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Monday, March 15, 2010

Business New of Hollywood: New Internet, Oscars, More

The Business March 15, 2010

The FCC has a ten year plan to increase the speed of the Internet in the US, which is low compared to the rest of the world. The plan would booste speed 25X but requires a new infrastructure with new wireless, switchers, cable, interfaces with computers. Cisco and Google are in the lead, but others are in the pipe as well, to do what is needed to provide the infrastructure we need to monitor people's health over the Internet, have ultra high definition, meet the skyrocketing band width demand without slowing or even grinding to a halt.

30 billion dollar global box office, up over previous year and 30% over 2005. However the cost of the films has skyrocked and DVD revenue down. The average film cost well over 100 million dollars to make and market, and that is the average. US companies produced 12% fewer films in 2009 than 2008, due to decrease in investments and the other aspects of the recession.

"Hurt Locker" will not see broad theatrical release, ever, because it is on DVD, video and on-deman, even with all the awards it won! It is the lowest grossing best picture winner in modern history, and lowest overall if you adjust the dollars to equalze all over the year.

Walt Disney India is producing and marketing to southern India. Fox is launching domestic Chinese films. Sony has of course long held Japanese, Korean, Chinese and southeast Asian production centers and marketing.

Paramount is launching a microbudget arm, in part based on the success of "Paranormal Activity." Budgets are well under one million dollars.

Indy films are back to the days of putting stickers on by hand on videos, mailing themselves to critics and awards show nomination committees, making their own calls and putting more time in pushing a product than in making movies. The Indy machines are gone or very select. Self distribution is on the rise.

Richard Fay, president for domestic distribution for Summit Films ("Twilight", "Hurt Locker") says that while self-marketing can get a film seen or a filmmaker known, it takes professionals at distribution to truly build a film to its potential. Getting films into theaters is costly. It takes marketing to drive audience, publicity, a relationship with the theater owners and groups and film (or digital masters) for projection. The physical print, on time, with support materials, marketing dollar commitment, marketing plan and niche.  Theatrical distribution remains the start, with the out of home experience of the going to the theater, the word of mouths seeing the film with others generates and the marketing for theatrical distribution paves the way for on-demand, DVD, Blue-ray, Internet and other forms of distribution.

Ultra-low budget still needs to be creative, with the sweat equity of postage stamps and hand mailed DVD's, but also use of on-line networking and other methods. The ultimate is to find financing for distribution and marketing based on your finished product, the opposite to how higher budget films are produced.

Each platform for distribution has its own audience. iTunes skews younger and male. Netflix skews a bit older and female. On-demand male or families. Theaters tend to slant female and younger.

The MPAA, which represents the big companies, also rate films. So they give better ratings (PG-13 instead of R) to big studio films with more violence, language or sex than and indy they will rate R or NC-17.

Bill Mechanic, so-producer of the Academy Awards, and producer of "Coroline", shared an honest post-mortum of this years telecast with KCRW's The Business. For those who watched the awards or anyone who is interested in how live television awards shows, it is worth a listen. Use the links to the right, or go to KCRW.COM to download a podcast or listen to a MP3 of the program.

Hate Speech in the Cyber-World

Cyber Hate, and a proliferation of hatred in speech and action may be linked and are on the rise, as covered in a story by CNN.

New York (CNN) -- The unregulated nature of the Web has aided a proliferation of cyber-hate, according to a report the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance released Monday.
The report, Digital Terrorism and Hate 2010, notes that there are about 11,500 hate-affiliated Web pages, a 20 percent jump from last year's study.

According to the Wiesenthal Center, personal blogs as well as mainstream social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter are easily flooded with racist and terrorist-related content.
"The spike is not in traditional Web sites in the United States," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "It's more global and almost all in the social-networking area."

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Wiesenthal Center and a co-author of the report, said home-grown terrorism suspects have an active online presence. He cited the case of a Pennsylvania woman who officials say called herself "Jihad Jane."

Click here for the remainder of the CNN story.

Manipulative use of the word "terrorism"

Words cannot be believed. They are manipulated, used in and out of intended context, used to manipulate and influence, or simply missused.

A reader of this blog suggested a commentary on what they feed is a good journalism and communication topic on several levels. It covers meanings and propaganda, the use of words, and the role of journalism in shaping agendas.

The commentary, not the first I have read on the subject, is followed by an interesting audio interview on the topic. It is worth a listen, despite some audio distortion. The podcast can be downloaded in MP3 here, and ITunes here).  A transcript is here.

  A contributed on offers an interesting commentary on "terrorism" and the use of words: click here.

"Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?"

Farewell Peter Graves

SAGACTOR: I was watching "Men in Black II" on Sunday and wondered if Peter Graves was still with us. Best remembered as the leader of the original "Mission Impossible" team on TV, the pilot in "Airplane" I and II, Graves career spanned film, television and stage, with a stellar often made fun of track record as a narrator and voice over artists. His sense of humor allowed him to lampoon himself and the characters he created. He is a key part of my childhood and is another of a long list of childhood "adult" icons leaving this earth. Part of aging is the painful reality of the loss of ties with your own past. The following is from a website with a morbid title but a great track record on the topic of Hollywood celebrity. I first came across it as part of a documentary reviewed as a judge for the "Dam Short Film Festival" here is Boulder City. It did not make the cut to be screened, but did well in reviewing the Hollywood subculture of experts who follow celebrities after they leave us.

Actor. Born Peter Aurness, he participated in athletics and was an accomplished musician before beginning his career as a radio announcer, where he utilized his robust speaking voice. After studying drama at the University of Minnesota, he followed his older brother James Arness into the entertainment industry, when he broke into films with his motion picture debut in "Rogue River" (1951). Throughout the 1950s, he appeared in routine movies and had a memorable role as 'Price' the German informer in the picture "Stalag 17" (1953). The decade also saw Graves appear on the small screen, with a featured role in the series "Fury" (1955 to 1960), as well as guest performances in other programs. It would be the role of 'Jim Phelphs' on the popular series "Mission: Impossible" (1967 to 1973), for which TV audiences would most identify him with. A later generation would fondly remember him for his comical performance in the movie "Airplane!" (1980), its sequel in 1982, and for his narration work in the "Biography" series with the Arts and Entertainment Network. He remained busy in a large range of TV and film roles from the 1970s until his death, including "The Winds of War" (1983), and an updated version of "Mission: Impossible" (1988 to 1990), repeating his character from the original series. He died from natural causes. (bio by: C.S.) 



Peter Graves
Peter Graves started his career in the 1940s doing what was then known as extra work – now background. He had worked continuously ever since. He was 83, and was found today at his home in Pacific Palisades. His publicist says Graves apparently suffered a heart attack.

SAGACTOR: Voice artists, narrator, radio announcer, background actor, film character actor, television star...and Sheriff Matt Dilon's brother...Peter Graves was my kind of man. He is also a part of my life from before I was born (Gunsmoke) to my childhood (Mission Impossible) and when I was first getting into acting and comedy (Airplane). Fare welll...Mission acomplished.

Libraries, what a concept!


When was the last time I went physically into a library? Every week, but then I am a tactile person and live two blocks from one. They have special collections and a certain feeling that cannot be obtained anywhere, at least easily. A place to contemplate, explore the book next to the one you are interested in on the shelf, just think and sort as you walk the shelves scanning related subjects or articles. And they have trained professional librarians.
Library means collection, which goes well beyond books. The loss of libraries would mean the loss of the art galleries, performing arts centers, meeting rooms, viewing room, expertise and other resources they bring, well beyond a collection of physical books.
Public libraries have value in our society. They provide all of what I listed above and more. They are a wall against creeping illiteracy, ignorance and the dumbing down of our overall society. Parents who do use libraries never bring their kids to the library. What strata of society do they come from? What will happen if this trend continues? I am with Ray Bradbury, who grew up practically living in the library. It opens the mind, imagination and intellect.
So, yes, traditional libraries hold great value to our society and its future.
As to virtual libraries, they have their place and their value is increasing. However consider these thoughts:
What if there is a war or natural disaster involving magnetic pulse and electronics stop working? Not science fiction as there are natural causes for such pulses and it is very much both a military weapon and a side impact of nuclear weaponry.
Access to virtual libraries required technology that cost money and takes service? What of the poor, or those who live in a society where a government or a corporation keeps people from having access to information?
Tactile paper and ink libraries can be hidden, transported, displayed and stored in homes or collections.
The building and its contents remind the community that it is a real flesh and blood community, with resources and identity. Often libraries hold local history, writing, art, culture and identity.
There is a physical feeling and pleasure to reading a tactile book. Its touch, smell, the reality that others have read it, the wear and tears that add character and value.
Virtual has its place, but we need both buildings and on-line in the Ethernet.
Besides the best place for those who do not have funds, or those whose technology is aging, or those who just want to be away from home, school or work, to access what is in the ether-world is at their local or campus library.