Last month, the much-anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened to the public. Its stated mission is to advance “the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema through inclusive and accessible exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections.” The museum and its opening gala received a lot of well-deserved media attention. What hasn’t been so widely reported, however, is the important role that the Dolby family and company have played, and will continue to play, in the museum’s conception, design, and ongoing cinema efforts.
The Big Picture
Wim Buyens has been the CEO of Cinionic since it was created in January 2018 in a joint venture between Barco, Appotronics, another laser technology manufacturer, and the China Film Group. Prior to that he spent more than a decade in various top executive positions at Barco. Buyens believes that for exhibitors to succeed going forward they must offer what he calls “an elevated experience.” He also firmly believes that Cinionic can help them create that experience.
After more than a century as a key player in media and entertainment, Technicolor has gone through many changes in recent years. Today the company consists of four distinct businesses. Technicolor Creative Studios includes Technicolor Pre-Production, MPC, Mr. X, The Mill and Mikros Animation. Technicolor Connected Home is focused on the designing of broadband gateways and Android set-top boxes, and innovating in IoT, broadband fiber 2.5G and 10G. Technicolor Home Entertainment Services is a leader in the manufacturing and distribution of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and non-packaged media innovations. And Technicolor Trademark Licensing, which manages brand licensing opportunities for consumer electronic trademarks including RCA and Thompson.
Motion Pictures Laboratories or MovieLabs, a technology joint venture of the major Hollywood studios, has published the first version of a common ontology for production technologists designing software-defined workflows for the media and entertainment industry. The Ontology for Media Creation provides a conceptual framework and a set of defined terms to enable both people and software to communicate unambiguously with greater data interoperability.
At Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, in his annual address to open CinemaCon 2021, John Fithian, president, and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners was cautiously upbeat and simultaneously defiant about the state of the exhibition business. He thanked a long list of organizations for their part in helping movie theatres survive the worst of the COVID-19 crisis and expressed the belief that, while “we have reached the light at the end of a very long tunnel” there is much more work to be done if the cinema business is to thrive. He emphasized what he and everyone who cares about the idea of seeing movies on the big screen believes to be true: “Simultaneous release does not work for anyone. A steady flow of strong movies released with exclusive windows is essential to exhibition’s recovery, and to the profitability of the entire movie ecosystem.”
It can be difficult to remember just how upbeat people were that first week in April of 2019, the last time the motion picture industry gathered for a CinemaCon. The domestic box office numbers for 2018 had been incredible. Led by the mega-hit Black Panther, a total of 35 films topped the $100 million mark that year and a 36th, Christopher Robin, fell just short. The box office numbers in 2019 were equally strong; 2020 was off to a strong start as well, and then the COVID-19 virus changed everything. Now, after almost two and a half years, the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, is set to begin in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The feature documentary The Outsider will be distributor Abramorama’s first release to premiere on Facebook as a paid online event. The live ticketed premiere screening is scheduled to begin August 19 at 8:00 pm EDT with a ticket price of $ 3.99. The premiere will be introduced by a special guest and followed by a panel discussion. The Facebook live screening event will be followed by nationwide in-person theatrical engagements beginning on August 20 in tandem with a Watch Now @ Home virtual cinema release.
Christie Marchese is the founder of Picture Motion, where she led a team that’s involved in developing grassroots marketing and social action campaigns for films. Since its launch in 2012, Picture Motion has run campaigns for more than 150 feature and short films. Prior to launching Picture Motion, Marchese served as director of social action at Righteous Pictures and led digital strategy for the social action team at Participant Media, managing campaigns for Waiting for Superman, Food Inc, and The Cove among others. Prior to her career in film, Marchese ran digital strategy for Norman Lear’s nonprofit, Declare Yourself, and spent time at Human Rights Watch and the International Rescue Committee. Today she shares her experiences in utilizing film and storytelling to mobilize change, by presenting at film festivals and conferences, including Sundance, South-by-Southwest, and the Toronto International Film Festival, and for the Peruvian and Pakistani Governments.
In a strongly worded statement, the National Association of Theatre Owners defended the practice of exclusive theatrical release windows for exhibitors and used Disney’s latest movie, Black Widow, as its prime example. Here is NATO’s statement in full: “Black Widow’s excellent reviews, positive word of mouth, and strong previews and opening day total ($13.2 million/$39.5 million) led to a surprising 41 percent second day drop, a weaker than expected opening weekend, and a stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues. Why did such a well-made, well-received, highly anticipated movie underperform? Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie’s life.
As the motion picture business slowly but surely rebounds from the worst of the pandemic, there are signs that many exhibitors are rethinking the design and configuration of their theatres. Should they permanently remove some seats in case pandemics prove to be a recurring event? Should they tailor some auditoriums for games or eSports or other specialized content? New-builds and renovations often present different challenges but they all have one thing in common: seats. To understand the current state of seats and cinema design I recently spoke by email with Theresa English, principal at TK Architects International. The company has designed hundreds of cinemas and this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary in business. For English, any conversation about cinema design starts long before the house lights are dimmed, or the first movie ticket is sold. “The focus,” she says, “is on the patron and the seat.”