The Hot Blog Archive for December, 2012

Streaming By Studio: The Ultraviolet Story 2012

As we wrap up the year, my curiosity got the best of me again and once again, I decided to see where things were with Ultraviolet, spurred on particularly by the CinemaNow offer to “download to stream” movies from your home/office computer… basically allowing you a digital library for 2 of 5 bucks, depending on whether you have or want Standard Def or High Def.

So starting there…

CinemaNow doesn’t work with Blu-rays. So if you have the Blu, you can’t get the digital version without – if the program is still active – going to a Wal-Mart to show them the disc. I was about to get a standard DVD to convert. There are very few current releases on my shelves in DVD. So after going through a bunch of them, The Devil & Daniel Webster worked. I paid my $5 for HD and it became part of my Ultraviolet collection, which I can stream or download to various devices.

But as I looked for discs to convert via CinemaNow, most of what I found were Blu-rays I had not signed into Ultraviolet. I had tried it out last March and was frustrated by how complicated it was, that the streaming was iffy, and that there were limited ways to stream to an HDTV.  Since then, the system has improved on all fronts.

The oddest part is that each studio involved has a different site for uploading.  Warner Bros has Flixter, Sony, Universal, and Paramount have their own home sites. On one Universal title, E.T., I was sent to Amazon Prime to put in a code that put a credit in the Amazon Prime account that could then be used to purchase the film.  The credit showed up on the Amazon site with no noted limitations, so since I was poking at the system, I tried to use the credit to buy a different film. So I am the proud owner of a streaming version of The Incredibles now. I then bought the copy of E.T. that the credit was intended to cover. Fox, which was announced as part of the consortium at the launch of Ultraviolet, is really just getting started in the format, with only 9 titles available via the service so far.

So aside from having to go to 3 different sites to load 9 movies last night (two were from indies – CBS Films and The Weinstein Company, both distributed via Sony Home Ent) and then having to go to 4 other sites to link Ultraviolet (the Ultraviolet site, the Flixster site, the Vudu site, and the Amazon Prime site), it was a piece of cake.  (I was also on an eighth site, CinemaNow, which ended up with me converting one title.)

There was more than one set-up that had a streaming version on Ultraviolet and a download available with the same code. But Universal offered a rather clean version, offering streaming through a service of your choice and download to a location of your choice.

I also ran into an unloadable Scott Pilgrim from 2009 that was formatted for a different Mac operating system. This one was connected through iTunes, so I tried putting in the redemption code even though the software was offering an error message. But iTunes kept asking for the disc—that was in the drive—because, I am guessing, it couldn’t see it through the software it automatically launched (which wasn’t working). I’m waiting on a response from customer service if there is a workaround.

But the improvement seems to be that each of the studio has found a streaming partner (or bought one, in the case of WB and Flixster) so essentially, they are outsourcing to get more consistency and better service overall. It’s a smart play. Though it does complicate the process for consumers at this point.

And then there were the attempts to view the content once it was in the system and all interconnected.

Better, but still not as great as you might expect or hope.

If you use a streaming service, like Vudu or Flixter or Amazon, you will need to connect Ultraviolet.  But not everything turns up via all streaming services. Further, not all of these services allow AirPlay on the iPhone and/or iPad to stream to an HDTV through Apple TV.  In most cases, if you wish to stream a film that is on your Ultraviolet list, but is not directly associated with the site you are using, it will send you to the originating site, asking you to sign in again.

Other issues include steaming in HD. Using the Vudu app on PS3, gor instance, I can watch films that were harvested via Blu-ray or for which I paid a premium to own in HD as well as SD. But on the iPad, it’s SD only. So even though I can AppleTV Vudu to the HDTV, I only get a small box in the middle of the screen. There is an odd thing where some streaming apps—like CNN—allow Apple TV to show a full signal on your TV. So if you are using AirPlay Mirroring, as I had to in order to get an image and not just audio, sites that do allow an Apple TV connection look significantly worse in Mirroring… it’s not just the size of the image.

Still, that’s still better than Amazon Prime, which will send only the audio of what you are watching to your TV. No HBO Go, mirroring is not allowed and the app doesn’t allow a normal Apple TV connection.

Basically, it’s a lot of work to make it work.  Again, it is 10x better than it was last March when I started experimenting.

My curiosity about this happens to coincide with a trip to Sundance with my family and business colleagues in a couple of weeks. My landlord—8 years running—is a bit on the cheap side. We now have one HDTV in the house, in the living room, and everything else is a tube set with limited cable.  This means when my 3-year-old needs to hang out in the bedroom upstairs and his mom wants to put on some show to amuse him, DVD has been the only option. So… he can watch things on the iPad or I can bring an Apple TV box, though it will likely only be an option on that one HDTV, or I can bring the PS3… though now we are in full pain-in-the ass territory.

But forgetting the peculiarities of this house and this landlord, even with proper HDMI and HDTV, would my son be able to easily watch The Pirates: Band of Misfits on the upstairs TV via Ultraviolet and Apple TV? The answer is yes… but it would be a boxed-in SD version from Vudu.

Yes, it’s very cool that I can stream The Incredibles onto my phone (or iPad) in a near instant… if I spent some time setting it up beforehand. But there is a still a checkerboard of options about how to watch the things we pay for in this system. Hopefully by this time next year, it will be properly standardized and it won’t feel like you still need to go around the system to get what you want when you want it. Until that time, there is still an odd draw to piracy as a less complicated alternative… which is a shame (not to mention illegal and immoral, when you consider that big bad studio is not the only victim of that economic crime).

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Weekend Estimates by 3-Day Klady, DDS

So… beating a long holiday weekend to death…

The Hobbit‘s doing fine.

Django Unchained is doing quite well, though probably a bit overstated because of the holiday. The film got out of the gate a bit slower than Inglorious Basterds and is now running ahead with the weekend and the holiday weekdays working for it. But $100m domestic is a lock and Basterds’ $120m domestic is quite possible… even more. Like The Hangover before it, Tarantino’s spaghetti southern reminds us all of the perverse funny bone that we forgot needed tickling.

Les Misérables is the estrogen answer to Tarantino, a nasty, period version of Nicholas Sparks with singing at the top of lungs and lots of actual spit and snot. So romantic and sad. And commercial! $100-$120 million is a pretty reasonable domestic estimate for this film, too.

Parental Guidance, Jack Reacher, and This is 40 will also pass $120m… combined. Parental is doing okay, but the numbers suggest a lack of nostalgia for Billy Chrystal and Bette Midler and more a need for a family movie… ANY family movie. Jack Reacher seems to have wanted to mine the same hard-R fun as Django, but the pitch never took. And I think 40 just never made a single, focused argument to potential audiences. Without the broadness of Knocked Up‘s premise, I’m not sure that the audience that loves that Apatow was interested and without having had his Terms of Endearment, I’m not sure more serious-minded adults were interested in examining this film.

Lincoln is only $15m domestic away from celebrating the number of years since the President’s death. $203 million seems unlikely domestically (matching the number of years since his birth) but possible worldwide.

Skyfall announced hitting $1 billion worldwide today. That’s better than a 65% improvement over Bond’s previous high gross. Remarkable. The domestic improvement over all past Bond’s is even greater than overseas… up 76% (so far) from the previous high.

Silver Linings Playbook doubled its screen count on Christmas Day to 745 screens after 33 days hanging around on 367 screens and 5 days on just 16. The result is a strong -per-screen, $4m+ weekend and a likely gross of $30 million heading out of the holiday. Where does it go from there? Watch for answers on January 10th when Oscar defines the distribution/marketing plan.

Life of Pi is slowly working its way to $100m domestic… and will surely get there if Oscar nominated for Best Picture.

Argo will be closing fast on $110m by the end of the holiday.

Flight needs Oscar nominations if it’s going to push to $100m, but will be profitable regardless, thanks to one of the lowest price tags of the Oscar chasers.

And Zero Dark Thirty, still in a 5-screen holding pattern until January 11 (day after nominations), continues to do about $20k per screen each day as it waits.

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Friday Estimates by Dreamed A Dream Klady

NOTE/CORRECTION: Len, who is traveling, apparently mistyped the Lincoln gross. I estimate it to be around $127m as of today.

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Look… I am in an awkward place with this. I am not a Les Misérables fan and the numbers on the film are dropping a little faster than they would be expected to be. It’s not bottoming out or a disaster or anything. I want to be as clear as possible. But up less than 3% from Thursday is off the norm, suggesting again, that opening day was a heavy, heavy must-see moment and that the film may not see another 8-figure day. Les Mis needs about a 6% increase from Friday to get to $10m today (Sat) and that would be on the high side of objective expectations. Possible… not outrageous… but not likely. $80m – $85m by the end of the holiday (Jan 1) seems about right. Passing $100m domestic next Saturday. $150m domestic is looking like the cap.

The Hobbit will close in on $250m by the end of the holiday. Maybe a little short. $300m domestic is doable. May be a little short.

Django Unchained is cruising along at about the expected speed of a film released on Christmas Day. It will likely remain in the #2 slot through the holiday, though Les Mis could push it back into #2 slot on Sunday. It will be very close to the Les Mis number to the end, though it won’t get the Oscar bump, which may push Les Mis ahead domestically by $10m – $20m when all is said and done.

Parental Guidance is headed to over $50m domestic overall. Is that good? Bad? No idea what it cost.

Jack Reacher has some really nice buzz and some really iffy numbers. It just hasn’t clicked into people’s consciousness. Knight & Day/Valkyrie numbers are its fate.

This is 40 will pass 40… but not by a lot.

Lincoln remains a happy story, clearing over $130m domestic by the end of the holiday. Argo will top out around $110m domestic.

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BYOB: 122612

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Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrencestein

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DP/30: The Imposter, documentarian Bart Layton

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DP/30: Barbara, actor Nina Hoss

Barbara is Germany’s Academy nominee for Best Foreign Language film in 2012.

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Missing Jack Klugman

I grew up with the guy. Many of you did.

“The Odd Couple” was a joy and repeated, it seemed, 20 times a day, back when the number of channels in any given market could be counted on your hands.

The best episodes were when Oscar really wanted something… or really wanted to avoid something. The less pronounced the intensity, the weaker the episode. Tony Randall always made it worth watching as well, forever pirouetting through life while suffering bad sinuses and the constant threat of depression. (He was the Carrie Mathison of the era.)
“Quincy” was one of our—my sister and my—favorite shows. It was completely f-ing absurd. But there was a genius in putting such a slouch up front. Like Columbo before him, he was infinitely more interesting than investigators who took themselves too seriously. It was the era of the P.I. freak… the lanky and ancient Barnaby Jones, the cannonball that was Cannon. The only “straight” one was Mannix and he was employing a black woman… edgy at the time… and she was hot as hell, making it all a bit more.. ahem… askew…

But God, it was fun.

I was too young to drive, so like “Bob Newhart,” “Carol Burnett,” and “Alice”, the glorious falseness shaped my idea of the world.

I remember when Klugman lost his voice and, almost, his life to throat cancer. Incredible irony… the guy with THAT voice gets throat cancer. Of course, when he made his small comebacks, the well-remembered rawness of his voice became an advantage as it wasn’t shocking to hear him croak.

It’s a remarkable run. 90 years.

There seem to be more of these people going every year… as I close in on 50 myself.

The classic notion, that TV stars are people you like enough to invite into your home. So true. And I will miss Jack Klugman’s new visits… and treasure his old ones.

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The Map Of Critics Groups Best Picture Choices Around America

With apologies to Nate Silver…

I’m still not over the presidential elections… so in that spirit, our first ever national critics map. I’ve broken up California and Texas. If anyone is feeling that part of their state is being misrepresented, feel free to speak up and I will address it in the next edition.

Anyone who is wanting to put in claims about which state is leaning which way is also welcome to voice that opinion.

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Weekend Estimates by Ho Ho Klady

Again… this is a weird weekend to track in connection to the holidays. It’s unusual to have a Christmas Eve—a traditionally bad box office day—on a Monday. The last time was 2007. And that pre-Christmas weekend slaughtered this one… by over $50 million. This weekend’s Hobbit gross was nearly matched by the #2 movie from that weekend (weekend 2 of I Am Legend)… and the #1 film, National Treasure 2, opened to $45 million. This weekend’s #2, Jack Reacher, would have been #4 that weekend, also behind weekend 2 of Alvin & The Chipmunks.

And how about this for some irony… what is missing from this weekend that there was a lot of back in 2007? Movie stars. Nic Cage in a sequel to one of his biggest hits, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp… even the stardom of The Chipmunks counted for a lot. Some of these were stronger, some weaker. But all five of the top five that weekend could be argued to be movie star-driven. This weekend? Hobbit? No. 40? No. Guardians? No. Lincoln? No. You have Tom Cruise doing nothing close to “Tom Cruise money,” which is somewhat better than where Hanks and Roberts were in 2007, which may be a function of genre.

So this was not a thrilling weekend for anyone in wide release. But it was fine for many. The tale will really be told in the week to come.

In exclusive releases, the conversion is a little brighter, though not conclusive in a longterm way. Zero Dark Thirty, the beneficiary of both controversy and what feels like a wide-release advertising push. (It goes wide January 11.), had an estimated $82k per screen on 5. This is not quite Lincoln‘s $86k on 11. Nor is it The Master or Moonrise Kingdom‘s 6-figure per-screen launch. But it’s very muscular.

The other big per-screen hit was Amour, which was at $23k per on 3. Again, nothing close to record-breaking. But a nice start.

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The Hot Blog

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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire