Tag Archives: cinema

The failure of The Artist

Silent movie The Artist may have won five Oscars last night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but in Brazil – a country of almost 200m people – only 144,840 people in 51 theatres have paid to watch it (HT to @brazzil for the stats).

This may seem like a terrific failure in the cultural taste of Brazilian movie-goers. Language is no excuse, because the film has almost no dialogue. Many are asking the question why so few in Brazil have been to see the movie.

But surely the answer is obvious?

Walk down any major street in urban Brazil and there will be a guy on the corner selling DVDs. The going rate is usually three movies for R$10. That’s about USD $2 a movie. Now check out how much it costs to go and watch a movie at the cinema. I looked just now at the cinema inside the Bourbon shopping centre in Pompeia, São Paulo for a ticket for Hugo tonight – normal tickets are R$40 each.

To be fair, this is an IMAX movie and therefore a little more than a regular presentation, but even so it is a real ticket price for a movie that is on right here in Brazil in a theatre tonight.

So even a person who is fairly honest and doesn’t like supporting DVD piracy has to compare R$40 to watch one movie in the theatre with R$10 to watch three on DVD – twelve movies for the price of one.

This problem is also compounded by the legitimate DVD market, which is like the legitimate cinema, just overpriced.

The public in Brazil have voted with their feet. Water cannot run uphill… if pirate movies are a twelfth of the cost of the legal version then who will pay the “correct” price. Only those who want the full cinema experience, those who refuse to support piracy at any price, and those who managed to get a date with a girl and know that a pirate DVD will not impress.

I still go to the cinema myself and I like the communal, inclusive experience… being surrounded by that big Dolby sound and hundreds of other people all watching the same movie, but I don’t watch every single movie in the theatre. I bought a pirate copy of The Artist – and it was watermarked as a DVD that came from the Academy Award judging process… so one of those judges allowed their DVD to leak and be copied for millions around the world to watch almost for free.

The real answer to piracy is not to go out arresting the guys selling DVDs on the street, it is to make the legitimate route to enjoying a movie easier than buying a pirate – and good value. At present there is no incentive for anyone to keep supporting cinema tickets and legitimate DVDs when they are priced so much higher than the pirates.

Of course the argument goes that if everyone bought pirate films the movie industry would collapse – which is nonsense. It would just move from a model funded by tickets and DVDs to product placement and sponsorship – a process that is already developing anyway. Morgan Spurlock financed an entire film this way in 2011.

Services like Netflix are offering Brazilians unlimited movies for R$15 a month. Of course it depends on having good broadband, and many people don’t have the technical ability to hook up a computer to a TV, but Internet-enabled TVs are standard today. As this latest generation of TVs rolls out with tools like Netflix built-in and on the remote control, it will be easy to click a button to get any movie from a library of millions – easier than going out and selecting from a limited range of pirate DVDs.

And this model is affordable too… that monthly charge is less than half the price of one ticket to see Hugo tonight at the cinema.

The recorded music industry is finally seeing this, with services such as Spotify taking off and killing the illegal copying of music because the legal route is so much easier. But it took years for the record companies to ever understand that they need a new business model – not more litigation. Let’s just hope the movie business doesn’t make all the same mistakes they did…

Oscars 2007

Photo by Donna Grayson licensed under Creative Commons

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Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins

Mark Kermode is the film reviewer on BBC Radio 5. His show goes out every Friday afternoon on the radio and is also available as a podcast on iTunes – it has become one of the most popular British podcasts on iTunes. Each week, Kermode runs through the new movies of the week and exchanges a considerable amount of banter with co-host Simon Mayo.

Some time back the film ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ was released and Kermode criticised it as nothing more than an American Harry Potter – a kind of colour-by-numbers movie about kids at a boarding school where they learn about magic.

His review suggested that any filmmaker could produce a film about kids learning magic and with the support of the Harry Potter fan base, it would almost certainly be a success. He suggested the name ‘Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins’ during the review as a typical name that could be used.

And so an Australian filmmaker went off and made a film using that name. It has just been released and contains a number of jokes referencing the Kermode show. So regular listeners to the show will find references to Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Werner Herzog, and all the favourite characters that seem to pop up week after week on the film show.

I’m going to download and watch it soon. Given that the budget was only something like A$5,000, I don’t expect to be dazzled, but to put a full-length feature movie together based only on a BBC film review is an impressive (or mad) achievement so it deserves some support.

And if I have not already said it, “Hello Jason Isaacs.”
Phoenix Cinema

UK Movie Premiere – Outsourced

I’m so pleased the movie screening finally happened! It all took place last night at the Soho hotel in London.

This all started a couple of years ago when I saw this video on youtube. I liked the fact that someone had turned a current affairs story into a human interest story – an actual movie that would interest people beyond the business community. I started using the video in some of the MBA classes I teach, as an example of business strategies crossing into general consciousness. One day I just thought I would contact the person who uploaded the video – out of interest. I was surprised to soon receive an email from the director (and writer) John Jeffcoat!

I then had some chats with John about the movie and how we might arrange a London screening. I started trying to put it together as an event that the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) could host. What I found though was that all the companies I approached for funds (to pay for the cinema, drinks etc) were all a bit scared of the subject matter. The film has some amusing sections, comic situations involving cultural misunderstandings and many of the companies I spoke too just shied away from associating themselves with comedy when the press is often accusing them of stealing jobs from the UK and sending them to India.

Eventually I even got rejected by the NOA board. Not that they didn’t like it – we had a private screening on DVD and the board liked it, but they were wary of using membership funds on an event that was ‘fun’ rather than educational or research driven.

However, the NOA provided a sponsor in the end. Buffalo is the marketing and communications agency that works for the NOA. I had an offer of some cash from the law firm Olswang, but it was not enough to completely cover all the costs. Buffalo stepped in and said they would match Olswang and cover any additional costs so the event could happen!

So… Buffalo did a lot of work and organised a great event at the Soho hotel screening room. There were drinks, and a really nice screening in a great theatre. What was really nice was that I managed to get hold of the actress Ayesha Dharker via the director of the film, John Jeffcoat – i was communicating with him the day before the screening on Facebook and he sent some text messages from the USA to the actors from the movie. She was in London and managed to change her diary for the day so she could come to the screening and also do a Q&A after the movie finished. You can see some video from the Q&A session here…

It was a great event and I’m really pleased that I had started the ball rolling. I’d really like to do something else now themed around getting people together in a networking format for a screening…