24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Theaters

'Bully': Which town wants it more?

April 4, 2012 |  6:44 pm

What city in America can't live without “Bully”?

According to a poll commissioned by distributor Weinstein Co., Cleveland is hot for the documentary— hotter than any other locale.

We don’t know what that says about the best location in the nation, but more than 3,000 people in  the city’s metro area have registered their preference that the company bring the movie there. Close behind  is Indianapolis, followed by Paducah, Ky., and DeKalb, Ill., residents of which think it important that the expose of teen bullying be shown in their towns.  (And here we thought everyone in the Midwest was a sweetheart.)

The poll is being overseen by Eventful.com, a company that conducts national surveys on behalf of entertainment companies to gauge how much a given city wants a movie or performer. Then it reports back to the studio. (Paramount famously used it for its “Paranormal Activity,” then turned the results into a “you demanded it” ad campaign.)

It’s up to studios and promoters how to use the information; in some cases they’ll change their release or live-event strategy as a result, giving a town that might get overlooked in a traditional roll-out an opportunity to make the case that they deserve a stop. Fox used it for its found-footage superhero movie "Chronicle" this year, bringing pre-release screenings to towns that requested them.

In this case, Weinstein Co. will bring “Bully,” which performed will in limited release last weekend, for one-off screenings to the top 10 cities int he Eventful poll, and director Lee Hirsch to the top three. (If cities in the top 10 are already in the company's release pattern, Weinstein will jump to the next spot on the list; you can see the full poll results here.)

"Bully" will open in 50 markets on April 13, regardless of whether anyone in those places demanded it.


"Bully" will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

Is "Bully" a tipping point for the MPAA ratings system?

'Bully' does well in limited debut?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Bully." Credit: Weinstein Co.


Regal Cinemas, country’s largest theater chain, will play 'Bully'

March 28, 2012 |  2:17 pm

"Bully" to play at Regal theaters

The country’s largest theater chain will play the controversial documentary “Bully” — but will treat it as an R-rated film.

A spokesman for Regal Cinemas told 24 Frames that, unlike competitors Carmike and Cinemark, the company will play the documentary despite the fact that it is now being released without a rating after losing its appeal with the Motion Picture Assn.

But unlike AMC, Regal's biggest competitor and the country’s second-largest chain, Regal will not allow children under 17 to enter the theater by themselves under any circumstances. (AMC, which is playing the movie at its Century City and Manhattan locations this weekend, will admit minors with written permission from an adult.)

“Regal intends to play the film and respect the original R-rating decision of the MPAA,” said Regal’s Dick Westerling. “We will treat the film like it is rated R.

The film opens this weekend in limited release in Los Angeles and New York on a total of five screens, three of them art house theaters and the two AMC locations. It will play on Regal screens when it expands to 25 markets in two weeks.

Like the other chains, Regal’s decision reflects an attempt to strike a delicate balance. After the Harvey-Weinstein-distributed "Bully," a documentary about the dangers of teen bullying, saw its appeal for a PG-13 rejected, Weinstein said he would release the movie without a rating. He hoped the move would allow the theaters that did show it to let in teenagers without adults, which he said would encourage teens to see it.

Caught between a movie aimed at promoting a social good and the ruling of the MPAA, the four largest theater chains have adopted varying stances. Two of them won’t show it at all, and a third will now treat it like an R-rated film. Only AMC is relaxing its policy.

The National Assn. of Theatre Owners has advised members to treat the film as though it were rated R.

Even with the distribution issues, the ratings controversy has garnered a huge amount of attention for "Bully," with nearly 500,000 people signing a petition on behalf of a lower rating. If some of that interest translates into the box office, it could pay off in a big way for the film. The highest-grossing independent documentary last year, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” tallied just more than $5 million, and even a few million dollars is considered a win for most issue-oriented nonfiction films.


'Bully:' Does going unrated solve anything?

Weinstein Co. to release Bully without rating

Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital


-- Steven Zeitchik



Photo: "Bully." Credit: Weinstein Co.

Universal on 'Tower Heist': Never mind

October 12, 2011 | 12:15 pm


If you were were wondering whether to fork out $60 to see Eddie Murphy from the comfort of your home, you can stop tossing and turning.

Universal has released a statement that it won't make the Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" available three weeks after its theatrical release in select markets after all.

"In response to a request from theater owners, [we have] decided to delay [the movie's] planned premium home video on demand experiment," the studio said in a statement. The trial balloon has basically been punctured: when you delay an experiment that's all about moving things up, you've essentially canceled it.

The news comes after Cinemark, National Amusements and other theater owners said they wouldn't play the Brett Ratner-directed movie at all if Universal moved ahead with a plan to make it available on Comcast systems in Portland and Atlanta. (The theater owners, of course, were concerned that releasing the movie so soon, rather than waiting the usual three months, would cut into ticket sales.)

In other words: Universal and the theater owners got into a staring contest, and the studio blinked.

The company tried to leave the door open down the line -- "Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future."

But after the backtrack, it's reasonable to ask how soon they or any studio would try it again, and raises a question about the fate of the PVOD movement, which until now had been gaining momentum.

Then again, the studios could come out with some added leverage: If the movie doesn't do well now, it could fall on theaters to explain why they pushed so hard against a new revenue stream.


National Amusements won't play 'Tower Heist'

Universal's 'Tower Heist' move: A crafty gambit

Would you pay $60 to watch Eddie Murphy from home?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures

Would a different ticket-pricing structure bring more people to movie theaters?

March 21, 2011 |  7:00 am


The box office again found itself in a lull this weekend, dropping 9% from the comparable weekend last year despite a diverse group of new releases. It provided the latest sign that we may be in for a long-term slump instead of just a cyclical dip. This was, after all, the fourth straight weekend that box-office receipts dropped compared with the previous year. And things weren't much better before that: Through Presidents Weekend, box-office dollars were down 24% compared with 2010.

It would seem like a sharp wake-up call after the outsized success of movies such as "The King's Speech," "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" at the end of last year. But for all the successes, film attendance in 2010 endured its largest drop since 2005. The declines in moviegoing, apparently, won't be reversed by a surge in quality.

On Twitter, the suggestions have been flying for some time on what, in fact, will reverse it: more in-theater amenities, more 3-D releases, fewer 3-D releases, across-the-board price reductions (unlikely to happen), assorted other recommendations.  But the sales slump also calls to mind another idea that has been alternately floated and dismissed over the years: variable pricing.

A jargony term for a straightforward concept, variable pricing basically means that ticket prices  will rise or falling depending on a slew of factors, most notably how much people want those tickets in the first place.

Many theater chains, of course, already practice a form of it with their afternoon matinees. The concept, which economists have been examining for a while now, would extend the variability to other factors: where assigned seats are located, how close to the showtime the tickets are bought and, most critically, how in demand the tickets are. Basically, it's the airline and hotel model for movie tickets.

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