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Thursday, August 03, 2006

More options ahead for downloadable flicks...Cameron picks Weta for `Avatar'...Cinemark/Century Merger...EW on `Snakes'...More

- Among those working on movie download services, according to Sarah McBride and Merissa Marr of the Wall Street Journal, are:, Apple, Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T. From the piece:

    ..."We want to be ready to hit the road running, rather than just beginning to get onto the learning curve," says Bob Chapek, head of world-wide home entertainment at Walt Disney Co.'s studio. "This is our fact-finding and model-exploration time."

    While the studios are fact-finding, an array of big-name players will be jostling for position in the emerging market. Studio executives predict that just one or two principal players will emerge from the fray, much as Apple's iTunes Music Store dominates online music and Google dominates online searches. In a bid to become a significant player, many services are likely to cut prices below costs, leading to price wars that may undo weaker players.

    All of the services are vying to become the first one a customer tries, believing it will set up customer relationships that could last for years. "There will likely be a lot of loyalty to who you start with," says Tom Lesinski, president of digital entertainment at Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures. "Once you're registered and the program is all set up, are you really going to switch digital retailers?"

There's also an interesting quote from Fox:
    "Our goal is to seek out as many [viable] retail outlets as we can, and put as many titles as we can on those sites," says Peter Levinsohn, president of News Corp.'s Fox Digital Media, which has signed deals with many of the emerging online outlets. "Ultimately, we let consumers decide where they shop."

- Jim Cameron will work with Weta Digital and Joe Letteri for the visual effects for his upcoming film `Avatar,' according to The Hollywood Reporter.

- Texas-based Cinemark is in talks to acquire San Rafael-based Century Theatres, according to the Wall Street Journal. Combined, they'd have about 4300 screens, making them a stronger #3 player to Regal and AMC. Exhibitors don't tend to get more innovative as they get bigger, in my experience.

- Entertainment Weekly devotes its cover story to `Snakes on a Plane', and the only reason I link to it is for some insight into how the `Snakes' phenomenon is influencing other studios' strategy. From Jeff Jensen's piece:

    ...SoaP has many admirers in Hollywood, where every studio, mindful of the maturation of both YouTube and MySpace, is currently desperate to reach young pop junkies online. Case in point: Twentieth Century Fox, whose parent, News Corp., last year acquired MySpace, has just launched a new youth label called Fox Atomic. This fall the division will shoot a remake of Revenge of the Nerds, but it has already begun cultivating its audience via viral-video Web promotions. ''Snakes is a powerful indication of how you can use the Internet to engage the audience and capture their imagination with just a concept,'' says Peter Rice, president of Fox Atomic and Fox Searchlight. And Fox marketing president Pam Levine believes the kind of online creativity inspired by Snakes will soon evolve to a point where fans become less interested in playing with Hollywood movies and more interested in making their own.

- I can't provide a link, but in this week's issue of BusinessWeek, Heather Green has a short piece about directors' video diaries, posted to the Net from a film set. She notes that Kevin Smith "pumped out 75 video posts about the making of `Clerks II.' They got 3 million downloads before the movie came out on July 21."

- How do you sell out a movie theater on a Wednesday night, showing a movie originally released in 1961? Turn it into a singalong. There were probably about 500 people who turned out last night at the Castro, and paid $15 to get a bag of participatory goodies (my favorite was a champagne popper for when Tony is shot) and watch a 45-year old classic.


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