A major step against piracy

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Fewer people have been going to the movies during the past decade. This trend has not reached an alarming state for the motion picture business yet, because ticket prices continue to go up and 3D has set a new standard for pricing across the global exhibition scene.

The biggest threat facing the movie industry is not television, nor games nor handheld devices—it is piracy and it continues to get worse. A major step in the fight against movie piracy has been taken by the U.S. Senate. A bipartisan group of senators led by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy introduced legislation recently that would make it easier for the government to shut down websites offering illegal copies of films, TV shows or software.

Senator Leahy dubbed his legislation “The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Act” and stated that his act “will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.”

The main goal of the legislation would be to give the Department of Justice a faster means for penalizing websites that make pirated goods and services available. It would also allow Justice to file a civil action against a domain name repeatedly used to spread infringing material and get an order closing down the site. The only drawback is that although Justice can initiate this action, only a ruling by a federal judge could shut down a domain name.

This is another step in the right direction to help combat efforts to steal copyrighted material. We applaud the efforts of the federal government in joining this difficult battle.

Digital Delivery’s Promise
Digital delivery of movies to theatres is a reality, but with a recent announcement from Deluxe and satellite company EchoStar, it just might become mainstream.

From the outset, digital cinema was all about better quality and saving money. Part of the promise was digital delivery—doing away with costly shipments—but until now that has been far from the norm.

Deluxe and EchoStar have formed a joint venture to deliver digital content to theatres in the U.S. and Canada. When implemented, this would eliminate sending movies to digital theatres on hard disks. The cooperation of these two companies makes a good deal of sense, as EchoStar has a vast satellite network and, of course, Deluxe has a longstanding relationship with the major studios.

This new venture would profoundly reduce duplication and shipping costs for distribution and exhibition. Delivery via satellite is easy and efficient. Everyone desires lower costs, and this should be a major upgrade over the hard-disk approach.

It appears that the joint venture is thinking about more than just delivering movies; the technology also adapts easily to handling live events and other content.

There are presently 20 beta sites in operation. Interested theatres must install two dish antennas and a Deluxe–EchoStar receiver.
Couple this technology with booth-less cinemas and you have entered the future—not the way our grandfathers ran movie houses.

ShowEast Celebrates the Movies

Cinema conventions are about networking, seeing movies and product reels, experiencing new technologies and tasting wonderful new concession items. These are all good reasons to hop on a plane and come to Orlando for the 2010 edition of ShowEast.

The atmosphere at ShowEast should be jubilant, as the first half of 2010 has seen domestic box office top $5.3 billion, up from the first half of 2009. The first quarter shattered all industry records and although the second quarter was down, the line-up for the remainder of the year should catapult the gross box-office revenue to another new peak.

What was terrific about the first six months was that pictures worked in all categories. There was something for everyone. Avatar topped all industry records both domestically and internationally and took 3D to a whole new level. The animated feature Toy Story 3 has become the highest-grossing G-rated film ever. There was a plethora of films that became box-office hits and appealed to families, kids and mature audiences.

Box office around the world was generally up despite brisk competition from the World Cup. We saw resurgence in China, Russia, Italy and France.

On everyone’s mind are 3D and piracy. The rollout of digital screens continues at an unprecedented pace, with 3D as a major catalyst. Piracy is and remains a key concern and the industry appears to be making headway with greater dedication from law-enforcement agencies to protect content and tremendous cooperation on the local level from exhibition and distribution. These topics will be covered at ShowEast along with sessions on alternative content and VIP auditoriums.

According to show organizers, there will be several noticeable changes at this year’s edition:

• The International Cinema Technology Association has put together for the first time a non-technical session for theatre managers that will focus on troubleshooting tips to ensure no down time. It will also focus on sound, digital and 3D. It is called “ICTA Technology 101.”

• Tuesday is Independents Day and ShowEast has dedicated nearly six hours of programming time to clips and trailers, panel discussions, screenings of three films and an indie-style “Schmooze-A-Rama.”

• The first day of ShowEast is geared to the international exhibitors from Latin America. Special marketing and distribution presentations are being made by Fox, Paramount, Sony, Disney and Warners. Presentations will be in the Universal AMC Theatre.

ShowEast is about film, and the line-up for this year’s show is exceptional with major pictures like Warner’s Due Date, Paramount’s The Fighter and Morning Glory, Fox’s Unstoppable, Lionsgate’s The Next Three Days and Summit’s Fair Game. It all concludes with well-deserved tributes to the 2010 award winners at the Coca-Cola final-night banquet. We congratulate honorees Tom Stephenson, Todd Vradenburg and Branden D. Miller.