[ Digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies ]

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Friday, July 07, 2006

`Future of Movies' panel...Indian animation co's...`Scanner Darkly' rotoscoping...Sundance + Google...`Superman Returns' IMAX results

- Later this month, I'm moderating a panel in Palo Alto on `The Future of Movies,' which is being put on by the Churchill Club. It's on Thursday, July 27th. Here's the current speaker list and description:

    > Randal Kleiser, President, Randel Kleiser Productions, Inc.; Director, Grease, The Blue Lagoon, Honey I Blew Up the Kid, Lovewrecked
    > Bob Lambert, Sr. Vice President, Worldwide Technology Strategy The Walt Disney Company
    > Tim Partridge, Sr. Vice President and General Manager, Dolby Professional Division, Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
    > Jerry Pierce, Senior Vice President, Technology, Universal Pictures
    > Todd Wagner, CEO, 2929 Entertainment

    > Scott Kirsner, Editor, CinemaTech; Columnist and Contributing Writer, Fast Company, The Boston Globe, The Hollywood Reporter

    In the height of the summer movie season we'll look at what's changing about the way movies are made, distributed and experienced, with an all-star cast of speakers from Hollywood and the Bay Area.

    How is the relationship between studios, filmmakers, and the audience changing? Why does it seem that Northern California tech companies and Southern California content producers are so often at odds? How can they work better together? What are the new business models that will help movie-making remain profitable? Join us as these film industry leaders tell us what's in store for the future of cinema!

- The Wall Street Journal says that while outsourcing computer animation to India is definitely a trend, it's too early to tell whether the India-based companies will be successful on the order of Pixar or DreamWorks. One problem seems to be a lack of trained animators. Binny Sabharwal and Eric Bellman write:

    According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the animation industry in India is now worth $285 million and is expected to grow 35% a year for the next few years, reaching around $1 billion by 2009.

    But the business is so new that analysts say it is hard to project company growth as revenue flows are still unstable. What's more, some investors lack a good understanding of the business, analysts say, making it difficult to pick the long-term winners. Most companies have yet to deliver a consistent performance since the sector began taking off five years ago.

- The LA Times has this piece on digital rotoscoping in Richard Linklater's `A Scanner Darkly,' released today. The movie started with one team of animators, and was finished by another. Robert Levine writes:

    When [the] process began, in October 2004, Linklater and co-producer Tommy Pallotta believed that a team of 30 animators could finish the film in about six months for a budget of $6.7 million.

    In the end, completing "Scanner" required up to 50 animators, took more than twice the time allotted and cost more than $8 million.

    "It was very difficult," Linklater said. "It still takes about 500 hours of human labor to do a minute of film."

    The production ran into a few other difficulties as well. Sabiston had been hired to head the animation effort on "Scanner," as he had done on "Waking Life." But by the end of 2004, the film's producers became concerned that his team wasn't progressing as fast as they had hoped.

- The Sundance Channel is experimenting with renting and selling 18 movies that it owns, using Google Video. They're $3.99 for a 24-hour rental, or $9.99 to own, according to The Hollywood Reporter

- says that the IMAX 3-D version of `Superman Returns' has been doing boffo business: it contributed $6.83 million of the movie's $108 million total over the July 4th weekend, and the seven-day per-screen average was $89,804. Michael Stevens writes, "The film shattered every opening week record for an IMAX Hollywood simultaneous release, playing to sell-out crowds and strong audience satisfaction."


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