The analysis comes from NATO‘s John Fithian after he was asked at a press meeting why Hollywood produces so many R-rated films — despite the evidence he presented this morning showing that family friendly films typically fare better at the box office. “It’s cool to be Quentin Tarantino,” he says. While lauding the the First Amendment, giving filmmakers the right to produce what they will, he says that there’s “often a little bit of a difference between the movie-making philosophy and the exhibition philosophy” about what sells. MPAA‘s Chris Dodd says that they aren’t that far apart. For the major studios he represents “less than 50% of our product is R-rated.” Still, he noted that the cost of producing a G-rated film “can be higher than an R-rated movie.” But he didn’t bite when asked whether films are too violent. ”Our job isn’t to be movie critics,” he says. The execs added that they didn’t think that Hollywood has become too focused on making movies for overseas markets vs domestic. “Movies that are made overseas work domestically too,” Fithian says. “Our companies operate across national lines” notably since China’s Wanda Group bought AMC Entertainment and Cinemark has become a major exhibitor in Latin America. Dodd noted that Fox’s Life Of Pi is from “a Canadian author, a Taiwanese director and Indian actors supported by an American studio.” In response to another question, he said that he has not spoken to Chinese officials about their recent decisions to yank showings of Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
The film industry’s two chief lobbyists stayed on message at a brief press conference this afternoon that mostly dealt with the movie ratings initiative introduced this morning. The effort to clarify the reasons why …
The former senator made the comment as he defended the trade group’s ratings efforts. They came under fire when the MPAA initially gave Bully, a Weinstein Co documentary about teenage bullying, an R due to characters’ use of profanity. The rating would have made the film off-limits for the very teens the movie was designed to help. (The producers ultimately cut a few of the words, and won a PG-13 rating.) Although Dodd says that the public should have a clearer sense of what goes into the decision making, he told reporters in a meeting that the people who make the judgments have “a thankless job” in a system that basically “works well.” National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian concurred. If the MPAA didn’t take on the assignment then it could result in government censorship or local ratings. That would result in havoc because “what people care about in LA is vastly different than what they care about in Omaha.” Although the ratings process results in lost ticket sales, “the alternative is far worse.”
The CEOs of the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners used their opening addresses to the exhibition industry’s CinemaCon convention today to advocate a new spirit of cooperation between the embattled and often warring businesses. Last year’s convention “ended on a sour note,” NATO CEO John Fithian said, when word spread that three studios planned to launch a premium VOD experiment — they let DirecTV offer some movies two months after their theatrical release for $30 a viewing. That threatened to give audiences an incentive to stay at home, theater owners feared. But Fithian says that the experiment “was not a resounding success.” Now, he says, theaters and studios are “talking about how to grow the business together.” MPAA chief Chris Dodd also talked up the need to persuade audiences that “the movie-going experience remains something special, something to be savored and enjoyed, something so innovative and creative that it cannot be duplicated at home no matter how many boxes they have.” He also thanked theater owners for supporting a big issue on his agenda: legislation to combat movie piracy. The MPAA ended up with a black eye this year when it failed to persuade Congress to pass the controversial bills that would have empowered the government to block sites run by overseas pirates. “I urge you to continue to be a part of a thoughtful and rational solution to protecting intellectual property,” Dodd told theater owners. He added that he remains “committed to doing all I can to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the protection of intellectual property” and is trying to build bridges to the tech industry which opposed the bills.
Some of Washington’s most powerful lobby groups ramped up their fight today over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Independent Film & Television Alliance echoed points that MPAA chief Chris Dodd made in a speech today — that the bill empowering the government to block overseas websites that traffic in copyrighted content would protect jobs. It’s needed to stop “drastic damage to the legitimate marketplace … measured both in films that cannot be produced and in lost returns on investment in films that have been,” IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt said. National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian adds that the legislation “is an important step to protect the jobs of 160,000 movie theater employees and sustain one of the vital engines of the nation’s economic growth.” The plan also was supported by a collection of unions including the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Screen Actors Guild. If the bill doesn’t become law, they said in a joint statement, then “rogue sites will continue to siphon away wages and benefits from members of the creative community, greatly compromising our industry’s ability to foster creativity, provide opportunities, and ensure good jobs.”
But Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro warned that if Congress passes the bill — also known as the Protect IP Act — then “the notoriously litigious content industry could simply accuse a site that it is selling a product that could ‘enable or facilitate’ a copyright infringement, thereby allowing accusations to shut down sites vital to the Internet economy.” He says that “could lead to mass shutdowns of websites and Internet-enabled services.” The group plans to bring several Internet venture capitalists to Washington tomorrow to make that case.
The battle lines are starting to harden around who’ll pay for those lame-looking 3D glasses. I’ve learned that other studios might line up behind Sony’s decision to stop paying the average 50-cents a pair fee beginning in May. Rival studios tell me Fox is on board. “We’re studying our options, but haven’t made any decisions yet,” denied Fox Filmed Entertainment spokesman Chris Petrikin. Remember, Fox was first in line to try to stop paying for glasses back in 2009 when it released Ice Age. But then had to abandon that effort after theaters rebelled. Sony was technically correct today when it said in a statement that “there never has been” a formal agreement stipulating that studios would shoulder the cost of 3D glasses. But it’s easy to understand why exhibitors are stunned by Sony’s stoppage. Because it changes an understanding that’s been in place since 2005 when Disney’s Chicken Little kicked off the 3D movie phenom.
“It is a radical departure from what the practice has been,” National Association of Theater Owners President John Fithian tells me. Now Regal CEO Amy Miles warns that if studios end the practice then it could “result in fewer screens exhibiting 3D films”. That’s bad news for Hollywood, which plans to release 39 films in 3D next year, vs. 36 in 2011. Exhibitors might encourage consumers to bring their own 3D glasses. That may be the future anyway. But BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says if theaters require payment for 3D specs on top of the typical 3D surcharge ($3.25 to $4 a ticket), then “the U.S. moviegoer will reject this as another way for exhibitors to milk them and further decrease their interest in 3D (and perhaps going to the movies in general)”.
The fight is over glasses manufactured for RealD which it, in turn, supplies them to theaters. RealD’s stock price was down -14.7% today on the Sony news. The 3D tech company won’t disclose
Theater Owners Fight Premium VOD In Canada, As Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino And Others Join Outcry
In a keynote speech at industry confab ShowCanada, NATO President & CEO John Fithian today urged Canadian movie theater operators to be vigilant in their focus on theatrical release windows. Challenging a recently announced proposal from four Hollywood studios to release movies early to the home on “premium” VOD, Fithian explained the dangers of the model. “Early VOD releases to the home could damage the movie industry in two significant ways,” Fithian asserted. “Early releases will reduce movie ticket sales, and will exacerbate movie theft by giving pirates an early pristine copy of movies.” Fithian also reiterated NATO’s call for the participating studios to release sales data from their experiment. “How can the industry evaluate the studios’ test if they continue to hide the facts.”
Fithian’s remarks at ShowCanada marked an expanded, global phase in NATO’s work to preserve the theatrical release window. Beginning with Canada this week, moving to Europe later in the month and onto Australia in August, Fithian will hold dozens of meetings with leading international exhibitors on the topic. “We hope that this early VOD experiment begins and ends in the U.S.,” Fithian continued. “But if not, we want exhibitors everywhere to be prepared.”
The National Association of Theatre Owners today asked the Hollywood studios involved in DirecTV’s Premium VOD trial to release sales figures for the movies that have appeared since the service’s launch April 21. The films offered to DirecTV customers so far — at a price of $29.99 and a windows-shortening …
Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2011)—The National Association of Theatre Owners does not and could not encourage its members to engage in any boycotts of any movies distributed by any company. Recent press reports to the contrary are completely false.
In an article published on April 13 in The Guardian, it was suggested that NATO indicated that cinema operators were prepared not to screen movies, and specifically referenced the coming Harry Potter film. No one from The Guardian contacted NATO before the original article was published. At our request, The Guardian did later change the article to remove the erroneous reference to the Harry Potter film.
Then later on April 13, the blog “Business Insider” entitled “Harry Potter 8 Dropped From Theaters?” suggested that NATO “is threatening to drop some of this summer’s biggest blockbusters” and that “screens under NATO are threatening to boycott upcoming studio releases, starting with Warner Bros. sure to be box office-gargantuan Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” Again, these stories, and others that have followed, are completely false and no one from the organizations responsible for the stories contacted anyone at NATO.