This past weekend, the Wall Street Journal included a neatly illustrated article by Joe Queenan on the dearth of imagination in Hollywood in 2010. The Worst Movie Year Ever? lamented recent storytelling efforts in Tinstletown, painting a picture of movie theaters around the country where audiences sit “listlessly through a series of lame, mechanical trailers for upcoming films that look exactly like the DOA movies audiences avoided last week.” I’m familiar with the feeling that the popcorn is the only thing to be happy about in theaters this summer. But as I was thinking about it, I started to wonder: is Queenan simply describing the state of entertainment, or is he actually providing a metaphor for the state of business lately?
You already use Netflix for unlimited DVD rentals, Spotify for unlimited music and your gym membership for unlimited elliptical-machine use, so why are you still paying on a film-by-film basis to go to the movie theater? Or so asks MoviePass, a new flat-fee subscription service that allows members all-you-can-watch access to local cinemas.
Anyone who's spent an hour waiting to download a movie from Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, or hunting for a recent release on Netflix Inc.'s streaming service, knows that online movies aren't exactly ready for prime time.
For Blockbuster, the advent of DVDs in the mail was a disruptive technology. The chain relied initially on bulky videotapes and late fees to generate a fat revenue stream, and its scale was huge; smaller, independent stores gradually left the market. Netflix opened a new battlefront, mailing thin DVDs and letting customers keep a disc as long as they wanted. Blockbuster saw the change coming. It even took action, setting up its own mail service. But seeds of destruction had been sown, and Blockbuster is now financially troubled. Netflix, meanwhile, is already embracing technology shifts that will make those red envelopes a quaint memory. Creative destruction has such a cataclysmic sound. But the term, coined by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter to show how capitalism destroys companies as more innovative ones succeed, describes a process that is more like a slow-motion train wreck.
Hunch was never a social Q&A service, though many press outlets have confused it for one. The service, founded by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake and super-hot angel investor Chris Dixon, has relaunched its home page and is now more clearly positioned than ever as a taste-graph driven recommendation engine. That might sound confusing, but the new home page is actually drop-dead simple. Log in with your Twitter or Facebook account, answer as few as 20 quick and addictive taste-evaluation questions, and Hunch will turn the front page of the site into a list of highly targeted personal recommendations of movies, books, magazines, computers, meals, vacation destinations and more. It's really impressive.
In Hollywood these days, the push to put out movies in 3D is on. In part, it's a way to get some additional marketing buzz about a film, but it's also a source of additional revenue because theaters charge a premium for showings in that format. At Pixar Animation Studios, those rationales are not lost on executives, and when "Toy Story 3" comes out on Friday it will be offered both in 3D and the traditional 2D format. Indeed, last year Pixar worked to build up interest in the new film by promoting a special double-feature of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2," both in 3D.
People are more excited about the prospect of content delivery than they are about the devices the content may be delivered on. According to a survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers by Chadwick Martin Bailey, people were significantly more excited about the prospects of renting movies over the Internet and surfing the web while watching television than they were about 3D televisions, the iPad and Google-powered Android phones.
The Disney studio, which is to unveil its production slate this spring, is backing away from one-off comedies like "When in Rome" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic," according to people familiar with the studio's new gameplan. In their place, Disney plans to focus on films that are essentially brands—like a planned Muppets movie—that can be exploited across its network of theme parks, videogames and commercial products. The recent success with "Alice in Wonderland" has given a new team of executives who run the studio confidence in their approach.
The latest retransmission fee rift between Walt Disney's WABC-TV and Cablevision, as well as Viacom yanking its popular "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" from Hulu over ad revenue-sharing, strengthens the argument for a la carte content -- allowing consumers to pay for just what they want, when they want. The complex sphere of content economics is being fractured by continuous conflict and experimentation by bundling cable operators and other content aggregators at one end of the spectrum and iTunes and Netflix paid downloads on the other.
In the last year, consumers spent more money on video games in Britain than on films, including both trips to movie theaters and films on DVD, new figures compiled for U.K.'s Daily Telegraph indicate.
It's a changing world in the toy business. Kids are focusing more of their attention on visual pursuits -- not just television and movies, but increasingly, video games and online entertainment. That means toy makers are scrambling to reinvent their brands and keep up with the times. Hasbro, the second largest US toy maker behind Mattel, is making a big Hollywood push to remain competitive.
Movies and popcorn go together like, well, movies and popcorn. In the latest entry for the "How come no one's ever thought of this?" files, Diamond Foods is introducing an integrated advertising campaign for its recently acquired Pop Secret brand that links popcorn and movies, and the enjoyment of both at home. "With the economy being down, a lot of people are staying at home and renting movies and popping popcorn because popcorn is a relatively inexpensive snack," Linda Segre, senior vice president of corporate and strategic communications for the company, tells Marketing Daily. "The category had been declining up until a year ago, and it's really been growing again."
Today, nearly 3 million users access Netflix's instant streaming service, watching an estimated 5 million movies and TV shows every week on their PCs or living room sets. They get it through Roku's player, which was successfully launched in May 2008. They get it through their Xbox 360s—Microsoft added Netflix to its Xbox Live service last fall. They get it through LG and Samsung Blu-ray players. They get it through their TiVos and new flatscreen TVs. By the end of 2009, nearly 10 million Netflix-equipped gadgets will be hanging on walls and sitting in entertainment centers. And Hastings says this is just the beginning: "It's possible that within a few years, nearly all Internet-connected consumer electronics devices will include Netflix."
Google Inc.'s YouTube is in discussions with major movie studios about streaming movies on a rental basis, a test of whether the online video giant can persuade its millions of users to pay for premium content. For Hollywood, the move could represent a bold attempt to offset its dwindling DVD sales with online revenue.
There's an interesting article over at The Baltimore Sun, suggesting that real-time reviews from movie-goers after seeing a new film have really got movie studios worried, thanks to the knock-on effect they can have on box office stats. But is it true?
When Audi was looking to win screen time for one of its cars in this year's crop of summer films, it turned to Ruben Igielko-Herrlich, whose Geneva-based shop, Propaganda Global Entertainment Marketing, helps companies place their products in films, TV shows, and games.
Netflix Inc. is a standout in the recession. The DVD-rental company added more subscribers than ever during the first three months of the year. Its stock has more than doubled since October. But Netflix's chief executive officer, Reed Hastings, thinks his core business is doomed. As soon as four years from now, he predicts, the business that generates most of Netflix's revenue today will begin to decline, as DVDs delivered by mail steadily lose ground to movies sent straight over the Internet. So Mr. Hastings, who co-founded the company, is quickly trying to shift Netflix's business -- seeking to make more videos available online and cutting deals with electronics makers so consumers can play those movies on television sets.
Some of the biggest, well-know brands in the video game world announced new titles at last week's E3 trade show in Los Angeles. Maybe you've heard of Halo, Mario Bros., or BioShock but, unless you're a gamer, you probably know little else about them. Countless hours are spend enraptured by this varied, multi-billion-dollar industry, yet it still operates like a niche community. An acquired taste. I think that video games need their Oscars.
Family entertainment giant Disney took a stand, several years back, by not renewing a decade-long marketing deal with McDonald’s and flushing fast food and high-calorie snacks out of its promotional system as the childhood obesity debate raged. But now, even as there appears to be stepped-up interest from the federal government over marketing to children, no one has followed Disney’s lead.
Jeff Cox, new to the dark art of marketing movies and predicting how they will perform at the box office, has at least one thing figured out: “It’s definitely not as easy as predicting sales for toothpaste or shampoo or toilet paper.”
The DVD rental chain says more people are watching movies at theaters, pulling traffic from Blockbuster stores. Profit plummets 39%.
In recession, as in war — and also, conveniently, in times of peace or prosperity — the movies we evidently need are the ones that offer us the possibility, however fanciful or temporary, of escape. Maybe so. But what if, at least some of the time, we feel an urge to escape from escapism?
When "Monsters vs. Aliens," a DreamWorks Animation movie about an extra-terrestrial attack, hits theaters next weekend, it will set off another invasion: a new wave of big-budget 3-D films.
Mourning the death of the fetid, human way we used to interact with movies.
Hollywood could get used to this recession thing. While much of the economy is teetering between bust and bailout, the movie industry has been startled by a box-office surge that has little precedent in the modern era.
Video games and Blu-ray or DVD movies are both competing for what little time I have to enjoy entertainment. Usually, that happens during weekends or after I'm done working each night. And although I still watch a slew of films each year, I've realized that if I need to choose between playing a game for a couple hours or finding a movie worth watching, I'll choose the former almost every time.
In tough economic times, can people afford to entertain themselves? This is the question the entertainment industry is asking itself as museums, musicians, publishing houses and movie studios prepare for the next 12 months. We present a preview of some of the most anticipated releases and events of the 2009 cultural calendar.
Nickelodeon is launching a new online site for kids. UpickDaily.com allows its young users to share, vote, poll and post their thoughts on various topics. In essence, the site lets kids be their own content providers and news aggregators about TV, movies, games, sports, stars and more.