• Reel Blog

    Christopher Nolan on the future of cinema

    The digital transformation of the movie theater has got Christopher Nolan thinking.

    These new voices will emerge just as we despair that there is nothing left to be discovered. As in the early ’90s, when years of bad multiplexing had soured the public on movies, and a young director named Quentin Tarantino ripped through theaters with a profound sense of cinema’s past and an instinct for reclaiming cinema’s rightful place at the head of popular culture.


    Never before has a system so willingly embraced the radical teardown of its own formal standards. But no standards means no rules. Whether photochemical or video-based, a film can now look or sound like anything.


    It’s unthinkable that extraordinary new work won’t emerge from such an open structure. That’s the part I can’t wait for.

    Read the whole thing.

  • Reel Blog

    NATO sends letter to theater owners encouraging donations to Aurora, Colorado relief fund

    NATO president John Fithian sent a letter to exhibitors today encouraging donations to the Community First Foundation to aid victims of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and their families.

    As we watch the aftermath unfold and try to make sense of this terrible crime, you should be encouraged by the leadership and dedication of the community of Aurora as they comfort and assist their families and neighbors. The courage of the victims, their families and loved ones, the theater employees involved, the responders and hospital staff members has steeled the resolve of the community and its leaders to recover from this tragedy and to emerge even stronger than before.

    Our industry, as it has countless times before, stands ready to help those in need. Many of you have expressed your concern and asked our guidance on how best to respond to help the victims and their families. We have been working within the industry and with the community leaders in order to give you some direction.

    If you would like to generously donate, please write a check to: Community First Foundation

    *Dedicate your contribution to assist the victims in Aurora:

    Mail to:

    Community First Foundation,

    6870 W 52nd Avenue, Suite 103

    Arvada, CO 80002

    If you would like to make an online donation, please go to:

    www.GivingFirst.org  .You can donate with all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express) or information from a bank account (personal checking).

    If the amount you wish to give is $100,000 or more and you would like to do a wire transfer, you can contact Community First Foundation at 720-898-5900.

  • Reel Blog

    Slate conducts a 3D autopsy

    A year ago, Daniel Engber in Slate asked “Is 3D Dead in the Water”. This week he returns to the subject and concludes 3D is dead

    To reach this conclusion, he uses the same tool to analyze the success or failure of 3D – the average gross per screen in 3D compared to the average gross per screen in 2D. He shows, quite convincingly, that the average gross per screen for 3D versions of movies is declining relative to the 2D gross. But is this comparison the right one to use? In my September column for Boxoffice magazine arguing against another popular flawed metric – percentage of box office in 3D – I suggest that a far simpler and more illuminating measure is whether movies are making more money in 3D than they were before:

    Opening weekend 3D percentage of the gross (movies chosen by Greenfield to illustrate his point and listed in chronological order)

    How to Train Your Dragon – 68%

    Shrek Forever After – 61%

    Thor – 60%

    Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – 46%

    Kung Fu Panda 2 – 45%

    Green Lantern – 45%

    Cars 2 – 40%

    Transformers 3 – 59%

    Harry Potter 7.2 – 43%

    Noting the Harry Potter percentage in an investors note, Greenfield flatly states, “3D has collapsed in the United States.” Has it?

    Opening weekend 3D gross

    How to Train Your Dragon – $29.7 mil

    Shrek Forever After – $43.3 mil

    Thor – $39.6 mil

    Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – $42.6 mil

    Kung Fu Panda 2 – $30.6 mil

    Green Lantern – $23.7 mil

    Cars 2 – $27.1 mil

    Transformers 3 – $57.6 mil

    Harry Potter 7.2 – $72.67 mil

    Clearly, the percentage of a movie’s gross coming from 3D does not tell us anything useful about whether or not there is “weakening demand” for 3D movies. The seven point slide from How to Train Your Dragon to Shrek Forever After might seem alarming; the 16 point dip from Transformers 3 to Harry Potter 7.2 even more so—audiences are losing interest in 3D! Yet Shrek’s 3D box office was 45 percent higher than Dragon’s; Potter’s was 26 percent higher than Transformers’ and 144 percent higher than Dragon’s. Also note that Potter and Transformers opened on roughly the same number of 3D screens (4,250 and 4,146, respectively). Twenty-six percent more people going to a 3D movie on only 2.5 percent more screens seems to me to be a pretty strong indicator of increasing demand.

    The per screen averages for 3D are also un-illuminating. We do not know, for instance, what size auditoriums were playing in 3D or 2D for any particular movie – in other words, a $15,000 weekend gross in a 350-seat auditorium is a different thing than the same gross in a 100-seater or a 700-seater.

    We are also in a completely different environment than we were in a year ago. In August of 2010, there were 6,286 3D screens in North America at 2,558 locations; a year later, there were 12,738 3D screens at 3,015 locations. The number of locations offering 3D increased by 17.1% and the number of screens increased a staggering 102.6%. So what’s going on?

     A year and more ago, if you were interested in seeing a movie in 3D, you had to see it in a limited number of places, with a limited number of screens devoted to 3D. Consequently, those screens were far more likely to sell out. Today, there are far more screens available to watch a 3D movie – and there might even be more than one 3D movie available for you to watch. What you are seeing, in other words, is the logic of the multiplex.

    There are a lot more screens available to show a 3D movie – most of them in locations that already had at least one 3D screen a year ago. What does this accomplish? The same thing that offering multiple auditoriums in a complex with multiple showtimes does with 2D movies – choice to consumers and the possibility of maximizing revenues by making that choice available.

    The modern multiplex offers a range of sizes of auditorium, which allows theater owners greater flexibility and the opportunity to maximize each available seat. Consider a single screen with 1,000 seats. That auditorium can offer, say, 4 showings a night (for the sake of argument, 5:00, 7:30, 10:00 and 12:30) for a possible 4,000 ticket sales. In a multiplex, say, with 14 screens, the same movie might be scheduled in four auditoriums with seating 375, 275, 200 and 150, respectively (again, 1,000 seats). With staggered start times, those screens can show the movie sixteen times while offering the same 4,000 possible tickets. This increases the likelihood of selling the maximum number of tickets, because you are offering customers a broader range of choices that matches more precisely their scheduling needs. But you have a lower per screen average.

    And that’s what’s happening in 3D.

  • Reel Blog

    Is the DirecTV Premium VOD plan a flop?

    Patrick Goldstein says it is in the L.A. Times.

    The only question for him seems to be how big of a flop. The headline for his post gives you some idea: “Is DirecTV’s $30 movie rental test a flop of ‘Ishtar’-like proportions?”  Yikes.

    Why he thinks it flopped mirrors NATO’s thinking on the issue precisely:

    The lesson here? As long as Netflix is around the studios are never going to have any luck getting fans to spend three times what they pay for a regular theater ticket to see a movie 60 days after its release, even in the comfort of their own homes. Once you get past the initial theatrical run, the price of entertainment is heading down, not up. The DVD boom is over. We are fast becoming a nation of renters, not buyers.

    Say it with me: “Once you get past the initial theatrical run, the price of entertainment is heading down, not up.”