In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom catch up on the many highlights from earnings season announcements, beginning with those by possible dance partners Comcast and Time Warner Cable and what their news might mean for Comcast’s takeover bid. They also take the market temperature on Viacom and tech giants led by Google — which sold off its Motorola Mobility unit after owning it just two years — and Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and Amazon. They also look at exhibitors’ demands for shorter movie trailers and whether studios will play along.
Looks like Variety got carried away this afternoon with a story that says “several prominent exhibitors” are rejecting the National Association of Theatre Owners‘new voluntary guidelines calling for a two-minute cap on movie trailers. The site named two chains – Cinemark and AMC Entertainment — saying that their defection raises ”the question of why NATO is pushing the issue at all.” Just one thing: AMC denies the story’s claim that it “has reversed its position” after its rep on the NATO board voted for the new guidelines. “AMC Theatres is in full support of the voluntary NATO In-Theatre Marketing Guidelines, which at their core are about the more efficient and effective use of our industry’s marketing resources,” the company says. “Recently published letters, articles and commentary we’ve seen throughout the industry badly misrepresent the intent of these guidelines. As has always been our practice, this and all studio dealings will be handled directly with our distribution partners as we seek to maximize the box office performance of their films, and we expect that practice to continue.”
Average ticket outlays were slightly lower than in Q2 when they hit $8.38, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Still, the trade group’s latest number is up 3.7% vs the same period in 2012, making it the biggest year-over-year quarterly jump since early 2010. For the full year, consumers spent an average of $8.13 for a ticket, a new high that’s +2.1% vs 2012. Remember that several factors influence the average price — including how many people pay a premium to see a film in 3D or on an IMAX screen. The Q4 number was expected to be relatively high: The quarter had 3D hits with Warner Bros’ Gravity (80% of its domestic gross came from 3D venues) and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, and Disney’s Frozen and Thor: The Dark World. The quarter also had several popular films targeted to adults including Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street and Sony’s American Hustle. Ticket prices for adult-themed films are typically higher than they are for children’s fare.
On Saturday, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos outraged NATO when he slammed theater owners with potentially killing the movie business. Here’s Sarandos’ keynote speech at Film Independent‘s 9th annual confab at DGA HQ.
EXCLUSIVE: NATO president/CEO John Fithian struck back at Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who today gave the keynote speech at the Film Independent Forum and charged theater owners with potentially killing the movie business by being inflexible with shrinking theatrical windows. Fithian said that if anybody is imperiling the time-tested movie going experience, it is upstarts like Netflix.
“Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well,” Fithian said. As for Sarandos’ assertion that studios should offer their films on Netflix day and date with theatrical openings, Fithian said that “The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.”
Netflix is just the latest party to join the ongoing argument over how movie distribution models should evolve, if at all. TV has grown nimble, with cable systems and networks making it easier than ever for audiences to catch shows so that initial air times are almost irrelevant. In the independent film space, multi-platform releasing continues to grow as a viable alternative to a theatrical model which requires a significant P&A spend. The major chains have largely refused to play ball, and often force multi platform distributors to “four wall” screens, instead of the revenue split formula that is usually the way distributors and theaters do business. Many have argued that it is inefficient for studios to spend huge P&A sums to open films in theaters, and then be forced to wait half a year or more, and spend more money to rebuild awareness for the DVD, VOD and pay windows for films that consumers have long since forgotten about. But the last time a studio tried to buck the system, as Universal did on the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, the major film chains banded together and arm-twisted Universal to shut down a limited test that would have offered day and date VOD viewing at a premium price. The theaters are protecting their own business, after having gone to the expense of building and upgrading theaters all over the country.
Related: Netflix Shares Hit New Highs in Q3
The average was 0.8% higher than in the same period last year, and a dime lower than in 2011′s Q3, according to data just out from the National Association of Theater Owners. The relatively small increase likely …
(Washington, D.C. and North Hollywood, Calif. – 8 October 2013) The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), announced today the election of new officers to two-year terms by the Executive Board of Directors at the association’s annual meeting, October 2-3, 2013 at the Park Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C. Prior to the meeting, on October 1, NATO members took part in Hill Day visits to senators and representatives on Capitol Hill, even as the federal government shut down over political gridlock.
The Q3 figure out today from the National Association of Theater Owners represents a 4.2% decline from Q2 (when it was $8.12), and is down 2% vs the same quarter last year ($7.94). The drop is consistent with what we’ve heard …
Here’s the announcement in a letter today from National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian seeking contributions from the group’s members:
Dear Exhibition Colleagues,
The tragic events that occurred in Aurora, Colorado have been devastating to the victims, their familiesand loved ones, the community, the state and the nation.
As we watch the aftermath unfold and try to make sense of this terrible crime, you should be encouraged by the leadership and dedication of the community of Aurora as they comfort and assist their families and neighbors. The courage of the victims, their families and loved ones, the theater employees involved, the first responders and hospital staff members has steeled the resolve of the community and its leaders to recover from this tragedy and to emerge even stronger than before.
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.