Box Office Ups and Downs

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To date, 2014 has been quite a year for the motion picture industry, with plenty of ups and downs. The summer box office going into August was off by nearly 20 percent, but a few August releases like Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles helped improve on that number. Still, as we entered September, the industry was down about six percent for the year.

There are those who feel a miracle is in the making and the remainder of the release calendar for 2014 might make up the lost ground. Films like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, Jennifer Lawrence’s latest Hunger Games and Peter Jackson’s final installment of The Hobbit, along with some smaller-scale award hopefuls like Gone Girl, Foxcatcher and Selma, could make the difference.  Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian recently stated that “it would be the comeback story of the year.”

One disappointment is that the number of male moviegoers from 18 to 34 has fallen off this summer, a key reason for the rollercoaster results. But interestingly, the number of females attending the movies has spiked during this period. It will be interesting to see how movies planned for the next few years will reflect this shift in attendance and address bringing the female population back to the cinema.

Those critics of the film industry who declare that movies are a dying breed are so far from the truth. The schedule of films for 2015 is enough to make even these doomsayers take a step back and rethink their prognostications. That’s because 2015 could be the biggest ever at the box office, with a lineup that includes Star Wars: Episode VII, a new James Bond movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pixar’s Inside Out, Jurassic World and the finale to the Hunger Games franchise. In the past several decades, there have only been a handful of years when box office did not surpass the previous year. Does this sound like an industry that has given up or is dying? You bet it doesn’t!

The real question is how we continue to keep the movie industry unique and give the public something they cannot get at home. Technology in our business must stay a giant step ahead of the home, and for theatre operators to invest in this technology, it better help increase revenue at the box office.

The industry must define itself moving forward so that the next generation will not watch films solely in the home or on mobile devices. As Tony Adamson of DLP Cinema recently said at an International Cinema Technology Association conference in Washington, D.C., “We cannot let Apple or Samsung decide the future of the movie industry.”

At the same conference, Mr. Adamson addressed “What’s Next? 2014 and Beyond.” Listening to him talk about new technologies and advancements in older but still new technologies was like seeing in slow motion the cinemas of the future and the type of content we will be viewing on these screens. Here are some of the items he mentioned in his talk at the ICTA’s annual business retreat:

* Refresh of digital-cinema equipment due to obsolescence and technology advances
* Higher dynamic range and contrast up to 100,000:1
* 14 foot-lambert 3D becoming the standard
* 4K 3D at 60 Hz per eye
* Laser light illumination on small screens (under 10 meters) in 2014
* Holographic imagery
* Augmented reality
* 3D screens that move with the image
* And yes….8K.

We thought it would be interesting to list these items for our readers, but they in no way reflect any opinion of this publication.
   
Mass Texting in China
One of the most annoying things that happens inside a movie theatre is when the person next to you texts during the showing of a film. It’s become such a problem that messages on the screen prior to a film state, “Please turn off your cellphone.” That message has been conveyed by various theatre operators in very creative and innovative styles.

Now, imagine sitting in your local theatre and seeing a dozen people in your auditorium texting at one time and even able to put up a text message on the screen. So you think this could never happen? Well, think again! Theatres in some major Chinese cities are experimenting with “bullet screens” on which audiences can send text messages commenting on the film, which are then projected onto the screen.

Leave it to the Chinese to add a new wrinkle to seeing a film. Yes, we like to be unique and different, but isn’t this going a bit too far? Who needs lights shining in different spots all over the auditorium, as well as loud ringtones spoiling the show?

According to a report coming out of China, this technology has been introduced during some movies to attract younger patrons who cannot pull themselves away from their mobile devices. The idea is to mimic the experience of watching a movie on mobile media, which is how most Chinese youngsters view films.

This experiment is now playing in some theatres in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. Some people like it because it is different and new, but we have to believe the practice will end shortly as other patrons lose concentration and complain to management.

Fortunately, a film with a “bullet screen” must be authorized by the writer when they sign an agreement with the producer of the film. But this is just not the way to watch a movie.