Editorials

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The Growing Number of Streaming Services Face Challenges

by Andy Marken / 19-Jul-21

 Our people never see eye to eye. Now, in order to restore peace, we must find the last dragon.”  - Raya, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” Disney 2021

It was a fantastic Lunar New Year for the content industry.

Everyone, everywhere is smiling behind their masks.

Yes, 2021 and the Metal Ox has arrived … the rat is in the rearview mirror!

Studios/theaters kissed and made up … sorta.

Tentpole films and some of the great film festival projects have been penned into movie house schedules.   

If by mid-2022 Wanda, Cineworld, Cinemark, IMAX, AMC and others have 50 percent of the seats filled, they will be ecstatic.

That’s more than they averaged in 2019 before the shutdown. 

Hey, with a “slight” increase in concession prices, they’ll be right back to 2016 income levels. 

Back then, NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners) bosses blamed the attendance downturn on the people who were bypassing them and going directly to the consumer’s home – Netflix, Amazon.

But that was yesteryear, so the filmmakers are welcomed back to fill big screens globally and slowly help them put more seats in seats.

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What Really Pulls People into Theaters

by Andy Marken / 12-Jul-21

They're a rotten crowd. You're worth the whole damn bunch put together.” – Nick Carraway, “The Great Gatsby,” Warner Bros., 2013

In mid-June, our California governor quit color coding the state, lifted restrictions and BAM!

It was just like Prince sang in his hit 1999 (https://bit.ly/3trymxQ).”

After all, this wasn’t the world’s first pandemic and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. 

The flu pandemic of 1918 infected an estimated 500M people and took the lives of 20-50M folks. 

Tragic, yes; but almost immediately, it gave way to the roaring 20s – flappers, flouting prohibition, a construction boom and a significant rise in consumer spending. 

It has been this way throughout history (https://bit.ly/3tmGnEh).

 

This one was no different. 

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Only the Best Will Thrive on the Theater, Home Screen

by Andy Marken / 06-Jul-21

 “I'm most scared of unfulfilled potential.” – Mae, “The Circle,” 1978 Films, 2017

Everyone is doing their darndest to make sure that Covid stays in 2020.

Children are back in school (50 percent of the time) and the goal this fall will be full time … probably.

Susan, our avid theater-attending friend, hit her local movie house masked, safely distanced with saran wrapped, saltier than usual (and more expensive) popcorn and said she’ll be trying to go back again when able.

In the interim, she’ll be moviestaying, not moviegoing.

My wife is sorta interested in going to the movies again, but she wants to get through all of her new Netflix, Disney +, Prime TV, Apple TV + got to watch stuff first.

We’re toying with the idea of adding Discovery’s HBO max for a while this fall to catch Matrix 4 and Dune.  After that, we’ll see.

Of course, we’ve also got a lot of content from pre-2019 to catch up on at our free services – IMDb TV, Tubi.

We’d be slightly less irritated with their pathetic ads if the services and ad folks would pay closer attention to all our personal information and create/offer stuff we’re even mildly interested in.

But right after that, we’re ready to hit the theaters because they were crushed during Covid.

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Defining the Theatrical, Streaming Divide

by Andy Marken / 28-Jun-21

 “She's not just finding out about the accident. She's finding out that her life is basically a setup.” – Henry, “50 First Dates,” Columbia Pictures, 2004

US theater owners and a lot of producers were totally ticked (a different word really applies) when AT&T/Warner surprised the industry and pulled all of their really great stuff from their exclusive theatrical windows and announced same-day releases to theaters/HBO Max through the end of the year.  

We get it; but no one really believed AT&T’s Stankey and Warner’s Kilar when they said, “It’s a win-win-win for the company, creative talent and consumers.” 

Kilar probably didn’t mean it but hey who wrote his checks?

Even with theaters safely opening with reduced admittance, only movie house addicts are putting seats in seats.

If you’re going to lose money, you might as well try to leverage that loss to something positive like added subscriptions for their streaming service that had gotten off to a stumbling start.

Only stuff that has a halfway decent chance of breathing new life into theater attendance has been Godzilla vs Kong, A Quiet Place II, Black Widow, Spiral (rebirth of Saw) and F9. 

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It is Time for Streamers to Quit Being Selfish

by Andy Marken / 21-Jun-21

“We're all worried, we're all in pain. That just comes with having eyes and having ears. But just remember one thing - it can't get any worse, it can only get better.” – Mark Hunter, “Pump Up the Volume,” New Line Cinema, 1990

The key to a successful market research project is determining what results you want to achieve…conduct the project and BAM! you’ve got the results that your boss or client has been waiting to see, hear.

Take the work done by Paramount + several months ago when they rolled out their service.

First, they touted the deep and rich library of TV shows and movies that would keep people staying with the service forever.

It’s not a unique statement. 

Disney did it when they rolled out Disney + and AT&T/Warner did it when they finally settled on one name for the service they “sold” – HBO Max.

The premise was unchallengeable…

Those tech folks – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV + - have to continually invest in new, hopefully better shows/movies to keep people connected.

The old timers can take a breather between new stuff and families would be perfectly happy watching their older stuff.

They said it with their fingers crossed.

 

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Entertainment is More than Just a Good Movie

by Andy Marken / 14-Jun-21

 With her Mac and iPhone in hand, our daughter sat us down awhile back and said, “Dad, streaming isn’t all about movies and shows.  There’s more … lots more.”Yeah, we know.

Thanks to video conferencing software companies, production teams stayed on track during the WFH periods.

But it was “the other” streaming that kept our daughter and people occupied and sane.

She, and more than 1B people around the globe have stuck with the Apple ecosystem–partially because of its services–movies/TV shows on iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+.

Those “little” items produced up to $15.8B in Q1 sales for the company, up from $12.7B for the same period the year before. 

The services stimulated the sale of Apple (and others) earpods/headphones, speakers, bigger/better monitors/TV screens, mics and other stuff so people could enjoy the other streaming … more music, more games, more podcasts.

Universal Music

When Voyager One left our universe, it carried two gold records containing a range of our music and other sounds of Earth.  It never looked back, and we kept right on creating and listening, taping our fingers and our feet.

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Immersion Delivers a Needed Break from Reality

by Andy Marken / 06-Jun-21

“Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead.” Cole Sear, “The Sixth Sense,” Buena Vista Films, 1999

For a number of years during college we shared a house with foreign physics and chemistry grad students.  To avoid studying, we’d get in these deep philosophical discussions on what reality and being really was.

You know, like “I’m real and you are a figment of my imagination or you’re real and I’m a figment of your imagination.” Or, we’d have existential discussions as to reality that we – and this planet –were really just a molecule of a still larger universe; and, in fact, a molecule in a chair in this still larger universe. 

When we saw the first Matrix, we said, “Jeezz maybe our reality isn’t.”

After a year of hiding behind a mask, barricaded at home except for a few missions out, endless Zoom meetings and a constant barrage of real/shaky/fake “news,” we’re less certain.

We got swept back into the 4th/5th coming of VR for a couple of reasons.

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The Best Thing to Come Out of the Lockdown

by Andy Marken / 01-Jun-21

“Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere.” – “Inception,” Warner Bros., 2010

A couple of months ago, Sony Picture’s group boss, Tom Rothman, wrote a nice guest column in THR (The Hollywood Reporter), basically thanking his people for a really tough year and thanking himself for not knee-jerking the situation with wholesale firings – some folks called it furloughs which sounds nicer but…

If you want, you can read it here - https://bit.ly/2QuapI7 - but what caught our attention was how the organization turned on a dime and completed so many projects during the year.

Production and post-production were all done in the cloud.

Now we’re the first to tell you that we’re a knuckle-dragging on-prem person.

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M&E Industry Has Changed but the Change Wasnt Equitable

by Andy Marken / 24-May-21

 “To kill a monster, you need a monster.” – Artemis, “Monster Hunter,” Constantin Films, 2020

 

Have you ever been suddenly awakened from a really, really bad dream?

Yeah, that’s about what the Oscars and all the award events felt like this year

There were a lot of great projects lying around that none of the judges really wanted to consider/call movies because they never saw the inside of a cinema.

At the same time, the industry began to recognize that outstanding creative works weren’t just done in the US but around the globe in South Korea, China, India, Africa, SEA, MENA, EU and cripes, everywhere.

The tools and talent were global and so were the stories.

What was worse was that great video stories were being watched on TVs, tablets, laptops and phones.

At times, they were even seen at a movie theater.

It is increasingly obvious that a lot of superb work is being carried out at every level – across the submission line-ups.

But at times, it felt like the lead-up to the award announcements was more about positioning and marketing rather than recognizing/celebrating excellent work done under arduous conditions.

 

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It is Important for M&E Participants to Play the Long Game

by Andy Marken / 17-May-21

“He's not strong on brains. But he's not short on guts, either. He'll learn.” – Brad Hawkes, “The Gambler,” Ken Kragen Productions, 1980

Our daughter surprised us before Christmas saying one of the things she would really like to be “surprised” with was a chess set.

She got the idea for the “gotta have” gift while watching Netflix Queen’s Gambit.

She was enthralled with how simple and complex the game was and how Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) dealt with all of the positive and negative aspects of the game to win.

So of course, she got it, along with some books to help her learn the game the right way -- Bobby Fisher Teaches Chess and The Basics of Winning Chess – and she devoured them. 

We borrowed the books to brush up on a game we hadn’t played since college and then confidently challenged her to a couple of matches.  We were resoundingly trounced every time. It was about the same results as when we were in college, but it took longer back then.

The together time reminded us of the importance of focusing and concentrating on the basics while simultaneously planning a variety of alternate future moves because your competition doesn’t always do what you think he/she would or should do. 

We admit she quickly mastered the fact that winning at chess is about being aware of the total environment and staying flexible … not just focusing on your moves.

 It’s much the same way in the M&E industry today.