Entertainment Industry

Category: 3-d

Wall Street gives RealD some relief

The picture brightened somewhat for RealD Inc., the Beverly Hills based 3-D equipment supplier, which saw an 11% jump in its share price after it reported better-than-expected financial results.

RealD on Wednesday recorded a $2.8-million profit, or 0.05 cents per share, in its third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31 -- a considerable improvement over the $16.6-million loss from a year ago.  Revenue in the quarter was $49 million, down 15% from the same time a year ago, reflecting slower ticket sales from such 3-D movies as "Hugo," "Happy Feet Two," and "Arthur Christmas."

Still, the company pulled in more revenue than the $42 million analysts were expecting, triggering a modest rally in the company's share price, which has plummeted in the last year amid disappointing 3-D ticket sales. RealD's stock closed Wednesday at $9.74, up 11% for the day, but still well below the company's 52-week high of $35.60.

"Prudent management of operating expenses enabled RealD to maintain profitability during the third fiscal quarter despite a relatively muted 3-D film slate," said Michael V. Lewis, chairman and chief executive of RealD.


U.S. theaters get a lump of coal at the box office

Imax, RealD stocks plunge amid disappointing sales

3-D makeover coming to aging Hollywood blockbusters

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: RealD founders Michael V. Lewis, left, and Josh Greer inside a theater at the company's Beverly Hills headquarters. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times.


Legend3D raises $19 million to fund more 3-D conversions

Hugo kingsley scorsese

Legend3D, which specializes in converting movies to 3-D, disclosed Monday that it had raised $19 million from private investors to finance even more conversions.

The decade-old San Diego company, which also refashions shots of movies originally filmed in 3-D, has worked on a number of high-profile releases, including Martin Scorsese's current release "Hugo," as well as "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," and "Green Lantern." 

The firm, which employs 250 people, said the $19 million will help pay for research and development to improve the quality of its proprietary 2-D to 3-D conversion process and form more partnerships with filmmakers and studios.

The development comes at a time when consumer interest in watching 3-D movies appears to have cooled. To entice more studios to pay for 3-D conversions, Legend3D is changing its business model to give them some financial incentive: Legend3D will pay a portion of the conversion process in exchange for a share of revenues from 3-D tickets sales.

 Major studios are spending $10 million or more to convert new and classic Hollywood movies such as "Titantic" for 3-D viewing. 

"3-D storytelling is primed to sweep audiences worldwide, making it increasingly critical that the technology behind the scenes offers today's content creators a tool set without limits,'' said David Patterson, chairman and chief executive of Northwater Capital Management Inc., which led a group of investors in raising the $19 million.


MasterImage 3D receives $15-million investment from Samsung Ventures

Imax, RealD stocks plunge on disappointing sales

3-D Hollywood's latest hot trend

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Asa Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret (left) and Ben Kingsley plays Georges Méliès in "Hugo" from Paramount Pictures and GK Films. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk

James Murdoch survives BSkyB vote despite dissent

Despite the taint of the persistent British phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch on Tuesday was reelected as chairman of the powerful British Sky Broadcasting television service

Despite the taint of the persistent British phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch on Tuesday was reelected as chairman of the powerful British Sky Broadcasting television service.

The youngest son of Rupert Murdoch received the support of 81.2% of votes cast in Tuesday's election. Nearly 19% of shareholders voted against him. James Murdoch, 38, also is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., which owns 39% of the BSkyB shares, and has been considered the likely heir to his father's media empire. 

Stripping out the votes held by News Corp., James Murdoch received far less support. Slightly more than 55% of the independent shareholders voted for his retention on the board. Nearly 32% opposed his continued tenure, and the remaining 12.9% withheld their votes.

In October, James Murdoch survived a vote of no confidence during the annual meeting of News Corp. investors. At that time, he retained his position as a director in the New York-based media giant. However, he faces continued hearings in the British Parliament concerning his oversight of News Corp.'s U.K.-based newspaper division, and his handling of the phone-hacking scandal that led to the shuttering of News of the World tabloid. 

In July, fallout from the scandal forced News Corp. to withdraw its $12-billion bid to buy out the remaining shares of BSkyB. James Murdoch on Tuesday reaffirmed News Corp.'s continued role as a long-term shareholder in the television service.

In his statement to shareholders, he also said that BSkyB passed its long-term target of 10 million TV customers last year. "This is a significant achievement," he said.  "But more important than any single target is the way that our business has been transformed through constant appetite for change and a strong culture of continuous improvement."

The vote results were reported by RNS, a news service of the London Stock Exchange.


Hugh Grant and aggrieved parents of girl lead tabloid battle

Phone-hacking scandal puts James Murdoch's career on the line

James Murdoch insists he was kept in the dark on phone hacking

-- Meg James

Photo: James Murdoch leaves Tuesday's annual meeting of British Sky Broadcasting shareholders in London. Credit:  Gareth Fuller / Associated Press

Theater owners blast Sony's decision to stop bankrolling 3-D glasses

3-D glasses dispute

The National Assn. of Theatre Owners, the country's largest trade group of exhibitors, has lashed out at Sony Pictures concerning its plans to stop footing the bill for 3-D glasses and pass the expense on to moviegoers. However, Sony may not be alone in its crusade for long, as at least one other studio is considering following suit.

Sony recently sent a letter to cinema owners informing them that as of May 1, 2012, it will no longer pay 3-D technology companies such as RealD the average cost of 50 cents per ticket for 3-D glasses used by moviegoers. Sony has two big 3-D movies coming out after May 1 next year: "Men in Black III" and "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Such costs can add up to more than $10 million for particularly popular films.

Instead, Sony wants theaters to follow a policy that's already common in other parts of the world: Having consumers pay for their own disposable 3-D glasses, either to rent for each movie or to own a pair they can take home. Consumers already pay a premium of about $3 dollars for each 3-D movie ticket.

After news of the letter surfaced in the Hollywood Reporter, exhibitors fired back Wednesday morning with a letter decrying the move. "NATO believes Sony's suggestion is insensitive to our patrons, particularly in the midst of continuing economic distress," the group said. "Sony's actions raise serious concerns for our members who believe that provision of 3D glasses to patrons is well established as part of the 3D experience."

In addition Amy Miles, chief executive of Regal Entertainment Group -- the nation's largest theater circuit -- said her chain might show fewer 3-D films if it was forced to bear the cost of glasses.

A Sony spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other studios may soon line up in support of Sony's move. Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, said he "applauded" the move. "I am revisiting this issue as well," he told The Times.

Fox was the first studio to attempt to stop paying for 3-D glasses, in the summer of 2009. However, no other studios supported its decision at that time, so Fox backed down.

The news comes as relations between Hollywood and exhibitors are already frayed after a spat concerning studios' tests earlier this year of "premium video-on-demand," through which consumers could pay $30 to rent a movie only 60 days after it debuted in theaters.

As with all such public disagreements, however, it remains to be seen whether studios and theater owners will ultimately tone down their rhetoric and reach a compromise.


Not much demand yet for premium video-on-demand

3-D makeover coming to aging Hollywood blockbusters

Fox paying for "Ice Age's" 3-D glasses, but Hollywood remains peeved

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: An audience wearing 3-D glasses at a movie theater. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Why 'Fast Five' isn't 3-D

Fast5 With the opening this Friday' of "Fast Five," Universal is taking all the requisite steps to turn the latest entry in its "Fast and Furious" franchise into a summer event film. As explained in a story in today's Times, it has a bigger budget, a foreign setting, and even a new genre -- transformed from an underground racing movie into a heist flick.

But there's one key element that most of this summer's tentpoles have that "Fast Five" is missing: 3-D. That wasn't always the plan. As of last year Universal executives were seriously considering making the high-octane racing rampage starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in 3-D. Imagine cars zooming by each other in front of a movie screen and Dwayne Johnson throwing Diesel through a wall right at your face.

Universal didn't shoot the film in 3-D, but was considering a post-production conversion, as is very common in Hollywood. But before committing the $10 million-plus such a move typically costs, the studio decided to test a scene from 2009's "Fast & Furious," the previous entry in the series. The conclusion, in Internet parlance, was a #fail.

"The test was not great. It was discombobulating and we discovered that the things that we find exciting about 3-D just didn't apply to a 'Fast' film," said Universal Co-chairman Donna Langley. "The way we shot the movie and, more importantly, the way we cut it does not lend itself to 3-D."

Of course, Universal executives may have a hard time not imagining an extra $3 or so per ticket when box office numbers come in this weekend. But they'll also probably be glad not to be losing many of their best screens when 3-D movies "Thor," "Priest," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung Fu Panda 2," open one week after another following "Fast Five."

-- Ben Fritz


Universal soups up its 'Fast and Furious' franchise

Photo: Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in "Fast Five." Credit: Jaimie Trueblood / Universal Pictures

Samsung pumps $15 million into L.A.-based 3-D company MasterImage


Tired of watching 3-D movies in theaters? How about watching 3-D films and sporting events on your smart phones -- without the glasses?

That's the vision of L.A.-based MasterImage 3D, which announced Tuesday that it had received a $15-million investment from Samsung Ventures, a division of the South Korean consumer electronics giant that recently introduced its own 3-D television sets.

The infusion will allow MasterImage to develop new 3-D technology for mobile phones, tablets, PCs and movie theaters, the company said in a statement.

Founded in Seoul, South Korea, in 2004, MasterImage employs 100 people, inluding 20 in L.A. Another 40 to 50 workers will be hired in L.A. as a result of the new investment, said Chairman and CEO Younghoon Lee, delivering a welcome boost to Southern California's post-production sector, which has been hit hard by job losses in recent years.

"Samsung’s investment supports our strong belief that we’ve just begun to realize the impact 3-D will have on consumers,” Lee said in statement. “We are committing this investment to innovation — specifically, to advancing our 3-D solutions for cinema, smart phones, tablets, and larger auto-stereoscopic displays. We will continue to build toward our vision of 3-D on every screen."

Ilseok Yoon, managing director of Samsung Ventures America, said, “Our investment in MasterImage 3D is consistent with our strategy to work closely with established market leaders. The company was early to market with auto-stereoscopic 3-D mobile displays and has built a significant business in 3-D cinema."

-- Richard Verrier

Nintendo adds 3-D video channel, Netflix streaming to 3DS

Nintendo on Wednesday said it will launch a dedicated channel featuring short form 3-D videos and movie trailers for its 3DS handheld game console, set to hit stores later this month.

The announcement, made at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, was one of several new features Nintendo is layering onto the 3DS to help it compete against Apple's iPhone and iPad, which have made major inroads into the market for mobile games once dominated by Nintendo.

Reggie Fils-Aime, head of Nintendo's U.S. operations, said the 3DS will be able to support Netflix's instant streaming service and, by late May, be able to connect to the Web via 10,000 wireless Internet hot spots hosted by AT&T.

The Japanese game company also said it will launch eShop, an online marketplace similar to Apple's iTunes app store, to sell downloadable games for its 3DS.

Set to go on sale in the U.S. on March 27 for $250, the 3DS features two screens, one of which displays stereoscopic 3-D images that can be viewed without glasses. Nintendo said it will distribute a number of handpicked 3-D videos as well as 3-D movie trailers to the device beginning in late May.

But Fils-Aime emphasized that "the primary function of the 3DS is to play games." About 18 games, priced at $40 apiece, are slated to launch with the device later this month, including Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Ridge Racer 3D and Super Street Fighter IV 3D.

-- Alex Pham

Screen Actors Guild reaches accord for actors on basic cable, animation shows

Actors who work on AMC's "Mad Men", Fox's "The Simpsons" and Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place" are getting a pay bump, albeit a small one.

After just three days of negotiations, the Screen Actors Guild said Thursday it had concluded a new agreement covering basic cable television programs and network animated shows.

The proposed three-year contract, which takes effect July 1, 2011, was expected to be hammered out swiftly because it was modeled on a film and TV contract the union negotiated with the studios on Sunday. That deal followed six weeks of bargaining.

Under the basic cable accord, which must still be ratified by the union's 125,000 members, members will receive a 2% increase in pay in each of the three years of their contract. Studios also have agreed to increase by 10% the contributions they pay to the union's health and pension plan, a high priority for the guild.

-- Richard Verrier


Box office: A blowout weekend, but no blowout openers [updated]


Tyler Perry, Todd Phillips and a cartoon supervillain all got what they came for at the box office this weekend -- but not by a particularly wide margin.

A crowded field at the multiplex saw DreamWorks Animation's 3-D comedy "Megamind" win the weekend, but with a studio-estimated $47.7 million, it did so with a number at the lower end of observers' expectation range.

A decent figure at the conservative end of forecasts also characterized the weekend's two other wide openers. "Due Date,"  a reunion between "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis,  grossed $33.5 million, according to Warner Bros., while Tyler Perry's female-centric drama "For Colored Girls" landed in the third position with a Lionsgate-estimated $20.1 million.

If they cut into each other's audience a little bit, the three wide openers also contributed to an overall weekend tally of $154 million -- the highest ever for the first weekend in November, just ahead of the $153 million mark set seven years ago.

Industry insiders had estimated that "Megamind," which cost between $130 million and $145 million to produce and features characters voiced by Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, would open to about $50 million.  Among other animated non-sequels that opened in November, the movie's $47.7 million sits in the middle of the pack -- it's slightly ahead of "Chicken Little" and "Happy Feet" (neither of which had the advantage of 3-D premium ticket prices) but well behind mega-hits "Monsters, Inc." and "The Incredibles," the latter of which also put a new spin on the superhero genre.

"Megamind," which concerns a superhero who decides to hang up his cape, did generate a strong 'A-' Cinema Score, suggesting it could play well long after its opening, a la  DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon." But it will need to get over the hump of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1." That movie, which opens in two weeks, is expected to dominate the box office when it comes out, particularly the younger audience that makes up the "Megamind" core fan base.

International performance, also of prime importance for Hollywood animated movies, has thus far looked strong for "Megamind." The movie performed solidly in a number of smaller Asia territories and had a strong second weekend in Russia. (It won't be out in most major markets in  Europe and South America until early December.)

Meanwhile, "Due Date" a road-trip odd-couple comedy sandwiched between Phillips' two "Hangover" movies, landed just below the $35 million some observers had projected. Its $33.5 million represents a solid return for a comedy, even one that is estimated to have cost an unusually high $65 million. [Update, 1:52 pm:  The film performed very well overseas, tallying $21.5 million in 36 countries, a number close to the early performance of "The Hangover" internationally.]

The movie was not, however, able to compete on the domestic front with Phillips' and Galifianakis' last collaboration, which opened to $45 million in the spring of 2009. This film didn't have nearly the word-of-mouth as "The Hangover" did coming into its opening, and with an overall 'B-' Cinema Score, it's unlikely to play as strongly in the weeks to come.

With a pregnancy and family themes as well as the presence of Downey, the raunchy R-rated comedy was able to appeal to women, a group that comprised nearly half (47%) of the audience.

Jacks Meanwhile, Tyler Perry has shown that his fans will follow him to darker territory, they won't follow him in the same numbers.

The $20.1-million opening for "For Colored Girls," Perry's adaptation of Ntozake Shange's stage play and the first drama he's ever directed, was slightly below industry forecasts that had it closer to $25 million. The movie's tally is lower than his previous three openings -- including his record-best $41 million for "Madea Goes to Jail" and last year's $29 million for "Why Did I Get Married Too?"  But it was also higher than  his lowest-performing comedy, the $17.3 million opening for "The Family That Preys."

"Colored Girls" will be an unassailable financial triumph for Lionsgate, which spent only about $21 million to produce the film. And the drama could enjoy strong word of mouth and a long run at the box office -- the movie garnered an 'A' Cinema Score and could generate awards talk for its ensemble of A-listers that includes Whoopi Goldberg and Janet Jackson. It also will be helped by an older fan base -- 87% of the audience this weekend was over the age of 25 -- which tends to wait until the second and third weekends to see new movies.

The weekend's lone second-week holdover, horror-franchise entry "Saw 3-D," had a steep drop of 66% to notch $8.2 million.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight's "127 Hours" was the big winner, averaging a whopping $66,500 on each of the four screens on which it opened for a weekend total of $266,000. The Danny Boyle film, which stars James Franco as stranded canyoneer Aron Ralston, appears not to have been hurt -- and in fact may have been helped -- by pre-release publicity that the movie featured graphic scenes that had caused some filmgoers to faint.

Also in limited release, Summit opened the Valerie Plame political drama "Fair Game" to a more modest but still-respectable $15,200 average on each of its 46 screens for a total of $700,000.

[Update, 11:32 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international ticket sales when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com.]

Continue reading »

Hollywood studios grappling with when and where to release their movies on DVD, digital

For consumers already confused about when a movie goes on sale on DVD and Blu-ray versus its availability on video on demand, digital download, Netflix and Redbox rental and Netflix online streaming, life could get even more complicated.

On Tuesday at Blu-Con, a conference focused on the Blu-ray market, the presidents of home entertainment from five studios -- 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. -- gathered for a panel to discuss the state of their businesses.The Beverly Hills conference comes as studios are searching for new ways to boost revenue in the face of a slowly shrinking DVD market in which consumers are increasingly opting for inexpensive rentals instead of higher-priced purchases. Blu-ray sales and digital downloads are not growing enough to make up the difference.

The executives said the biggest issue they face is sorting through a proliferating array of distribution platforms and figuring out when and where to release their movies and at what price in order to maximize profits. Such staggered release strategies are known in Hollywood parlance as "windows."

"The most difficult conversations and the biggest meetings I have been involved in at the studio have been on this subject," said Universal's Craig Kornblau.

In a blunt assessment, Kornblau admitted that while consumers are eager to get their hands on movies through every platform as soon as possible, it's not always in the studios' interest. "We want to advantage methods that are more profitable," he told the audience of home entertainment industry professionals. "We don't have an obligation to give consumers what they want when they want it."

Most studios allow consumers to rent movies via the Internet or cable video-on-demand (VOD) the same day DVDs go on sale, though sometimes they push back that date for films they feel have particularly strong sales potential. Universal's animated box-office hit "Despicable Me," for instance, goes on sale Dec. 14, but won't be available on VOD until 23 days later, after Christmas shopping.

Universal is also one of three studios, along with Fox and Warner Bros., that has cut deals with Netflix and Redbox through which those two companies, the nation's biggest DVD renters, can't offer their films until 28 days after the DVD release. (Sony recently instituted a similar delay for some of its movies on Netflix.)

The effectiveness of those 28-day delays caused some disagreement on the panel. The Fox, Universal and Warner executives all said they have seen sales increases of 10% to 15% on their new releases compared with similar past titles. They attributed the better-than-expected performances to the fact that the movies weren't available to rent through Netflix and Redbox.

But Sony's David Bishop, whose studio signed a deal to offer DVDs the same day they go on sale through Redbox's $1 per night rental kiosks, has seen different results. "We have not seen any erosion on our sell-through performance," he claimed.

Warner Bros.' Ron Sanders said his studio's only problem with the 28-day window for Redbox and Netflix is that it's not long enough. "To be honest, I think it's a little short today versus what we probably need," he said. "That will get revisited as those deals expire."

Kornblau, meanwhile, said the studios are likely to play with the availability of movies through Netflix's Internet streaming service, which has grown rapidly in the last year and now accounts for more of the company's viewing hours than DVDs shipped through the mail. "While there are things in the Netflix system that are clearly cannibalistic [to sales], there are things we can change," he noted. "They can pay us more or we can reduce the quality of what we give them."

At the same time, the executives noted that the studios are expected to launch "premium VOD" for certain movies next year in which consumers can rent a movie within a month or two of its theatrical release and before the DVD goes on sale for as much as $20 or $30. That would create an entirely new window for the home entertainment business.

With all the talk of slicing windows in new ways in search of bigger profits, Fox's Mike Dunn admitted there's a potential downside: confusing or frutstrating customers. "If you slice the pie with too many slices, no one is satisfied," he said to laughs and nods from his fellow panelists.

-- Ben Fritz


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...

Photos: L.A.’s busiest filming sites