The Warners Movie Dump: An Ominous Sign for the Streaming Biz?

The announcement last week that the newly combined Warner Bros. Discovery was planning to dump seven of its films, including one big budget female-driven DC Comics superhero film, has brought on a lot of angst and debate among those tracking the film business. The decision was both surprising in some ways, while being entirely predictable in others.

While there are plenty of examples of feature films that have been unceremoniously dumped by their studios because of lack of faith in commercial potential, or because of a regime change, historically these decisions were based on not wanting to throw good money after bad by spending the necessary marketing money for those films to reach an audience.

In the current media environment, one might have assumed that while such films might be denied a life in theaters, they certainly would provide adequate filler for a streaming service, if for no other reason than to give the appearance of having a wide selection of offerings. Just one quick look at the menus for any of these services would indicate that quantity rather than quality rules that business model. So why would Warners just dump these films, rather than relegating them to their HBO Max platform? Continue reading “The Warners Movie Dump: An Ominous Sign for the Streaming Biz?”

Seven Ways The New York Times Could Help Save Theatrical Moviegoing and Its Own Bottom Line

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t read The New York Times. I fully admit to being one of those old-fashioned people who reads the news on paper; I flip through every page, skimming the articles, diving into whatever grabs my attention, and feeling like I’ve absorbed enough information to be up to date on our crazy world.

There also isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get pissed off at The Times for one reason or another. The insistence on presenting “both sides” of every issue, to the point of false equivalencies, is a particular source of anger. (Let’s not forget that it was The Times that broke the story of “Hillary’s emails” and continued to hammer it all the way to November.)

However, all told, The Times does a better job than most daily newspapers of at least trying to get things right. And in an environment in which newspapers around the world are under severe threat of extinction, I find it heartening That they have found a way to keep the paper alive while deftly navigating new business models to support it.

That said, what brings me to write comes less from my personal and political perspectives as a reader than my professional perspective as someone who lives in the world of movie marketing; more specifically someone who has spent their life trying to get audiences to see less commercial fare in movie theaters. The Times has always played an important role in that effort, but unfortunately in recent years, changes have been made that have created great obstacles to that effort. Continue reading “Seven Ways The New York Times Could Help Save Theatrical Moviegoing and Its Own Bottom Line”

Is “Fake News” Legitimized by “Quality TV?”

In yesterday’s New York Times, the showrunners of several current political TV dramas discuss how the outrageousness of current political reality has affected the plotlines of their shows. Some of them talk about how they had to change the direction of the current season to take into account the real-life headlines that, in some cases, might make a plot twist dated or moot. Reading this, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s another side to this—one that these showrunners might not want to face: that these fictional television series have unwittingly aided and abetted a climate of mistrust for government and the rise of “fake news.”

Fictional TV has always had a side that was “ripped from the headlines.” Famously, the “Law and Order” series would take actual tabloid stories and fictionalize them just enough to pass muster without needing the rights to anyone’s particular story.

In recent years, there has been a spate of series that have one underlying theme—cynicism about our government. This list of shows is long, and includes everything from “Madam Secretary” to “The Good Wife” to “House of Cards” to “Homeland” to “Designated Survivor” to “Scandal”—even to “Game of Thrones.” Continue reading “Is “Fake News” Legitimized by “Quality TV?””

Kickoff to the MIPS Marketing and Distribution Presentations

Here is the full text of the kickoff remarks I made this morning at the Minority Independent Producers Summit, a three day conference that has going on since Tuesday night in New York City. This morning’s topic was marketing and distribution and consisted of panel discussions and case studies. The full schedule of events can be found at mipsummit.com. The intention of my remarks was to set the stage for the discussion that followed, and to throw out a few provocations to wake people up.

Minority Independent Producers SummitGood morning.

Before I start, I want to thank the Founding Members of MIPS for organizing this conference. I want to particularly thank Damian Bender for co-curating this morning’s Distribution and Marketing Pod as we’ve taken to calling it. I’m listed as the co-curator, but Damian is the one who did the heavy lifting, so I want to give him a big shout out.

When I was first approached about being on advisory board for a conference about underrepresented/minority producers of movies and television, I had a series of immediate responses swirling around in my head. Continue reading “Kickoff to the MIPS Marketing and Distribution Presentations”

Digimart 2006 Videos are Back

For those of you who are interested in the intersection between technology and storytelling, the Digimart 2006 videos, which were MIA for awhile, are back. Here is one of the panels on the “Future of Theatrical Exhibition,” in which I make an appearance. To see the rest of the videos from the 2006 conference, check out the Digimart Site. And you can check out my previous post about Digimart 2005.

Comments after the break… Continue reading “Digimart 2006 Videos are Back”

A Panel from 2005: My, How Things Have Changed!

DigimartIn 2005, I was invited to a conference in Montreal called Digimart, organized by Daniel Langlois and his team at Ex-Centris. It was a very early attempt to deal with the coming convergence of entertainment technologies, and they invited a star-studded array of speakers that represented the cutting edge of that time. I met many incredible people at the event, and even more the following year, when they invited many of us back for a second time. Some of the folks I met are now good friends and collaborators.

Recently it was pointed out to me that the videos of the conference sessions were no longer on line, so I contacted the good folks at La fondation Daniel Langlois, who are now trying to restore access to those videos. They’ve put back the sessions from the 2005 event, and are trying to locate the ones from 2006. Watching these videos, it’s incredible how far ahead of the curve many of the speakers were, and equally incredible how much has changed. You can find all the 2005 videos at the Digimart site. For a quick taste, below is the panel I was on, which was called, “More Digital Cinema Networks – Alternative & Independent Spaces.” I’ll post again if and when the 2006 videos reappear.

Comments after the break… Continue reading “A Panel from 2005: My, How Things Have Changed!”

Movie Tweeviews makes its Debut

During Oscar season last year, as I was catching up on the films I had missed, I started tweeting my reactions to each of the films the moment they were over. It was fun trying to fit something meaningful into 140 characters, and with each tweet, I kept trying to top myself in terms of being clever.  Then I got hooked. I started tweeting reviews from festivals… Sundance, then Cannes, then Toronto. Finding just the right combination of words to capture my thoughts was becoming a game. It was like writing a haiku.

About a month ago, I was sitting on an airplane, when suddenly a name popped into my head. Tweeviews. How cute. No wifi was available on this particular flight, so I had to wait until I landed before I could check out whether tweeviews.com was available. Nope, gone. How about movietweeviews.com? Got it. Continue reading “Movie Tweeviews makes its Debut”

Video from “The Conversation”

Scott Kirsner just informed me that videos of many of the panels at “The Conversation,” held at Columbia University back in March, are now available on line. Below is the video of my apparently controversial opening remarks, which many people interpreted as dashing the hopes and dreams of aspiring filmmmakers everywhere. But listen carefully to what I’m saying. It’s about pragmatism, not pessimism.

The rest of the videos can be found at Scott’s site

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A Press Release From the Not-Too-Distant Future

The following press release was meant to go out this coming September, but apparently a draft was accidentally left in a bar on Madison Avenue, and immediately found its way to the web.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2010

NEW SONY TELEVISIONS TO BE PROTECTED FROM PROBLEMATIC CONTENT
NBC UNIVERSAL PLATFORM NO LONGER SUPPORTED

Sony Corporation announced today that its new line of LCD televisions, to be introduced later this month, would have built-in protection against what it termed “problematic content.” Sir Howard Stringer, Sony’s Chairman, CEO and President said “Sony’s goal is to create an environment where consumers can trust that what they are getting is worthy of the TV set it is being played upon.” Right out of the box, all content from NBC Universal will be blocked due to what Sony is calling “its instability.”

In a lengthy public memo elaborating on the reasons for the new strategy, Stringer said, “Sony has had a long history of working with NBC. In fact, every TV we’ve ever built could get NBC programming. However, there are the issues of reliability, security and performance, and NBC’s programming fails on all three fronts. NBC’s late night schedule is just one example of why Sony has determined that the network is not a stable platform.”

In reponse to criticism that Sony is creating a “closed” platform, Stringer responded that Continue reading “A Press Release From the Not-Too-Distant Future”

The Hierarchy of Contemporary Communication

I’m constantly amazed at how many people have such a hard time catching on to the various forms of available communication, and don’t realize what is appropriate usage for each of them. There are ways of reaching out to people that require very little research to find out an address, and those are the places least likely to get a response. On the other hand, one can easily abuse having access to someone’s cell phone number or email address. For what it’s worth, here is my assessment of the priority given to the various forms of communication…

1. The Telephone: Yes, you read that right. The phone is still the best way to reach out to someone with urgency. I went to a conference recently where they put up a slide that said, “You can’t get milk from a cow by sending an email.” If you need an urgent answer, pick up the phone. Continue reading “The Hierarchy of Contemporary Communication”