Universal Pictures abandons ‘Tower Heist’ early VOD release

Following staunch opposition from theater owners, Universal Pictures has abandoned its controversial plan to make the movie “Tower Heist” available to consumers via video on demand just three weeks after it opens in theaters.

"Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment,'' the studio said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

Universal did not say when it would attempt to launch another similar VOD release.

Universal recently said it would make “Tower Heist,“ which opens in theaters Nov. 4, available to about 500,000 cable subscribers of Universal's corporate  parent, Comcast Corp., in two markets, Atlanta and Portland, Ore., for $59.99 via video-on-demand.


Santa Fe welcomes world’s newest movie studio

This historic high mountain state capital and artistic enclave, long a favorite vacation and second home destination for celebrities, is expanding its star power this month with the opening of the world's newest movie studio.

But the development on 65 picturesque acres southeast of town is more than a warehouse with a few sound stages. It's also a sophisticated and uniquely Santa Fe-style operation that both its backers and competitors hope will help the state regain its stature as a leading alternative to Hollywood and New York for film makers.

Developed to resemble the pueblos of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe Studios looks from the outside more like a luxury hotel than a traditional warehouse-style movie studio. Its amenities -- beyond its 360-degree mountain views and two 60-foot sound stages -- include plush offices and dressing rooms complete with terraces, access to electric cars and a special ultra-high-speed Internet network used by researchers at the nearby Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.


‘Tower Heist’ to be offered on VOD three weeks after theatrical release

Universal Pictures is taking on huge gamble with Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist by releasing it on Video-on-Demand three weeks after its release for $60 dollars. The battle between studios & theaters and the release of movies on VOD has taken a new turn. Recently Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox launched Home Premium, a VOD service that offers studio movies two months after their release at a price of $30 per movie. The drop in DVD sales played a major factor into VODs and now with the rising cost of theater ticket prices and concessions, studios believe that consumers will turn to VOD.

Obviously, theater owners are furious over this plan since it not only reduces the window between theatrical release and home viewing, but because Tower Heist, which has proven to be a success at some test screenings, could be a huge hit. The experiment “will be offered in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., to approximately 500,000 digital cable subscribers of Universal’s corporate parent, Comcast Corp., marks the first time a major studio movie will be available to watch in-home while still playing in thousands of theaters,” reports the LA Times.



Netflix Secures Streaming Deal With DreamWorks

DreamWorks Animation, the company behind successful movie franchises like “Madagascar” and “Shrek,” said it had completed a deal to pump its films and television specials through Netflix, replacing a less lucrative pact with HBO.

The Netflix accord, which analysts estimate is worth $30 million per picture to DreamWorks over an unspecified period of years, is billed by the companies as the first time a major Hollywood supplier has chosen Web streaming over pay television.


Miramax Launches Facebook App For Streaming Movies

Following the lead of Warner Bros, Paramount, and Universal, Miramax has jumped on the Facebook app bandwagon offering movie rentals in exchange for Facebook credits. Along with watching movie clips and playing games, users will get access to full-length feature films from the Miramax library, including Clerks, Kill Bill, Good Will Hunting, and No Country For Old Men.

As of right now, the app is still in beta. It was built in “just eight short weeks,” so you should expect a few bugs and hiccups in the beginning. US Facebook users will have a choice between 20 movies, each of which cost 30 Facebook credits to rent — that’s the equivalent of $3. The service was also made available in the UK and Turkey this morning, with France and Germany on deck, according to the Miramax Blog.


Box office heading toward record despite economy

A popular boy wizard, comic-book heroes and some foul-mouthed women are leading Hollywood toward a record-breaking summer despite the sour economy and high unemployment resulting in tightened consumer spending.

Underscoring the notion that movies are recession-proof, U.S. and Canadian ticket sales are expected to finish nearly 5 percent higher than a year ago thanks to the "Harry Potter" finale and other big-budget sequels plus raunchy adult comedies such as "Bridesmaids."

Summer ticket sales in the domestic (U.S. and Canadian) market through last weekend stood at an estimated $3.8 billion. Attendance was up 2.8 percent, though that was compared with last year's 13-year low, according to figures from tracking firm Hollywood.com. Premium charges for 3D films and slightly higher average ticket prices helped raise revenue.


How the Polish Brothers Are Raking It In With a Stealth, No Budget Movie

"For Lovers Only," an intimate romance made in luminous black-and-white by twin auteur filmmakers Michael and Mark Polish, is a wildly successful experiment in New Hollywood Math.

Production budget: $0
Marketing and advertising budget: $0
Profits that begin at dollar one: priceless.

For Lovers Only poster

As of Monday afternoon, the film, which stars Mark Polish with "Castle's" Stana Katic, sat at the No. 2 spot on the iTunes romance chart, the four-spot on its independent films chart and the Top 100 in all movie rental and downloads.


How marketing ties up movie studio money

Studio corporate brass have long complained about the spiraling costs of marketing films -- particularly the ever-rising fees charged by TV networks for commercial time -- and have futilely pondered ways to lower those expenditures.

Now, with the emergence of new media, that picture may be changing -- sort of.

The bad news: Pricey spots on TV remain a drain. They amounted to nearly three-quarters of Hollywood's ad spending for theatrical releases last year.


Perfect Teeth Not A Requirement for Good Acting

steve buscmemi teeth

So if you have crooked teeth, should you be discouraged about pursuing an acting career? Sure, the pitfalls are that casting agents will tell you to fix your teeth. But for some actors, messed up teeth has been a blessing.

Chew on this.

Steve Buscemi just earned a lead actor Emmy nomination for his role as mobster Nucky Johnson on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," which scored 18 nominations overall Thursday. But he says he'd never have gotten to where he is now if he'd heeded early advice to change his smile.

"I've had dentists who have wanted to help me out, but I say, 'You know, I won't work again if you fix my teeth,'" Buscemi, who also won a Golden Globe last year for the role, said during The Hollywood Reporter's recent drama actors roundtable.

Buscemi isn't the only one who has refused to correct his pearly whites.



Film school graduates flood movie industry

One after another, touring groups of prospective students and their parents stopped late last month to pose for pictures around a bronze Douglas Fairbanks, who wields his sword in a courtyard fountain here at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Not even the imposing Mr. Fairbanks,a founder of the film school, has kept newcomers at bay. But another round of graduates is now hitting the street, in greater numbers and perhaps better equipped than ever before, to pursue opportunities that have seldom been more elusive, at least where traditional Hollywood employment is concerned.

As home-entertainment revenue declined in the last five years, studios reduced spending on scripts from new writers, cut junior staff positions and severely curtailed deals with producers who once provided entry-level positions for film school graduates. Yet applications to university film, television and digital media programs surged in the last few years as students sought refuge from the weak economy in graduate schools and some colleges opened new programs.


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