Tag Archive | "Universal Studios"

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The Tower Heist VOD Plan is Dead…Here’s Some Words From a Guy Who’s Got The Pulse of the Moviegoer

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

Applause for Butch Rigby, Screenland Theaters (KCMO)

While this post gets into the opinion of a single theater operator, and this particular theater is close to my locale (KCMO), I think his take on entertainment rings true for Anytown, USA.  As such, I thought the Blinkin community would enjoy reading the passionate words of a theater operator who has in mind the most important component in movie going….the movie goer.

If you didn’t read my prior post (The Next Evolution) about the previously discussed offering of Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist on Video On-Demand (VOD), a mere three weeks after the theater release, you already know that NATO was, not mincing words, pissed.

Well it looks as though Universal has bagged the idea.  Cinemark had announced a boycott, and more of the big chains were threatening the same.  Universal caved.

In my post, I talked about doing more to serve the consumer, rather than focus only on dollars.  After all, film is an art form, and being such, we shouldn’t be spoon fed how we are to consume it.

The big ticket houses continue to shoot for a dollars only model, and I guess who can blame them, they are a business for goodness sake.  But by focusing on the business, rather than the show, in show business, we the movie goer suffer.

It is a problem of uniformity.  Corporate theaters conform to a company policy, which leads to a more mild version of what the individual theater GM’s could do, if given the latitude.  That uniformity is seen in shops like Wal Mart, McDonalds, and Best Buy.  That’s not to say that small theaters aren’t fans of making money, but if you look at each of the Screenland properties, they offer both a different theater atmosphere and a wide variety of film selection and special events alike.

Butch Rigby is the owner of the Kansas City local Screenland chain.  They get it…he gets it.  Here is a letter Butch sent out to e-mail subscribers this week.  The letter speaks for itself…there are those out there who try and make the filmgoing experience a fun one.

I am not trying to say that the good folks at AMC, my home theater of Barrywoods especially, don’t try and make the movie going experience fun.  But the suits at companies like AMC, Cinemark, and others, don’t always have a grasp of how the average movie goer is entertained.  I think Rigby gets it.

To hell with uniformity, but that is only coming out of one side of my mouth.  I will continue to make AMC Barry my theater of choice.  I like the people and I like the popcorn.

But I am thankful for Rigby and theaters like Screenland.  Without them, I wouldn’t have had the chance to see, on the big screen, the likes of Super, Antichrist, Troll Hunter, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, as well as local favorites like Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time and Blackhand Strawman, both Terrance O’Malley products.  I like seeing my indie fare and I like seeing them in theaters like the Screenland.

I get great enjoyment from seeing movies at Barrywoods, talking to their staff, many of whom are now my friends.  But I think there is a place for theaters like Screenland and I wish they were given some latitude so that I, your average movie goer, will continue to have the power of choice.

Maybe I’m just salty that this VOD experiment was quashed before it started.  Like I said, I want choice in how I consume, and an embargo on new ideas doesn’t help anyone.  With rising prices and more hikes on the way (Sony’s proposed plan of no longer paying for 3-D glasses), something has got to give.

Here is the entire note, sent out on October 12th, 2011, by Butch Rigby, owner of Kansas City’s Screenland Theaters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Butch Rigby (Left)

I started Screenland Theatres because I love movies. Plain and simple. My colleagues love movies. We built theatres to bring movies to the screen that you might not see on a screen in Kansas City. We built venues that are unique. Fun. Interesting. “The show starts on the sidewalk”. At the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City (just a LITTLE BIT across the river for those of you south who might fear crossing the “Walls of Jericho”, aka the Heart of America Bridge) we decided to build a venue unlike any other in KC-and I think we did. A place where you could watch First Run Films in luxury. A place where the doors, windows and even the door handles reflect our passion for this business.

Well, the way of the world (or at least the parts occupied by the major studios) tells us that the small theatres are simply not going to get all of the first run product we need. Imagine a Wal-Mart next to a small grocery store-except in our case we don’t get to sell the “Tide”. In other words, we can’t compete with the big theatres when we cannot get a lot of the smaller releases since they are “not booking anything smaller than an 8-plex” etc for a particular film. Time for us to adapt. Not complain-but go back to our roots. Show films that you can’t see in another theatre. Be different. Think Different.

Therefore, we are going to be playing some movies that remind us of why we got into this business. Starting with “Rudy” on October 21st. Why Rudy? If you have seen it, you understand this is the kind of movie that must be seen with a crowd! It is the kind of a movie you cheer for. It is real, about real people. It is a movie that you must bring a young person to. Maybe, just maybe they will grow up fool enough to build movie theatres, or build something that no one else thought possible. Just for fun we are showing the Notre Dame/USC game on the big screen that Saturday night. After that, the weekend of November 4th, “Gone with the Wind” , restored and on the big screen. How many people have seen that movie? How many have seen it in a Motion PIcture Theatre? It is Truly an experience. After that on November 11th, the official launch of Terence O’Malley’s book! “Blackhand Strawman”, a compilation based upon his award winning documentary. We will be reviving the film for the weekend, as well as a special screening of “Nellie Don”. Keep your eyes open in the future for his next film (premiering at the Armour) “Tom and Harry”, a fascinating documentary looking at the relationship between Tom Pendergast and President Truman.

We will still bring you some of the Hollywood first runs, but we will be bringing more and more of the classics, documentary films and small independent features that brought us into this business. We will be featuring sing-a-longs, Roasts, the Big Lebowski and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Additionally, we will be selling the Blackhand Strawman books, videos and other movie merchandise, including the incredible works of vaudeville photographer “Orville Hixon.

We love this business, and we love our beautiful theatres. We simply need to put “butts in seats” as the saying goes. Let us know what we can do to get yours there.

Butch Rigby
Owner-Screenland Theatres

Well said Butch.  Well said.

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Nov. 24th, 2011, A Date That Will Live In Infamy

Posted on 09 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

On Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, Universal Pictures made a monumental announcement that would have a serious impact on the future of film and film going.

Tower Heist, a film by Brett Ratner, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, hits theaters on the 4th of November.  A very short 3 weeks later, Tower Heist will be released on Video On Demand.

Whoa.  It may not sound like much, but this is serious business.

Up until now, the only pre-theater release films set loose on VOD have been small, indie flicks; or films that had very low box office expectations.

I love the concept of pre-theater release and same-day release for films that are released in very limited engagements.  I had the chance to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil as a result…George Romero’s latest installment in the Dead series…Hobo With a Shotgun…and even another look at Kevin Smith’s Red State, before its release on DVD.

This concept is a good thing…but will it work for a major studio release?

Better yet, will it work when the price tag on catching Tower Heist at home is…

Wait for it…


Okay, at first glance, that sounds absolutely effing crazy.  When I told The Kid in the Helmet, his kneejerk reaction was nothing short of poetry:

“Blow Me.”

Gotta love The Kid!

Okay, so again, everyone calm down.  Yes, it sounds like an insane price.  But think about it for a minute.  Certainly, there is no way that this will become the standard means for people to see movies, or at least anytime in the foreseeable future.  Yes, the “rich” will probably choose this option at their leisure because they can…damn corporate fat cats!

But, for the average movie going joes and jills, 60 beans is quite a financial commitment for a single movie…or is it?

Let me use myself as an example for a moment:
Two movie tickets: $20.00 at AMC Barrywoods
#1 Combo: $13.75
Bottle of Water: $5.00
Pack of Twizlers: $6.00

and here’s the kicker…

Babysitter for Reel Rhino Jr.: $40.00

Do the math…it works out!

This model is not for your average afternoon solo flight to the theater, BUT…this completely works for:

Date night
Bunch of friends catching a flick and drinking beers night
Your kid’s sleepover
Your kid’s birthday party
A movie party theme night

You get the idea.

My initial reaction was quite like yours.  I actually think this is a pretty lame way to give this a shot….three weeks later??!?

Ideally, if I am going to blow a load of cash on a flick like this, I am paying for the privilege of seeing it at home when I want, from the first moment it is available.  But NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) is pretty unhappy at the prospect of the movie dollars shifting from their theaters to the cozy confines of everyone’s living room and the high end home theater systems that have become so prevalent.  In fact, Cinemark is already talking about boycotting Tower Heist altogether.

Times are changing and we are living in the digital age.  I mean we are a far cry from the sedimentary society that was presented to us in WALL-E, but…times are a-changin’.

My fear is a real one, that rising prices for flicks and food at the theater will continue upwards as theaters try to react to this perceived encroachment on their livelihood.  But what are they really doing for us?

I applaud the distributors looking at new means for getting the art to the audience.  This is happening, just as it happened to the digitization of distribution of photographs; the transition of music from CD’s to .mp3’s; and the shift from the postal service and phone calls to e-mail and Skype.

Times are a-changin’…

So I say this…this idea is not a bad one.  Necessity is the mother of all invention, and perhaps this is the penis showing game the theaters need to get their ass in gear (anybody catch that obscure reference to cult-favorite flick, WAITING?).

Here is what I want to see:

Reasonable prices for popcorn, soda, and candy.  $7.75 for $0.22 worth of popcorn…hey, NATO, renegotiate the box office split with the studios…silently agree to spend a few years with lower profit margins…do something…do anything…but make this happen.  I think if you do, you will be pleasantly surprised at how willing people are to actually purchase MORE of your product.  Take an example from Kansas City’s Sprint Center…they operate Quiktrip stores within the arena and sell re-donkulous amount of product to the more than eager arena-goers.  Doesn’t it make you mad the lengths that people go to sneaking outside food into the theater?  Take some damn action.

Advanced theater going venues (ex. AMC’s ETX) that don’t have a huge upcharge attached to them…get over it, you upgraded your equipment.  Absorb the costs a bit more and you won’t have empty theaters for the upsold shows!

Show quality prints of older movies.  Not just these digital re-releases that have been making the rounds, but more classic prints and short-time runs of the movies that have impacted cinema for so long.  You know Gone With The Wind is the most successful film of all time (inflation adjusted) and you can get it dirt cheap basically anywhere you look.  But I would pay a premium price to come and see this classic film on the big screen just once.  There is money to be made out there, you just have to be willing to work for it.

Show special screenings of current films for roasts and live-tweet showings.  Both of these types of viewings would encourage second viewings.  Can you imagine if you got filmmakers and the film’s stars involved?  Getting to watch a movie with a live-tweeted running commentary by those involved with the film?  Rian Johnson recorded an .mp3 commentary shortly after The Brother’s Bloom was released so that you could watch the film with his commentary.  Brilliant.

Really, my thesis here is this:  You can’t stop progress….you can adapt…or die.

I am glad that Universal is trying this out.  It isn’t an insane idea and for smaller films, it has already taken hold as a successful means for generating viewership for movies many people may not have had access to.

Film is an art form…isn’t it sad that corporations and alliances are keeping this art from being released however the hell anyone associated with its creation wants it to be released.

I love going to the movies…that will never change.  I love midnight screenings…that will never change.  But I want the big movie houses and distribution companies alike to remember that they are working for me.  I am the one holding the dollars they are fighting for…fight for me dammit!

I for one am looking forward to the right situation that presents itself so I want to drop $60 and catch one of these flicks at home.  I am glad that I have another option, no matter how ridiculous the price seems on the face of things.

When silent pictures became talkies….when B&W flicks added color…when 2-D added depth…all of these changes have lead to forecasts of DOOM.

The world kept spinning and movies kept playing.  This is the next evolution.  Just remember, everyone who is fighting this out, are working for you.  We need to demand better service, more options, and maybe even some decisions on green lighting flicks not based on a business model, but rather on the prospect of a movie being good.

If you build it, they will come.

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