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July 22nd, 2009

redboxNothing to do with Red Camera, or Redsox, Redbox is the familiar DVD vending machine found in over 17,000 locations like convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies across the States, and of course in McDonald’s where it all began.

Now independently owned, Redbox has just done a deal with Sony’s Home Entertainment, the first publicly disclosed deal with a major studio.  Even with the modest $1 a night rental, renting DVD’s from vending machines has become a source of huge revenue and Sony expects to make around $450m over the next five years.

While some executives in the home entertainment biz are concerned that Redbox is significantly undercutting rental prices at traditional outlets like Blockbuster, others are concerned about how it may affect DVD sales.  However, lower DVD sales have been offset by the rise in Blu Ray sales, more expensive per unit and rentals are up over 150%, thought to be largely fuelled by vendors like Redbox.

Looks like the things you most want are cheapest in the US – DVD’s and petrol.


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July 17th, 2009

brunoIf you’re lawyer, you’ll never be out of work in Hollywood.  It’s lawsuit city.  Someone’s always going to be sued for something – defamation, libel, ripping-off, damages, wanting to build a basketball court, the courts have never been busier.  Not unexpectedly, Bruno, recently banned in the Ukraine, is already competing with prequel Borat’s numerous actions, with its first of no doubt, many suits.

Apparrantly, while filming a charity bingo at which Bruno was the celebrity, the organiser was so appalled by his behaviour she rushed off in hysteria, fainted, hit her head which led to internal bleeding and is now in a wheelchair.

marked_woman_movie_posterActors of course are often either suing someone or being sued, but one of the most remarkable actions, which is unlikely to happen in today’s Hollywood, took place in 1936.  Up and coming star, Bette Davis was contracted to Warners and was so fed up with being given poor scripts she sued the studio.  She lost, but the next script she was asked to do was Marked Woman, which, phew, she liked.  It turned out to be a great success, bringing Davis well and truly into the limelight – along with Humphrey Bogart who had second billing!

Money of course, is the subject of many suits, as with the infamous battles on Lord Of The Rings, between director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, and the Tolkien Estate and New Line for various shares of profits.  Hollywood accounting has a lot to answer for and was highlighted by a landmark case in 1990, the Buchwald v Paramount case.  Writer, Art Buchwald claimed Paramount stole his idea for the Eddie Murphy movie, Coming To America.  He won, accepted a settlement and surprisingly Paramount didn’t appeal.  This was because part of Buchwald’s contract entitled him to a share of the net profits and during the trial, Paramount claimed that out of the $350m in revenue, there were none!  The court ruled this impossible, allowing Buchwald to pursue a separate claim.      So Paramount settled for an undisclosed sum, if they had appealed and likely lost, they would have been opening the flood gates for suits from many other writers, actors and directors. This has since made studios and producers more careful about being sued for ripping-off scripts or ideas.

Gary ShandlingThe fragile, strange, sometimes tragic lives of Hollywood residents reveal some equally tragic legal actions. Gary Shandling, star of ‘90’s comedy hit, The Larry Sanders Show – a fictional Letterman, which showed life on both sides of the camera, became embroiled in a scandal which continued for many years.

In 1999, Shandling sued his manager Brad Grey for $100m, saying he had Brad Greybeen taking excessive payments for his HBO show.  Soon after, a lot of bad press was being written about Shandling revealing aspects of his private life.  This came out as Shandling was giving evidence along with a host of other stars, at the trial of Hollywood PI Anthony Pellicano in 2008.  It was alleged that Grey had Pellicano wiretap Shandling’s phone as a means of gaining information to create a smear campaign, indeed, Grey called Shandling one night, threatening to,  ‘make his life miserable’.   Shandling won his case in 1999 amid much scandal and Grey agreed to pay him more than $10m.

Brad Grey is now CEO of Paramount Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprioAnd now, basketball.  In 2004, Leonardo Di Caprio, star of The Basketball Diaries, wanted to build a basketball court in the grounds of his rented Hollywood home.  His builders started excavations and the neighbours went crazy.  They sued for $250,000 claiming damage to their pool, deck and bedrock.  Initially the judge ruled the suit was inadequate but after some adjustments, by 2008 it went ahead.  Yesterday it was revealed, the case was dismissed by the court last week, though details of any settlement weren’t revealed.

When I started researching this week’s blog I Googled, Hollywood lawsuits, a quarter of a second later I had 1.18 million results.  I’m only just getting through them!


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What’s Up Doc?

July 16th, 2009

Ice Age 3Hollywood animators it seems, don’t have the same bargaining power as their writer and actor associates.  The animator’s union, the unassumingly named, Animation Guild Local 839 announced the key points of a three year deal with the majors, after two months of negotiations.

They’ve agreed a 2% rise in wages, and a 1.5% rise of employer contributions to health and pension plans.  Interestingly, IATSE West Coast, of which the Animation Guild is part, recently negotiated a similar deal for its other 25,000 members, but they get a 3% rise in wages.

The animators business agent, Steve Hulet said the studios wouldn’t budge beyond 2% and admitted animators just don’t have the leverage.  ‘The conclusion to the negotiations wasn’t awful’, he said, but, ‘we were not ecstatic at the final results’.

I guess their only bargaining point  is that they’ll draw their characters badly!


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Edinburgh Line-Up

July 16th, 2009

David SimonThe full programme for this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival which runs between August 28-30 is now online and features various masterclasses, meet the big guns, lectures and parties.

Highlights include the Top Gear masterclass with Jeremy Clarkson and Exec Producer Andy Millman, The, David, ‘The Wire’ Simon masterclass and the Ross Kemp masterclass.  Various, ‘Meet The Controller’ presentations run throughout and Ant and Dec reveal the secret of their longevity while Frank Skinner and Lucy Porter  reveal the funny side of the various complaints received by OfCom.  More comedy from sitcom writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin who reflect on their ’30 Years Of Polluting The Airways’

The fee for freelancers for the three day weekend is £402.50 with the student/graduate rate at £212.75, let’s hope it’s worth it!


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Teens Don’t Tweet

July 14th, 2009

It’s official, the marketeers don’t really know what the teen market really, really wants.  In a piece of research prepared by the media business analysis department of London based, Morgan Stanley, or I should say by their 15 year old intern, this is the real world insight of what teens are into.

hip2besquareFortunately, movies and TV are fairly safe, teens like going to the movies and often go without having a specific movie in mind but choose when they get there.  It’s more about the experience and going with friends.  After age 15 however it gets expensive and a pirate DVD is a better deal.

TV wise, teens will watch a show for a season then probably nothing for weeks and prefer to watch on computers so there’s no ads.  What they do like however is viral ads for their originality and quirky humour.  The internet is king of course, except for the annoying pop-ups and banner ads, with Facebook and Google being the number one’s, though Twitter they say, is pointless.  (Phew, so it isn’t just me!) Most have it but don’t use it, preferring to text.  And as for music, they’re very reluctant to pay for it when they can download it for free.  Don’t read newspapers.

IN – anything with a touch screen, phones that connect to the internet – usually pay-as-you-go,  really BIG TV’s.  OUT – anything with wires, phones without colour screens, devices with less than 10 hour battery life.

As usual, they remain a mystery!


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It’s Go For Basterds

July 14th, 2009

As recently reported by us, the fate of Tarrantino’s latest, Inglorious Basterds, lay in the hands of the faltering Weinstein Company, whose financial problems meant it didn’t have the $30million required to release and promote the movie.   For a while the fate of Basterds was uncertain but now it’s schedded for release in the US on August 21.

Quentin TarrantinoThey’ve put all their other movies on hold to get Basterds out, followed swiftly by the Halloween sequel on August 28.  TWC had hired Miller Buckfire to help sort out its finances, but word was that after the Camp Allen conference, a white knight in the shape of Liberty Media’s Startz/Encore was stepping up with the funds.  This has since been scotched as spin sent by Weinstein’s people to a New York Post journo.

Well at least we’ll finally get to see Mr. Pink’s latest.


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Admissions Up

July 14th, 2009

The half yearly figures for box office and admissions in the US from January to the first week in July, show an upturn since the same time last year.

harry-potter-half-bloodAccording to box office tracker,,  revenue is up 11.64% with last year’s $4.87 billion topped by this year’s $5.438 billion.   This means attendances are up by 9.06%, not big but at least it’s not a drop.  It’s thought it’s mainly the kid’s movies that have attracted the larger audiences, for films including Harry Potter, Twilight, Transformers etc, though some store for a good year end is being placed buy the hoped for success of Avatar in December.

Even so, a business making over $5 billion in six months can’t be doing bad.


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Drive In

July 10th, 2009

Drive In movieThe summer is of course the big season for Drive-In movies, or in the UK, sit-in movies, as drive-in’s were never really big here and I guess sitting on grass or in deck chairs is just more sophisticated, more British.  In the States though, and other countries with more reliable summers than the UK, like Australia, they remain pretty big and are morphing into something else.

The very first drive-in theatre was opened in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead Jr. using a 1928 Kodak projector and loudspeakers behind the screen. And in a remarkably sophisticated design feature, cars were parked in a semi-circle and on different levels so no one’s view was obstructed by the car in front.

first-drive-inVery quickly the idea caught on as this was the movie theatre the whole family could go to, no baby sitter required and it didn’t matter if people smoked or talked during the film!

Their popularity was at its greatest in the 1950’s and ’60’s when there were over 4000 across the States and scenes like those from the movie Grease, with hot dog sellers and waitresses on roller skates were common. Drive-In owners even made their own ads to promote their concessions.  Sound from speakers was always a problem though, as to be loud enough to be heard from a car at the back it blasted the people in the front. So by the late ’50’s the sound came from a small speaker hung on the window of each car.  In mono of course.

Today there are around 380 drive-ins across the US down from 534 just ten years ago and when you’re in the States, you can find your nearest here. Indeed there are probably more movies featuring scenes at drive-in theatres, than there are drive-ins. But that’s still 1.7% of the total number of screens in the country, important if you’re a distributor.  And these days, the sound is broadcast on FM direct to the radios in people’s cars.  Don’t know if they’ve cracked surround sound as yet.  Some tumbledown sites still remain as a reminder of those popcorn days, the majority having closed due to the price of real estate and the rise of home entertainment. But hey, which would you rather?

In the UK, London’s Somerset House on the Thames is the site of some of the most regular, outdoor movie events as they’re called, along with venues outside City Hall and on the fly tower of The National Theatre where I saw a performance by the remarkable Addictive TV creating a whole new concept for outdoor movies, though not as we know it.

addictivetv2jpgThis is mash-mix film – scratch-mixing of movie clips to club music. Clips from movies like Iron Man or most recently, Slumdog Millionaire, are edited, repeated, multi-screened, all live to music.  It works brilliantly outdoors and is a remarkable mix of music, film and technique.

Though neither quite has the romantic appeal of the old fashioned drive-in, but fear not. The next big thing, which is creating the come-back of drive-ins, is the guerrilla drive-in and it’s spreading everywhere including to the UK. This drive-in just drives-up anywhere that’s got a building with a large flat wall, preferably white and some car parking space.  Using a portable video projector which sits on the back of 4X4, withmobmovjpg sound broadcast to car radios, the drive-in is back.  It’s becoming huge in the States, like the hot dogs, and across the world.

You’ll have to bring your own popcorn and coke though, and I guess there’s no waitresses on roller skates!  Oh and no talking or anything else in the back seats, we’re British you know!


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The 3D Specs Are Slipping

July 9th, 2009

3D AudienceA few weeks ago, our blog pf April 16 suggested the rise of 3D was of purely novelty value and being an example of, ‘the next big thing’ well it seems to be coming true.

Recent box office data reveals that where the same films were running in both 3D and normal, 2D, interest in the $2 – $3 more expensive, 3D version, is declining.  For example, when My Bloody Valentine came out in January, the 3D version made 6.4 times more than its 2D version. Coraline’s February release, made 3 times more for its 3D version.  However, by the time Ice Age 3 came out in July, the 3D made only 1.4 times more than the regular version.

More 3D films are due for release during the rest of the year including, Final Destination in August and culminating in James Cameron’s Avatar in December so we’ll see whether the exhibitor’s rush to invest in screens and digital projectors will pay off.  Or whether it really was the studios creating a short term buzz, to encourage theatres to buy digital projectors, saving them the long term costs of producing and distributing traditional prints.

I guess once you’ve experienced a new thing a few times, its novelty wears off.  I wonder when that’ll happen with sound?


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3D, It’s Not Just For Kids

July 8th, 2009

Ice Age 3D Poster3D, once thought of as a novelty for showing kids animations including Polar Express and Ice Age, is finding a bigger and more diverse market.

Recently, a live performance of opera Don Giovani, was satellite broadcast in 3D, to audiences in five cinemas in Paris, Avignon and Brest.  Through 3D glasses, probably not the opera kind, audiences could experience the show as if they were actually at the theatre – well nearly.  I wonder if they were suitably dressed?

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, 3D and a 24 metre curved screen is giving a breathtaking view of the universe at the Tycho Brahe Planetarium.

And in London, BAFTA, has gone 3D in its 220 seater, where it will be issuing re-usable 3D glasses, so as to, ‘continue its mission to be environmentally friendly’.

But will they be showing My Bloody Valentine?


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