National Association of Theater Owners

escape-bench

Yesterday a fight broke out over who is killing movie theaters. Throwing the first punch was Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who gave a keynote address at the Film Independent Forum in L.A. “I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies,” he said regarding the industry’s protest of VOD releases being day-and-date with theatrical openings. Soon after, National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian countered with a weak blow of: “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well.” As a former longtime employee of the movie theater industry, I can say with some certainty that the most lethal enemy of cinemas is cinemas themselves. Sure, there is a lot to say about the convenience of lazily staying home and clicking the remote on our cable box or Roku or Xbox or using our smarthphones or tablets to watch a brand new movie in our beds with no pants on. But at some point Fithian and the rest of NATO’s scapegoating curmudgeons need to realize that going to the movies isn’t necessarily about the movie on screen. It hardly has been for the better part of a century, in fact. Moviegoing is an experience. That’s what NATO should be focused on, and much of that focus will always be on pressuring its theater chain partners to maintain a better quality experience […]

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On Charlie Rose last night, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes explained his desire to shorten the time between theatrical releases and home entertainment availability. His reason? It’s great for everyone ever. It makes sense that Time Warner (which owns New Line, Warner Bros., HBO, DC Comics, Castle Rock Entertainment, and other media ventures) would want to shorten the window. Bewkes evoked the dreaded P-word in his initial rationale for getting movies to television screens sooner, but he also recognized that there’s an audience beyond pirates that wants to have home-viewing options. “Everyone in the business, including theater owners, has an interest,” said Bewkes. But what exactly is in the theater owners’ best interest? And what will broadband bundled with shorter waiting periods mean for DVD and Blu-ray?

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Earlier this week, Deadline Wherever reported that during a panel at CinemaCon, exhibitors discussed the option of allowing patrons to text during films. It was pitched as an attempt to attract younger audiences to the theaters, even though it doesn’t actually address the reason (price of films, quality of the home video experience and rampant online piracy) why teens and college students don’t go to the movies as much as they did in the 70s and 80s. At Film School Rejects, we support a staunch no-texting policy (and no tweeting, Facebooking, web surfing, Wikipediaing, playing of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja) at all theaters. However, instead of pointing out the fallacies of this idiotic suggestion, we’re taking a look into the future. Here is a possible timeline of what might happen were texting allowed in movie theaters. Gird your loins and enjoy this cautionary tale from Cole Abaius and Kevin Carr.

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Hot on the heels of winning a slew of awards at the Oscars, Harvey Weinstein has decided to go to war with the MPAA over the new documentary Bully, which was “slapped” with an R rating for language and lost an appeal to have it changed to PG-13. I’m not going to spend all my time pointing out the irony that Harvey Weinstein is a big bully himself, leveraging the tragic events in this new film to orchestrate a publicity stunt. Suffice it to say, if he were interested in actually having as many students as possible watch this film instead of making money, he could easily distribute censored screeners to schools with any offending language bleeped out. And why is he doing a little song-and-dance about releasing it “unrated” when he knows full well that the National Association of Theatre Owners will have to treat it like an NC-17 film (under the yoke and obligation of the MPAA)? Make no mistake… Weinstein’s in it for the money and not the cause. But let’s leave his personal bullying out of the argument and consider the possibility that an R rating might, in fact, be the right thing for Bully.

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The Motion Picture Association of America must die. It’s a monopolistic behemoth that poisons creativity and commerce while hiding behind the failed task of educating parents about film content, and the time has come to call for its dissolution. The above logo is what we, as movie fans, are most familiar with when it comes to the MPAA because we see it on trailers and home video, but that symbol is really a trick of PR. The goal of the MPAA is not to rate movies, even if that’s the product we know and loathe best. The MPAA’s founding, fundamental aim is to maintain the corporate dominance of its members – the six largest studios. It does not serve fans. It does not serve families. It does not serve filmmakers.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with sex symbol and film legend Angie Dickinson, discuss the parasitic relationship between studios and theaters, talk Bellflower‘s marketing strategy, and play a game we’re calling “Co-Directors.” Former assistant theater manager, massive film fan, and creative director at Rock Sauce Studios John Gholson explains how studios and theaters work together. He also makes a sex comedy featuring Andy Griffith seem just as enticing as it is in real life. Angie Dickinson has starred in over 50 films, played iconic roles from Rio Bravo to Ocean’s Eleven, and she was kind enough to spend some time talking to us about working with Sam Fuller and Frank Sinatra, creating her characters, and how movie-making has changed. FSR’s own Culture Warrior (and one of the Talking Heads) Landon Palmer braves a segment where we come up with directors we’d like to see work together, pitch a project for them, and figure out if it has a chance of getting made. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Murder sounds like it could be a massive hit. Plus, our very own Jeremy Kirk matches movie news wits with Peter Hall from Hollywood.com. Who will triumph at the sound of the correct answer bell and who will be forced to narfle the garthok? Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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It looks like everyone is throwing their hats into the ring. When the studios announced a plan to release movies in home theaters just 30 days after the theaters located outside the home (with a price tag of $30 per rental), the National Association of Theater Owners balked. Apparently their threat to boycott big blockbusters was a fake, but they haven’t kept secret their disgust for the new model that would limit their ability to make money showing movies (since studios take the 50%-100% lion’s share of the ticket split in the first weeks). Now, 23 directors and producers are speaking out against it. That list includes James Cameron, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, Antoine Fuqua, Todd Garner, Lawrence Gordon, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Gale Anne Hurd, Peter Jackson, Karyn Kusama, Jon Landau, Shawn Levy, Michael Mann, Bill Mechanic, Jamie Patricof, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Robert Rodriguez, Adam Shankman, Gore Verbinski, and Robert Zemeckis. The full, un-edited open letter is below:

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Most casual movie fans don’t know anything about the contentious relationship between the studios and the screens they use to display their wares. The quick and dirty version isn’t a pretty one. The studio system basically holds all of the power when it comes to how movies play, how much of the cut they get from them, and how long they’ll stay exclusively on screens. Now that studios are attempting to show new films on Video-On-Demand just a month after hitting theaters (at the premium price of $30 (which is less premium than going to the theater with a family of 2-4)), the theaters are finally fighting back. Sadly, they’re fighting back with empty threats. At least they’re going for the gusto. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is threatening to boycott screening films involved in the VOD plan, and that includes the giant summer flicks that were on everyone’s Most Anticipated lists. The money quote from NATO chief executive John Fithian’s statement to the Financial Times: “Let’s say you’re Regal Cinemas and it’s a busy weekend with a couple of big pictures opening. If it’s 50-50 between this picture and that picture and you have a partner that respects your [business] model and another one that doesn’t, you’re going to give the screen to the partner that respects your model.” Respecting that model is a case of giving theaters enough time to make money off of doing what they do.

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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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