24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Paramount

PercyFX app: Add your own messages into movie clips [video]

April 7, 2012 |  8:00 am

Two mainstays of Web culture are sending short messages — via Twitter, instant messaging, texting, etc. — and re-appropriating pop-culture imagery, as the many mash-ups on YouTube or celebrity memes on Tumblr demonstrate. The smartphone app PercyFX does a little bit of both, allowing users to insert personalized written messages into clips from Hollywood movies.

Take for example the clip above from "The Big Lebowski," in which the slacker protagonist Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski uses an old detective's trick to reveal what the shady smut peddler Jackie Treehorn previously wrote on and ripped off a notepad. In the actual film, the Dude turns up a crude doodle, but users of PercyFX can change that to any message that fits into 54 characters.

Some of the app's suggested uses include sending birthday wishes or invitations, or even telling off your boss while quitting (don't expect a good reference), though users will doubtless come up with their own ideas.

The app, which launched a BlackBerry version in December and an iPhone and iPad version in January, currently includes a modest selection of recent and older films from Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, including "Bridesmaids," "Animal House," "Despicable Me," "Sixteen Candles," "Wayne's World" and "Rango." New films are being added to the library at a rate of about one per week. The app is free, but customizing videos requires buying credits, with individual videos ranging from 24 to 33 cents.

Once created, the videos can be shared via email, Facebook and, in the case of Universal films, YouTube. (Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom Inc., is currently engaged in a copyright infringement lawsuit with YouTube.)

Julie Steiner, president of Toronto-based Percy3D, sees the app as a fun way for users to interact with and share movies they enjoy and identify with. "It's kind of like in your high school yearbook, everybody chose a quote from a movie," she said. "This is sort of this generation's version of that."

Steiner said the app is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of users. "Depending on what age you are, different things appeal to you, different clips," she said. "We're always looking for stuff that's going to appeal to different age groups."

That said, the company is aware that a smartphone app could be a good way to reach a coveted young demographic. "That's the way [young people] are communicating and finding things," said Steiner, who is also a mother of teenagers. "My kids don't watch TV," she added. "They watch the Internet, they watch the computer."

For studios like Paramount and Universal, apps like PercyFX allow them to monetize their back catalogs and hopefully introduce new generations to their existing properties. The app, for example, also provides links to purchase or rent the featured films via iTunes and Amazon's video-on-demand services.

Steiner also said the app's current text-based personalization features are just the beginning, and the technology powering the app can also handle user-generated multimedia content such as photos and video.

Check out two more tongue-in-cheek videos created by 24 Frames below.

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— Oliver Gettell


Word of Mouth: Eddie Murphy's not laughing on way to bank [video]

March 8, 2012 | 11:18 am

Eddie Murphy

Not that long ago, an Eddie Murphy was a box-office slam-dunk.

And then came "Meet Dave."

And "Imagine That."

DreamWorks' "A Thousand Words," which stars Murphy as a fast-talking book agent, is finally being released nearly four years after it was filmed. Paramount, which releases DreamWorks movies made at the studio before Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider's company moved to Disney, isn't expecting "A Thousand Words" to break any records.

Paramount initially hoped that "A Thousand Words" would benefit from Murphy's work in the ensemble caper comedy "A Tower Heist" and his hosting this year's Oscars. But "Tower Heist" fizzled fast, and Murphy quit as the Oscar MC when Brett Ratner (who directed "Tower Heist") was forced to resign as the Academy Awards' producer.

This week's Word of Mouth column looks at the film's troubled history, with this video preview:

 

RELATED:

'A Thousand Words': Can Eddie Murphy regain his voice?

Eddie Murphy Oscar kerfuffle won't affect 'Words'

Eddie Murphy out as host of the Oscars

Photo: Eddie Murphy. Credit: Chris Pizzello/Associated Press


'A Thousand Words': Can Eddie Murphy regain his voice?

March 7, 2012 |  7:58 pm

Eddiemur
When DreamWorks, the studio run by Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider, decided to begin shooting a movie with Eddie Murphy in 2008, it seemed like a good idea. Murphy was coming off a hit in “Norbit” and an Oscar nomination for “Dreamgirls.” He had a general cultural cachet thanks to “Shrek,” which was still going strong. “A Thousand Words,” as the DreamWorks movie was called, couldn’t miss.

Oops.

Murphy soon came out with “Meet Dave” (a bomb) and “Imagine That” (a slightly smaller bomb, but still enough to cloud up the boys room). Then he was hosting the Oscars -- until he wasn’t. “Tower Heist” came and went. And in March 2012, Murphy is about as ice-cold as a onetime A-lister can get.

After numerous release changes and years on the shelf, Paramount is bringing out the film this weekend. (The studio landed “Words” after parting ways with former corporate spouse DreamWorks.) 

As my colleague Ben Fritz and I explore in a story about the film in tomorrow’s Times, the pre-release tracking is poor -- so poor, in fact, that pundits say the movie could open to under $10 million, which may be barely enough to top the wan $5 million of the first weekend of “Meet Dave.” Not helping: The star didn’t sit for any talk-show interviews.

So how is Paramount getting people to see the movie?

A high-concept comedy that evokes early Jim Carrey movies, “Thousand Words” focuses on a fast-talking book agent who learns he’ll die if he keeps speaking. So Murphy resorts to exaggerated gestures, leading Paramount to hope that the physical comedy will lure Murphy fans who haven’t seen him try that kind of thing in a while.

The studio is also targeting female and African American audiences, with marketing spots  on “The Bachelor,” “Khloe and Lamar” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”

A three-year wait between the end of production and a film’s release is a long time -- Paramount faced a similar lag with the Renee Zellweger thriller “Case 39,” and Relativity Media looked into the 36-month abyss with Topher Grace’s “Take Me Home Tonight.” Both those movies saw enough time go by for their stars to dim, too.

But both companies can take comfort knowing that they’ll never match the record of “Margaret,” which will likely stand, DiMaggio-like, for a long time: The Anna Paquin drama spent six years in the pantry before getting a release.

RELATED:

Word of Mouth: Eddie Murphy's 'A Thousand Words' set for release

Eddie Murphy Oscar kerfuffle won't affect 'Words'

Eddie Murphy out as host of the Oscars

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Cliff Curtis and Eddie Murphy in "A Thousand Words." Credit: Paramount


Paramount to distribute 3-D Cirque du Soleil film

January 10, 2012 | 11:03 am

Cirque
Paramount Pictures will distribute a new 3-D movie about Cirque du Soleil directed by “Shrek” filmmaker Andrew Adamson and produced by “Avatar’s” James Cameron, the studio and the Canadian circus outfit announced Tuesday.

The studio did not specify a release date for “Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away” but did say the movie, which combines narrative and documentary storytelling, will arrive in theaters this year.

“The coupling of filmmaker James Cameron’s groundbreaking 3-D visual accomplishments and Andrew Adamson’s beautiful direction, combined with a timeless original story written especially for this movie, will make for a truly amazing moviegoeing experience for audiences of all ages,” Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman, said in a statement.

In announcing the roughly $20-miilion production more than a year ago, Adamson said he wasn’t interested in making a commercial for Cirque, which projects that 15 million people will see one of its arty circus productions this year.

"I want to make a film that celebrates what Cirque does,” he said at the time. “It’s not a documentary. And, at the same time, it’s not a visual effects show. We are not going to remove the wires that the performers are flying on. What we are doing is celebrating an art form.”

He said Cameron may shoot some underwater sequences for the movie, which could be the first in a series of Cirque films.

“I wanted to give a very different perspective of Cirque and put the audience at an angle they’ve never seen before,” Adamson said. “I think we’re able to take the audience into the show. You can focus on something you might otherwise not have noticed.”

-- John Horn

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Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris' begins previews at the Kodak Theatre

Photo:  An act in Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza." Credit: Olivier Samson Arcand


'Titanic 3D': James Cameron introduces trailer for his '97 epic [video]

November 16, 2011 |  2:46 pm

Titanic3d
In an era when film trailers debut before many eyeballs on cellphone screens, how do you market a movie whose story is well known and whose chief selling point is the big screen, 3-D experience?

In the case of "Titanic 3D," the 3-D conversion of James Cameron's 1997 epic due in theaters in April, distributors Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox are trying a mixture of personal appeal and nostalgia.

In a version of the trailer that debuted only on "Titanic's" Facebook page today, Cameron stepped in front of the camera to introduce the film. "I'm excited to be bringing 'Titanic' back to the big screen again," he said, before thanking the movie's 10 million Facebook fans "for staying true to 'Titanic.' ''

For most moviegoers around the globe, the elements of the trailer will be intimately familiar: a 22-year-old, tuxedo clad Leonardo DiCaprio at the foot of the ship's grand staircase, 21-year-old Kate Winslet posing nude for a portrait, the massive passenger liner plummeting vertically into the North Atlantic as Celine Dion belts out "My Heart Will Go On."

The two studios are spending $18 million converting the film, a winner of 14 Academy Awards and the highest grossing movie of all time until Cameron's "Avatar" knocked it from its perch in 2009. They are banking on fans coming back to theaters, just as they did for Disney's recent 3-D conversion of "The Lion King," as well as those who were either too young or too far from theaters to see "Titanic" on the big screen in the first place, such as audiences in burgeoning film territories like China and Russia.

"Titanic 3-D" will be released worldwide April 6.

 

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 -- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Titanic." Credit: Paramount Pictures / 20th Century Fox


'Hugo' author's movie companion illuminates film world for youths

November 2, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz in

Characters in movies like this summer’s “Super 8” and the recent British comedy “Son of Rambow”  remind us that even youngsters can fill the director’s chair. But ask a child if he knows what a second unit director or a 3-D stereographer does and you probably wouldn’t expect him to have the answer.

Author Brian Selznick set out to change that with “The Hugo Movie Companion,” which hit shelves Tuesday. The book takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Hugo,” which is based on Selznick's children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Unlike the typical official movie companions that studios release with new films, this one is geared toward a younger audience, like the movie itself.

“I interviewed 40 people from Scorsese to the dog trainer and asked everybody to define their jobs for children, which is something I don’t think Scorsese had been asked before,” Selznick said.

The Academy Award-winning director may be more accustomed to darker fare like “The Departed” and “Taxi Driver,” but he supplied Selznick with a poetic answer for his young audience:

“[The director’s job is] the same thing that children do when they play … make up stories, give people parts to play, and figure out where they go and what they do,” Scorsese said in Selznick’s book.

The cover of Brian Selznick's The Hugo Movie CompanionThe young and the young-at-heart stay prevalent in the book. Selznick interviewed the filmmakers about their favorite films when they were children. A photo of a miniature train is accompanied by an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy visiting the set who got to call “Action!” for the take, sending the train crashing through the window of a miniature set.

Featuring other key players, from the cast to the dialect coach to the set decorator, “The Hugo Movie Companion” also includes photos from the London set built at Shepperton Studios, annotated pages of the script, storyboards, concept art and Selznick’s illustrations from the novel.

In the book’s last chapter, Selznick describes the making of one scene in the film where all the people he interviewed play a part –- including the author himself in his own cameo.

“It was really fun to interview everybody and get to look at how a movie really gets made, because there’ll be a lot of jobs that kids didn’t even know existed until they read this book,” Selznick said.

“The Hugo Movie Companion” is published by Scholastic Press. “Hugo” opens in theaters Nov. 23.

RELATED:

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–- Emily Rome

Photos, from top: Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo"; cover of "The Hugo Movie Companion." Credits: Paramount Pictures; Scholastic Press


Jason Reitman's new film 'Young Adult' pops up in L.A.

November 2, 2011 |  1:01 pm

  Patton oswalt

"I wonder what people will blog about after this," director Jason Reitman pondered aloud in the middle of a freewheeling Q&A Tuesday night after a screening of his new film, "Young Adult."

The marquee at the New Beverly Cinema read simply "Surprise Screening," but inside Reitman was presenting "Young Adult" to a public audience in Los Angeles for the first time. Announced Saturday via the New Beverly website, the show was the finale of a two-week run of such "pop-up" screenings at venues in Toronto, Minneapolis, Chicago, Austin and San Francisco before the film's limited theatrical release Dec. 9. A limited edition poster by a local artist in each city was given away to audience members.

Joining Reitman onstage before and after the screening were stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser, along with the film's writer, Diablo Cody. (Oswalt took to his Twitter feed later in the evening to say, "that was the full-throttle drunk-est Q&A I've ever done.")

As the film opens, Mavis Gary (Theron) is struggling to finish, or even start, the final book in her series of young adult novels. Impulsively heading from her apartment in Minneapolis to the small Minnesota town where she grew up, she strikes up a wary friendship with a guy she ignored all through high school (Oswalt) while trying to rekindle a relationship with an old flame (Patrick Wilson), whose wife(Reaser)  just had a baby. 

"Young Adult" reunites Cody and Reitman after their previous collaboration as writer and director on the smash hit "Juno." Aware that whatever they did together next would be compared with "Juno," Reitman said that  "this movie you can't compare to anything," and likened its mix of tones to "an ugly mirror" reflecting back upon each viewer.

Many assumed that "Young Adult" would premiere at September's Toronto International Film Festival, where his previous three features have shown. (Reitman's family is also a substantial donor to the festival; the new Lightbox facility where "Young Adult" screened post-festival sits on Reitman Square.) The plan to skip festivals altogether in launching the film, opting instead for the pop-up screenings to "make our own film festival," as Reitman put it, is an unusual move, especially for a film looking to launch a carefully calibrated awards run.

"I think the struggle that we go through with every movie we do is how to do something that's unique and speaks to the movie and captures the right audience and gets the right amount of attention because you're doing something that's new," Megan Colligan, president of domestic marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the movie, said outside the New Bev after the screening.

"A lot has been made of this idea that 'Up in the Air' started [in Toronto] and got a lot of heat and it was too much to sustain," Colligan said, alluding to the much-touted film's failure to take home any Oscars in 2010 despite six nominations.

"But it's actually a ton of energy you have to put in whenever you launch a movie in September and you don't release the movie until December and you have to screen and do Q&As for such a sustained amount of time. Doing 'The Fighter' and 'True Grit' last year and having very successful campaigns that started really late, we realized there was something fun about introducing yourself to the world at a time that really suited the campaign for the film."

"Often at this point in the process you feel like a salesman instead of a filmmaker," noted Reitman, "and all I've felt on this tour is I'm a filmmaker sharing my movie. I feel different. I feel like a different person in this process."

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-- Mark Olsen

twitter.com/indiefocus

Photo: Patton Oswalt co-stars in Jason Reitman's "Young Adult." Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times 


Word of Mouth: Paramount makes 'Crazy' bet [video]

October 27, 2011 |  4:18 pm

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in "Like Crazy." Drake Doremus' low-budget, largely improvised, semi-autobiographical love story "Like Crazy" sparked an intense bidding war at this year's Sundance Film Festival. But the winning bidder was not a specialized film company that typically ends up handling such art-house fare. Rather, Paramount Pictures--the distributor of the "Transformers" and "Iron Man" movies--beat out Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and the Weinstein Co. for "Like Crazy's" worldwide rights.

Having paid (it split the deal with independent producer Indian Paintbrush) some $4 million to acquire "LIke Crazy," Paramount now has to sell the movie to two different audiences. Young moviegoers should relate to the  long-distance love affair between a Los Angeles furniture designer (Anton Yelchin) and London-based journalist (Felicity Jones), while older patrons could be motivated by the film's glowing reviews and film festival credentials.

Times film reporter John Horn, who wrote about Paramount's marketing challenges in this week's Word of Mouth column, talks about the film in this video:

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-- John Horn

Photo: Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in "Like Crazy." Credit: Fred Hayes


Live chat with 'Like Crazy' filmmaker Drake Doremus on Nov. 2

October 26, 2011 | 11:24 am

Drake Doremus
Writer-director Drake Doremus, whose own long-distance relationship was the inspiration for the new feature "Like Crazy," will be joining us for a live online chat at noon on Nov. 2.

After its premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the drama about the sometimes troubled love affair between a Los Angeles furniture designer ("Star Trek's" Anton Yelchin) and a London journalist ("The Tempest's" Felicity Jones) sparked a spirited bidding war, with Paramount Pictures and independent producer Indian Paintbrush grabbing the film for some $4 million. The largely improvised film, whose cast includes future "Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence, opens this weekend in Los Angeles and New York to strong  reviews.

The 28-year-old Doremus, whose last feature was the 2010 Sundance selection "Douchebag," recently completed principal photography on his next feature, which also stars Jones. The as-yet untitled movie also stars Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan and Kyle MacLachlan.

To register for the live chat and schedule a reminder, please fill out the form below. And be sure to join us next Wednesday.

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The Directors: Drake Doremus, 'Like Crazy'

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--John Horn

Photo: Drake Doremus, center, directs Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones on the set of "Like Crazy." Credit: Fred Hayes

 


Can 'Paranormal Activity' out-'Saw' 'Saw'?

October 24, 2011 |  7:30 am

Paranorm
By any measure, the numbers this weekend for "Paranormal Activity 3" were impressive. The low-budget horror prequel took in a whopping $54 million, the biggest debut in more than two months.

It was also the highest total for any October opening in history and a number that -- heavens to Betsy -- equaled the amounts for all the other films in the box-office top 10 ... combined. "Paranormal's" ticket receipts this weekend put it on pace to easily top the $85-million cumulative total of the second movie and almost certainly the $107-million total of the first film as well. Many sequels lose steam by their third go-round. But Americans (and plenty of other people around the world) are seemingly more eager than ever to plunk down money to watch Katie get haunted, spooked and tormented.

Of course, this weekend only tells a small piece of the story. The larger play for "Paranormal" producers and studio Paramount Pictures lies with morphing the brand from a one-off, out-of-nowhere discovery two years ago into a long-running, durable franchise that serves as the holy grail for any movie studio. (Although there's no official word of a fourth movie, you can bet your last VHS tape there'll be one.)

The gold standard for this is "Saw," which for seven straight Octobers beginning in 2004 was one of the most popular of modern movie franchises. It was a triumph of the slow-but-steady variety -- no film grossed more than $90 million, but, save for the sixth one, took in at least $45 million each time out, a solid feat in an era when big franchises often fly too close to the sun and burn up.

Certainly "Paranormal" would seem well-positioned to carry on the "Saw" mantle: It has the brand name, the fan base and, now that "Saw" as wound down its run, the Halloween period to itself. Already the series is on track to take in a good deal more than the first three "Saw" movies.

But there are also some big distinctions between the showy splatter of Jigsaw and his victims and the haunted-house creeps of Katie and her family. Perhaps the biggest one is that "Paranormal" relies on the novelty of a format -- found footage -- and novel formats tend to wear out their welcome pretty quickly, especially as the knockoffs start to fly.

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