The Force Is Powerful

In Focus

The theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is truly a phenomenon. This editor cannot remember any film with this much hype and anticipation during his time in the industry. The entire world is talking about J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Lucasfilm classic, and it shattered the domestic opening-weekend record with $238 million, besting this summer’s Jurassic World by a wide margin. The space juggernaut also just squeaked by Jurassic World’s record worldwide opening haul of $524.9 million.

Although it will be another week before the total North American box office for this year’s movies is tallied, the historic performance of The Force Awakens surely could result in another record-breaking year for the industry.

As we await those final annual figures, we thought it might be informative to look back at the year 2015 and recap some major movie-business developments. So here we go:

* Following a rough couple of months for Sony Pictures Entertainment, longtime executive Tom Rothman was tapped as co-chairman of the motion picture group, a position previously held by Amy Pascal.

* Cinema-advertising behemoths National Cinema Media and Screenvision cancelled their planned merger following pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice.

* China’s cinematic reach expanded farther into the Southern Hemisphere, as Wanda Cinema Line, a unit of the massive Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda, bought Hoyts Group, Australia’s second-largest movie theatre chain.

* Senator Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America for the last five years, extended his contract into 2018.

* Korea-based CJ Entertainment signed a joint venture with Major Cineplex Group, the number-one theatre business company in Thailand, to collaborate on the production of ten films.

* Universal Pictures celebrated their biggest year ever with the release of Jurassic World, Furious 7, Minions and others, and ended the year with the largest studio box-office gross in the history of the film business.

* Disney and Universal’s blockbusters contributed to the summer of 2015 being the second-largest ever at the box office, its estimated $4.48 billion cume lagging only behind the summer of 2013.

* Mark Zoradi was named CEO of Cinemark Holdings, which boasts 500 theatres across the U.S. and Latin America. Zoradi took over from longtime CEO Tim Warner.

* Paramount Pictures got on several theatre chains’ bad sides with their early Video-on-Demand release plans for Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which had the films hitting VOD 17 days after they all but left theatres. But AMC and Cineplex approved the plan, which gives the exhibitors a cut of VOD revenue.

2015 will go down as a memorable year and one that certainly illustrates the power of the movie theatre and why films should play first and exclusively with them.

As for 2016, we wish all our readers a happy, healthy and successful New Year!

The Salt Icon

The entire country looks to New York City to see what laws are being promulgated, and if they stand in New York, they seem to drift across the country in due time. Just recently, the NYC Department of Health issued a regulation compelling chain eateries to put a salt-shaker icon on menu items that top the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium—about a teaspoon. New York City movie theatres are considered food establishments under city law and are therefore subject to this regulation.

The National Restaurant Association filed suit just two days after the rule took effect. The lawsuit says that the health board overstepped its legal bounds and is muddying the waters at a time when federal regulators are working on nationwide menu-labeling rules.

New York has faced lawsuits over other healthy-eating measures it has pioneered. The challenges have had mixed results: Courts upheld a requirement of chain eateries to post caloric counts on menus but struck down a size limit on sugary drinks.

It would seem that the City would fare better if it educated rather than legislated or promulgated regulations. Additionally, these legislators are pushing issues that are being considered by the federal government and could possibly be overturned in the near future.