Thursday, December 07, 2017

RELEASE STRATEGY Last Jedi forces rivals to delay tentpoles

Size matters not: the plucky films going up against The Last Jedi

Friday, December 01, 2017

WHITEWASHING Mulan may mark turning point

Liu Yifei gets starring role in Mulan, as tide turns against 'whitewashing'

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CONVERGENCE Indies routinely using CGI, now realistic low budget option

Superman’s tache and Armie Hammer’s crotch - is movie CGI getting out of hand?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

AMAZON IP FRANCHISE LoTR $1bn series $250m just for rights

Right at the end of this article there's speculation that Harry Potter could dwarf even this, the first $1bn TV series with a $1bn deal just for the rights alone, not the production cost!

The role of IP and franchises couldn't be any clearer - it remains absolutely the dominant model, with TV spin-offs now clearly a key part of this high stakes media game, as exemplified by the Marvel Cinematic Universe being closely tied to multiple TV series, which even get their own Avengers/Justice League type variants.

Amazon's $1bn bet on Lord of the Rings shows scale of its TV ambition

Sunday, November 19, 2017

HOME CINEMA Half UK homes with 4K TV by 2021

3D TV has been and gone, an expensive fad that revealed simply that people don't feel comfortable sat with 3D glasses at home.

4K TV is the latest home cinema leap (VR being the other big trend), and it seems the UK is a trailblazer in 4K penetration, expected to reach 50%+ of UK households by just 2021.

Convergence is a key factor - it's as much games consoles, the updated current PS4 and Xbox One consoles both offer 4K output and incorporate new Blu-ray models for movies too:

The home cinema market is in the midst of a revolution: according to analysis firm IHS Markit, by the end of 2017, 3.7m UK households will own a 4K TV, rising to 12m by 2021. This would account for almost half of all TV-owning households in the UK, yet the first Xbox One was designed only for full high definition – screens with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.

Xbox One X review: a perfect pitch to a demanding demographic

BIG FIVE Fox selling to Disney have 40pc of 11bn US market

Another megamerger is cleared in June 2018 and boosts the hopes of NBCU owner to trump Disney's bid for Fox...
AT&T $85.4bn takeover of Time Warner approved by judge in blow to Trump

The story continues! Comcast are launching a new bid, all cash as Murdoch rejected it on the basis of complications with shares (and possible monopoly issues). Disney's inexorable rise not confirmed yet... Comcast prepares to top Disney’s $52bn bid for 21st Century Fox

Further update - the Comcast (NBCU owner, with Universal having a 9% share of the US market v a combined Fox/Disney 45% on latest figures) counterbid had been rejected by Lachlan Murdoch, but I'd suspect shareholders are likely to demand Disney improves it's bid, and try to spark a bidding war. The Murdochs can see a chance for continuing power through the 'merger' as they would become the single biggest Disney shareholders, so it could be quite a battle.
And Comcast is proceeding with its counterbid for Sky, which Murdoch(s!) has already bid for (the remaining 61% of shares).
Comcast are offering CASH NOT SHARES, so the Murdochs would be incredibly wealthy but stripped of most of their media empire...

An update from my earlier blog... The Disney deal had been announced, subject to FCC (US government media regulator) agreeing, so it is now the big 5 with Disney's new dominance almost certain to spark off another merger to compete.

The business or economics term for this is consolidation. Media academics don't view this process as benign, neutral, not an issue. Chomsky and Herrman's propoganda model includes 'concentration of ownership' in its 'five filters', ways in which radical or counter-hegemonic content are removed from mainstream mass media.

This Disney giant isn't going to be producing politically driven fare like This is England (or even '71 ... or how's about She's a Chinese?!).

Economist Anita Elberse's book Blockbusters is looking more and more like the industry bible.

Rupert Murdoch set to sell off 21st Century Fox assets to Disney

I'd read last week about rumours of ole Rupe (Murdoch, the 'Dirty Digger' and inspiration for the Bind villain in Tomorrow Never Dies) selling up his Fox film and TV studios to Disney.

Now I see fresh reports are exciting stock markets over Comcast getting involved - the owner of NBC-Universal.

Is an already narrow range of dominant companies about to shrink further?

Comcast reportedly targeting 21st Century Fox for acquisition

Remarkable - just a day or so later I stumbled on news of Warner being involved in a mega-merger, the focus this time on TV, with AT&T bringing it's dominant DirecTV satellite provider to the home of HBO, CNN and more. If eventually allowed after legal appeal, I wonder if Warners will follow Disney in removing their content from the likes of Netflix in favour of their own subscription channel (which they could offer in a bundle to existing subscribers)?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

DISTRIBUTION STARS Indie straight-to-DVD until actor hits big

Tricky one to put into a short post title...
Useful examples here of how Indie movies lacking the star power to gain theatrical distribution, so restricted to straight-to-DVD (or just VOD in some cases) release ... until a then unknown cast member becomes a star. Then these cinematic horrors (as far as the newly shiny star and their agents/lawyers are concerned) find themselves plastered all over posters and trailers for (sometimes) a much belated cinema run or at least the DVD cover or VOD artwork.

There are several big names listed in this article, but there are many who aren't keen to recall their cinematic debut. For a certain Johnny Depp it was getting eviscerated in the original Elm Street. A certain rom-com flop veteran and star of 1000s of gossip mag covers, whose hair seems to be her greatest talent, made her bow in the fantastically silly slasher Leprechaun... (name revealed in tags when I get round to it!)

Brie Larson’s Basmati Blues and other lost movies A-listers wish had stayed buried

Friday, November 03, 2017

DISTRIBUTION Jedi Disney demands 65% box office

Incredible greed and arrogance from the big six behemoth, which probably means most non-multiplex cinemas simply can't show The Last Jedi. Disney are demanding 65% of ticket revenue AND the movie must play in the biggest hall for five weeks ... or they'll demand 70%!

It's not the first time Disney have messed cinemas around - they had to back down from a reduced cinema release window for Alice in Wonderland.

This is what happens with concentration of ownership (one of Chomsky and Herrman's five filters in their propaganda model by the way), which is why anti-trust laws once forced Hollywood to split up its vertically integrated studios (before deregulation commenced under Reagan in 1980).

Disney ends blackout of LA Times after boycott from media outlets

Monday, October 23, 2017

NETFLIX worlds biggest media company as APPLE launches rival

2018 update: Netflix puts content above costs but is the policy sustainable?

I've written a few times that Apple's entry into the subscription TV streaming market is inevitable ... and here it comes, with an annual $1bn budget for 10+ new series and some incredibly high profile industry names signed up
Apple has Netflix and Amazon in sight as it hires British TV executive

More niche than Netflix: nine specialist streaming services you should try

NETFLIX ARE DISRUPTERS challenging stale Hollywood hegemony?

To paraphrase Tony the Tiger, purveyor of dodgily sugary breakfast fare, they're GGGGRRRREEAT! Netflix that is, according to an Oscar-tipped director who couldn't get her movie picked up by any of the studios for distribution but found Netflix willing to overpay (her words!) $12.5m for the rights.

This is a great quote which gets to the heart of the notion of the disruption (a business term denoting the impact on traditional business practices of the ongoing processes of digitisation):

“Netflix are representative of what Hollywood used to be,” she continues. “[Hollywood] used to take risks, it used to be about discovery and now it’s about profit, it’s about foreign sales value, so I think Netflix are disrupters and maybe they will shake up the system and get the studios back to making original interesting things. Back to discovering new actors and not just hiring the same three actors over and over again.”

Meet the new hotshots of American film-making

Sunday, October 22, 2017

BOX OFFICE just half of actual film revenue?

From an interesting read on the vultures flying over the bloated corpse of toxic brand The Weinstein Company, a worthless brand with a highly valuable back catalogue (including remake/franchise rights) and upcoming slate of likely hits such as Paddington 2, comes this observation on the breakdown of film revenues;

Analysts estimate that the lifetime value of a film can be as much as double what it makes at the box office. For example, The King’s Speech made just over $400m globally in cinemas but has probably amassed about $1bn once its post-multiplex takings are included. About 25% of the $1bn is from the ever-shrinking DVD market, maybe 15% to 20% from pay-TV broadcasters for premiere rights and 10% (and growing) from services such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple, according to Ampere Analysis.

Rich pickings: how Hollywood rivals will profit from Weinstein's downfall

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

DIGITISATION Apocalypse Now cinematographer goes digital

Of his experience with Allen, Storaro said, “We decided to enter the digital world together, and I have to say that from the beginning we found ourselves very comfortable.”

In fact, digital had added benefits for the director, in that he could monitor the film in a way previously not possible. (Storaro quipped, “In Apocalypse Now we were waiting for two weeks to see dailies. They were were weeklies, not dailies.”) Today, he shoots with a high dynamic range monitor on set and uses ACES color techto make sure that his directors are seeing an accurate picture.

Storaro insists that he didn’t change his approach or his lighting setup for digital work. “Of course,” he notes, “I selected a camera that was close to my personality, with the level of performance in quality and color shade and close to the one that I loved for almost 20 years,” which was the Arriflex 535B.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

WARP Ghost Stories a star + big 7 distribution

Haunted by its synonymous shadow: spookily TWO ghost stories out (URL)
October 29th and still no box office hits for Ghost Stories - I wonder if the release of A Ghost Story, with a couple of US stars (UK release August 11th: Deadline), but a miserable flop (under $2m worldwide: The-Numbers; BoM), is undermining release plans? The-Numbers; BoxofficeMojo. Its extraordinary how often similarly themed/named movies emerge at the same time, something that helped undermine The World's End (WT) too. Ghost Stories has been screened at the London Film Festival, but its looking doubtful for a theatrical release.

IFC Midnight is acquiring North American distribution rights to supernatural thriller Ghost Stories from Altitude Film Sales.
The film stars Andy Nyman, Alex Lawther, Martin Freeman and Paul Whitehouse. Its based on the Olivier-nominated stage production and is co-written and directed by Nyman and Jeremy Dyson.
The deal was negotiated by Altitude’s Mike Runagall on behalf of the filmmakers with Arianna Bocco of IFC Films.  
The film is produced for Warp Films by Claire Jones (Sightseers, Kill List), and Robin Gutch (’71, Kill List) and is backed by Ultimate Pictures and Screen Yorkshire.
Catalyst Global Media and Screen Yorkshire serve as executive producers. Altitude Film Sales is handling worldwide sales. Lionsgate will distribute the film in the UK/Ireland in Spring 2018. 
Ghost Stories has its World Premiere today (Thursday 5 October) at the BFI London Film Festival. [Screen Daily 5th October 2017 report, spotted by Richard]

Claire Jones (Sightseers [+]), and Robin Gutch ('71 [+]) are producing for the UK’s Warp Films with the backing of the UK’s Catalyst Global Media and Screen YorkshireAltitude Film Sales is handling international sales and is currently representing the film at the American Film MarketDyson and Nyman said of the project, “Over half a million people have seen the play and now we are beyond excited to be bringing the film version of Ghost Stories to life." [ article Nov 2016]
  • Warp announced a new film in Feb 2016, already picked up by 'big 7' Lionsgate for UK distribution, with Altitude handling international sales
  • Pre-selling rights at the pre-production stage is common for Indies (legendary social realist auteurs Ken Loach + Mike Leigh have done this throughout their careers). German rights were also pre-sold to Tele München/Concorde after a pitch at the Berlin European Film Market in feb 2016
  • This is an adaptation of an internationally successful play, bringing some comparisons with Woman in Black (but note the IP is limited compared to Les Mis)
  • Warp's reputation for allowing creatives to retain control, not the accountants, saw Nyman reject interest from Hollywood studios (who immediately suggested star-based changes!)
  • Martin Freeman's casting led most reports; star of the $3bn Hobbit franchise this suggests a more ambitious/commercial approach from Warp ...
  • ...BUT he's no A-lister (the IP and CGI sold the Hobbit, not a UK TV star!), and its no coincidence that as of May 2017 the UK remains the only territory with a distributor
  • Warp's online efforts at building interest and an audience through the pre-/production/post- stages has been typically lax ...
  • ... BUT co-director/writer Andy Nyman has exemplified the ability of cast and crew to use social media to promote a production (eg the 5 crew badges Twitter draw)
  • ... AND Altitude have been very active
  • Lionsgate UK, however, have yet to properly launch; their website contains only a coming soon message!
(TBC: October updates)
Thanks to Richard for highlighting news on the movie.
Guardian review; Variety announce IFC as US distributor; Hollywood Reporter on star in cast; Screen Daily on world premiere;

Okay, so its not the 80,000 packed into the Dallas Cowboys football stadium just to see a teaser trailer (1 strand of the epic Avatar campaign, arranged through ComicCon, the world's leading fan forum for such announcements), but Ghost Stories is following a smart path of pre-/production promotion, launching a 'concept teaser trailer' at FrightFest:
Horror blog FlickeringMyth reports the announcement, complete with 'concept teaser trailer'

ScreenDaily (US) announce the production, Feb 2016
So much for the auteur theory! Empire (UK) also led on Freeman's involvement

Casting Martin Freeman seems a real coup for Warp - after all, he was the lead in the tentpole Hobbit franchise (combined budgets $675m, box office $2.9bn). However, IP was the key marketing factor there, and he cannot be considered an A-List star any more than Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis can 'open a film' by himself. Freeman's presence does help with marketing though, and gaining distribution, but the lack of progress there is significant. Hollywood conglomerate Lionsgate picking the film up for distribution is a coup, as one of what many now argue should be called the big seven to reflect their considerable global success in recent years (expanding the traditional big six of Disney, Warner Bros, Fox, Universal, Sony, Paramount).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

SELF-DISTRIBUTION Blomkamp's mini-studio output on YouTube

Sigourney Weaver and sci-fi shorts: inside Neill Blomkamp’s secret film studio

Friday, September 22, 2017

FRANCHISE Universal rev up £25m Fast Furious live show

Guardian feature
Disney are the kings of brand extension, with Disneyland a big business in its right and the Pirates of... franchise a neat reversal in being a movie spin-off from a Disneyland feature.

Universal are staking a claim as the barons of franchise extension though, with their own theme parks, multiple TV adaptations of movies (eg About a Boy by WTTV), theatrical adaptations (notably Billy Elliot, a big hit, and Bridget Jones, both spun off from Working Title productions).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

WOMEN IN INDUSTRY 'only 7% of film directors are' ...

The figure is around 6-15% in the UK...
...the % of film directors who are female!

This is 1 of 2 lengthy posts on the huge topic of the clearly differential treatment of women at all levels of the film industry - there are relatively few senior executives, producers, scriptwriters, directors, actors given lengthy dialogue, even women in crowd scenes are a minority ... This post (a short video and an overview of female directors, including the campaigning company Birds Eye Views) and its companion post - are a start ... look for much more using the female fimmakers tag.

Its a story that just won't go away, and the BFI are playing their part to publicise the issues.

I'll add the full article below (and see the longer post on fem dirs.), but first, an extract and then a video containing a rather useful but also intriguing bit of theory (v. useful for hoovering up a few marks...):
Birds Eye View started out as a positive response to the fact that women make up only 7% of film directors (a statistic that remains accurate for Hollywood, and that has fluctuated between 6-15% in the UK over the last few years), and around 10-18% of screenwriters (depending on which year, and which side of the Atlantic). That's 6-18% of the creative vision in the world's most powerful medium. We live in a visual culture, and what we see on screen profoundly affects the way we see ourselves and each other. Film offers us an incredible thing – an immersive trip into someone else's universe, someone else's vision of the world. But if that vision is dominated by men then we are missing out on so much complexity, richness, diversity and creativity.
Here's the theory, wrapped up in a short but entertaining vid for you...

A Woman's Place is in...the Director's Chair?

IN BRIEF: A collection of articles on the growing controversy over women's secondary role across every aspect of the film industry. Use the tags to see more on this

Useful article at to look at. The case of Sharon Maguire (look at the long gaps in her IMDB entry) suggests the film industry is still rather sexist? What do you think?
You'll find this is a much-discussed topic, with many references in books written by film insiders (and of course in Film Guardian articles)
Have a look at too.  is rather useful too!

Some additional articles: 

Jane Campion: 'I make films so I can have fun with the characters'

Portrait of the artist: Mira Nair, film director - 'Why are there so few women directors? Oh my God, I want to shake everyone and ask them that question'

Jennifer's Body: a feminist slasher film? Really? - It's written and directed by women, and stars a man-eating schoolgirl – but is Jennifer's Body as feminist as it thinks it is?

It's a scream! - As Halloween draws near, Wendy Roby explores a new wave of films, websites and festivals feeding women's growing hunger for horror

An intriguing addition from Sigourney Weaver, famed for taking the final girl into space/establishing the possibility of making money with a female action hero with Alien and its sequels:
This article contains a caustic rebuttal, though many of the comments that follow the article are supportive of Weaver.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

VOD DISTRIBUTION Amazon attracts TIFF Indies with 200k offer and 30c per hour streamed

NoFilmSchool report.

continues to expand its disruption of the traditional film market and industry practices, especially distribution (though it, like Netflix, is also expanding its production arm).

TIFF, an especially notable (Toronto International) film festival (very important for Warp over the years) has begun including TV, a strong sign of the convergence between the two industries (again, consider Warp Film's recent output - mostly TV!).
An event at TIFF sponsored by Amazon.

The 2017 TIFF has also seen Amazon build on its 2016 Sundance offer of $100k plus royalties for distribution rights, now a $200k package - a hugely tempting proposition for young or Indie filmmakers to instantly gain large scale international distribution.

Would you accept a $200,000 bonus to upload your official festival selection to Amazon Video Direct? That offer is now on the table for directors with films playing at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. 
In May 2016, Amazon launched the Film Festival Stars program, which aimed to lure festival fare to its streaming platform by offering $100,000 upfront and royalties to rights holders. At Sundance this year, we spoke with the head of Amazon Video Direct, Eric Orme, who told us that he hoped the program would help filmmakers capitalize on self-distribution. "We recognized that a lot of films at Sundance don't get full-service distribution deals," Orme said. "We want to provide a new distribution pathway for those films. Expanding distribution options means more great films have the opportunity to reach wider audiences."
Is this having any impact? Quite simply - yes:
The Film Festival Stars deal requires filmmakers to make Amazon Video Direct the exclusive SVOD home for this film, although directors can wait up to 18 months to upload their movies to the platform. In the interim, their films can play at other festivals and theaters. In addition to the initial bonus, filmmakers will receive a royalty rate of $0.30 per every hour their film is streamed on the platform—more than double the rate Amazon offers other Video Direct users.So far, the program has proven a hefty incentive. At SXSW 2017 alone, Film Festival Stars signed deals for 40 movies. 
See NoFilmSchool article.

Variety report.
Another report.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

STREAMING Disney quit Netflix for own service. Fragmentation?

Disney now offering streaming TV.

Apple will have to join this suddenly crowded market, with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and more facing increasing competition.

If more of the big six follow suit, surely that will actually undermine the paid-for streaming industry and encourage a resurgence in piracy?
Not in Lux. yet, but a fullscale streaming option is being rolled out.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Joe Queenan movie biz based on recycling ideas

Joe Queenan is a highly entertaining writer on film, author of a number of books and many columns like this one where he overviews a large number of flicks in considering a theme, actor, genre or director.

In short, along with the likes of legendary producer Art Linson, his writing is a great tool for expanding your knowledge of film.

I've picked out a single quote from a lengthy feature reflecting on the career of 87 year-old Clint Eastwood, The Man With No Name apart from Dirty Harry and so forth. A 40 DVD Eastwood boxset has been released - I estimate I've seen about 30 of those flicks - and Queenan's take is fair on this huge collection and those that were excluded from the set (though Any Which But Loose is fun as well as dumb!).

In terms of learning cinematic technique, it's the excluded Spaghetti Western dollar trilogy I'd recommend - the boxset of those has great extras showing how director Sergio Leone worked - and he in turn borrowed liberally from the great Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, whose Yojimbo and Seven Samurai remain masterpieces more than a half century later.

Here he sums up the nature of the industry in one pithy statement:
Movie-making is not so much a process of making new films as of remaking old ones. 
He goes on to add:
Stories work today because they worked yesterday. People never get tired of seeing good triumph over evil, because the only place they ever get to see this happen is in the cinema.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FUNDING Baby Driver part of £415m tax relief benefit bill

For Indies such as Warp government finance through the BFI (previously the UK Film Council) and the still-operating regional arms of the old UKFC such as EM Media and Screen Yorkshire (significant distributors of EU finance which will soon disappear thanks to Brexit) are absolutely central to their ability to produce feature films. Without money in the form of non-repayable grants there would be no '71, This is England, Tyrannosaur and so forth.

The BBC and Film4, terrestrial public service broadcasters (with Sky, and its Sky Atlantic channel key to Warp's high-budget TV series The Last Panthers) are also crucial at this level of budget, very rarely exceeding £5m ('71 did, at £8m).

For the big six, and their subsidiary production arms, such as Working Title, just as crucial is tax relief, which will typically far exceed the entire budget of Indie films. 20 years after the Tory free market PM Thatcher scrapped the quota system that ensured cinemas screened a minimum proportion of British films (most European countries, notably france, still have such laws in place), the Labour government recognised the struggles of the industry with a range of tax relief measures, that the current Tory government has (reluctantly) kept in place.

The extent of this varies across the UK, with additional relief available in Northern Ireland (though even more is available in the Republic of Ireland), and indeed there is fierce international competition to attract film productions through tax deductions, including several US states offering high levels of relief.

The scale of this tax relief is clear from the report on 2016 payments, hitting £600m in 2016, including WT's Baby Driver. The tests for determining the 'Britishness' of productions are controversial, with minimal cultural consideration, more raw economic factors determining eligibility. If you read the BFI's annual reports (you should - an amazing source of learning) you'll find many clearly American films accordingly categorised as British.

Big-budget films receive increase in tax relief to almost £600m.
The government paid out almost £600m in tax relief last year to the makers of blockbusters including Baby Driver, Star Wars and T2: Trainspotting, as well as big-budget TV dramas including The Crown. 
The payouts were part of £751m that the Treasury awarded in tax relief to films, high-end dramas, video games, animations, children’s TV shows and theatre productions that passed a “cultural test” that qualified them as British. 
The government’s figures showed that the total awarded in tax relief in the creative sector rose by a third year-on-year from £564m in 2015. The test includes criteria such as the cultural content of a production, how much of it is shot in the UK and the proportion of stars and crew who are from Britain or Europe. 
The government’s tax credit system has proved hugely successful in stopping big-budget film and TV productions, as well as talent such as games makers and special effects workers, going to cheaper locations such as eastern Europe or to other countries offering bigger incentives.
It has also helped attract investment from the deep-pocketed newer arrivals on the film and TV scene, such as Netflix and Amazon, which have backed productions in the UK including The Crown, which had a total budget of £100m, and fashion drama series The Collection. 
Last year there were 175 films completed in the UK that claimed tax relief, with the Treasury paying out £415m, up from £339m the previous year. Relief payouts for high-end TV – dramas that cost £1m or more per episode – rose from £104m to £163m. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CONVERGENCE MICRO-BUDGET Soderbergh iPhone movie to be self-distributed

From a great site for students of film comes news of a true iconoclast further blurring the pro/am line with his own smartphone movie.

Soderbergh is an awkward so and so but an unquestioned auteur and 80s Indie pioneer, like Alex Cox bringing something of a punk attitude to 80s film a decade after the upstart Indie outsiders had become Hollywood insiders (Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola).

Soderbergh is a name you'll see frequently in Peter Biskind's fantastic sequel to Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, his Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film which features on the 80s and 90s rise and fall of the Indies.
According to the Hollywood trade publication Tracking Board, Soderbergh shot his latest film, titled Unsane and starring The Crown's Claire Foy and Juno Temple, in secret with an iPhone. Little else is known about the film except that Soderbergh plans to self-distribute it domestically through his Fingerprint Releasing banner, which the director founded in order to test out distribution models for his most recent film, Logan Lucky. Before that, Soderbergh pushed boundaries by shooting Starz' The Girlfriend Experience on high-definition video with mostly non-actors. Since kicking off his career with 1989's seminal indie film sex, lies, and videotape, Soderbergh has consistently been at the vanguard of risk-taking in low-budget filmmaking.  
Recently, Soderbergh encouraged aspiring filmmakers to "get a script and start shooting on an iPhone" in a Reddit AMA. We're glad to see he took his own advice. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

BUDGET Cost of IP rights and screenplay

I'll add to this in time; first up a $5m novel rights example with Scorsese and DiCaprio attached - screenplay adaptation could cost the same again depending on how many writers are contracted to draft it:
Rights to Flower Moon – as it’s known to industry insiders – were snapped up by Imperative last year for a reported $5 million, and a script has reportedly been drafted by veteran Oscar-winning scribe Eric Roth of Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fame.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WARP Meadows C4 Virtues continues the TV convergence

Shane Meadows’ latest drama series for Britain’s Channel 4 will see the filmmaker reuniting with “This Is England” stars Stephen Graham and Helen Behan for “The Virtues.” The show will follow Joseph, played by Graham, as he returns home to Ireland to confront a troubled past after having been brought up in the state care system. 
Frank Laverty (“Michael Collins”) will star as the husband of Anna (Behan), the sister whom Joseph has not seen since he was a child. Jack Thorne, who worked on the “This Is England” TV series, has written “The Virtues.” The show will be produced by Sheffield- and London-based Warp Films, which made the 2009 film “This Is England” and three TV sequels: “This Is England ’86,” “This Is England ’88,” and “This Is England ’90.” Like all of the “England” TV series, “The Virtues” will be four parts. 
Meadows said that “The Virtues” will draw on his previous work. “It takes the biblical, almost apocalyptic levels of revenge witnessed in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes,’ along with the bittersweet humor from ‘This Is England,’ and creates a landscape like nothing else I’ve worked on,” he said. 
“The Virtues” is shooting in Sheffield, Liverpool, and Belfast, and will bow on Channel 4 in 2019.FILED UNDER:
Shane MeadowsStephen GrahamThe VirtuesThis is England

Friday, June 16, 2017

CHINA How Hollywood targets Chinese cinema

A handy overview of how Hollywood is tweaking its output to appeal to the Chinese market - an ironic mirroring of how British films (at least those with higher budgets affording a US star or two) have long made huge compromises to appeal to the US market.

This is a trend you need to grasp if you are going to speak/write with any autohority on the film industry.


Rock vehicle Skyscraper set in China (but white westerners lead the action AND actually shot in Vancouver!): Skyscraper review – The Rock towers over an inferno of cliches

UPSTREAMING RIP DVD Netflix Amazon dominate UK TV by 2020

The outlook for cinemas is uncertain as home cinema continues to grow in the quality offer, all-you-can-eat ticket offers on the rise, the likes of NBC-Universal's Prima service offering home screening of cinema releases, and the falling appetite for 3D - the extortionate ticket prices of which have been boosting cinema revenues for years, a golden goose that is now shedding its feathers...

The music industry has had to accept the sharp decline of physical sales, but the film industry hasn't yet reached that point of acceptance - but DVD and Blu-Ray alike are heading for the same cliff-edge of sales that CDs reached some years ago, another huge revenue stream under threat.

The big six also need to consider the digital upstarts Amazon and Netflix (and surely Apple sooner or later, the music industry slayer!) as key rivals ... and partners, an uneasy relationship.

A UK study has concluded that in just 3 years (by 2020) UK pay-TV revenue will be below that of streaming sites - but cinema might be more resilient (given my points above I'm highly sceptical!)

Paying for TV content from on-demand digital video services will grow by more than 30% to £1.42bn at the turn of the decade, claims consultancy firm PwC. This rise in popularity will see revenue from video services edge ahead of an estimated £1.41bn from cinemagoers. 
While Apple and Sky have also made inroads with their download services, the rise of streaming has been the biggest competitive challenge to cinemas in recent years. 
“Demand for internet video shows no signs of slowing down,” said Phil Stokes, UK head of entertainment and media at PwC. However, he warned against forecasting the death of blockbusters or the big screens where they are shown. “The figures do not signal the death of film. Look at the box office performance of films such as Star Wars: Rogue One or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to see the significant amount of enthusiasm for blockbuster movies out there.” 
Stokes said the UK film industry will remain in a “pretty healthy” position despite the boom in home entertainment. 
The report predicts movie attendance will grow from 172m admissions last year to 179m in 2021, and the number of screens across the UK will rise from 4,143 to 4,542. 
PwC predicts a “terminal decline” for DVD and Blu-ray sales from £1.22bn in 2016 to just £533m by 2021. The report predicts that internet video will overtake DVD sales this year, but some analysts claim this has already happened. 
Netflix and Amazon 'will overtake UK cinema box office spending by 2020'.

Streaming has already surpassed physical sales of film:
Total revenues from digital video – which includes services such as Apple’s iTunes as well as Sky’s store and Now TV – surged almost 23% to £1.3bn last year.The digital boost came as high street sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs fell 17% to £894m – the first time it has fallen below the £1bn mark. The once mighty physical rental market fell 21% to just £49m.
(2017 Guardian article)

Thursday, June 01, 2017

RottenTomatoes sank Baywatch and Pirates wail big 6

Tentpoles and TV blocking Indies' cinema chances

Hollywood and TV put the squeeze on UK's low-budget film-makers

Saturday, May 20, 2017

DIGITISATION 4K restorations for re-releases

The music industry is dominated by the old, with back catalogue sales underpinning revenues, though with a similar tentpole strategy in place for a handful of global stars, as Elberse details in her book Blockbusters, analysing the distribution muscle thrown behind Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and other titan acts.

David Bowie has dominated vinyl sales this year, and accounts for a good proportion of other revenues too - the music industry is fuelled by monetising nostalgia.

The Secret Cinema organisation in Britain, putting on screenings of past hits in locations with a thematic link to that film, have squeezed millions in extra box office from many back catalogue flicks, while a black and white Mad Max Fury Road release, or Lord of the Rings re-read with a few extra minutes of tedium added, or just re-release to pop a multi-billion barrier (Avatar) ... the re-release has a place in the film industry's playbook.

There's always the film club and arthouse circuit, with CinemaTheque in Luxembourg an example, Woody Allen re-runs rarely being off the agenda in a typical month, or the summer outdoor screenings of everything from The Force Awakens to Rebel Without a Cause (picks for the 2016 Luxembourg season, the free event paid for through Orange sponsorship).

Retrofitting 3D is a long established practice, a software process of making a film not shot in 3D into this format at a cost of around $10m. Restoration has been a considerable element of arthouse and film festival fare - I've enjoyed watching a newly restored cut of a 50s Poe adaptation at the Bradford National Media Museum (1 strand of the BFI's work), and a new extended cut of Metropolis, weaving in newly discovered and repaired footage, at the Ilkley Film Festival.

The 4K restorations that Maurice, a Merchant and Ivory drama about a gay male love affair starring a young Hugh Grant, is an early example of could become a significant element of the multiplex mix, not just the arthouse circuit, a useful strand of counter-programming or even a means of building hype for a new franchise release by a limited release of an older, pre-reboot, franchise entry (picking up lots of cheap publicity along the way).

Both the 3D retrofits and 4K restorations are notable examples of the impact of digitisation.

Maurice at 30: the gay period drama the world wasn't ready for

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is film piracy sunk?

Message to Pirates of the Caribbean hackers – piracy no longer pays

Why films fail: Arthur legendary flop

Epic fail: why has King Arthur flopped so badly?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cannes adds TV but bans Netflix over release window

As Cannes turns 70, must cinema adapt to survive in new digital era?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

CONVERGENCE Terminator remade inside GTAV

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Blockbuster model threatened as release window slashed to 3 weeks?

Blockbusters assemble: can the mega movie survive the digital era?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

CINEMA gimmicks including playpens

A theater chain wants to add jungle gyms to movie screens. It's a bad idea

Monday, March 06, 2017

REPRESENTATION Emma Watson post-feminist pose?

Emma Watson 'stunned' by criticism that Vanity Fair cover is not feminist

Thursday, February 16, 2017

CONVERGENCE Love Actually mini-sequel for TV

What joy - a sequel to the wonderful Love Actually, the profound Richard Curtis classic that puts would-be auteurs like Welles, Hitchcock, Scorsese et al to shame.

Tragically, there will be only ten minutes of this cinematic feast, delivered through TV, as part of the Comic Relief telethon that Curtis helped create. One can only hope for a fourth Bridget Jones movie to ease the pain.

Thanks to Richard for alerting me to this televisual splendour, a nice example of convergence, with the TV/film divide fading - About a Boy being another Working Title example.

LA itself has become a meme since its release; as this article notes, comparisons have been made between the Grant character and Canadian PM Trudeau this week.
A notoriously polarising film, Love Actually’s cultural currency has grown in the 14 years since it was released. The film has been repeatedly unpicked, spoofed and deconstructed; four foreign language films – in Japanese, Hindi, Polish and Dutch – have also been inspired by the movie.
The showdown between Hugh Grant’s upstanding UK prime minister and the boorish, lecherous US president – reportedly based on a Bill Clinton/George W Bush hybrid – has been a touchstone of political discourse ever since. Even this week, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau found himself compared to Grant, following his meeting with US President Donald Trump. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

LIONSGATE thrive without tentpoles

An overview of Lionsgate's evolving strategy, although I don't share the author's confidence that a reversion to lower budget (current hit and Oscar favourite La La Land cost $30m), arthouse Oscar bait is an intentional shift, rather the ending of two huge YA franchises based on book series that came to firm endings.

Their 2017 slate includes a new book adaptation, My Little Pony and Power Rangers, not to mention a Saw reboot, so they're clearly not done with what Elberse describes as the blockbuster strategy yet, let alone the all-prevailing franchise model.

La La Land's success heralds return to Lionsgate's small-scale roots

Saturday, February 04, 2017

INDUSTRY TV soars while film DVD slumps

Falling DVD sales put boot into profits at Sony Pictures

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

BBFC Trainspotting joins small band of 18-rated hits

And it’s rare that an 18-certificate film opens north of £5m. Ignoring previews, only three such titles have done so: Fifty Shades of GreyBrunoand Hannibal.

The success is also noteworthy for the 2 decade gap between franchise entries, something only Star Wars (19 years after Jedi) can claim.

Return trip: T2 Trainspotting shoots up UK box-office chart

Friday, January 27, 2017

INDUSTRY Tax break makes UK major production base

Star Wars and Trainspotting sequels help UK film production break records

Lights, camera, inaction – could Brexit hurt the British film production boom?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

INDIE ARTHOUSE CINEMAS flourish with weddings and events

New figures show a big increase in the UK market share of Indie cinemas, up from 17% in 2015 to 23% in 2016, and nearer 34% if Indies bought up by chains like Picturehouse are added.

I've blogged on the rise of boutique, small-scale arthouse cinemas such as that launched last year in Ilkley (and the longer established CinemaTheque here, in a country where the Utopolis chain dominates), but also the rise and rise of event cinema, from live screencasts of opera, theatre and orchestra to director Q+A's.

Now we're seeing weddings in cinemas, films paused so the audience can taste the same wine or chocolates as the characters on screen ... a lot of innovation in the fightback against home cinema and the emergent streaming giants.

Wine, weddings and ballet: new role for indie cinemas at heart of high streets

Thursday, January 19, 2017

SAUDIA ARABIA Sod that, cinema banned!

Saudi Arabia to continue ban on 'immoral, atheistic' cinema

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

FRANCE CHINA $180m Eng lang tentpole Valerian

A Chinese production company invested $50m of the staggering $180m budget - standard fare for Big Six Hollywood fantasy, sci-fi and action franchise flicks but more than twice the previous highest budget French production, the $78m Asterix.

To put that into perspective, the UK's consistently most successful production company, WT, have never since exceeded the $100m of war action movie Green Zone, a Matt Damon vehicle.

Having watched the trailer, it strikes me as Blade Runner meets Avatar - though director Lux Besson's 20 year-old Hollywood sci-fi hit The Fifth Dimension is another apt comparison. Where that movie starred Bruce Willis in his global box office pomp, it's much less certain that lead Cara Delevingne can carry the marketing. Her presence didn't help Suicide Squad's relatively disappointing box office.

Sci-fi and superheroes in 2017: can Luke Skywalker save us from Hollywood's bleak year ahead?