Steven Soderbergh on why it costs so much to release a movie

It turns out that the movie studios basically have no idea how much money they’re going to make from a given release, so they just throw money at the problem. End result: more blockbusters with massive budgets and fewer “singles and doubles.”

So then there’s the expense of putting a movie out, which is a big problem. Point of entry for a mainstream, wide-release movie: $30 million. That’s where you start. Now you add another 30 for overseas. Now you’ve got to remember, the exhibitors pay half of the gross, so to make that 60 back you need to gross 120. So you don’t even know what your movie is yet, and you’re already looking at 120. That ended up being part of the reason why the Liberace movie didn’t happen at a studio. We only needed $5 million from a domestic partner, but when you add the cost of putting a movie out, now you’ve got to gross $75 million to get that 35 back, and the feeling amongst the studios was that this material was too “special” to gross $70 million. So the obstacle here isn’t just that special subject matter, but that nobody has figured out how to reduce the cost of putting a movie out. There have been some attempts to analyze it, but one of the mysteries is that this analysis doesn’t really reveal any kind of linear predictive behavior, it’s still mysterious the process whereby people decide if they’re either going to go to a movie or not go to a movie. Sometimes you don’t even know how you reach them. Like on Magic Mike for instance, the movie opened to $38 million, and the tracking said we were going to open to 19. So the tracking was 100% wrong. It’s really nice when the surprise goes in that direction, but it’s hard not to sit there and go how did we miss that? If this is our tracking, how do you miss by that much?

The rise of shared video streaming accounts

Streaming Sites and the Rise of Shared Accounts – NYTimes.com:

We were each going to use HBO Go, the network’s video Web site, to stream the show online — but not our own accounts. To gain access, one friend planned to use the login of the father of a childhood friend. Another would use his mother’s account. I had the information of a guy in New Jersey that I had once met in a Mexican restaurant.

Our behavior — sharing password information to HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites and services — appears increasingly prevalent among Web-savvy people who don’t own televisions or subscribe to cable.

I use my a former dorm-floormate’s mother’s HBO Go account. I use my mom’s Netflix account. My friends use my Amazon Prime subscription. From Jenna’s article (and a high-ranking source of my own at the MPAA), it sounds like these companies prefer having many people share subscriptions over having no subscribers at all – and thus don’t plan on cracking down on this behavior. I think it’s a fair middle ground between stopping piracy and providing a decent customer experience. 

Wachowskis working on Sense8, new sci-fi show coming to Netflix in 2014

Hot on the heels of Netflix’s original series House Of Cards, the company has announced that it will release a new sci-fi TV series to the platform called Sense8.
The show is being developed under the guidance of the Wachowskis, who are responsible for smash hits like the Matrix series of films, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer, as well as J. Michael Straczynski who is the creator behind Changeling, Thor, and Babylon 5.

How do I know this is just TechCrunch rewriting a press release? The writer referred to Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer as smash hits.

Mahmoud Tabei Brings the Harlem Shake to Politics

 Tunisian Harlem Shake Protest - Feb 27, 2013

From Amar Toor at The Verge:

After months of political unrest, Tabei says he and his friends see the “Harlem Shake” meme not only as a platform for their message of reform, but as a way to “raise the hopes and spirits” of an increasingly frustrated opposition movement.

Tabei isn’t alone, either. As the nonsensical trend passes its saturation point in the West, it’s evolving into a distinctly more political phenomenon in both Egypt and Tunisia, where students and opposition movements have re-appropriated Baauer’s bass-heavy anthem as a rallying cry for reform — much to the chagrin (and perhaps befuddlement) of conservative authorities.

This is certainly a case where the medium is the message

While the excessive virality of the “Harlem Shake” and Gangnam Style can make them all too pervasive in Western media, dissidents like Mahmoud Tabei and his compatriots raise hope as they appropriate the web’s tools and culture to promote social and political change.

Of course, the fact that these gatherings lead to arrests and tear gas, as in the case of 75 Tunisian high school students, show just how much work still needs to be done in the name of an open political and civil society in much of the Middle East.

Ultimately, though, Tabei remains realistic about the chances of a viral video resulting in any substantive change. After having already seen seven of his friends killed since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the teenager is markedly disillusioned with his country’s revolution. Publicity aside, he says a fundamental goal of his group’s “Harlem Shake” movement is to simply build morale — a way to “refresh our minds in order to continue with our larger struggle.”

That last point is where the “Harlem Shake” protests become fundamentally different from many other acts of civil disobedience: mixing fun and freedom with political expression.

J.J. Abrams to Direct Star Wars Episode VII

Lucas Shaw:

J.J. Abrams will direct the next “Star Wars” film for Disney, taking stewardship of one of Hollywood’s most iconic and lucrative film franchises, an individual with knowledge of the production told TheWrap.

This could still just be a rumor, what with Abrams previously denying that he would direct Star Wars and the use of “an individual with knowledge of the production” as a source.

But I think we can assume this is legitimate. To make a new Star Wars credible, Disney needed a nerd’s nerd to be the director. Nowadays, that brings two individuals to mind: J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. I can think of few others who are as well known for respect for source material and knowing what makes particular franchises fun.