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TOPIC: Refections of the times.

Refections of the times. 22 Dec 2005 11:02 #24990

  • take2
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Just grabbed some interesting stats from the NATO Encyclopedia of Exhibition for 2005 - 2006 that I thought were interesing.

Number of U.S. Movies Screens: 1948 - 18,631
Number of U.S. Movies Screens: 2004 - 36,652

Number of Movies Released: 1930 - 355
Number of Movies Released: 2004 - 483

Average U.S. Movie Ticket Prices: 1948 - .36
Average U.S. Movie Ticket Prices: 2004 - 6.21

Here's where it gets really good.

VCR Penetration into U. S. TV Households:
1980 - 1,850,000
2004 - 98,900,000

Sales of Pre-Recorded Videocassetts To U.S. Dealers: 1980 - 3,000,000/2004 - 148,700,000

DVD Penetration into U.S. TV Households:
1997 - 300,000
2004 - 65,400,000

Sales of Pre-Recorded DVD's To U.S. Dealers:
1997 - 10,800,000
2004 - 1,462,200,000

Basic Cable Households: 1980 - 17,628,000
Basic Cable Households: 2004 - 73,900,000

Pay Cable Subscribers: 1982 - 13,400,000
Pay Cable Subscribers: 2004 - 35,100,000

I guess we can see where all our patrons are going. If we don't get the high end films that we need, then they just might as well go out and buy a Video or DVD. Or better yet, what's on HBO,CINEMAX,SHOWTIME, or STARS?

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Re: Refections of the times. 22 Dec 2005 14:45 #24991

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Yup, those figures just about tell the story... Only thing you'd need to add is the pirated stuff and the online downloads (and swapping)... No wonder the business is in the toilet... The studios sold us out a long time ago when HBO started, this is the snowball effect showing up...
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Re: Refections of the times. 23 Dec 2005 06:28 #24992

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The other morning on Good Morning America show, Charlie Gibson interviewed some kids at an arcade playing video games as to whether they might prefer to be seeing one of the new movies just out, and they replied in unison, "No. It's lots more fun playing the new video games!" Charlie was in part of a segment dealing with the decline in the movie industry, and concluded from the kids that interacive entertainment is apparently a lot more satisfying. I couldn't help but think that maybe most of us whould have had the same reaction as these kids back in our childhoods had anthying like video games existed back then. It's a whole new world of competition out there today!

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited December 23, 2005).]
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Refections of the times. 27 Dec 2005 02:18 #24993

Though undoubtedly it's not to be an easy challenge, I feel it's upon every theater operator today to take every film that comes their way and do all they can to make it seem as though it's a high end film, even though it might be far from being that.

I know ftom my own experience how I saw these movie at theaters when I was younger that I thought were absolutely fantastic at the time, only to catch them on TV years later and wonder why I thought they were so great. And see, I realized in that moment just how important a role the theater operators themselves play in the over all artistry and experience. For to be sure, and let it be said now, exhibiting movies well is an art form in itself. So much so that I feel they should give a special Academy Award just for that. And given the threat that piracy of both DVDs and satellite and cable signals poses to alternative ways that people can see movies these days, I feel quite certain it would be in Hollywood's best interest to realize this -- at long last! -- as well.

Meantime, I feel the potential versatility of digital cinema technology will become very instrumental in enabling theater operators the means they'll need so as to make the most mundane film seem very very special -- even when competing against all they must compete with in today's world.

In Hollywood they say there's no bad actors, only bad directors. I would like to take that a step further and say there's no bad movies, only bad movie theater operators. But digital cinema technology, I feel, will allow us to separate the good theater operators from the bad.
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Re: Refections of the times. 27 Dec 2005 03:14 #24994

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I disagree. If a movie is terrible, I will not promote it as being good. I think that would be a disservice to my regular and loyal patrons. If I have a high number of requests for a movie I didn't like or don't think I will like, I may play it, but I will make no comments about it other than it is playing. My patrons know when I say I like a movie or am looking forward to a movie, that I mean it.
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Re: Refections of the times. 27 Dec 2005 12:05 #24995

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When I was younger and went to the theatre, I never asked. I also enjoyed most of what I watched, but it never occurred to me to put the theatre staff on the spot like that.

Like political persuasion, people who ask you are getting your opinion, and they have to know that they may not necessarily agree with your views. However, you have some information available to you that they may not, like how a film tracks before it releases, how it's doing nationally, how previous shows at your theatre did and maybe even how it looked at a screening you might have attended.

I think Burney's right on this one. You can say volumes by not saying much, and you can couch your praise in such a way that a recommendation doesn't guarantee... but positively suggests enjoyment... especially if you know something about who you're speaking with.

You'll wreck your credibility, and that of your theatre by hawking something you know is a dud. Eventually, nobody will ask you, because they know you'll tell 'em every picture you have is a great one.

Right now, I'm not sure Hollywood deserves that kind of automatic loyalty.

[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited December 27, 2005).]
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Re: Refections of the times. 27 Dec 2005 12:31 #24996

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To Steve Williams:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Meantime, I feel the potential versatility of digital cinema technology will become very instrumental in enabling theater operators the means they'll need so as to make the most mundane film seem very very special -- even when competing against all they must compete with in today's world.

In Hollywood they say there's no bad actors, only bad directors. I would like to take that a step further and say there's no bad movies, only bad movie theater operators. But digital cinema technology, I feel, will allow us to separate the good theater operators from the bad. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I've noticed that, in the few posts you've placed on this board so far, you seem to be very enthusiastic about the notion that we discard our old technology and jump on the digital bandwagon, thereby somehow opening up a whole new world of exciting possibilities that we haven't yet figured out exists.

Care to tell us how digital cinema would let us transform a crummy picture into a great one, as you suggest above, and give us the opportunity to become the "good" operators that we presently can't be with our film equipment?

If you go back into the motivations that George Lucas proclaimed in the days of THX, and the early days of digital cinema, you'll note that his goal was to make his product look and sound the SAME in our theatres as it does in the studios where he created it. Hollywood absolutely does not want the exhibitor to dink with their product, and I fully agree. It's enough that theatres color their presentations with their accoustics and design concepts. We certainly don't need to give every exhibitor, projectionist, stage hand and concession worker the ability to tailor the product to their personal tastes as well. The exhibitor's job is to assemble the products of others, and then market and present them in whatever combination he/she feels will result in a positive environment that maximizes the income potential of the theatre in his/her market.

It's not our job to remanufacture Red Vines after we buy them, any more than it is to book a dog and then use subsequent technology to "make the most mundane film seem very very special"... however that could be done.

... if that's what you're getting at.
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Re: Refections of the times. 28 Dec 2005 02:53 #24997

The points you've all made to the points I put across are totally valid. For to be sure, it would be asking an awful lot of movie theater operators to take every movie that comes their way and make it look like a top film even though it is, in fact, an absolute dud. That old Frabk Capra movie, "Pocket Full of Miracles" comes to mind, where the best fashion experts money could buy were called upon to make Bette Davis (as Apple Annie) look elegant and regal, even though she was far from that. But these Hollywood directors of today, such as George Lucas, who are meticulous of how they want their work to be seen, have got to be kidding themselves if they think their works are being seen that way when viewed in home theaters where they have absolutely no control whatsoever. And, I might add, where home theater viewers can alter their films from the original in a whole variety of ways, and, to be real about it, where they do just that. At least with commercial theater operators they can specify how they want their movies to be exhibited and make it contractual. But there's no possible way they could do the same with home theater viewers.

At the same time, digital cinema technology is now bringing us into an age where movie directors are at the mercy of movie theater operators, just as till now actors were at the mercy of movie directors. And with movie theater audiences knowing that movie theater operators can alter the films they're being shown, now that digital cinema technology makes this possible, they're bound to complain if they feel the movie is not being shown in the best possible way. But does that mean the age of commercial cinema is over? Hardly. Rather, it puts commercial cinema in the same league as live performance theater.

It's to be an age where theater operators will no longer be able to say that they can only exhibit the movie as is, that is, as it is on the film they've been given to work with. For to be sure, digital cinema technology will give the commercial theater operator all the power to alter that movie that those with home theater systems now have.

Prior to now, commercial movie theater operators did not have to be particularly artistically skilled. In many instances, not artistically skilled in the least. But on the road ahead they better be, as they'll surely sink if they're not.

Meantime, commercial theater operators have to go digital if they hope to retain, or win back, the home theater audience. The good news about this is that it opens up a whole new slew of job opportunities for those who are artistically gifted. Plus, it introduces a sure and certain means of winning back that home theater audience. And that home theater audience has to be won back if Hollywood hopes to keep making money, since piracy is gradually cancelling out what Hollywood is capable of making back from home theater.

The bad news in all this is that the advent of digital cinema is going to present a challenge that a lot of people are not going to like, or be able to cut it with, whether on the Hollywood end of things or on that of the traditional commercial theater operators. It will be similar to when silent movies transitioned to talkies, except on a much huger scale than that. And in like fashion, a lot of people who are very big now are going to be yesterday's headlines come tomorrow. On the other hand, a lot of people who are getting totally snubbed now are suddenly going to become very precious players in the over all new scheme of things. Being a commercial movie theater operator, for instance, is suddenly going to be a great position to be in, but only for those willing to embrace and warmly welcome the challenge. Putting it figuratively, the John Waynes (who had a tough time making any substantial headway in the silent era) will love it, while the Rudy Valentinos and Tom Mixes and so forth will totally despise it.

And my feeling is, we can love it, or we can hate it, but the digital cinema age is here, like it or not, and we can see it as a grim reaper, or as a saviour. And, to be sure, the boldest among us will see it as the latter and rise to the challenge in a loving way accordingly, and shall prevail accordingly.
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Re: Refections of the times. 28 Dec 2005 11:22 #24998

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Well, Steve, your point of view is certainly different than any I've heard so far regarding the movie industry and digital films. However, you were asked just how it is that digital will allow theater operators to "transform a crummy picture into a great one", and you have not given any detailed specifics. However, I do note that you believe theater operators can "alter" a picture, and that they should be "artistically gifted" to compete, and that many new jobs will open up as a result.

I personally was not aware that people were altering movies for their home viewing experience. I suppose it is possible with modern digital editing technology to do just that. You could make a lot of changes that would certainly enrage the original artists who created the film. They would likely be enraged to know that any change at all was made. As a matter of fact, that is why theater operators will not likely ever be able to do the things you seem to think are inevitable. Film distributors won't even normally allow intermissions. Some won't allow food/table service to be provided in the auditorium where their film is shown. These are just a few of the restrictions placed on theater operators. Why would film makers and distributors tolerate anybody tinkering with their masterpiece, their baby, or even their flop? They write these kind of restrictions into the contract, and if any theater ever wants to get one of their films again, they have to play nice and by the contract. If you tried it, you probably would not only lose the cooperation of the film distributor you've violated, but also all the other film distributors as well.

Because, you see, it's also illegal to do what you are proposing. Copyright law doesn't allow anybody who contracts to exhibit a film, or rents a movie, or even buys the DVD to alter it and then sell it or even exhibit it for free. This alteration would be considered a creation of a derivative work. You would need legal permission from the copyright holder, the film distributor, to do it, and it just ain't gonna happen. Unless you want to be sued for everything you've got and end up in prison too.

The only possible way any part of what you propose could come to pass is if all those new jobs were working for new movie production companies-- not theaters. They can then make their own original movies any way they see fit without tampering with the property of others. And they'll be glad the copyright laws protect them too.
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Re: Refections of the times. 28 Dec 2005 12:43 #24999

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Heck we can't even play the music we want legally. Without purchasing a yearly $400 ASCAP license, to pay royalties to the copyright holders of the music.
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Re: Refections of the times. 29 Dec 2005 02:14 #25000

We're not in full disagreement the way you think. Rather, it's more a case that movie directors need to become more attuned to the fact that the movies they create can look a whole lot different in variously different theater settings than how they do in the Hollywood studio special screening rooms. So when they insist a movie must be exhibited a specific way when exhibited at a theater, well, how do they even know what the best way is unless they're there at the theater itself to determine what the best way is? And, of course, they can't go out to all the individual theaters to make sure each one is showing their movie in the best possible way. For what may be the best possible way for one theater could be totally different for another. For we must keep in mind that the theater itself is part of the movie viewing experience. And an older, more traditional style theater is going to give a different feeling to a film than a generically designed megaplex. Shown in one type theater the movie could be a huge success, but in the other, a complete flop. Yet in both cases the movie is exhibited exactly as is.

In my looking at it in this way, I'm thinking as a director. But I'm doing so in a way that looks beyond the studio and the fishbowl type environment that I'm living in. Meaning that I'm looking to where what I created actually counts. So given that, I would hope the movie theater operator would show my movie in the best possible way; and that movie theater operator would know that best possible way better than I, since they're right there at that theater and I'm not.

Now with traditional film projection systems up until now, there was only so much the projectionist could do to alter the image in any way. But with digital cinema technology there are no such limitations at all. With digital cinema technology you can change the contrast, coloration, saturation, grain and so on. And wouldn't the director want to be able to do this himself if he were there at this or that theater where his work is being exhibited? No doubt he would. But in reality he can't be at every single theater custom tailoring his movie in that way. So he has two choices therefore. 1) He can mandate the movie only be exhibited a certain specific way no matter what theater it's shown at, that is, the way it looks best in the Hollywood studio special screening room; or 2) He can allow the theater operators to alter his movie in whatever way is necessary so that it is presented at its best at whatever particular theater it is being exhibited at. And that best way could vary considerably from what was the best way back at the Hollywood studio special screening room, or from one theater to another.

I think a lot of Hollywood directors today don't realize that the world inside their ivory tower is a lot different than the world outside it. Meaning that a movie could look really great when viewed inside that ivory tower of theirs, yet not all that sensational when seen outside it. Yet it's outside that ivory tower where the movie really counts, for that's where the money is made. And what I feel in many ways they don't understand right now is how when it comes to making this money both they and the theater operators are on the same side. The director is not going to make money if his movie is not shown in the best possible way, and the movie theater operator is not going to make money if he can't show that director's movie in the best possible way either. So given that, who wins by having everything so preset? With everything preset, it all becomes a gamble for both the theater operators and for Hollywood. But to a large degree, the versatility that digital cinema technology is introducing gives the theater operator the means he needs to iron away some, perhaps all, of that gamble.
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Re: Refections of the times. 29 Dec 2005 10:15 #25001

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If adjusting contrast, coloration, saturation, and grain is the alteration you were talking about, then that is completely different than what I interpreted your statements to mean before. I thought you were talking about altering the content of a film, not the presentation. Otherwise, why would you speak of the need for many new artistically skilled people working in the industry, etc? I guess it's because I don't consider things like adjusting the contrast to be an art. It could definitely be a skill, but I would have described it as a technical skill, not an artistic skill. Art usually involves the creation of something new, at least in my mind. In the situation you describe, a projectionist would merely be trying to present a picture the way the film-maker intended-- just like it was in their "ivory tower".

I tend to think that is what projectionists already do. This will not be any different with digital. There are several things a projectionist can already do to "alter" the appearance of a film presentation. He can adjust the focus, adjust the framing, change the lens, change the aperture plate, change the bulb, thread the projector properly, etc. Or, he can fail to properly do these things, scratch the film, and show a crappy presentation.

The theater owner also affects the film presentation by his choice of projection and sound systems, as well as other equipment. He also chooses who his projectionist will be. He is responsible for ensuring that person is properly trained and motivated, and that he has supplies and replacement parts, etc. And these are just some of the things he can influence in the booth. There are plenty of other aspects that he can influence with the choice of theater design to accurately exhibit the content of the film. For example, he can ensure that entrances are built properly so that the screen is not washed out when somebody opens the door. He can create the best possible viewing angles for his patrons. Etc, Etc, Etc.

I guess you can see that I disagree with your statement, "Now with traditional film projection systems up until now, there was only so much the projectionist could do to alter the image in any way." Projectionists and theater operators have a great deal of control. The images created in the ivory towers are already captured on film, usually very near what they were intended to be. A good theater owner and a good projectionist are very capable of recreating those images on the screen in the best possible way.

Now, it may be possible that digital will help compensate for a poor theater design, or lighting, or projection skills, etc. by allowing easy changes to such things as color saturation. In this way, digital will create jobs for the less skilled, not the more skilled. Except, they won't be new jobs. They'll be replacements for those employees with higher skill levels. It is very easy to adjust the contrast and color on your TV set or your computer, and likely it won't be much different on a digital projector. I don't think that compares in any way to the skills a good projectionist has.

I just don't see digital as this new wave that will leave some behind and bring others to the forefront as you described it.
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Re: Refections of the times. 29 Dec 2005 19:09 #25002

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Distributors dictate to us now with film. I don't see that changing with Digital. In fact they will have even more power to dictate to us. Since they will now have the power the encryption key will give them.

First there were the 1,000 seat theatres. Then that moved on to the 4 screen 250 seat multiplex cinema. Then that moved on to the let's put the balcony on the ground floor "stadium seating" 12 plus screen 100 to 300 seat auditoriums megaplex. Now the future moves us to these yet to be named Giant TV rooms.

But as long as there is product that the public will part with their money to see outside of their house, it will work. That has always been the prime factor of this industry's success or failure. Since the first images flickered onto a large screen 100 years ago. And that will never ever change. Hopefully digital is not just going to bring us more crap playing to empty seats...




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Re: Refections of the times. 30 Dec 2005 02:47 #25003

I wouldn't say that the transition from conventional film projection to digital cinema technology would mean a shifting of job opportunities away from the more skilled to the lesser skilled. True, given the limitations that projectionists had to work with before they had to be especially clever at compensating for any shortcomings, shortcomings that digital projectionists will easily be able to overcome. With the broad range of new things the digital projectionist will suddenly have available to work with, it's going to take a special skill of knowing what to do with all these new options. And if they make the wrong choices, it could really hurt the over all exhibition.

It is said that make-up is only applied properly when you can't tell the person is wearing it. And the same principle applies when altering a movie's contrast, coloration, saturation, etc. We take it for granted that these things are somehow "easy," but they're not. And when digital cinema technology becomes more and more refined the application of these alterations is going to become more and more critical.

Another thing I need to point out, too, is that no movie is one person's art. At all times it is a group creation, and the exhibitor is very much a part of that group, and hence an artist every bit as much as all the others who comprise that group. In fact, you can think of the exhibitor as the one who adds the finalmost touches to the work of art, like Rubens or whoever adding his own brushstrokes to the painting and then signing his name to it once his team of apprentices have completed all the groundwork. Or, you can think of the exhibitor as not being part of the art at all and then unrealistically expect that non-reality to hold water.

And see, my argument is that the exhibitor BETTER be an artist if the movie being exhibited is to go over really well. And my feeling on digital cinema technology is that it gives that exhibitor much more chance to be that artist.

I think it's a fair comparison to say that conventional film projectors are like acoustic guitars, and digital cinema projection systems are like electric guitars. Each has its own merits, but the latter clearly has the far greater range. And none of us even knows just yet what that full range is going to be.

As for Hollywood through the use of encryption, etc. controlling theatrical exhibitions too much, it would be very unwise for Hollywood to do this wrongly, considering that the exhibitor is the "submitter of the final draft" so to speak. And only the exhibitor, because he's where Hollywood cannot be, knows precisely how that final draft should be, something which Hollywood itself can only guess at. And like I say, that exhibitor better be a highly skilled artist if it's all to work out to everyone's full satisfaction.
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Re: Refections of the times. 30 Dec 2005 03:05 #25004

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I do not agree that we have or will lose our audience to DVDs in the home. I have been around this business long enough to have learned that, generally, people want to get out and enjoy the "theatre experience". The problem recently has been that "Hollywood" is limiting itself to seducing the younger generation and attempting to do so with poor product. This problem is compounded by the fact that exhibitors have allowed the distributors to take over running their theatres (exhibitors book what the distributors are pushing and rely on whatever promotion the distributors set up). Technology is not going to bring people into the theatres if the picture stinks (except for the techno-snobs who will watch anything as long as it is presented digitally in the latest sound format). Multiplexes have all but eliminated the "theatre experience" with their lack of "showmanship" in their presentations, annoying screen advertising, lack of crowd control and staffs that make you feel about as welcome as a fox in a henhouse.

I believe there is an untapped audience out there looking for good stories who are only minimumly concerned about special effects and techno-gadgets who will come back to the theatres when exhibitors return to a policy of honoring their obligation to the community of providing films and a "theatre experience" that entertain without offending either their senses or their wallets.

Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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