And You Wonder Why China is Fast Becoming the Driver for the Movie Industry

Whether it’s fair or not, numbers (and especially somewhat sure numbers) matter to those who are investing in movies. Some of them may only be doing it for the money (gasp) and not for artistic reasons. Investors know China only allows a limited number of foreign films into the country’s theaters, and the foreign movies China most wants to see are comic book movies, fantasy movies and 3D movies, and lo and behold that is what dominates the all-time grossing movies.

Considering China’s appetite, it’s a no brainer Peter Jackson and company went to China, and now with the premiere of Battle of the Five Armies in China, it will be significantly helped along to the billion dollar club. And this won’t be the first time China will help considerably in putting a Hobbit movie in the club. It will just do it much sooner than the last time with the earlier release, which is probably to thwart piracy making inroads into the box office receipts. The last two movies were released in China in late February.

But Peter Jackson’s gratefulness to China aside, he has to be aware of the changing landscape in Chinese movie making. I suspect he wanted to go to China as much as WB may have wanted him to go to China, since he is not only a movie maker but a service provider with his movie studio and special effects crew. Yep, China is a great source of revenue for anyone in his business. And whatever happens to Peter Jackson, I’m intensely curious about what will happen with the export of Chinese made movies and whether it will increase exponentially.

Mandarin anyone? :D

If you get a chance read the blog I link in that reference about piracy. All aspects of China’s economic impact (the least of which is the movie industry) have fascinated me for years, and I’ve been reading Rob Cain for a while. Just wish he posted more often.

EDIT: a little update for those who may not have thought 16M+ for an opening night was that much. The weekend was three nights, and it made 49M+. That’s USD. That’s over 5% of what the movie has made so far.

Dorktastic Returns

So Richard Armitage went to China for The Hobbit premiere, and it’s been well covered, but I’ve got to add my two.

We’ve been treated to an array of photos of this caliber:

RichardArmitage by Sarah Dunn

…courtesy of Sarah Dunn and her Leica, and all designed to make us go, “Oooh, Baby!” and I do at times. Yeah, I sometimes think, “Wow…”

But mostly I think, “You’ve come a long way from this, Baby:”
e8531f5a-1

or maybe not:

Dorktastic Richard in ChinaScreencap from this video of Richard thanking the Chinese fans

Richard,

It’s a secure and happy man who lets his dorktastic out in public. I love that you can still do that and the publicists be damned. No offense to your publicist.

And now that you’re proficient with a selfie stick:

54b303c945dec3545ae0f8b17bee9ddd
…you just needed one other thing for your China trip — a GoPro attached to that panda hat. And if you ever get a dog, he can wear one too.

Signed,
One of your crazy fans

P.S. Sometimes I feel for you in having a lot of your existence, including some of your childhood, trotted out for all to see. But the panda hat overrode any feelings of protection I may feel. :D

For those who have never seen Richard Armitage at a red carpet event, you have no idea how good he is with a camera phone. Oh, man, the dude can take a shot. And it makes sense; otherwise, he would have to wait for a nervous fan to fumble around.

I wonder when he decided to start taking selfies. It wasn’t in 2007 when he went to the BAFTAs (scroll down for the videos), but then the selfie didn’t really come into its own until the advent of the iPhone which was less than two years old at the time.

That was Interesting or maybe not

vlcsnap-2014-11-06-14h35m57s239Moving on from thoughts of Time Warner’s state of affairs, since it’s not much fun to talk finance or economics. No, that’s not a true statement. I love to talk finance and economics, but I know most people hate it. See why I stay on fluff subjects most of the time here? The serious me is not that much fun and likes to talk about things like the Time Warner/Comcast merger, why Facebook’s IPO was lousy, or about my fascination with Elon Musk and Tesla and renewable energy, or the health care sector or other fun subjects like Quantitative Easing. I really love to talk about Quantitative Easing. Don’t get me started on that one.

Yes, I’m really going to stop all this talk that makes your eyes glaze over and go back to talking about the dwarf actors, which was my initial plan but did not include talking about the snubbing of the Kiwi dwarves. I was more or less going to ignore that until, well, I couldn’t.

Speaking of which, I’ve noticed something about that situation. It’s not a situation to a significant number of fans of the Hobbit movies. It seems the Richard Armitage fans are mostly the ones who were offended if the current chatter is anything to go by. The Tolkien fans, or more specifically the Ringers (fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies and not to be confused with Tolkienists who are not fans of the movies for the most part) are pretty quiet. This issue doesn’t seem to be a big deal to them. Yep, I’m saying it appears they really don’t care if the Kiwi actors make it to the premiere or not. And that surprises me. It really does. Oh sure, we know the TheOneRing.net got shut down on this issue, but are they the only voice for the Ringers? Maybe so. Maybe the Ringers aren’t as prevalent as I thought.

I could be so wrong about all of this, but that’s how it seems.

Further, it’s made me wonder if perhaps I’ve given the Ringers too much credence as something truly organic and principled instead of something manufactured by someone who had a vested financial interest. Okay, yes, I’m being disingenuous. I’ve known for the last few years that there is an effort to market to and through the Ringers. Because I was taught not to say anything if I couldn’t say something nice and encouraging, I haven’t said anything about this. But the incident with the Kiwi actors bugs me enough to break that rule.

Someone slap me ’cause if I really get rolling here, I may get so candid that I say something I really regret.

So am I just a fan bitching? Maybe, but then again, I have been cultivated to be a fan of the actors in this movie, and so it’s natural I would be unhappy with some of them being left out of the world premiere. Yep, I’m saying that if anyone is to blame for my feelings about that, it’s the powers that be who drew my attention to these guys in the first place– Richard Armitage excepted of course.

No worries that I’ll go further than this post. This is the last of my venting about it. I think it’s all off my chest now, and I can move on to more fun topics. Like my piece on Graham McTavish. But I’m going to do McTavish a favor and not put his piece right up against these rants.

I Guess Three Billion Isn’t What it Used to Be

Warner_Bros

So I put up a graphic in my last piece about the profits from The Hobbit franchise, and my friends, those figures were conservative. On second thought, I should have called this piece Seven Billion Isn’t What It Used to Be.

Pardon me if I’m not sympathetic about Warner Brothers having financial difficulties. Oh, I’m sympathetic toward those who lost their jobs but not toward upper management.

LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros. on Tuesday began layoffs that will ultimately eliminate about 1,000 jobs, or 12.5 percent of the studio’s total staff, as it tries to increase profitability in the face of weak domestic box-office sales and a challenged television business.

Kevin Tsujihara, Warner’s chief executive, speaking at a recent investor conference, said the studio was seeking to cut annual overhead costs by $200 million. Mr. Tsujihara announced the layoffs in a memo to employees on Tuesday.

“We examined every aspect of our businesses to ensure that we are restructuring in a way that would allow us to minimize the impact,” he wrote.

Layoffs at Warner, Hollywood’s largest movie and television studio, come as part of a broader effort to trim costs by its corporate parent, Time Warner, after an unsuccessful takeover attempt last summer by 21st Century Fox. Time Warner’s struggling cable network division, Turner Broadcasting, last month eliminated 1,475 jobs, and HBO recently trimmed about 150.

Cost-cutting at Warner has rattled the entertainment industry. Warner — home to Batman, Harry Potter, “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” — has long been Hollywood’s most stable studio. Warner has ranked No. 1 at the domestic box office in five of the last 10 years. It was second in all but one of the other five years.

the rest here

edit:

I didn’t want to get into this, but I will (at least a bit). Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Brothers Entertainment, is streamlining in order to make their stock improve and in turn remain independent.

Bewkes, [CEO of Time Warner] meanwhile, told attendees that Time Warner “will more than double our earnings over the next several years.” The company earned $3.51 per share last year, and Bewkes predicted $8 per share by 2018.

Much of that will come courtesy of HBO, whose CEO, Richard Plepler, was at the investor day to tout the premium cable channel, which he said boasts 136 million global subscribers. Plepler said HBO will launch an online service in the U.S. similar in some ways to Netflix.

“In 2015, we will go beyond the wall and launch a stand-alone over-the-top service with the potential to produce hundreds of millions of dollars of additional revenue,” Plepler said. “And the international possibilities could be just as large, if not larger.”

He also said that while original programming might get the most attention at HBO, 40 percent of its subscribers only watch the theatrical movies on the channel. We’re the Millers attracted 26 million viewers, more than Games of Thrones, which is the most popular original HBO show in history. For these reasons, Plepler said HBO has struck long-term deals with outside film studios, such as Universal and 20th Century Fox, until the next decade and Summit Entertainment until 2017, for example.

source

And Time Warner needs to be independent long enough to get approval for a merger with Comcast which would create a helluva media empire. Think of the marriage of that infrastructure and content creator. It could be something like being one of the Big Three and more. You think seven kiwi actors and some ringers matter to the powers that be in the face of that?

To be clear, I’m not a friend of Comcast and tend to think this merger would not be a good thing for consumers with regard to cost. Other than that, it’s scary how quickly things have gone since I wrote this. We’re fast approaching the point of first run movies being mostly streamed to the home. I don’t think movie theaters will ever go away entirely, but I do think there will be very few in the future.

An Open Letter to Peter Jackson

November 3, 2014

Sir Peter Jackson
Wingnut Films
Wellington, NZ

Re: Kiwi Dwarf Cast’s Inclusion in the BOFA World Premiere

Dear Sir Peter:

This last weekend I wasn’t sure what to think about the BOFA premiere controversy concerning the Kiwi actors. Facebook pages and fan websites are not the most accurate places to determine what’s going on. Oh, they can be at times, but they aren’t always, and with something this inflammatory, I withheld an assessment until a more reliable source came to the fore.

Yesterday morning I read the NZ Herald, and it became obvious the powers that be at Warner Brothers have made a faux pas, and it doesn’t matter what has gone before. It doesn’t matter if these actors did or didn’t negotiate travel expenses for a trip to the final premiere, or whether WB ever intended to send them or not. The important thing here is there has been an underestimation of the will of the fans — that the dwarves are all expected to be at the BOFA world premiere.

We fans have not only been on this journey to see where the Hobbit movies would take us, but we have also been on an odyssey with this cast through the video logs you so graciously provided and the other tie-in materials which shared quite a bit of these actors’ experiences making the movie. Given all of that, it only seems fitting to end this trip as it began — with the cast being all together in a sea of welcoming fan love at the premiere instead of being shunted off to a dark corner now that their usefulness is done for Warner Brothers. A comparison to the marginalization of the dwarves in Tolkien’s classic will surely not escape the fans’ notice if the latter is done.

You may wonder why I’m addressing this letter to you. Given that you understand the significance of fan fervor, I believe you are the obvious choice to hear this fan appeal, and to in turn characterize it for WB. And perhaps you have already pled the case. Whether you have or not, I come prepared to lend some help that hopefully will yank this situation into perspective at a glance and bring others into the collective thought that it’s only fair to include all of the cast at the world premiere.

To wit (click to enlarge):

londonandbackagaininfographic

Signed,
A crazy fan who appreciates fair play

Infographic courtesy of my collaborator extraordinaire, Armitage Besotted.

Ken, We Hardly Knew Ye

I am getting myself in the Hobbit mood. Whatever that is. We’re about to find out, because this piece is the first of at least thirteen and maybe a few more designed to bring on the Hobbit hysteria for myself if no one else. Oh sure, most of you are focused on Sleepwalker. I’ve always been out of step, so for now I can’t stop thinking Hobbits, er, dwarves. Oh you know what I mean.

And note most of the research on these actors is whatever the first page or two of Google unearthed. Yep, this is how they appear on Google — at least in my part of the world.

Since Scotland was recently in the news, I decided to come with the Scottish guys first, and Ken Stott was my pick for the opener. Why Ken? I knew the least about him and so was most curious about his life and work. Oh, and he’s only half Scottish. The other half is Sicilian. When I was done reading about this half Scot, half Sicilian, I was fascinated with him. Still am. He also plays Balin, one of the most important dwarves in the Hobbit storyline and quite naturally should go first.

Balin

Balin is second in command of the dwarves and the conscience of the group if not the entire story at times — at least in the movies. As such, he is a calm force who often characterizes the series of events for others in order to encourage and inspire them to continue the quest. This serene mien is somewhat lacking in Thorin, whose royal presence alone is supposed to encourage and inspire, and it does but not entirely without Balin.

Given the usual demeanor of Balin, I was expecting Ken to be similar in nature. I suppose that’s the beauty and the hazard of being an actor. When someone is so good at what they do, you really can’t see past that to what else they may be capable of doing. Imagine my surprise when I came across Ken’s portrayal of Rebus:

If you didn’t watch that video, just know that Rebus is a badass. See around 4:20 if you don’t believe me. Balin is a badass as well, but he’s a kinder, gentler badass.

As I continued to research, it became apparent Ken is a bit of a badass in real life. I’ve picked up from several interviews and/or reviews about him that he does not put up with much crap (one article said, “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly”), and he tends to hit between the eyes. In 2009 he was in a West End performance of the Arthur Miller play A View from the Bridge when he got fed up with a school kid’s mobile phone going off one too many times. Ken stopped in the middle of the performance, had the house lights turned up and switched from his effected American accent into his native accent to let the school kids and their teacher know he wasn’t going any further until the nonsense ended. When I read that, I started laughing out loud and thought, “Go, Ken!” Then I read the bit to SO who chuckled and said, “I have no idea who this guy is, but I like him already.”

So Ken may be a curmudgeon at times, but he also has a sense of humor:

Most important, to me anyway, is that he seems extremely honest. I love that.

He also has a twinkle in his eye:

Embed from Getty Images
This is Ken in 2009 with his partner Nina Gehl. Nina is a piece of work herself. She’s an artist and seems to be pretty honest too. My favorite interview of Ken is one where he talks about Nina.

Fun fact about Ken: in his teens growing up in Edinburgh, he was part of a band called Keyhole who later became (or some members became) the Bay City Rollers. If you’re not familiar with them, here you go:

I did try to find a picture of Ken from his days with Keyhole, but to no avail. However, I did come across a photo of him I really like:

debt-collector-3This is from The Debt Collector. I don’t know if he smokes, and I really don’t give a damn if he does. That’s just a cool looking picture of a cool guy. Also looks like a character out of a Coppola or Scorsese movie.

One more fact about Ken or maybe two. 1) He supported Scottish independence. Why does that no surprise me? 2) It was his birthday a little over a week ago. I was going to post this then, but if I’ve learned anything about him, I imagine him thinking about all the birthday posts, “Dammit. Can they just stop?!” :D


Dear Ken:

Okay, so it was me! I was the one who didn’t know much about you. I’m sure there are others who know tons. But I’m on the other side of the pond, man. What I will tell you is now that I know a little more about you and your illustrious career (and I do not say that with any snark), I am making a point to watch some of your other roles and would love to see you in a live performance.

As for the rest, Nina sounds interesting too. Would love to have you two for dinner and discuss art and theater or whatever subject you want to pursue and especially anything you may want to call bullshit on. Oh, yeah, you can call vigorous bullshit on some things if you like.

Signed,
A Crazy Fan who loves it when someone has a finely honed bullshit detector

P.S. I have to ask: what instrument did you play in Keyhole? I would dearly love to know but could find the answer nowhere, or maybe I missed it.

I’m serious about wanting to see Ken Stott’s other roles. After reading the wonderful reviews of his stage work, I would go to see a play based on his casting alone.

note: I hope those among you who take me too seriously at times will read my disclaimer that I have no hope Ken Stott will ever answer my question or come to dinner. But that was fun to write. :D And hey, if anyone does know what instrument he played, please tell me.

Revving Up for Battle of the Five Armies

five-armies-banner-6
[Click to enlarge]

Several new banners for the final Hobbit segement, Battle of the Five Armies, are out. Go here for more.