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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Be prepared to pay more for movie tickets. Cabin in the Woods solid mix of satire, drama, horror and blood. IATSE settles on a contract offer. One Rich Network CEO.

Charge more for hits, less for flops, analyst urges
 Photo: The AMC Universal Citywalk Stadium 19 theater complex in Universal City. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times.

Be prepare to pay more for your night at the movies. Charge more for hits, less for flops, offered as solution to increasing movie theater revenue.

It's time for studios and the cinema industry to stop charging the same price to see any movie any day of the week, a media industry analyst said in a strongly worded research note Friday.

"Movie exhibitors are operating with the largest amount of excess capacity of any industry we could find in the free world," wrote Todd Juenger, a senior analyst at Bernstein Research. Nearly 93% of theater seats go unfilled, he said, including 99% between Monday and Thursday.

Over the years, many industry players and observers have called for "variable pricing" for movies. The basic idea is that the more popular films should cost more to see, while those that don't pack theaters would get a discount. But theater owners and studios have resisted, in large part because they are concerned about the negative perceptions that would come from some new offerings costing less to see than others.

Currently, the only variable pricing at cinemas typically occurs for matinees and evening shows, as well as children or senior citizens' tickets versus adults. On occasion, exhibitors quietly and without fanfare offer discounts for showings during the week, but virtually never as a matter of an advertised policy.

Juenger noted that everything from airplane tickets to hotel rooms and even DVDs at Wal-Mart have some degree of variable pricing. "The only industry we could think of that is remotely similar to movies in terms of flat pricing with big spikes in utilization is fast-food," he observed.

The analyst claimed that with higher pricing "The Hunger Games" could have grossed $250 million worldwide on its opening weekend, compared withthe $219 million that the Lionsgate release actually collected. "I also submit that [the costly flop] 'John Carter' could have eked out more total revenue, especially post-opening weekend, by lowering prices," he added.

Of course, with domestic box office receipts up 20% so far this year, providing a bright spot at a time when DVD revenue continues to fall, it's doubtful that Hollywood is looking to shake things up in the near term.

Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
 Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office in Studio City in 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

IATSE and Studios reach a contract. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that averts a potential showdown with the major studios.

IATSE represents more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers, including camera operators, set decorators, grips and others who work behind the scenes on movies and TV shows.

Under the proposed agreement, IATSE members would receive 2% annual wage increase over three years -- in line with raises negotiated by other entertainment unions . Employers agreed to increase by 20% their hourly their contribution to the union's health plan.

"Our goals going into these negotiations have been met,'' IATSE President Matt Loeb said in a statement. "We were successful in maintaining the pensions of our retirees."

Members with dependents, however, would also be required for the first time to pay premiums between $25 and $50 a month for healthcare coverage, said on person familiar with the deal.

The union agree to the concession as way to help close a large deficit in the union's health and pension plans -  projected to be more than $350 million over the next three years because of rising investment losses and medical costs. The two sides have been sharply divided over how to close the deficit.

IATSE also expanded to expand the so-called 30 mile zone in Los Angeles -- the area that determines work rules and rates paid to union members -- to include Agua Dulce and Pomona, among other locations.

If ratified by members, the new three-year contract that takes effects July 31.

Les Moonves
 Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Credit: Peter Foley / Bloomberg

The top man a CBS brings home 70 million a year  "Two Broke Girls" and one rich CEO.  CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves catapulted to the top of the media pay ladder in 2011 with a compensation package valued at $69.9 million, according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 62-year-old executive's package jumped about 21% over the $57.7 million that he reaped in 2010, which included a $27.5-million bonus.

“CBS significantly outpaced the industry in 2011 in terms of shareholder return," the media company said in a statement. "In fact, the company is the second best performing stock in the entire S&P 500 since March of 2009... The vast majority of this year’s pay is once again keyed to performance-based measures, closely aligning the overall value of the compensation with that of the company’s shareholders.”

CBS stock has been on a tear, soaring 42% last year. The stock closed Friday at $32.50 a share, an eye-popping increase over the $4 a share that it was trading for in 2009, following the market collapse. Investors have bid up the stock, in part, due to the anticipation that CBS will rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in political advertising dollars this year as candidates and political action committees try to influence the outcome of elections.

The company's assets include the CBS broadcast network, home to such hit shows as "Two Broke Girls," "NCIS" and "Survivor," local TV and radio stations and billboards. CBS also owns premium pay cable channel Showtime and Simon & Schuster publishing house.

Sumner Redstone, the executive chairman of CBS Corp., received compensation of $20.3 million in 2011. That means the 88-year-old mogul, who has been slowing down in recent years, collected more than $41 million in 2011 for his executive position at CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. (Redstone received $21 million as executive chairman of Viacom).

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman made $43 million in 2011, considerably less than his 2010 package of $84.5 million.

Viacom and CBS traditionally lead the media pack because of the dual-stock structure of the two companies. Redstone controls nearly 80% of the voting stock, making it difficult for other shareholders to mount a successful protest over governance issues, including executive compensation.

Though not in the same stratosphere of Apple Inc.’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, whose compensation totaled $378 million in 2011, Moonves’ pay still is considerably higher than his peers in the media world.

For example, Moonves received more than twice that of Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger, who collected $31.4 million in fiscal 2011, and nearly three times the amount of Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, who took in $25.9 million.  Both Disney and Time Warner are much larger than CBS.

News Corp.’s Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch raked in $33.3 million in 2011 running his global empire.  Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav collected a package valued at $52.4 million last year.

'The Cabin in the Woods' runs through all the scary-movie genre's cliches with a wink and a nudge. The satire displaces much of the thrills and chills, although there is lots of blood.

"The Cabin in the Woods"
Fran Kranz, left, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in a scene from "The Cabin in the Woods." (Diyah Pera / Lionsgate / April 3, 2009)

You'd think by now college kids would know better than to head to an isolated cabin deep in the woods for a laid-back weekend of beer, swimming and truth or dare, because… cue spooky music … as everyone knows by now most of them are destined to die, falling to their blood-soaked ends like dominoes: One. By. One.

Actually that's exactly what longtime horror-making buddies Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are counting on — that everyone knows all the tricks and tropes in the scary movie playbook. Because really"The Cabin in the Woods" is an inside joke — a one-way ticket to all the genre's worst nightmares told in a very tongue and cheeky "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ('92 movie, TV series, multiple spinoffs, all conceived by Whedon) style.

The laughs come easily, the screams not so much. It's as if the filmmakers got so wrapped up in the satire they forgot to include the intense sensation of rising dread that creates all the thrills and chills that are part of the attraction.

The jock, the blond, the nerd, the good guy, the "virgin" — they are all there — with Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams and Kristen Connolly slipping right into their stereotypes. Now if that brand of humorous horror homage sounds a little too much "been there, done that" — "Scream 1,2,3,4," say — Whedon and Goddard have a few more tricks up their sleeve.

The new wrinkle in time is some FBI-like black ops that may or may not factor in to the health and well-being of the blond, the jock, the nerd.... It allows the filmmakers to take some digs at Big Brother-styled surveillance, reality TV, GPS-technology and other high-tech horrors that a wired world, and some weird thinking, might spawn. The setting is mission control with everyone settling in to monitor the cabin action in wide-screen comfort, though whether it's sanctioned snooping isn't clear for a while. Truman (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), with white shirts, ties and big-shot worries, are the men in charge, at least of the office pool and making sure the pizza gets delivered.
It all begins innocently enough with good girl Dana (Connolly) mooning over the professor who dumped her and packing weighty textbooks instead of a bikini. Her friend and roomy Jules (Hutchison) has just gone blond, a look that totally works for her football-playing hunk Curt (Hemsworth). Marty (Kranz) is the dope-smoking geek who turns up late but is likely to be early on the chopping block, and Holden (Williams) is the new guy, both stud and dean's list material, so a marked man as well.
All the actors do a decent job with whatever is thrown at them — usually sharp objects. There are some clever cameos to watch for and someone will no doubt eventually compile a list of the many horror movie references thrown into the grizzle and guts.
Goddard, who directs from a script co-written with Whedon, sets the tone from the beginning with a lot of quirky camera angles — you may be tempted to try to adjust the screen like a crooked picture. But there's no time really because that ever-diminishing group of friends is quickly forced to face off endless evil, including — but not limited to — zombies, aliens, fearsome monsters, graves, ghosts, grim clowns, grim reapers, dead-eyed dolls, SWAT teams, janitors, more zombies.
There is a lot of blood — in fact it's hard to think of many scenes that don't have a lot of blood.
Making his directing debut with "Cabin," Goddard, cinematographer Peter Deming ("Drag Me to Hell") and production designer Martin Whist ("Super 8") have packed the dark shadows and tight spaces of the cabin world with countless nostalgic touches — if you can call weird porcelain dolls, rusted chains and rows of knives nostalgic.

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