movie theaters – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Phones Coming to a Theater Near You? Thu, 23 May 2013 13:00:52 +0000 Antenna Post Photo

Last week, Kevin Williamson, a columnist for National Review, had a new experience: He was thrown out of a theater – probably with more delicacy and ceremony than when he threw another patron’s phone across the room. According to Williamson, a young woman had already ignored requests from Williamson’s date and the management to refrain from using her phone during the performance. Having had enough after his own request was curtly refused, he “deftly snatch[ed] the phone out of her hand and toss[ed] it across the room, where it would do no more damage.” On goes the war against cell phone use in theaters…

Though unfamiliar with the battles being fought for the spectatorial soul of live theatre, I am acquainted with analogous debates and calls to arms over movie theater etiquette. One of the most visible defenders of cinemagoing decorum has been Tim League, co-founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. During a panel at the 2012 CinemaCon, for example, influential figures like Regal Entertainment Group CEO Amy Miles and IMAX President Greg Foster expressed tentative interest in the possibility of loosening bans on cell phone use during select screenings as a concession to youth viewers. League responded that ceding ground was the wrong approach. “It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.” Such rhetoric, which elevates theatrical exhibition beyond its commodity status and into the realm of the sublime or spiritual, is quite common. Like churches, cathedrals, temples, and so forth, movie theaters function as spaces of congregation for collective activity. Prohibitions against cell phone use concern the maintenance of that collectivity – i.e., the teaching of manners – a hard-won prize if the variety of “No Texting / No TalkingPSAs is any indication.

One must ask, though, if common assumptions about audience collectivity are synonymous with the most basic intentions behind these trailers. Consider this commentary from the movie news and review website Screen Rant:

“Theatergoing is a communal experience that, in its purest form, is made better by the other people who share in the experience. We laugh more during a comedy film, surrounded by other people who are similarly entertained, than we would alone in our apartment. We knowingly enter into this social contract when attending public screenings – expecting that sharing in the experience with other people is worth any inconvenience we might face as a result of ignoring our phones for two hours.”

Judging by the expectations of cinemagoing evident in this excerpt and elsewhere, it would be easy to assume that the crimes of inconsiderate audience members amount to an unwillingness to participate in the affective community created by common attentiveness to a movie. Such jeremiads regularly decry the apparent inability of mobile users to disconnect from the outside world and embrace immersion, in which case these reprimands double as laments: “If you’d only put away your phone, you’d experience what I/we experience.” In fact, though, what these arguments denounce is interference. The glow of miniature screens and the beeps of incoming text messages are not, in and of themselves, problematic; rather, it is their ability to render others’ affective and intellectual experiences discontinuous that causes concern. The social contract supposedly implicit in attending a theatrical screening does not require that we contribute to others’ viewing experiences; it asks that we not detract from them.

The photo leading this post, then, strikes me as an inaccurate representation of the problem at hand for exhibitors and patrons, though I have seen it accompany several blogs and articles about the place of phones in theaters. What it depicts are not viewers frustrated with other patrons’ thoughtless behavior; rather, we see twelve audience members blissfully immersed in their own business, ignorant of both the movie screen and those around them. With one or two adjustments, it sketches the basic goal of “No Texting / No Talking” PSAs: a situation in which viewers do not interfere with the attentiveness of others (ideally, to the film).

Tim League’s CinemaCon comments – especially the line, “Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater” – thus seem short-sighted. To reiterate, the problem with personal devices is not their presence, as League and others suggest, but their lack of integration into the viewing experience. When these technologies contribute to spectatorial practices – as is the case with HeckleVision – perhaps calls for the eviction of phones from theaters will quiet, at least under some circumstances. Already, the mainstream exhibition industry is looking for ways to incorporate personal devices into the practices of cinemagoing. Apps like MoviePal, Movie Night Out, and RunPee help smartphone users plan their trips to the theater. Cinemark’s branded app, featuring CineMode, and Sprint’s “Dream” campaign use coupons and personalized videos, respectively, to reward smartphone owners for not using their devices during shows. In each of these cases, though, viewing itself remains a personal, analog activity. In 2010, Best Buy’s Movie Mode app took tentative steps toward assimilating mobile devices into spectatorial practice with its Minionator function, which translated the gibberish spoken by Gru’s Minions during the end credits. The most ambitious experiment to date, however, seems to be App (2013), a Dutch thriller designed to utilize smartphones as second screens. At select moments during the film, an associated app notifies theatergoers of additional, narratively salient content accessible through their phones.

Whether cinema storytellers will pursue experiments like these in the future remains to be seen, and it is still less clear that such integration can become standard of the theater experience. However, both App and Despicable Me point to a basic, easily overlooked facet of theatrical exhibition: rather than pre-existing as an abstract set of rules – a social contract signed with the purchase of a ticket – the practices of cinema spectatorship are enacted anew by each congregated audience. As new conditions arise and standardize, both audiences and the industry adapt in kind. Moreover, these adaptations not only represent new possibilities of practice, they reflect new and legitimate, if contentious, expectations of practice.


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Dolby Atmos: What You Hear Thu, 11 Apr 2013 14:00:09 +0000 DolbyAtmosAmong practitioners and scholars, there is a common quip that a technological change in film sound amounts to a “quiet revolution” for filmgoers. Last year’s roll-out of Dolby Atmos perhaps only further corroborates this observation. Of the several films mixed and released in the new format — films that include Brave (2012), The Hobbit (2012), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) — few mention Atmos in their promotional material. Additionally, filmgoers may be unable to distinguish an Atmos mix from a typical 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack. Given that films like G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) were not initially conceived with Atmos in mind, to the untrained ear there may not always be a discernible difference between Dolby’s new format and previous technologies. Nonetheless, Atmos offers a filmgoing experience worth discussing, for if it or a similar system were to become the industry standard, then questions arise as to how its potential aesthetic might shape the way films sound and look. This blog post therefore provides just a few preliminary observations regarding the significance of Dolby Atmos’s technological and stylistic features.

With respect to its mixing capabilities, the Atmos system can send discreet sounds to up to 61 individual speakers and 3 low-frequency subwoofers. This updates Dolby’s recent 7.1 configuration (color-coded below), which consists of three full-range speakers behind the screen, a channel for each side wall, and a left and right channel for the rear wall. Additionally, 7.1 can feed low-frequency effects to an LFE or “.1” channel located behind the screen.

Atmos essentially keeps this 7.1 configuration but adds two more speakers behind the screen, two channels for ceiling speakers, and two additional LFE channels for the theater’s rear corners, creating ostensibly an 11.3 foundation. Generally, this foundation might contain the film’s music, ambient and background sounds, and — in the front speakers — the onscreen dialog and sound effects.

Most importantly, Atmos can send up to 128 sound effect “objects” to any single speaker in the auditorium. Whereas an offscreen bird might emanate from the entire left wall of speakers in 7.1, filmmakers can now mix the soundtrack so the bird emanates first from only the far speaker on the left, then from a front ceiling speaker, then from an adjacent speaker, and so forth if the filmmakers wish to recreate a bird’s circuitous flight through an auditorium. Further, because not every theater wired for Atmos will have the exact same number of speakers, the system can modify where it mixes its sound objects in order for that bird to journey identically through a 37- and 61-channel space.

This new means of mixing sound effects is known as a “pan through array,” and—as Dolby argues—the capability is an extensive improvement over the panning limitations of previous formats. Take for instance this early fly-over effect from the 5.1 mix of Broken Arrow (1996). As the airplane travels through the image from the background to the foreground, the sound pans from the front channels into the rear channels (circled in red below), creating the illusion that the plane is also traveling through the theater.

In Atmos these effects still exist, but the added channels on the sides and ceiling allow filmmakers more control over a pan’s speed and intensity. For example, as we crane toward the tornado in Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013; pictured below), the storm’s howls slowly engulf one row of speakers at a time in order to create a more foreboding atmosphere and pace.

However, we should not assume that these chill-inducing aesthetics are how practitioners will continue to mix in Atmos once this introductory period is over. To offer some historical context, when Hollywood first introduced digital surround sound to audiences in the early 1990s, films utilizing these new technologies were also sporting aggressive sound designs. For instance, during the final gun battle from Carlito’s Way (1993) we hear screams, gunfire, and other sound effects, yet when we listen to just the two rear surround channels we hear only guns and bullets.  The inclusion of only these sounds in the surround speakers would seem to create the illusion that bullets are actually whizzing by the heads of filmgoers.

(Here is an excerpt from the battle with every channel activated…

… and here is the excerpt again with only the rear surround channels activated.)

While Carlito’s Way typifies how 5.1 systems sounded during their first few years, such aggressive and kitschy mixes seemed to become passé by the end of the decade, with these more sensory experiences mainly quarantined for science-fiction or war films, and with most panning effects reserved for interplay between only the front speakers. I suspect a similar stylistic trajectory might also happen with Dolby Atmos.

So in lieu of treating aggressive sound mixing as essential to the Atmos aesthetic, we might conceive of the technology’s long-term appeal in two other ways. First, Atmos replaces each theater’s surrounds with higher-quality speakers that are capable of carrying wider frequency ranges. As opposed to previous soundtracks that were stored on 35mm, the increase in data space afforded to Atmos on DCP hard drives can then allow for more audio information and greater textural detail to emanate from these newer speakers. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, there are the ceiling channels. DreamWorks’s The Croods (2013) noticeably utilizes these new locations through its fabrication of reverberation and echo. During the film’s opening egg chase, the filmmakers mix Alan Silvestri’s A-TEAM-esque score so that it “bounces” off the ceiling like it would in a concert hall or indoor stadium. In addition, both The Croods (pictured below) and Rise of the Guardians (2012) feature fireworks and other elevated actions that take advantage of the ceiling’s speakers.

Ceiling channels and more detailed sonic textures are pleasurable additions, but they may pale in comparison to some of the more chill-inducing moments currently offered by filmmakers. If you are curious about experiencing these aggressive sound mixes firsthand then you may want to plan a trip to your closest Atmos theater before this type of aesthetic once again becomes passé.


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What Are You Missing? November 4-17 Sun, 18 Nov 2012 15:17:37 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Giant publishers Penguin and Random House are combining forces, a move which some say is absolutely necessary for survival against the onslaught of e-book competitors, and it’s likely that consolidation will continue, with money rather than culture driving publishing. A new era is also heralded by the Macmillan Dictionary going online only.

2. Brooklyn is becoming a key moviegoing region, thanks to new ventures like a hybrid theater/DVD rental store/bar. Further south, Virginia has seen its status as a movie production region boosted through tax incentives, with Lincoln providing a model example. The loser in that scenario is Los Angeles, which has lost over 16,000 production jobs since 2004, and now LA stands to lose porn workers too.

3. It’s shaping up to be a decent year at the movie box office, and there’s also increasing money to be made in video-on-demand, foreign markets (though China’s now a question mark), product placement, and branding.

4. Warner Bros. is beset by in-fighting, while Sony Pictures’ financial struggles continue. And though Sony insists the studio’s not for sale, Viacom’s CEO says fine, we totally don’t want to buy your stupid studio anyway. And now here comes Michael Eisner getting back in the game with Universal, which might mean…Are you sitting down? (Right, you’re probably sitting at a computer)…a new Garbage Pail Kids movie.

5. 33% of North American peak residential downstream internet traffic now involves Netflix, but while Netflix’s growth may have drawn some online video pirates away from BitTorrent, traffic via BitTorrent is still increasing. Mega is getting back in business in New Zealand, while Pirate Bay’s founder, already in detention in Sweden, is looking at new charges.

6. Spotify’s valuation just went down, but the music service has had a good 2012, with new investors and expansions and plans in place to rescue the music industry after it finally craters. Web radio is also doing well, though the battle over online royalties stands to get fiercer, and musicians are growing more dissatisfied with Pandora. The impact of such services on music fan habits is muddled, but at least one big label is now at a digital tipping point. And through it all, the hated Nickelback just keeps making bank.

7. You’ve heard this before: Console video game sales are down, the eleventh straight month of declines. Though the impending release of new generation consoles could break that streak, rumors are that there might not be as many physical games to buy soon anyway. But here’s something new: good old-fashioned board games are growing in popularity, apparently sparked by online gaming and the desire for social alternatives.

8. Election night was a big internet and social media night, as Twitter and Facebook saw huge activity, and Instagram also made its mark. Google+? Not so much. President Obama spent considerably more on social media than his challenger did and took greater advantage of internet marketing and data, and Obama’s tech team is getting high praise for its role in his re-election success.

9. Former Hollywood exec Peter Chernin has joined Twitter’s board of directors, and it seems he has some catching up to do as he helps to plot a new future for the social media service. That future will include tweets from the Pope, though His Holiness might want to get on board with the impressive Tumblr too.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Social Media Data, Amazon Money, Time-Shifting Down Too, ESPN’s Tebow Obsession, TV Wars, First & Second Screens, +3 Compared to +7, +7 Ratings, House of Cards Trailer, New MTV Programmer, BBC Crisis, Fox News & the Election, Rove’s Performance, Return of The Killing, Gay TV Impact.


What Are You Missing? Sept 16-29 Sun, 30 Sep 2012 14:31:47 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. In-flight airline entertainment is at a crossroads, as airlines decide between spending on wifi upgrades to let people use their own devices and on airplane entertainment technology like seat-back systems. JetBlue is going for the wifi option, and Boeing is upgrading wifi systems on their planes, while a few international airlines are passing out pre-loaded iPads to keep passengers entertained. In addition to the ever-rising costs to access in-flight wifi, there’s also the matter of it inevitably being slow.

2. Netflix has new competition to keep an eye on: Sky made a deal in the UK with Warner Bros., the new Redbox-Verizon service plans a Christmas debut, there’s word Disney could jump into the fray soon, UltraViolet might finally make some noise, and cable VOD stands to encroach further on Netflix’s territory.

3. Predictions are starting for the Foreign Language Oscar race, but you can take Iran off the table for the back-to-back win because it will boycott the Oscars due to outrage over Innocence of Muslims. Or at least that’s the reasononing Iran’s culture minister claims. Alyssa Rosenberg thinks there might be more to it. Either way, Iran won’t be thrilled to hear that more film projects about Muhammad are in the works.

4. Theaters continue to struggle, with the iconic Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco and the Roxy Theater in Philadelphia darkening for good. A pair of designers believe new design thinking can help turn theaters around. Theater owners might also follow the branding advice of AMC Theaters’ Shane Adams, who impressed many on Twitter last week. At least AMC and other theaters can continue to charge whatever high prices they want for snacks, thanks to a lawsuit dismissal.

5. There was a huge deal in the music business, as Universal Music Group finalized the acquisition of EMI Music’s recorded music unit following European Union and US approval, which was contingent upon the new combo selling off some assets, including the contracts of some prominent artists. Even after that, Universal will end up with control of about 40% of the US and European music market and immense power over the future direction of the industry.

6. Alyssa Oursler insists that Pandora and other music services have nothing to worry about from the Universal deal, and Pandora’s attention is elsewhere right now anyway, specifically on supporting a proposed bill called The Internet Radio Fairness Act that would lower streaming service royalty fees to put them par with what satellite radio and cable companies pay. Independent stations also support the bill.

7. There’s a redesigned PlayStation 3 coming out, but don’t expect to get a cheaper deal on a previous model. You can expect more mobile options from Sony, and Electronic Arts is also trying to take advantage of multi-platform gaming. You’ll be able to play multiple Hobbit games on multiple platforms, and Sesame Street is also pointing the way toward the future of gaming.

8. Wal-mart won’t be selling Kindles anymore. The stated reason why is somewhat vague, and it could just have to do with frustration with Amazon. Some readers are getting frustrated with higher e-book prices from Amazon, while Amazon will try to hook more with Kindle Serials. Amazon will have a new competitor thanks to a new e-book venture formed by Barry Diller and Scott Rudin.

9. Conditions at China’s Foxconn factory, which makes the iPhone 5, got even worse, with a riot temporarily shutting down production. This has come at a tenuous time for China’s corporate environment and raises larger questions about Chinese manufacturing, while Foxconn’s owner is looking to expand his business efforts beyond the country. Apple insists it is improving foreign factory conditions.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Cheers Oral History, Live TV Controversy, Auction Plans, The CW Signs With Nielsen Online, Dish Talking Internet TV, Changing Households, Variety Buyer, Cable Battles Consoles, Emmys Coverage, Female Employment, Netflix & A&E, Measuring Social Buzz, Tweeting Isn’t Watching, Microsoft Hire, New BBC


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What Are You Missing? May 13-26 Sun, 27 May 2012 13:41:51 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. As mobile devices spread ever more widely across the globe, the White House wants federal agencies to make information more readily accessible online and especially through mobile apps. (Anyone up for a game of Angry Senators?) Right now, President Obama dominates challenger Mitt Romney on Twitter, though Romney does well in swing state followers.

2. Bad news continues to emerge about Google+, but Google seems to be ignoring all that, or missing the point, and perhaps missed the boat in not buying Twitter. Google did buy Motorola, which puts it in the hardware business, and the company is experimenting with everything from mobile photography glasses to cars that drive themselves.

3. It was also a challenging fortnight for Facebook, what with the worst IPO of the decade, a $15 billion class action lawsuit over user tracking, and GM blowing off its advertising value. Facebook is now stuck in a tough place between users and revenue needs, and its whole base could be built on a fallacy.

4. The Cannes Palme d’Or is awarded tonight. Such accolades don’t necessarily translate into box office success, but based on buzz, you can at least expect to hear more in the coming months about The Paperboy, Killing Them Softly, Cosmopolis, Amour, and The Hunt. There’s also buzz for films that premiered promos at Cannes, including PT Anderson’s The Master and Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Overall, though, word is that the festival was a subdued affair in the end.

5. It’s yet to be seen what Chinese ownership of the AMC theater chain might bring, but the man leading the purchase is making a big bet that there’s still value in American theaters, even as he really has the global market in mind. And this could be a sign of more buyouts to come.

6. The latest symbols of the newspaper business in crisis are the vulnerability of the New York Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune making major cutbacks in print and talking vaguely about the digital future, three Alabama papers from the same owner cutting back to only three days a week, and the Denver Post showing that maybe copy-editors really are needed. Rich folks are still investing in papers, though, and some think fundamental ideological change is needed to save the form.

7. Not all magazine publishers are excited about the web, and one wonders where the concept of the controversial magazine cover goes after the death of print. Erotic books are enjoying a renaissance due to the privacy afforded by e-readers, which also have some DRM issues to work out.

8. A long-running illegal music downloading case will carry on for a bit longer after the Supreme Court declined to hear the defendant’s case. Meanwhile, in California, two men were sentenced to a year in jail for selling counterfeit CDs, while a case about pirated adult movies was dismissed due to uncertainty over IP address accuracy. And right-minded folk everywhere breathed a sigh of relief after Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was restored to its proper place after a brief copyright takedown.

9. Spotify has added Aussies and New Zealanders to its roster of 20 million active users, and estimates of its value have reached $4 billion. Some think it’s Pandora that will truly change the music industry, though, and the increase in youth turning to internet radio bodes well for that.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: 10pm Drama Problem, Eurovision Host Issues, Girls Without TV, Auto Hop Lawsuits, Complete Season Ratings, Idol’s Drop, Simon’s Commencement Address, Season Winners, Women Writers & Pilots, Milch-Weiner-Gilligan Interview, Aereo Wins One, Dan Harmon Out, Upfronts Catchup.


What Are You Missing? Apr 29-May 12 Sun, 13 May 2012 15:17:17 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Happy Mother’s Day! Nielsen reports that among American moms, half have smartphones, and they love Facebook and Pinterest (Twitter, not so much). For the general US population, mobile data access is a big area of growth, while check-in apps are still mostly niche. In India, women use their phones more for talking and texting, whereas men do more web browsing.

2. “More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years,” tweets a YouTube exec, with 60 hours of video uploaded every minute. Now there’s word that YouTube could add a premium subscription service. But with YouTube getting so vast, some are finding smaller competitors offer a better platform, especially for mobile sharing.

3. Ebay and Wal-Mart are looking to develop their own search engines to battle against Google’s dominance, right as a Google report insists that search engines have First Amendment rights, which would mean Google could pick and choose which content and in what order to load up for a search reply. But Google isn’t allowed to violate internet privacy the way it apparently did by hacking into Safari to track users. Microsoft might also be cheating by making Internet Explorer the only browser that will work right on the upcoming Windows RT system.

4. While the documentary has a storied history in Canada, filmmakers are having a hard time finding funding for documentaries today thanks to federal cuts. If they can dig up an extra $20,000 or so from someplace, those filmmakers can get their films into the DocuWeeks program, which will still be a conduit to Oscar nominations, over Michael Moore’s objections.

5. News out of the National Association of Theatre Owners CinemaCon convention included 20th Century Fox planning to end 35mm film distribution next year, which will have complex consequences. Plus all manner of new theatrical magic is on its way, including lasers. A few theater chains are reporting a surge in attendance right now, while the AMC chain might be looking to sell to China.

6. Overall home entertainment spending is up for the first time in awhile, though that’s mostly thanks to digital streaming and Blu-ray, and not DVDs and rental stores, of course. Blu-ray might decline too once people realize they’ll now have to sit through two government warnings before getting to the movie.

7. Microsoft has invested in the Nook, which is now worth more than Barnes & Noble itself. B&N is trying to find ways to reconcile physical and online book sales without killing off the former, as possibilities for survival and the future design of physical books are up for speculation.

8. April was a bad month for video game sales, and while EA did well last year, investors didn’t like its weak outlook for this year. EA has big development plans, though its big investment in social gaming company Playfish hasn’t paid off yet, as a CityVille competitor has flopped.

9. Rovio had a huge year in 2011, thanks of course to Angry Birds and its one billion downloads, and the company is hoping to replicate that success with the new Amazing Alex. Zynga is also trying to recapture magic with a Farmville sequel. Zynga’s acquisition of Draw Something’s company doesn’t seem to be working out, but its cloud technology is apparently to be envied.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Renewals/Cancellations/ Pickups, Request for Family Programming, Dish Ad Skipper, Aereo Warning, HBO No, TV Everywhere Trademark Fight, Dish Dropping AMC?, Just Cancel, Kutcher Ad Pulled, Online & TV Ad Buys, Nielsen on Viewing, Bloomberg Wins, Hulu Authentication Coming?, BSkyB Defending Itself, Murdoch Criticism, TV & Diversity.


What Are You Missing? March 18-31 Sun, 01 Apr 2012 14:48:33 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. The MPAA’s 2011 Theatrical Market stats indicate that domestic movie theater attendance continues to decline and not even 3D is helping anymore. Only international attendance offers good news for studios. Theaters are getting desperate, and some are answering some spectators’ stated desire to use social media during screenings, even the Alamo Drafthouse (approved screenings only). And live theater is getting into the act by setting aside “tweet seats.”

2. DVD rentals are plunging, and internet movie consumption is about to pass DVD consumption, which is a problem for the studios because they don’t make as much money online as from DVD yet. Studios insist people still want discs (though different ones for rental and sales), and even though Netflix seems to want DVD to die off, it has just bought the domain (perhaps for Rickrolling purposes).

3. Digital magazines are flying off the shelves…er, screens, though digital circulation is still only 1% of total magazine circulation. Unfortunately, some are reporting that magazines look terrible on the new iPad, but people will seemingly keep buying anyway. In the e-book realm, sales are surging, especially among young readers.

4. The RIAA reports that subscription music services are starting to rake in revenue, even as Spotify, whose valuation is growing, extends its free US usage. Indie bands are turning ever more to advertising to bring in revenue, and indie beers are seeking out indie bands. But Weird Al Yankovic is going the old-fashioned route: suing a music label for underpayment.

5. The next Xbox could be a stripped down version, which is interesting in light of the fact that Xboxs are apparently used more now as entertainment centers than game consoles. In terms of mobile gaming, our mobility doesn’t go much further than our beds, which means millions are playing Angry Birds Space before bedtime.

6. Racist tweets can land you in jail, profane tweets can get you kicked out of school, Chinese tweets can let you say more (poor Spaniards), and promoted tweets can make people leave Twitter. But movie tweets can’t really tell us much of anything.

7. The internet economy now constitutes 4.7% of the US economy, and growing, but a judge ruled that unpaid Huffington Post bloggers don’t deserve a cut of any of that. Bots, Democrats, Santorum searches, and stupid AOL sites are clearly vital to the internet economy, though.

8. Nielsen stats and many mobile ad execs say the smartphone race now comes down to Android vs. Apple, with Apple coming on especially strong lately, while RIM (Blackberry) is struggling. We’re increasingly using our smartphones, tablets, and computers on airplanes, leading some to call for the FAA to review its gadget policies. Just don’t leave your phone in the seat back pocket, or you’ll be just another statistic among those who lose $30 billion worth of smartphones each year.

9. Google and Twitter are running into potential censorship issues in the UK in regard to privacy, while thousands of BitTorrent clients are having their identities revealed thanks to a suit against an illegal UK porn site brought by Ben Dover Productions (I couldn’t resist adding that detail) and other porn producers. In less dirty (if not sanitary) UK video news, Charlie’s family has now banked $500,000 from the viral popularity of Charlie biting his brother’s finger (though when you consider that it’s the most viewed amateur video on YouTube in the site’s history, that doesn’t sound like that much).

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Olbermann Out, News Corp Accused of Sabotage, CBC Cuts, Premium Channel Revenue, Dodgers Bill, Cable Ratings Drop, Xbox Update, FX’s Risks, End Recaps, Variety For Sale, Smash Will Return, Aereo Likely to Lose, Network News Adds Viewers, Nielsen Measuring TV & Online.


What Are You Missing? Feb 12-March 3 Sun, 04 Mar 2012 16:08:12 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. There have been a flood of articles the past few weeks about how the conversion to digital projection threatens the future of small, independent theaters, historic movie houses, and drive-ins, and it’s been most interesting to see the local news stories about how individual theaters will cope and what the loss of a theater might mean to a local community, in an era when it’s already tough to get people out to theaters.

2. Because I skipped a week here, this is old news by this point, but still worth making sure you saw it: Joe Biden helped to negotiate a new deal with China that will allow more Hollywood films into the country, and even independent filmmakers got some bonuses from it. And you know what, I didn’t think I was going to get a Lionsgate reference in this time, but while googling for more info on the China deal, I saw that Lionsgate has signed a video-on-demand deal in China. Thanks to Lionsgate, the Chinese will get to see Dirty Dancing whenever they want!

3. Hollywood foreclosures are up, a consequence of new technologies, says Greg Sandoval, and there could be even more empty homes in LA in coming days as new laws requiring condoms are prompting the porn industry to threaten leaving the area, plus porn stars in particular are struggling financially.

4. Netflix has resurrected the Qwikster idea again, offering a DVD-only monthly plan, but unfortunately we don’t get to laugh at the dumb name this time around, as it doesn’t have any special name. Peter Kafka still sees this as Netflix not really caring about DVDs; indeed, CEO Reed Hastings keeps saying streaming is the end goal. Meanwhile, Blockbuster stores are just about at their end, period.

5. While Netflix is all about streaming, Warner Bros. is looking more to the cloud and to downloadable content. Wal-Mart is looking to help out the UltraViolet system with in-store instruction. And Facebook is looking to start a trend of social cinema by hosting movies on its site.

6. Spotify is still struggling to convince some musicians that their service is financially advantageous for artists, but music label chiefs are starting to be won over. Google Music isn’t working out as hoped yet, though, and we’re still waiting to see what Apple might offer in a streaming service within the current online music landscape.

7. Video game retail sales dropped significantly in January compared to last year, while social gaming from companies like Zynga, now trying to separate itself from Facebook, is more promising, and kids love the iPad for games.

8. A few weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Pinterest. Now I could fill a whole WAYM post with links to Pinterest articles alone. Of course, I probably don’t need to include them in WAYM because you’ve heard of nothing but Pinterest lately, but here are a few just in case you’ve somehow missed out on the Pinterest frenzy: Pinterest’s traffic has been huge and user engagement figures are high, especially among women. The service mainly makes money from affiliate links, and there’s some question about how much users realize this (and if they would care). Pinterest has been a boon for small businesses, but it perhaps has a porn problem on the horizon.

9. If Pinterest is for women, apparently Google+ is for men. Not that many men, though, as  Google+ continues to languish, unused by most. But some say Google doesn’t care if you use Google+ regularly or not. The point is getting you just to sign up so Google can grab your biographical data.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: NBC Wins Sweeps (Sorta), Apple Being Tough, Aereo Streaming Service & Aereo Doomed & Aereo Sued, Fall Pilots & Pilot Analysis, Mad Men Marketing, DVR Use Stats, TV Everywhere,  GOP in HW, Doctor Who Fandom, Google’s TV Efforts, Decline of the Episode & More on Episodes, New Comcast Channels, Comcast Going After Netflix, BSkyB’s Internet TV Plan.




Award Winning: The 84th Annual Academy Awards Tue, 28 Feb 2012 14:08:31 +0000 I suddenly have a strong desire to go buy tickets to a movie at my local theater and ask everyone I know to go with me and cancel my Neflix account and–wait a minute.  Maybe that’s just the Oscars talking, literally. Though I watch the Academy Awards telecast every year, this year seemed more explicit about its message than any in recent memory: go (back) to the movies, America.

The motif of Hollywood’s glory days comprised a large part of the Oscar discourse between the nominations and the awards ceremony, mostly centering on the multiple nominations and odds of winning for The Artist and Hugo (though there was also some discussion about Viola Davis in relation to the legacyandlegend of Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar experience).  Many heralded this year as indicative of Hollywood eating its own tail, creating an ouroboros of self-congratulation and nostalgia for the medium’s history. This claim was further supported by the LATimesinvestigation into the demographic composition of the Academy. The results were unsurprising: it’s mostly white men who were alive when cinema was still the dominant American entertainment form.  All of this led us to last night, an Oscar ceremony that seemed to hammer into the audience at home one clear message: “Movies are great, but they’re even better when experienced in a movie theater.  But don’t take our word for it; instead, take the word of thirty or so movie stars, a jaw-dropping Cirque du Soleil act, and a bevy of blue-silk-clad, leggy cigarette girls-cum-ushers who will entice you with free popcorn before the ad-break.”

Through Billy Crystal’s continual references to his eight other hosting gigs, the admittedly gorgeous art deco “movie palace” set design, and a decidedly skewed attention to pre-1990s films in its various salute-to-the-movies montages, this years Oscars felt like it was desperately seeking a halcyon past.  While this is often the case with the Oscars–perhaps more than any other major awards ceremony–this year posed a strongly economic undercurrent to that nostalgia.  It wasn’t as much about the movies from that bygone era but the mode of exhibition and patronage of the mass audience who treated a trip to the movies as a unique and desired cultural experience, and more importantly, who paid for that experience.

The Oscars have never seemed so baldly self-promotional to me before, which is perhaps why the irreverent moments–though few and far between–seemed all the more charming.  These moments make these awards shows the cultural events they are, drawing on the promise of liveness.  The Oscars broke out of the commercial shell (or at least acted enough like they were) when Octavia Spencer was so overcome at her win she could barely make it to the stage, when the winners for best editing didn’t try to fill in for their speechlessness and instead said thank you and “let’s get out of here” and did just that, when Emma Stone swayed onstage enticing,“Let’s dance. Let’s dance,” to convey her excitement, and when some wonderful audience plants shouted “Scorsese” during a Bridesmaids cast presentation, forcing Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne to pull mini-bottles of vodka from their decolletages and swig, per their SAGdrinkinggame.


What Are You Missing? January 15-28 Sun, 29 Jan 2012 14:56:41 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. One analyst is telling the Hollywood studios to defy exhibitor objections and make early video-on-demand releases of theatrical films happen. Funny or Die likes that idea so much, it’s making Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie available online even before it hits theaters. One theater chain has boycotted One for the Money not because of distribution objections; they’re mad that Lionsgate made a Groupon deal for tickets. (Just when you thought Lionsgate might not make an appearance in WAYM for once, boom, there it is.)

2. Distribution deals at Sundance have been modest but steady, as buyers forge on despite few of last year’s deals paying off. A partnership between a digital exhibitor, Cinedigm, and a veteran distributor, New Video, looks to make possible multi-platform deals for indie films, and there’s even now an automated way to submit indie films for distribution consideration. (Bonus link: Sundance awards were handed out last night.)

3. Independent films snagged 60 Oscar nominations (though you’ll see in the comments section of that article a debate over what qualifies as independent), but the French indie film Declaration of War got snubbed. Given Fox International’s new strategy of investing in foreign films made for their local markets, it seems the major studios could horn in on the foreign language film category someday soon. Once again, there won’t be many women at the Oscars for producing, directing and writing awards, as 2011 was a dismal year for female employment behind the camera. The imbalance is even worse in trailer voiceovers.

4. Tablet and e-reader sales are soaring, and about one-third of Americans own some form of e-reader now. And while e-book sales growth has been slower than many predicted, e-book lending is surging. While this seems to spell death for bookstores, some indie bookstores are growing, and African-American independent bookstores in particular illustrate that relationships with the local community are crucial to survival.

5. Musicians are increasingly objecting to streaming services carrying their music, though a Sony exec insists they don’t hurt download sales. Either way, we may end up seeing distribution windowing of music soon, and it will also be interesting to see where the RIAA’s lawsuit against ReDigi will go, as ReDigi insists it’s legal to buy and sell pre-owned iTunes music files.

6. Nintendo’s got some challenges ahead: Wii-related sales are plunging, the 3DS isn’t selling, and no one seems to know what the Wii U even is, plus the next Xbox will well surpass the Wii U in performance. Meanwhile, Microsoft managed to make a whole theme park out of the Kinect.

7. McDonald’s’ attempt to encourage #McDStories on Twitter went awry, but the #littlestories campaign has apparently gone smoother. More profoundly, an homophobic hate group’s anti-gay hashtag got brilliantly hijacked. Soon, the power of hashtag trending and hijacking will be available to right-to-left language users.

8. Comcast is tops in broadband speed, but has given up on the wireless business, while telecom companies are dumping DSL. A “Super Wi-Fi” network now exists in North Carolina using old analog TV spectrum (thus it’s technically not wi-fi) to send signals across a further range, but its future prospects are in question thanks to the spectrum bill in Congress.

9. Google seems determined to violate its traditional “don’t be evil” standards lately: the company has been accused of poaching Apple employees, conspiring with Apple and other companies to keep wages low, facilitating illegal pharmaceutical websites, misrepresenting its privacy policy and trampling on privacy rights, and detrimentally limiting access to the Google Maps platform.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past two weeks: Social Growth, NAB Criticizes TWC, Stealing Downton Abbey, Leno Complaint, Netflix News, More Netflix News, Defending Episodic Viewing, Live & Streaming Audiences Diverge, TV Nudity Clause, Modern Family Placement, Fans Affect Revenge, TV Everywhere Revenue, Piracy Fight, Prime-Time GH, Letterman Booker Fired, NBC’s Flaws, New TV Analysis Site.