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.
The Big Picture
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.”
Later this week, Cliff Marks is retiring from National CineMedia. His long tenure there dovetails precisely with the adoption of digital cinema technology and he had a hand in many, if not most, of the innovations the new technology has made possible. Marks joined NCM in 2002 as an original member of the company’s leadership team, when it was then the Regal Entertainment Group media subsidiary known as Regal CineMedia Corporation. He was named president of sales and marketing when Regal CineMedia became National CineMedia in 2005 with the addition of AMC and later Cinemark as founding member theatre circuits and was named president of NCM in 2016. Marks was the visionary behind the creation and evolution of NCM’s groundbreaking movie pre-show — the first to combine entertainment content and advertising — turning cinema into not only a powerful sight-sound-and-motion medium, but a key premium video option in today’s fragmented media landscape. Today NCM’s Noovie pre-show is seen by more than 750 million moviegoers a year. Before joining NCM, Marks was a 14-year veteran of ESPN/ABC Sports overseeing its $2 billion sales organization. He currently serves as a director on the executive board of the Screen Advertising World Association and serves on the marketing committee of the International 3D Society. He has also served several terms as president and chairman of the Cinema Advertising Council. I recently interviewed Marks via email about his time at NCM, his plans for the future, and his thoughts on the state of the cinema business. Our conversation started with the earliest days of digital cinema.
Later this week, as executive director of the professional association New York Women in Film & Television, Cynthia López will oversee the 2021 NYWIFT Summit: The Creative Industry Radically Reimagined. López is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. López is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, and two duPont-Columbia Awards. In addition, she received the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was executive vice president and co-executive producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV and was involved in the organization’s strategic growth and creative development for 14 years. On January 1, 2019, she became executive director of New York Women in Film and Television. López recently agreed to do a Q&A via email; our conversation started with her legacy as an advocate for women and other minorities.
Kino Industries, creator of the interactive CtrlMovie technology that gives film and TV audiences real-time collaborative influence over the direction of a project’s plots and characters, has entered into a creative and co-financing partnership with Rocketman financier Starlings Entertainment. The announcement was made by Kino Industries CEO Chady Eli Mattar, president Scott C. Silver and Starlings Entertainment CEO/executive producer Karine Martin.