Coping with the box-office blues

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Talk to any theatrical exhibitor, major or independent, and they will echo the same sentiment that box office is down and that this needs to turn around quickly. A significant number of people younger than 25 have not been frequenting the movies since Christmas, and it’s raising a great deal of alarm in the movie industry.

Ask the experts and they point to the films themselves, as much as distractions like videogames and the Internet, plus the cost of going to the movies in a tough economy. Titles that seemed sure to draw young moviegoers on opening weekend just did not. For some reason, those films that worked skewed to a more adult-oriented audience.

Adults don’t buy nearly as much candy, popcorn and soda—so concession sales have fallen off also. But with all this bad news, exhibition is staying positive and believes that a new crop of films that opens in late February and March will be younger-skewing attractions. Momentum has already been regained with the good openings this past weekend for Just Go with It and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. There is still hope and theatre owners are confident that business will bounce back, but it may take several months to catch up to last year.

New Vision at Screenvision

What do Shamrock Capital Growth Fund II and Carmike Cinemas have in common? They both own a stake in cinema-advertising leader Screenvision Cinema Network. In this issue of Film Journal International, our exhibition/business editor Andreas Fuchs conducts an interview with the newly appointed chief executive officer of Screenvision, Travis Reid.

With a background in exhibition and coming off his recent position with Digital Cinema Implementation Partners where he helped close the deal on digital deployment for AMC, Regal and Cinemark. Reid certain has the qualifications to help lead Screenvision through the business’ digital transition.

The former Loews Cineplex CEO is very bullish on the cinema-advertising business as he begins to oversee a network of 15,150 screens at 2,400-plus locations. At Screenvision, six of the top exhibitors have all re-upped over the last 24 months, each signing long-term deals. Reid notes that “every exhibitor realizes that cinema advertising has become an accepted practice. All research will tell you that the preshow is well-accepted by the patrons.”

As Travis Reid gets firmly entrenched in his new position, we anticipate that new campaigns in 3D as well as alternative content will lead to great advances in the cinema-advertising business. We believe you will find our profile to be quick and informative reading.

Indie Resurgence
The recently concluded Sundance Film Festival was one of the most active in recent memory, with more than two-dozen films acquired for distribution by such players as Fox Searchlight, Focus, The Weinstein Company, Lionsgate, IFC, Magnolia, Sony Pictures Classics, Roadside Attractions, and even Paramount Pictures. One explanation might be the loosening of purse strings with the improving economy; another is surely the terrific showing several Sundance 2010 films made either at the box office, in the Oscar race, or both. No doubt many of these distributors were eager to pounce on the next Kids Are All Right or Winter’s Bone, two Academy Best Picture nominees that launched in Park City last year.

The optimistic buyers’ outlook may also be directly related to the January box office, as acclaimed independent films like The King’s Speech and Black Swan saw their grosses grow and grow while certain big-budget studio releases failed to meet expectations. The success of these smaller films affirms that there’s still a big audience out there for quality upscale fare when it’s well-marketed by the likes of Fox Searchlight and the Weinsteins.

In the coming months, we’ll know how many of this year’s well-received Sundance pickups actually succeed in crossing over to a more mainstream audience. But the signs are good that the independent sector is alive and thriving. The exhibition community will have its own chance to get in on the specialty action next October at ShowEast’s second annual Independent Showcase—three months before the Sundance frenzy begins once again.

He’s Back!

There are certain things that are inevitable, and one of them is the persistence and durability of Harvey Weinstein. Just when industry veterans were ready to count him and his company out, he made his way back to the top with the recent announcement of 12 Oscar nominations for the Weinstein Company movie The King’s Speech.

No one ever doubted Harvey Weinstein’s ability to discover and market a hit film, and while heading up Miramax with his brother Bob, he proved it time and time again. But since forming The Weinstein Company in 2005, the brothers strayed from their roots and invested in fashion, social networking, video distribution and a cable channel.

The company has now resurrected itself by selling off unprofitable assets and returning to their origins of finding valuable films. Whether or not The King’s Speech wins the Oscar for Best Picture, Harvey is back and his presence in the industry is again strong.

This year at Sundance, The Weinstein Company purchased two of the pricier movies being touted in Park City, The Details and My Idiot Brother. The company still has a long way to come back, considering the financing it has gone through, the sale of many of its acquisitions, and the mortgaging of its film library to stay viable.

Yet if anyone is prepared and capable of getting it all back, it’s Harvey Weinstein. One has to be respectful, if not a little envious, of someone who can continue to achieve such remarkable success in this industry.