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Friday, September 16, 2011

Can 3D save the movies? Not unless the industry remembers what it is there for!

A new 3-D version of The Lion King is opening in theaters on Friday. A couple of years ago, industry executives thought 3-D movies — with their higher ticket prices — were supposed to save the movie industry. However 3-D ticket sales weren't dazzling this summer. The higher cost has raised domestic box office, however consumers are now considering the cost high and fleeing to Netflix and other alternatives. For the third summer in a row the actual number of people filling seats in theaters is down. Many say the quality of the entertainment experience is simply not there, others that they love movies but for their family of four going to a movie is a budget breaker. NRP's All Things Considered looks at the movies and box office from a consumer prospective. Click here to listen to the NRP story.

Let the Lion Sleep, at least let it live on your Blue Ray or DVD!

'The Lion King' In 3-D: All Part Of The Corporate Circle Of Life September 15, 2011 View and comment on 

In the cash grab, the shameless cash grab
The lion sleeps tonight...

This Friday, Disney will release their seminal 1994 animated film, The Lion King, into theaters for what seems like the upteenth time (actually the third). The draw this go-around? What else but 3-D, which will awkwardly retrofit the original gorgeous, hand-drawn animation, finally allowing viewers everywhere to experience the completely artificial viewing sensation they've been clamoring for. (Suggested tagline: "See it the way it was never meant to be seen!")

But if you squint through your glasses at the 16-year-old film, you'll still see something marvelous: a product, every detail coldly calibrated for maximum profit, that nevertheless retains a wonderfully beating heart, soaring emotion and problem-free philosophy.

The Lion King was a movie-by-committee, designed with the sole purpose of recreating the box office glory and merchandising moolah of the studio's previous second-wave animation hits The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin. You could make the case for pretty much every other Mouse House movie being just as calculated, and I'd listen to you, but it seems to particularly apply to King. The film's screenplay lists 29 credited writers, more than any other late-period Disney movie except Mulan (which had 31). For the first time, the producers hired a name-brand songwriting talent, Elton John, over studio stalwart Alan Menken. And the movie's got tons of instantly marketable characters, from the Laurel-and-Hardy-esque Timon and Pumbaa to wise old kook Rafiki to the maniacal hyena pack. Come on, I can't have been the only one bummed to pull boring ol' Simba out of my Happy Meal as a kid.

But you don't think about the studio system when you're watching The Lion King, because somehow, miraculously, every bit of the film feels like organic and blissful storytelling. Even though he makes for a lame toy, Simba's journey to find his proper place in a perilous world is a universal one, and our desire to see him prevail over the treacherous Scar and reclaim his kingdom propels the movie's soul and spirit. And Kingtakes some pretty amazing risks considering just how many people (the writers, the two directors or the extremely hands-on then-studio-head Jeffrey Katzenberg) could have stepped in to turn the film into something safe and bland: The first 50 seconds are sung entirely in Zulu, after all.

Then there's Mufasa's death scene, which even today is an incredibly harrowing sequence for a family film — there had to have been someone on Disney's executive board at some point who thought it was too sad to include, and yet here it remains.

(Secretly I just enjoy making NPR readers cry. Bet you forgot about the part where Simba tries to nestle himself underneath his dead father's arm.)

In fact, the 3-D Disney tacked onto this re-release (and remember, it's still "tacked on" even if they took years perfecting it, by virtue of the simple fact that it was never meant to be there) is the most corporate-smelling aspect of the entire Lion King franchise to date. Julie Taymor's Broadway musical is an object of artistic wonder in its own right. Even the direct-to-video sequel is slimy, yet satisfying (though I can't speak as to the quality of the more recent half-quel, as its release postdated the period of my life where I could sit through a direct-to-video Disney movie).

Honestly, if Disney had just put the original in theaters again with no bells or whistles, like they used to do every seven years with all their animated properties before the days of home video, I'd be on board. In 2002, the studio prepared an IMAX release of the film, essentially the same movie re-scoped for a larger screen without any drop in quality. But according to my colleague Bob Mondello, the new 3-D version doesn't add depth so much as re-separate the layering of film cels the animators used to create depth in the first place. Sure, the essentials of the story are there for you to relive, but why bother doing so for more money and worse quality in the theaters instead of just on video?

Besides, the film's most genuinely special effects — the timeless message, the wonderful songs, James Earl Jones' majestic voice work — have nothing to do with how you watch it. The Great Kings Of The Past never needed 3-D in their lives, so it's about time the wonderful world of Disney executives realized the same thing before it's too late to save their other modern classics from the same fate.
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Stay current on your work...midterms are closer than you think.

Midterms are closer than you think. Com students review the material to the right, including quizes and sample midterm. Reread chapters due prior to today and keep up on your readings. The exam is mostly by the authors of the book.

Lion King to Roar, the decline of Netlix, What New Season?

The 3-D version of "The Lion King" is expected to be the No. 1 film this weekend
After 17 years, it appears the "The Lion King" still has a mighty roar.
From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest entertainment news.

Roaring again. This weekend, Disney is re-releasing its hit "The Lion King" in 3-D and that may end up being the big winner at the box office. It will do battle with current box office champ "Contagion" and three new movies, none of which are expected to be gangbusters. Perhaps, but don't underestimate "Drive," starring Ryan Gosling, who girls will pay to see him watch paint dry. Box office projections from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.
A 3-D version of Disney's popular 1994 animated film is hitting more than 2,000 theaters this weekend for a limited two-week engagement and is expected to debut with about $15 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That should put the movie in a tight race for No. 1 with "Contagion," the pandemic thriller that was most popular with moviegoers last weekend, when it opened to $22.4 million.
Meanwhile, none of the three other new films bowing this weekend are expected to generate much business. "Drive," a violent crime drama starring Ryan Gosling, will likely collect about $11 million. A remake of the 1971 thriller "Straw Dogs" and "I Don't Know How She Does It," a romantic comedy led by Sarah Jessica Parker, will probably each only sell between $7 million and $9 million worth of tickets.
Nearly two decades ago, "The Lion King" opened to $40.9 million during its first weekend in wide release. The film went on to be a global blockbuster, raking in $788.2 million worldwide by the end of its run. It sold more home entertainment units than any film in Disney's history, but has not been available for purchase on DVD or VHS since 2004.
Disney has re-released its popular animated titles in 3-D before. In 2009, reformatted versions of Pixar Animation's first two "Toy Story" films came out as a double feature, opening to $12.5 million and ultimately collecting $32.3 million worldwide. And earlier this month, a 3-D conversion of "Beauty and the Beast" played at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for an exclusive two-week run to help promote the new version's DVD/Blu-ray launch in October.

Another mouse leaves the house. After less than two years in the job, Carolina Lightcap is out as president of Disney Channels Worldwide, the unit that includes not only the Disney Channel cable network, but also Disney XD. Lightcap, who previously had been based at the Latin American operation for Disney Channels Worldwide, was seen as an unusual hire at the time if only because Gary Marsh, the head of programming for Disney Channel and the executive responsible for much of the channel's success, didn't get the job. Now it is Marsh's to lose. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.
Netflix's controversial new pricing strategy that raised monthly fees 60% for some people is a way for customers to "vote with their checkbooks," the company's chief content officer said at a media conference Thursday.

The people speak. Shares in Netflix dropped by almost 20% Thursday after the company said it expected to lose more than half a million subscribers in the current quarter instead of adding the 400,000 it had previously anticipated. The reason for people bailing out of Netflix is that it raised its prices. Starting this month, Netflix created one plan for its Internet streaming and another for its DVD-by-mail offerings, each of which costs at least $7.99 a month. That translates to a price increase of as much as 60% for folks who enjoy both both delivery methods. Coverage and analysis from theLos Angeles TimesWall Street Journal and New York Times.
Where'd everybody go? A new TV season is days away, but will fewer people be checking out the new shows? That's the question Business Week raises an article about consumers cutting the cord to their cable subscription in favor of finding shows online or waiting for them to show up on DVD or Netflix. To fight this, the networks -- both broadcast and cable -- are making it harder for consumers to see content online without having a cable subscription.  Hey, it's their programming so they can do what they want. I mean, what kind of industry gives away content on one platform that people pay to get on another? Oh wait. Nevermind. 
What new shows? As the season kicks off many consumers have no idea what the new shows are or when they run. A soup of networks, broadcast and cable, widely varied start dates, shortened seasons, experiments by Netflix and subscription services, decrease in advertising exposure outside New York and Los Angeles and the reality that everyone is going after 18 to 49 with formula shows that may not even involve thinking, have the new season both confusing and uninteresting to most consumers.

Another brick out of the wall. DreamWorks Animation SKG is looking to expand its operations into China and produce films for the Chinese market, which is viewed as a potential gold mine by Hollywood, but is also very restrictive. More on DreamWorks' plans from the Wall Street Journal.
Buyer's market. As the Toronto Film Festival starts to wrap up, it is shaping up to be a buyer's market. While sales are steady, they are not overwhelming as has been the case in the past. The only new buyer in the market making waves is CBS Films, which spent $5 million on a film. IFC Films has been active as well, picking up three titles. The latest on the festival from Variety.
Great characters. The New York Times looks at the best character actors working in Hollywood. Besides citing the obvious -- Paul Giamatti and Steve Buscemi -- the piece also highlights Stephen Root and Isiah Whitlock Jr., both of whom were in "Cedar Rapids," and Donna Murphy and Kathy Baker. My favorite character actors include the late great J.T. Walsh.
Book 'em! One of the most competitive jobs in TV news is not being a reporter, it's being a booker for a morning show. That's the person who tries to woo the wayward celebrity or the crime victim with fruit baskets and a nice hotel suite. The Washington Post looks at battling bookers and gets their war stories.
Emmy tips. With the Emmys just a few days away, Vulture and Daily Beast offer up their thoughts on who will win. I tend to steer clear of pools, but I will predict that after the ceremony there will be griping about the length of the show and how the movie category that HBO dominates should be moved to another night.
CBS less dependent on ad dollars. Wall Street has at times been wary of CBS Corp. for its heavy reliance on advertising revenue compared to other media giants that also have stakes in subscription businesses such as cable television.
However, thanks to strong sales of its content both abroad and to new platforms, including Netflix and Amazon, and retransmission consent fees the network is now getting from distributors in the United States, CBS' revenue is starting to diversify.
Speaking at the Paley Center for Media's International Council conference, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said advertising accounts for about 64% of the company's revenue, down 8% from just a few years ago. He predicted that in five years, ad dollars will account for less than 60% of total revenue for CBS.
"We're less dependent on that and we're in good shape," Moonves said.
Moonves spent much of his discussion talking about the need for a better measurement for online viewing. Until such viewing is tracked better and advertising dollars reflect that, CBS will continue to focus on getting people to watch shows on the network first.
"We need to get an eyeball measured very accurately ... then we will be agnostic about where you watch your show," he said.
What a difference a new employer makes. Moonves also told an amusing story about NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke. A few years ago, when Burke was still at NBCU parent company Comcast Corp., he and Moonves clashed at the Allen & Co. conference over fees CBS wanted Comcast to pay the network for their content.
"He lost his temper at me," Moonves said, adding that Burke told him, "We are never going to pay you a nickel for retrans."
Now, as head of NBC, which Comcast took over earlier this year, Burke is a believer in retransmission consent fees. On Wednesday, Burke told analysts he thought NBC would generate hundreds of millions in such fees in the coming years.
Leaving us hanging. Don't look for a replacement for Regis Philbin to be announced before he leaves the morning talk show "Live with Regis & Kelly" by Nov. 18, which is his last day on the job. TV Guide chats up longtime "Live with Regis & Kelly" producer Michael Gelman, who says basically it will be live audition time after Regis says goodbye for the last time. One could make the case that the show has had plenty of time to find a replacement and that this doesn't bode well. On the other hand, you can pick someone and then find out later that the chemistry isn't there or that the audience doesn't react to them the way you'd hope. "We're not looking to commit to someone and then have them be gone six months later," Gelman said. By the way, Michael, you can hit me up on Twitter or email when you want me to try out.
Can't we all just get along? Penske Media Corp., parent of Hollywood entertainment news websites Deadline Hollywood and TVLine, has sued Prometheus Global Media, the parent of the Hollywood Reporter, alleging theft of both code to its websites and content. The two media companies have been bickering and hiring each other's staff for some time now. Tempting as it is to make some snarky observations about all this, I will opt not to poke the bears. All I will say is if that house in Malibu is still available, I'm game. Details on the battle from Deadline HollywoodHollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times.
New world. Jason Fry, a sportswriter, has written a piece for Poynter about how social media is changing reporting. Although sports is his focus, many of his observations are worth all of us reading. Now you'll understand why we're such a nervous bunch.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Scott Collins on why this year's Emmy Awards are must-see TV.  Rick Ludwin, the longtime head of NBC's late-night programming who oversaw the decision to choose Jay Leno over David Letterman, and later the move to replace Leno with Conan O'Brien(oh well, can't win them all), is stepping down.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Sarah Jessica Parker tries to move past Carrie Bradshaw. Buck Henry on John Calley.
-- Joe Flint
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From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest entertainment news.