Prepare for Godzilla

This weekend, another reboot arrives in theaters: Godzilla.  That said, I am very excited about it, as are many others.  According to Variety, it is predicted to arrive this weekend with a $70 million opening, which would make it the largest if it could surpass 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park’s $72 million.

Budgeted at $160 million, “Godzilla,” directed by Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”), the latest reboot of the Japanese classic after Sony’s big-budget 1998 disappointment. That pic, which cost around $130 million to produce, launched around this time with $44 million and wound up grossing just shy of $380 million.

“Godzilla,” which launches at nearly 4,000 domestic locations, including Imax and other premium large-format screens, has been siphoning Stateside audience attention for several weeks, with Warner putting major marketing muscle behind it. The studio was very strategic with how it revealed the monster in its marketing. Between “Godzilla” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which Fox bows over Memorial Day weekend, few other titles are gathering buzz.

Disney hopes to counterprogram noisy summer fare with inspirational sports drama “Million Dollar Arm,” starring Jon Hamm. Tracking services anticipate the film will gross somewhere in the low-teens, which would be a fine start for the modestly-budgeted $25 million film.

Playability for “Million Dollar Arm” seems strong given its word-of-mouth and potential appeal to faith-based audiences, although it could do even better in ancillaries.

“Godzilla,” on the other hand, has scored a healthy 77% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is essential for the film to register with non-”Godzilla” enthusiasts. The pic has scored even higher with audiences who want to see the film, according to the site.

As the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend, “Godzilla” looks to overperform past comparisons, since this weekend typically has been dwarfed by studio tentpoles bowing on either side. Last year, Paramount managed to score a $70 million opening this weekend with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” though “Godzilla” lacks the same franchise reliability. Instead, it’ll need to rely on positive word-of-mouth to build anticipation.”

I really do not know how these predictions are calculated, but after writing a paper based on blockbusters and how much they make or don’t make, I find that somehow they are usually quite accurate.  We shall see very soon.

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Great Films about Middle Ages

IndieWire has compiled a group of lists, one of which is a best of list about middle ages.  Not the time period, it is regarding the time in people’s lives.  I am usually not one to read lists like these, as I am quick to disagree with them (though I believe myself to be quite fair) but I actually think this list has some truly great movies on it.

10. Georgia (1985)

9. Jackie Brown (1997)

8. Hannah and her Sisters (1987)

7. All That Heaven Allows (1955)

6. Groundhog Day (1993)

5. Savages (2007)

4. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

2. Amacord (1973)

1. Adaptation (2002)

Number one is in my top ten favorite movies of all time, and two of the greatest American directors in history are on this list.  Additionally, a Bill Murray film is always welcome in my book.  Movies like this are not the most popular right now.  Mainstream films most often attempt to reach the younger crowd, but these movies like to touch on subjects everyone may have to eventually face and are not often comfortable to talk about.  These films and others like it have some of the strongest emotional connections I have felt while watching movies; I’m only 21 years old, and I feel like it makes sense to me.  The power of cinema.

 

Cannes: Stirring the pot with data

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, ever since 1946.  IndieWire just wrote a piece on “Cannes by the number” an info graphic was absolutely fascinating information.  Here is a summary of the recounted information:

1. The North American box office share is paltry in comparison to the rest of the world. Besides a brief spike in 2011, during which North America claimed a remarkable 34% of the world’s box office share, North America’s box office has been, for the most part, steadily receding since 2009. While Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International do not relay a reason for the break in pattern, historical precedent suggests that an increase in box office often accompanies a period of economic hardship – as was the case in the 1930s during The Great Depression and once again during the global recession of 2011. Box office sales may not have increased in North America per se, but the box office share could have increased as a result of a drop in international sales – a scenario that isn’t too far-fetched given the riots that swept much of Europe that year.

2. The term “International” is much more troubling than it is helpful. Case and point, the chart entitled, “Nationality of Directors, Producers and Lead Actors.” Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International take measurements and plots them on this chart using two types of units: USA and International. The decision to amass the filmmaking communities of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa under a single term — “International” — is troubling because it strongly supports the argument that the post-colonial era is a superficial idea rather than an ideological shift. The persistent use of this type of sweeping terminology demonstrates how, despite the physical dismantling of massive cross-continental European empires during the early part of the last century, former colonial powers still remain hard-pressed to acknowledge the cultural sovereignty of their former colonies-turned-nation-states.

3. The total number of screens in a country has nothing to do with its box office admissions. According to the “Cannes By The Numbers” chart comparing the number of screens in different countries, as of 2013, the USA had 39,945 screens — more than twice the number in China and more than three times the number in India.

4. In the past five years, India – home to one of the world’s most prolific film industries with a consistently robust viewership – has not had a film accepted into competition at Cannes. The key phrase here is “in competition.” Indian films have screened at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard and other Cannes parallel programming categories. Anurag Kashyap, one of India’s leading independent film voices, has had his films screen at Cannes as part of the Director’s Fortnight, Midnight Screenings and out of competition. However, no Indian film — at least in the past five years — has been accepted into the main competition, which would make it eligible for the prestigious Palme D’Or prize.

5. Cannes is paradox at its finest. For almost 70 years now, the festival has managed to balance its elitist, borderline aristocratic reputation with a progressive agenda. The festival is just as well known for its glamorous red carpets as it is for championing the work of budding filmmakers whose voice it finds interesting. The “Cannes By The Numbers” infographic, however, captures it best — beginning with a chart that projects the number of attendees at this year’s Marché du Film to reach 18,000 and then followed by a brief note reminding us that the real deals, or as they put it “the biggest deals,” get made on luxury yachts.”

Being in North America, I challenge anyone in my position to not struggle to see things from an outside perspective.  We discuss grosses in domestic and “everyone else” and why shouldn’t we? It makes sense to us.  But it is important to take notice regarding what the world as a whole is doing regarding film, because we are a part of it and shall be affect.

TV Shows Air On Sundays… Por Que?

IndieWire asked a solid question: Why do TV shows all air on Sunday?  All the “best” shows on television premiere their newest episodes on Sunday night, and one might think “Wouldn’t that force people to choose and divide viewership?”  The example used compared them to film releases, and as of now Captain America 3 is scheduled for the same time as Batman vs. Superman… yeah, one of them is going to budge most likely.

“Despite what’s going on creatively in the TV world with filmmakers and actors flocking to the smaller screen, television shows are not like movies. Films have a limited number of theaters. TV shows are available to anyone who wants them and is willing to pay to see them. For many Americans, choosing what show to watch isn’t even the choice: it’s choosing which show to watch live. Consumers can decide when they want to watch their favorite shows thanks to DVRs and the internet, making it not a choice of which show to watch but how many and when.

Diluting the audience isn’t much of a factor either. Advertisers are taking Live+3 and Live+7 views — which is just a fancy way to say people who watch a show three days and seven days after it first airs — as much as premiere night ratings. For example, “Salem” earned more than 1.5 million viewers on the night of its premiere. Those numbers are important, but the people at WGN got really excited when they saw “Salem” pulled more than 3.4 million total viewers for its premiere episode when you include DVR viewings later in the week.

Pay cable companies have been paying attention to long term numbers for quite some time. Since they don’t have to worry about advertisers placing spots with timely messages, they’re more concerned about how many eyes are on a show over the course of the week. They want growth in viewers, and use premiere nights as a way to gauge demand — if more viewers watch this Sunday night than last Sunday night, they care enough about the show to watch it right away, even if more will still tune in for repeat screenings throughout the week.

The Nielsen ratings have always supported the idea of Sunday being a hot night for TV, and common sense helps it along as well. People are back at home after an exciting weekend, ready to wind down before work starts on Monday. Why not have one more thing to get excited for before heading back to the office? Past shows to air on Sundays included “True Detective,” which received the highest ratings for a freshman HBO show ever, passing “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos,” (which also aired Sunday nights). “The Simpsons” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” also aired Sundays, along with hundreds more. “

Television used to be watched by a lot more people.  Breaking Bad is arguably one of the most popular dramas in recent years, yet the finale was viewed by maybe 12 million people.  In the 90’s, every episode of Seinfeld had more views than that because there just wasn’t shit to watch.  So it’s double edged: TV quality and programming for dramas has increased to become more cinematic, but the way people watch now has been changed by the internet.

Tribeca’s Knowledge of Shorts

With the rise of the internet and all the new ways of sharing, short films are arguably more popular than they have ever been.  That means there are more ways than ever before to show off your work, but it also means there is the most competition and without the clear cut path, things might be harder than they ever were before as well.

Fortunately, much light has been shed on the matter by the likes of Oscar-nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super-Size Me”), Op-Docs producer and curator Jason Spingarn-Koff, ESPN Films’ Director of Development Dan Silver (“30 for 30”) and actress Gillian Jacobs (“Community,” “Life Partners”), all of whom sat down for a panel discussion moderated by General Manager of Audience Networks at Vimeo Greg Clayman at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

Bigger is not always better. Morgan Spurlock asserted his claim that “there are stories that are made to be feature length movies, and there are stories that should be television projects — 45-60 minutes — and sometimes people try to stretch those into features and they shouldn’t. And then there are stories that are perfect or fantastic in a 3-5 minute segment, that’s where they should live. And one of the things that we try to do and one of the things that I believe in is that you need to explore that creative process. You shouldn’t stretch things longer than they should be.”

Think about distribution from the get-go. Spurlock explained that “from the minute we have an idea, we’re thinking about ‘where could this go?’ Because I think especially as a content creator and especially working in today’s business world, you have to have an understanding of how the business works, and you can’t just come up with an idea and say ‘great, we’re gonna make it and then take it out.’ I feel like that world shifted. The days of ‘I’m gonna make a feature-length film and go to Sundance,’ you know there’s still those movies you can do that with but I think you have to have a vision of where you want this to live and ultimately where it can live financially, physically, reality. I think you have to be thinking about that moving in.”

Networks won’t interfere. Gillian mentioned another benefit of working on Helms’ project, the fact that “it’s really fun. There were no notes [on Helms’ project], there were no studio representatives on set saying ‘Please don’t do that’ or ‘Say that.'” Spurlock also pointed out the fact that “there’s not as much pressure as a network where you have to get a certain number every single week or they’re gonna cancel the show. Things are done at a certain price point, they have a little more fun and basically the networks, be it AOL or Yahoo! or Hulu, want to give that creative flexibility. That’s what enticing about it.”

Short form content is good for documentary filmmakers. Dan Silver elaborated this point by explaining “to start, documentary filmmaking is really hard. And it’s time-consuming. For us to do a ’30 for 30′ and the ’30 for 30s’ that work really well are the ones that are passion-driven. A director, a storyteller has a story and they’re dying to tell it. That’s where you get a specific point of view. But it’s a commitment. And not everybody, not every filmmaker, not every person who does a 30 for 30 has almost a year of their life to give up. And you deal on the passion. And what we started seeing is this balance. If you bring over the quality that we spend and the attention that we spend, how seriously we take it from the 30 for 30 perspective, and apply that to short form content, short films, then there’s something interesting here. And then we start getting into the fun stuff, which is the distribution.”
Content is king. In response to a question about net neutrality’s impact on independent artists, Spurlock reassured the audience that “I think what will happen is content creators will always be able to load a piece of their content. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who the bandwidth is, content is king. You are the content creator and it doesn’t matter. You are the brains behind the idea or whatever it is. JJ Abrams is always gonna be able to load a piece of JJ Abrams content, because he’s JJ Abrams. I feel like there are certain content creators that you’re always gonna be able to make those deals.”

However, he also brought up the issue that “it’s gonna be harder for people when you come up, as it is for anyone. The question is can you drive people to smaller channels to watch things? It’s still gonna come down to marketing, it’s gonna be coming down to advertising, to co-promotion. Right now, we live in a world where there’s so much on the internet that 99% of stuff online is invisible. There’s just no way to market it because there’s just too much, and you’re gonna start seeing some people get behind the promotion of certain content.”

It is always appreciated to have those experiencing success share their knowledge and experience to those looking to pursue a career such as theirs, becoming competition.  Irony.

The Amazing Spiderman 79… I mean, 2

We now arrive at the second “second” Spiderman film in 10 years.  It is going to make loads of money, though it will probably not match the opening of the very first Spiderman film 12 years ago, which according to TheWrap was the first film to open to a $100 million weekend.  This is the 5th Spiderman film since then, and I’m a little burned out.  I love the first trilogy, I even enjoy the 3rd film, and I liked the reboots as well, but the inspiration is obviously disappearing as they go.  The reboot is unnecessary and too soon after the first set of films, and I’m tired of movies being made just for the fans and their money. Whaaaat? What’s wrong with movies being made for fans?  Nothing has to be, but I want movies to be passion projects, without all the fan service, because it is wrecking this series and many others.  The Amazing Spiderman 2 was so jumbled and disjointed that I would have hated it if there weren’t parts in it that were so damn good.

Regardless, we are now living in a world of reboots.  I have no one to blame but Christopher Nolan who made Batman Begins in 2005, my favorite of these films ironically, but ever since then the list goes on: Star Trek, X-Men, Godzilla, Superman, Fantastic 4, Transformers, etc.  I like a lot of these movies, but it’s getting old.  Marvel has pretty much come out and said they are going to keep making movies regarding the Avengers until they stop making money.  Well, that logic requires them to make some really shitty movies (even though I’d argue maybe they already have) and that frustrates me.  My favorite film in the world is Star Wars V.  I’m not against blockbuster movies and I don’t think every movie has to be Tree of Life, but I worry for a future I am about to venture into.

San Fransisco Film Festival fights on

The oldest film festival in the nation is hanging on by a thread.  In its 57th year, they don’t have very much extra money.  7 of the premieres debuting were made with funds from the San Fransisco film society, something I’m beginning to notice.  Oakland has a few festivals, one set aside strictly for films made by local filmmakers, and Sundance wants to push their labs.

This is really starting to bother me.  Someone makes a great film, a festival wants it, it plays. Hooray.  I worry that those days are going away or may even be gone already.

Regardless, the festival is now in its first year without two of its directors, Graham Leggat and Billham Ray, who died within the past year, and the new Executive Director is Noah Cowan.

“I don’t really believe that red-carpet-driven and sales-driven festivals are the future of our media,” he said. “The ones that exist are great, and they’re serving a useful function. But we need to find a way of engaging audiences in film.”

For Cowan, the celebrity and industry aspects of festivals are more of a hindrance. “Both of those tendencies in film festivals serve to alienate audiences from the intimate experience of watching a movie,” he said. “We’re working really hard to figure out different structures, different methods of how you might bring a communal festive flavor back to a major urban film festival.”

Inspiring, yes.  I just feel discouraged, like film festival programs are only about money.  I like to believe there can be a nice balance between money and art.  Maybe its naive hope.