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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Digital Drive-Ins...the IMDB's Founder...A Howard Stringer Update

- In my monthly Entertainment 2.0 column in the Boston Globe, I have a look at the impact of digital cinema on the drive-in theater, 406 of which are still going strong in the U.S. From the piece:

    The country's remaining drive-ins, including five in Massachusetts, have managed to endure the onslaught of television, the multiplex, and the VCR, as well as the rising real estate values that can make selling the land beneath a drive-in irresistible. But the newest concern among drive-in owners is the advent of digital projection and the predicted obsolescence of celluloid.

    ``I would not want to bet my business on the ability to keep obtaining 35-millimeter film prints into the future," says John Vincent, one of the owners [of the] Wellfleet [Drive-In on Cape Cod]. ``We've taken a keen interest in digital projection because we want to be around for the next 50 years or so."

There's also a fun photo gallery they put together to accompany the piece.

- Richard Siklos in the NY Times has a great piece about Col Needham, the little-known founder of the Internet Movie Database, one of my favorite Web sites of all time. Siklos suggests that IMDB could soon become the front-door for a new Amazon digital download service that would allow customers to purchase movies and then burn them onto DVD using their laptop or PC. He writes:

    [Studio executives are working with Amazon to develop] a download service that could let people burn DVD's on their desktops. Though Amazon and Mr. Needham decline to talk about plans, Imdb could play a more prominent role in the retailer's media strategy. Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers are all involved in the project, executives close to the project have said.

    Several weeks ago, one media executive who had been briefed on Amazon's strategy but did not want to be identified because it was still being formulated, pointed out one aspect of Imdb's popularity: if you use search engines to look for the title of virtually any past movie or television show, or the names of celebrities from those realms, Imdb often comes up as the first result.

    In the retail business, that is the equivalent of excellent shelf frontage, or, in television, of having a single-digit channel number rather than being relegated to Channel 284 on the cable lineup.

- Finally, Siklos and Martin Fackler have yet another story in the Times about Sir Howard Stringer's attempts to revitalize Sony. They write:

    Sony's next and biggest priority, Sir Howard told his managers, is to create new software that will allow it to better link the content and hardware the company produces. "We take great pride in the power of Sony hardware," he said "However, when we think about Sony's software, we have to honestly admit that our capabilities remain quite modest."

    He also noted that Sony has to start new digital downloading services — another area where it has fallen far behind. To jump-start that effort, Sony hired a senior Apple executive, Tim Schaaff, last fall to oversee its software development. Company executives said Mr. Schaaff would focus on Marlin, a consortium of Sony and other consumer electronics giants developing a way to securely share content among different media products.


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