“From Now Until Summer, There’s Just Nothing”

March 18, 2011

The Wrap is one of the best movie business resources available anywhere. I get their updates on a regular basis and I highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in the day to day happenings in the film industry.

I am very excited to share an article with our community that The Wrap published earlier this week.

For those of us who are committed to saving new movies from extinction, this article  is great news indeed. (Our community member Eric Anderson first made us aware of the AMC/Regal alliance a few weeks ago. This article expands on that new business and adds some very interesting new information and perspectives as well.)

As I explain in some detail in Chapters 15 and 16 of Bringing Back The Old Hollywood, , the theatrical experience of movies, particularly independent films, is at great risk. New alliances such as those described in this article are going to be crucial in our fight to save new movies from extinction.

Theater Chains Dive Into Distribution
Published at www.TheWrap.com  March 15, 2011 @ 7:04 pm
By Joshua L. Weinstein

With the 2011 box office down sharply and studios threatening the traditional theatrical window through new home-viewing schemes, theater owners are taking matters into their own hands.

Instead of relying on studios to offer them films, they’re screening simulcasts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. They’re partnering with other companies to distribute genre films. And they’re becoming distributors themselves.

“They’re not satisfied with the product that they’re getting, or it’s not meeting their clientele’s needs, so they’re going to try and program it themselves,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with the Los Angeles firm Exhibitor Relations. “Now is the time for entrepreneurial efforts to take center stage.”

A distribution executive at a major studio told The Wrap that “initially, my gut reaction was, ‘Hey, how dare you guys!’” But, he added, “I get the play … Ensuring product flow to your theaters. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you buy the notion that the studios are producing few movies, OK. I wish you luck.”

But this movement into distribution could have negative impacts on the studios, as well as studio/exhibitor relations.

“It has the potential of making our relationships antagonistic,” said the studio distribution executive.

The executive explained, for example, that there’s only so much time to show trailers, and that if an exhibitor gives trailer time to its own programming, it’ll be at the detriment of studios.

“It’s going to have to come at the expense of somebody,” he said. “Most likely, us.”

But the exhibitors are charging along with the plan, anyway.

Last week, the two largest movie theater chains in the U.S., AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group, formed their own distribution company, Open Road Films.

Under the direction of former Lionsgate top executive Tom Ortenberg (left), Open Road will distribute eight to 10 movies a year.

A few days later, AMC, The Collective and the horror website Bloodydisgusting.com announced another film distribution partnership for horror and thriller titles.

And on Sunday, some 450 NCM Fathom movie theaters across the nation were packed for a simulcast of, of all things, Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic live from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Tickets cost $22, a whole lot more than a film.

This year, especially, exhibitors need to do all they can to help themselves.

So far this year, movies have grossed $1.74 billion, compared to $2.25 billion at this point in 2010, $2.06 billion in 2009 and $1.8 billion in 2008. That’s a 22.5 percent drop this year over last. (see chart)

One major studio distribution chief told The Wrap last week that he was going over the schedule for the coming two months with an exhibitor.

“I felt bad for him,” he said. “From now until summer, there’s just nothin’.”

And I just want to add: let’s not look with too much hope to the summer either. Hollywood is dropping a record 27 sequels on our heads this year.

Thanks again to The Wrap for this article and for the wonderful work they do.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny March 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

Remember this?

United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 US 131 (1948) (also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948, the Paramount Case, the Paramount Decision or the Paramount Decree) was a landmark United States Supreme Court anti-trust case that decided the fate of movie studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their films. It would also change the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed, and exhibited. The Court held in this case that the existing distribution scheme was in violation of the antitrust laws of the United States, which prohibit certain exclusive dealing arrangements.

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Stephen Simon March 20, 2011 at 9:31 am

Yes, that was the death knell for the Old Hollywood way of doing things….interesting that the new Regal/AMC alliance is for distribution only…they’re not financing production which keeps them away from the consent decree….this still leaves the financing issue out there….but it’s a great first step in the right direction….

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