In 2019 the Cherokee Nation became the first Native American tribe to create an office dedicated to supporting local film and television production. The stated mission of the Cherokee Nation Film Office is to increase the presence of Native Americans in every level of the film and television industries, while creating opportunities for economic development and jobs in the Cherokee Nation – a 14 county reservation area in northeastern Oklahoma. Martin Scorsese’s feature film Killers of the Flower Moon was shot last year in locations throughout northeastern Oklahoma and within the boundaries of multiple tribal nations, including the Osage Nation, Muscogee Nation and Cherokee Nation. Already this year eleven projects have filmed, are filming, or are scheduled to be filmed in Oklahoma including season two of the television series Reservation Dogs, and the feature films The Adventures of Jurassic Pet II and I Ain’t Getting Killed. Jennifer Loren, a multiple Emmy-award winning filmmaker, news anchor, investigative reporter and producer has been working in film and television since 2001. In 2014, she began working for her tribe at Cherokee Nation Businesses where she co-created the highly acclaimed docuseries Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People. In 2019, she helped to create and roll out the Cherokee Nation Film Office and now serves as its director, as well as the director of original content for the Cherokee Nation. I recently spoke with Loren, via email, about her ongoing work as a content creator and as the head of a growing film office.
The Big Picture
For decades, major movie studios have relied on pre-release tracking data from The Quorom to see what people think of upcoming movies. Cultique analyzes and translates culture in a constantly changing world for marketing and advertising companies. Fanthropology is a research, strategy, and creative agency passionate about the intersection of consumer desire and storytelling. Working together late last year, the three companies polled more than 2,500 pre-pandemic theatre goers to see if they have returned to the big screen or not. As their study, which was released last month showed, three driving factors have kept many former theatre goers from returning: concerns over safety, price sensitivity, and the feeling that going to the theatre doesn’t provide a great experience. I recently spoke via email with Cinionic CEO Wim Buyens to get his thoughts on the report’s conclusions. Here is our conversation.
Exhibition has made an admirable recovery from the pandemic. Box office grosses are up, though they have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. That’s because a sizable number of people have stopped going to the theatres. In a first-of-its-kind study done in partnership between The Quorum, Cultique and Fanthropology, more than 2,500 pre-pandemic theatre goers were polled to see if they have returned to the big screen or not. As this study shows, three driving factors have kept former theatre goers from returning: concerns over safety, price sensitivity, and the feeling that going to the theatre doesn’t provide a great experience. Exhibition is at a crossroads.
The Screen Advertising World Association was founded in 1954. In 2015, just as the cinema world was becoming fully digital, the name was changed to SAWA the Global Cinema Advertising Association. That was the same year the group partnered with the United Nations on its ongoing efforts to end world hunger. SAWA now represents the cinema-advertising medium with more than 60 members in 38 countries. The membership includes cinema advertising companies, research companies that analyze, collect data, and conduct research on behalf of the medium, and technology companies who supply products and services to the business. The pandemic has not been kind to anyone involved in cinema and SAWA members were no exception. Despite that, in my conversation with SAWA CEO Cheryl Wannell, conducted via email, she remained completely upbeat about what the future holds for cinema advertising. We began, however, by talking about the pandemic.
Last month, the much-anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened to the public. Its stated mission is to advance “the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema through inclusive and accessible exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections.” The museum and its opening gala received a lot of well-deserved media attention. What hasn’t been so widely reported, however, is the important role that the Dolby family and company have played, and will continue to play, in the museum’s conception, design, and ongoing cinema efforts.
Wim Buyens has been the CEO of Cinionic since it was created in January 2018 in a joint venture between Barco, Appotronics, another laser technology manufacturer, and the China Film Group. Prior to that he spent more than a decade in various top executive positions at Barco. Buyens believes that for exhibitors to succeed going forward they must offer what he calls “an elevated experience.” He also firmly believes that Cinionic can help them create that experience.
After more than a century as a key player in media and entertainment, Technicolor has gone through many changes in recent years. Today the company consists of four distinct businesses. Technicolor Creative Studios includes Technicolor Pre-Production, MPC, Mr. X, The Mill and Mikros Animation. Technicolor Connected Home is focused on the designing of broadband gateways and Android set-top boxes, and innovating in IoT, broadband fiber 2.5G and 10G. Technicolor Home Entertainment Services is a leader in the manufacturing and distribution of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and non-packaged media innovations. And Technicolor Trademark Licensing, which manages brand licensing opportunities for consumer electronic trademarks including RCA and Thompson.
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.
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.