The Glass Is Half Full


Is the movie industry really in crisis mode? If you believed everything you read, you would undoubtedly answer yes. Is the glass half empty or half full? There will always be naysayers who only point to the bad like Daniel Loeb of Third Point hedge fund, who is calling for a spin-off of Sony’s entertainment business, citing the poor performance of White House Down and After Earth. But Loeb doesn’t refer to 2012 and the biggest year ever for Sony with $4.4 billion in worldwide revenues.

Why all the fuss over the poor performance of this summer’s R.I.P.D., Turbo, White House Down, After Earth and The Lone Ranger? Of course, no one wants to see so many tentpole films in a two-month period fail to score at the box office, but let’s look at the bigger picture. July 2013 is the second highest-grossing month of all time behind July 2011. The $1.37 billion gross is slightly off from the $1.395 billion of 2011.

Why don’t these same people mention that, overall, summer 2013 box office is up 11 percent year-to-year? Even if the remainder of the summer season is not spectacular, summer 2013 will most probably be the highest-grossing one ever at the domestic box office.

Reporters and critics seem to always think the glass is half empty and constantly look for news that they feel is sensational and controversial. Shame on them. They owe a responsibility to their readers to report everything, not just the bad.

What one truly should look at is why some of these films did not work at the box office even though they were pretty good. We certainly do not think this constitutes a wake-up call to Hollywood to consider changing its summer strategy, in light of the success of other major holding films like Man of Steel, Despicable Me 2, The Heat, Grown Ups 2, World War Z and Monsters University.

There were just too many films in the marketplace this summer. No doubt some of them would have scored much better in theatres if they had been released at another time of the year. Movies need time to gestate, and this summer did not allow it. September, January and February have proven to be good months if the right pictures are booked in those time frames. The real problem is that producers truly control release dates and too often their egos get in the way of prudent decisions.

There are so many distractions out there that a movie must have a good story, look great and appeal to a wide audience. In other words, it has to be magical and a memorably entertaining experience. Producers have also realized the importance of the female audience during the summer season. The belief that women during the summer are a marginal concern has been proven wrong with female-fueled hits like The Heat and Now You See Me. Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring is one of the major surprises of the summer and much of its success has been due to women attending that thriller.

Turbo is one of those films that would have done well in January or February. The deluge of animated and family-oriented films was unprecedented this summer. In the end, someone’s film has to lose out.

Our confidence that the movie industry will continue to reach new levels and records is enormous. Good films will always do well at the box office.

Rockin’ the Crowd
Movie audiences today have gotten accustomed to plush, rocking recliner seats in cinemas, but a growing trend is chairs that take the rocking experience to a whole new level. When we first heard about motion-enhanced theatre seats a few years back, we were dubious and suspected this was a gimmick with a short life expectancy. But lo and behold, motion seats are a growing trend around the world, and no fewer than four companies are offering enhanced “4D” movie experiences.

The September issue of Film Journal International includes interviews with all four ventures: D-BOX, Guitammer Company, MediaMation and CJ 4DPlex. Each has its own technology and approach to the concept of literal “motion pictures.” D-BOX, which debuted in theatres in 2009, uses a “Motion Code” aligned with the picture’s soundtrack that moves and vibrates the patron’s seat during action scenes. The company has installations with such major circuits as Cineplex, Cobb, Odeon and Muvico and such countries as France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan and Australia. Guitammer’s “ButtKicker” sends a low-end audio signal that’s like a silent subwoofer shaking the audience’s seats. Their technology can be found at Alamo Drafthouse, Digiplex Destinations and Beijing’s Lumière Pavilions.
MediaMation has crossed over from the themed-attraction industry to movie theatres, and did its first rollout in January with major Mexican circuit Cinemex. With eight big studio movies already given their X4D treatment, MediaMation says it has many other deals in the works for their pneumatics-based system.

Meanwhile, leading Korean theatre circuit CJ CGV is upping the ante with 4DX, an immersive experience that uses not only seat motion but environment effects like wind, water, fog, lighting and even scents. Nine circuits—including Blitz CineStar, Cinépolis, Major Cineplex, CinemaCity, Cine Hoyts and CJ CGV itself—representing 17 different countries have signed on.

Blockbusters like The Avengers, Inception, The Hunger Games, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious, Man of Steel and Pacific Rim have all been enhanced by one or more of these systems. The fact that four companies co-exist in this arena and are signing up new customers indicates that this is more than a passing fad. Audiences around the world are enjoying an innovative and sometimes literally refreshing way to get “into the picture.” It’s all about differentiating the cinema experience, and it just might be the key to bringing in moviegoers looking for something extra from a night at the movies.