Over two years since notorious cyberlocker Megaupload was shut down on January 19, 2012, Hollywood today has gone on the legal offensive. Disney, 20th Century Fox Film, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. today …
Overseas markets, and especially Asia, provided most of the good news for Hollywood in 2013 — a year when global box office sales increased 4% to $35.9B — according to the MPAA‘s annual Theatrical Market Statistics report released today at the CinemaCon confab in Las Vegas. But domestic theater owners have less to cheer as attendance in the U.S. and Canada slid a hair vs 2012, but rising ticket prices contributed to a 1% uptick in sales to $10.9B. Here’s how some of the results look – click on thumbnails below to launch the slideshow:
Exhibition execs face several controversial matters, but “there’s peace in the homeland” in their relationships with studios, NATO‘s John Fithian said in his annual joint press meeting with MPAA‘s Chris Dodd at the CinemaCon confab. The lobby group heads always emphasize the positive, but this time Fithian sounds like he means it. He acknowledged that there’s been a friction in previous years — especially 2011 when there was what he calls a “very public food fight” over how quickly studios can release their films on home video. But now “we’re working together instead of fighting. …Since then it’s been dialogue and cooperation.” Dodd says his MPAA members agree that “the best experience for their product is in the theater.”
On one hot-button issue, texting in theaters, Fithian says that his members “have conversations every week” about whether to allow it under certain circumstances. But it’s unlikely that anything will change soon. When some execs said here two years ago that they’re looking at the matter, “They got barraged from moviegoers saying, ‘that is my last refuge of peace.’…Then the 17 year olds respond and say, ‘we have to be connected.’ ” The sense, for now, is that “the vast majority of our consumers go to the cinema to escape” with many looking at moviegoing as “a quasi-religious experience.” But Fithian says “it’ll be an evolving space. Let’s leave it there.”
These are old themes for the MPAA chief, but he had some fresh data to support his case in his presentation at CinemaCon this morning. He says that box office in China soared to $3.6B in 2013, a year when sales in the U.S. and Canada hit $10.9B (+1%) and overseas hit $25B (+4.6%). Chris Dodd says that 13 new screens are opening each day in China and cited rapid growth of modern theaters in countries such as Cambodia and Pakistan. He also said that he has lost none of his zeal to fight piracy globally. It “is today, and shall remain as long as I have this job, a top priority.” He thanked theater owners for helping to crack down on the illegal use of camcorders. “The good news is we are making some progress.” He adds, though, that the industry has to see technology as “our friend and not our foe. … The most frequent moviegoers tend to own more technological devices than the population at large.”
Looks like not everyone in Hollywood is on the same page when it comes to combating copyright infringement. Specifically, the Writers Guild of America West thinks that the multimillion-dollar damages the Motion Picture Association of America wants extracted from file-sharing sites “has little additional deterrent effect” and “high statutory penalties are not only often unreasonable but unpayable.” The strong comments from the WGAW comes in a submission the guild made on January 17 (read it here) to the Commerce Department on its paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. Citing that “television and film are controlled by a handful of media companies who decide what content consumers have access to,” the guild’s remarks are a clear slap to the MPAA and the studios from the representatives of more than 8,000 frontline content creators.
No surprise the MPAA does not agree with that POV. “The deterrence provided by the current range of statutory damages is of vital importance to MPAA’s members and other copyright owners, especially in the online environment,” says the studio lobbying group in its own submission (read it here).
The MPAA today announced that Patrick Kilcur and Ben Staub have joined the organization as Vice President and Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, respectively. They will be responsible primarily for MPAA advocacy before Congress. Both will report to Neil …
That’s one of several recommendations in the voluntary in-theater marketing guidelines released this morning by the National Association of Theatre Owners. ”These guidelines will evolve in response to technological innovations, marketing and advertising trends, competition in the marketplace, and consumer demands,” the trade group says. NATO wants trailers for a movie to run no more than 150 days before it’s released, with other in-theater marketing limited to 120 days — although each distributor would have two exemptions a year from those guidelines. NATO says that it will be the “information clearinghouse” for distributors to identify the films that they want to be exempt. Trailers for those releases still wouldn’t be able to exceed three minutes. In addition to the limits on timing, the NATO standards would require distributors to sit down with exhibitors to negotiate terms for showing special content — such as behind-the-scenes footage and extended looks. NATO also expands on the current ratings match policies saying that members “will only place trailers with content appropriate for the particular feature” following guidelines it has established with the MPAA. Trailers can’t include third-party brands or endorsements, for example for video games or TV shows, and can’t include direct response prompts including Internet URLs or codes that might “encourage mobile phone use during the show.” The standards would apply to films released on or after October 1, with an exception for movies that are already being advertised. Central to the rules is NATO’s conclusion that trailers “are played in the theaters at the discretion of each theater chain or individual theater owner.”
COMMENTARY: The Weinstein Company’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein made some bold statements Friday on CNN to Piers Morgan about backing away from violent content. He spoke about his own children and how he no longer wanted to feel like a hypocrite. “The change starts here,” the man who produced Quentin Tarantino’s violent Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and D’jango Unchained told Morgan. “It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.” He added that he would still make a movie like Lone Survivor, which is a violent but accurate portrayal of our American military and their dedication to serving this country. “I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it,” he said. “I can’t do it.” Weinstein’s statements came only days after a fatal shooting of the father of a 3-year old in a Florida theater during a screening of Lone Survivor who was killed while texting his little girl by a supposed “good guy with a gun,” a 71 year-old former police captain.
“The insensitivity that the average person has now because of violence is because people have become so used to it. It’s an obsession as well as almost an addiction. It’s a cheap way of getting an audience, more people shot and more explosions, but it’s at the expense of the story,” said one entertainment marketer with 35 years of experience. “Abject violence has proven successful, and as long as it is, it will be produced because it’s profitable. It’s the accepted way of life rather than asking is this the right thing to do?”
The question is, of course, how Harvey is going to reconcile being in business with Tarantino. The filmmaker has made a lot of money for the company with violent fare. And therein lies the conundrum that all studio heads and TV executives face. I’ve interviewed several executives over the past few weeks and many have said privately that they think the gun violence — especially in video games — has gotten out of control. However, they also say they have an obligation to their shareholders to make a profit and violence sells. There will always be violence in movies, just as there is violence in the Bible and in the plays of William Shakespeare. But, Weinstein is trying to tip the scales; to shift Hollywood from glorifying violence in films, to showing the true human cost and destructiveness of it.
The Weinstein Company did just that when it released Fruitvale Station last year. The film does contain gun violence, but it’s told from the point of view of the victim of gun violence. And that, in itself, is unusual and powerful. When Weinstein said, “The change starts here. It has already for me,” I thought of Fruitvale. Produced by Forest Whitaker and directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler, you come to care about this boy, see him with his little girl, understand him as a father and a son before he is murdered. It was passed over by the Academy this past week for Oscar noms, but it shouldn’t have been. It did win the Producers Guild’s Stanley Kramer Award. Stanley Kramer, of course, was the patron saint of bringing social issues to the foreground with films such as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Fruitvale was the first film I saw in a theater (a large screening room) after the Aurora, CO shooting where my cousin’s daughter was among many murdered by a gunman at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. During the emergency room scene, I couldn’t bear it. I closed my eyes and sobbed. The film depicts the true face of violence — a very realistic depiction of how gun violence destroys a family. It was made for under $1M and brought in $16.7M at the box office is and still bringing in money in its ancillary markets.
‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Had Its Own Consigliere For R-Rating In Tom Sherak; Exhibs Waiting To See How It Plays In Peoria
Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street will be released wide by Paramount Pictures on Christmas Day with a three-hour play time and an R-rating that some who have seen the film are surprised it received from the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration. Exhibitors who’ve seen it have called it everything from “rough” to “the hardest R I’ve ever seen from a major Hollywood studio.”
Most think it will play well on the coasts but question how audiences will react in Middle America once they realize the movie is quite different from what the ads indicate. (One exhib I spoke with Friday said it might be another Django Unchained – referring to the Quentin Tarantino pic that despite its violent content played well across the country.)
For Wolf Of Wall Street, the studio’s marketing team cut together a slick advertising campaign selling the party aspects of the film, which play to the young, college crowd (the demo that floods the marketplace during holiday break). But, the content is … well, even its star Leonardo DiCaprio aptly calls it “a modern-day Caligula.”
Evan Rachel Wood has taken to Twitter to vent her anger against the MPAA over a sex scene in her new film Charlie Countryman that had to be deleted in order for the pic to receive an R rating. The graphic scene between lead characters Wood and Shia LaBeouf was cut in the final version after the film’s debut at Sundance. “The scene where the two main characters make “love” was altered because someone felt that seeing… …a man give a woman oral sex made people “uncomfortable” but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off… …remained intact and unaltered“, she wrote. The indie drama was given an R rating because of “some brutal violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity, and drug use”, according to the MPAA.
Here’s the complete text of what Wood had to say:
The Hollywood’s lobby group’s finances took a hit in 2012, a tax filing shows — but CEO Chris Dodd did just fine even as the MPAA licked its wounds from its failed effort to promote tough anti-piracy legislation. …
It’s easy to appreciate why the MPAA and other groups that support tougher anti-piracy laws are so eager to circulate the report out today from the International Intellectual Property Alliance. It buttresses their case by showing that the …
EXCLUSIVE: The former AMPAS president said last month that he was going to bring a high-profile industry individual on board at City Hall as his “consigliere” – and now he has. Former Motion Picture Association of America president …
What prompted that Gun Violence Trends In Movies study I reported on yesterday? The one in which American and Dutch university researchers discovered that over a 20-year period gun violence in PG-13 films has more than tripled and that in 2012, there was more violence in PG-13 films than in R movies, which often gets that rating because of depictions of sex and nudity?
Here’s a closer look.
Co-author of the study, Dan Romer, a psychologist at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, tells me his team initiated its research after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year, which unfortunately has been several massacres ago. The study predicts that “youth will be more interested in acquiring and using guns after exposure to gun violence in films.” I grew up in New Jersey and had my fair share of exposure to guns, but there aren’t as many guns here. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen incidents in Europe: in Norway in 2011, a gunman killed 69 people at a summer camp on the island of Utøya, and in 2010 in Britain a lone gunman killed a dozen people before turning the gun on himself. Last year in Toulouse, France, a lone perpetrator killed seven people in a series of three attacks. Meanwhile, in Marseille, the death toll in what is seen as an ongoing battle between drug dealing gangs, has just this week reached 18. Still, that is a pittance compared with the U.S., where semi-automatic weapons are so prevalent. According to reports, there have been 9,900 gunshot deaths since the Sandy Hook massacre.