the weekend) and $7 for a child. A 3D ticket for a kid is $10.50, a 50% increase over a regular ticket price; an adult would pay $14, a 33% jump.

The questions now are how much audiences are willing to pay for the 3D experience, and how long will the experience be enticing enough to warrant those extra fees?

A year ago, there was much discussion over whether the marketplace would even have enough 3D screens to cover “Avatar.” The gap in screen count has narrowed since then, and distribs and exhibs now predict there will be enough 3D locations by December to support two 3D pics releasing on the same date. But there’s still a crunch, with the March 26 debut of “How to Train Your Dragon” sharing the landscape with “Alice” and a fading-but-still-around “Avatar” as Warner Bros.’ “Titans” looms on April 9.

But once it’s routinely possible to have multiple 3D titles on screens and competing for attention at the same time, some in the biz wonder if auds will grow weary of the experience and the higher ticket cost.

We run the risk of losing the value movies once were and becoming a luxury item,” says a Fox exec. “This industry has touted itself as the most cost-effective form of entertainment. But we are rapidly moving out of that arena.”

History suggests that Hollywood ought to tread carefully in its aggressive push of 3D. The novelty of all sorts of film innovations — talkies, all-color films and, more recently, CGI animated features — eventually diminished for auds. After Hollywood saw some major hits in the CGI toon biz, expectations were brought back down following a handful of pricey CGI toons that disappointed, including “The Ant Bully” and “Surf’s Up.”

In other words, once the novelty factor plays out, the movie itself better be good. Technology can only keep the audience occupied for so long. “The floodgates have opened,” one studio topper says. “But there’s no way of knowing what will happen when 3D becomes commonplace. When the first CGI animated movies were made, they were a big deal, they were events. And then there were a bunch that didn’t work.”

Imax, after years of struggle, is a big beneficiary of 3D. Imax has always charged a premium, since it offered a “bigger” experience even before 3D. Imax 3D has built an avid fanbase, sending the company into the black. Its domestic gross on “Avatar” was north of $200 million, the best in the company’s history.

Imax, however, is insulated to a degree that regular exhib chains are not: With a relatively small number of screens, it can play only so many movies, and its deals with the studios have grown from only a few titles a year to eight in 2010. So the experience retains a uniqueness-factor for auds.

The challenge for all sides is to keep up pic quality and not fall into gimmickry.

Early 3D adopters James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg are urging Hollywood to slow down when it comes to converting pics to 3D after production. Michael Bay has been outspoken about his reluctance to shoot the next “Transformers” film in 3D, questioning whether the heavy cameras and production demands are flexible enough for his helming style.

In an industry often keen to follow a hit with more of same, it’s telling that these high-profile creatives are urging caution. Maybe there can be too much of a good thing.

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Street Artist Banksy Sets Release Strategy For Subversive Feature Directing Debut

March 29, 2010



Exit Through The Gift Shop, one of Sundance’s most subversive entries, is getting an unorthodox theatrical release. It has been acquired for distribution, sort of, by Producers Distribution Agency, which is run by Cinetic Media’s John Sloss, who repped the film at the festival.

Most buzzworthy Sundance films got bought for minimum guarantees by established distributors who made P&A commitments. This one, a documentary directed by the mystery-shrouded street artist Banksy, will debut in New York, L.A. and San Francisco on April 16 and then slowly platform to other cities. Through PDA, Sloss  will book the theaters and handle the marketing and publicity with indie vets Richard Abramowitz and Donna Daniels.

When I passed by the Egyptian Theater one day during the festival, Sloss grabbed me to see the film. Without giving too much away, it focuses on Thierry Guetta, a French aspiring filmmaker who sets out to film street artists-turned art gallery fixtures like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, and then tries his own hand at it, despite questionable talent. It was well received and was funny in a Borat way, and many questioned if the whole thing was a put-on. Sloss swore the self-distribution strategy wasn’t done because no established distributor made an offer. There were several, he said.

Sloss said the strategy is right for Banksy, who never shows his face, and who left his mark at Sundance creating street paintings on walls that included rats wearing 3D glasses. He also decorated the side of a barn visible on the way into town, but that got quickly whitewashed.

“The 20th Century distribution model involved the transfer of rights for 15 to 20 years to distributors who said, `we have the access and knowledge you don’t, give us your film,’” Sloss said. “Now, there are a lot of high quality distribution and marketing execs for hire, and in the 21st Century, is the other model always necessary? We showed this to the head of Landmark Theaters, and he loved it. When Banksy has such an ability to generate awareness, do we really need significant P&A when so much of what Banksy does is viral?”

While Banksy be on hand to paint each town with his own version of a one-sheet?

“I’m not ruling anything out,” Sloss said.

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