Issue #14: BOX OFFICE, SCHMOX-OFFICE
Get comfortable, and put your feet up readers. It's all about Issue #14.
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
SCENE STEALER...According to reports, porn company Vivid Entertainment will release a new adult film featuring Karrine Steffans--known by the hip-hop world as "Superhead" and author of the tell-all book Confessions Of A Video Vixen. The adult film, fittingly titled Superhead, features Steffans with adult film star Mr. Marcus in what's being billed as her first and only porn scene ever. Wonder if on-and-off boyfriend Bill Maher has seen the rough cut yet?
LONGING FOR LANGSTON...Seattle's third annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival is about to kick off on April 23-30, at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. Categories: drama, animation, children's/youth films, lesbian/gay, documentary, and art films and videos about African American life and culture, and topics involving the international African Diaspora. For more info, hit www.langstonblackfilmfest.org.
CALL FOR ENTRIES...Run & Shoot Filmworks just announced the dates and call for entries for the 4th Annual Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival. The fest will happen Aug. 10-13, and is seeking shorts, documentaries, features and screenplays. The deadline is June 15. Visit www.mvaaff.com for more info. It's a good thing.
DAY-O DOCUMENTARY...According to the Jamaica Observer, Harry Belafonte was just on the island finalizing arrangements to film a documentary he is producing about his life as an actor and activist. Belafonte told the paper he has received offers of interest from both BBC and Time Warner/HBO for distribution rights. But word has it, he hasn't signed on the dotted line with anyone just yet.
ALWAYS THE BRIDE'S MAID...With pilots having been announced, the offerings seem thin for blacks and Latinos. While there are a good amount of supporting roles, there are very few black leads. Among the pilots with people of color are: "Day Break," a Touchstone production for ABC featuring Taye Diggs as a cop on the run accused of murder; Jay Hernandez (Crazy/Beautiful) joins an ensemble soap on ABC about a group of strangers in NYC; Chi McBride has signed on for an untitled ABC show about nine strangers caught in a 52-hour hostage crisis; Regina King will be part of the cast of "Women in Law" for ABC. On CBS: John Leguizamo is in "A.K.A." about an undercover cop. Tracy Morgan is an an untitled Tina Fey project for NBC. Also at the Peacock Network, Delroy Lindo co-stars in "Kidnapped." On Fox: Boris Kodjoe co-stars in "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now" about a temporary L.A. housing complex. What we'd love to see is a few more females and a few new ideas.
STILL LOOKING FOR LOVE...Reality TV seems to be good for Public Enemy's Flavor Flav. He's gained some weight, and hopefully his baby mama got her child support money. But after calling it quits with Brigitte Nielsen on "Strange Love," whom he met on "The Surreal Life," Flavor failed to make a love connect on VH-1's "The Flavor of Love." So they just announced they are bringing back the show for a second season, along with another bevy of women looking to hook up with Da Boy. Admit it. Flavor is on your TiVo.
BROADBAND SHOWS GET EMMY NODS
For the first time ever, six broadband-specific shows have been nominated in a new category of the Emmy Awards. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last year introduced the new award for "original entertainment programming created specifically for nontraditional viewing platforms." In all, there were 74 entries, more than any other Emmy category, according to the Academy. To qualify for the new award, the only criteria was that the show not appear first on television or elsewhere. The nominees are: "24: Conspiracy," by News Corp.'s Fox Mobile Entertainment, a spinoff of the Fox TV show "24," created exclusively for mobile phones; "It's JerryTime!" by Ozone Inc., an animated blog following the misadventures of a 40-something single guy; Live 8 on AOL.; "mtvU Stand In," produced by MTV Networks' mtvU about university life; "Sophie Chase," produced by CB Films Inc., an online policewoman show; and "Stranger Adventures: Helen Beaumont," by Riddle Productions, an interactive, contest that blends video and e-mail and each episode generates clues. The Daytime Emmys takes place April 22.
ABC PROGRAMS TO GO ONLINE
In a move that is sure to revolutionize the television broadcast industry; Disney has announced that beginning May 1, its ABC network will begin offering the season's final four episodes of "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Commander in Chief" and "Alias" for free online at ABC.com on the morning after the episodes air on network TV. The episodes will remain online through June. While viewers will be able to pause the shows and jump through sections, the technology will prohibit them from passing over ads. In addition, the shows cannot be downloaded to be saved onto a computer or burned to a DVD--though that may be changed in the future. Albert Cheng, digital media chief for Disney-ABC TV Group, said in a press statement, "Certainly we're looking at downloads as a future option." This action seems to reflect just a portion of Disney's Internet initiative. The company will also offer online ad-supported episodes of children's programming from the Disney Channel and Jetix beginning this fall. Next week, the entertainment company will debut a soap opera highlights package, Soapnetic, an extension of its Soapnet cable channel available via Verizon DSL.
BOX OFFICE, SCHMOX-OFFICE: THE TICKET NUMBERS GAME
If we hear one more thing about the drop in box office sales in the United States, The A-List might possibly go crazy.
What is baffling is that much of the talk from the most recent ShoWest, before and after the convention, focuses primarily on the quality of films and piracy as the main culprits in the cause for revenue drop. However, one can't help but also take a good hard look at price when product demand is in question. And it seems this issue is being somewhat skirted by industry decision makers. So, The A-List rolled up our sleeves, in the way only we do, to examine this little issue--or non-issue--closer. Because let's be honest, most consumers will snap up a good deal when they see one. So maybe the real issue is that the quality of the films that are being offered just isn't a good enough deal for their ducats. Could it just simply be that the price has climbed too high to justify paying for mediocre films? Certainly we are not the first to question and pose price matrices as of late but but we decided to take a fresh look from the industry side. You see, we want to know who is actually minding the store on this price issue and who is listening to the pricing options posed within, say, a variety of consumer publications? And given the fact that African-Americans spend mega money annually on movie theater tickets. So let's look at the actual princing and how the number comes to exist.
Average ticket prices for a movie now in the United States have reached about $9-$10 per adult with the matinee not much better at approximately $7. If you decided to stroll into the new trend of "better theater" offering no commericals and the like, with more legroom than a typical commerical business-class seat, and it's Saturday night, you could actually end up paying up to $12 per ticket, with some costing $20 for babysitting and meal perks. Of course, this does not include possible parking fees, paying for a guest, and the obligatory popcorn, etc. Now, when such entertainment is competing for the average American's extra-curricular budget on say, CDs, downloads, video games, DVDs and more; is it any wonder why a consumer is not as quick to spend $30-$40 just do to take a friend to see a movie? After all sitting in a dark theatre not being able to talk isn't much of a get together, especially if your fun funds are limited. Not to mention that average earnings in our country still hover under $30k per year, before taxes. The proof of this financial pressure may be, as they say, in the pudding. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), revenues in the U.S. dropped 6 percent to $8.99 billion last year, compared to 2004. The worldwide market fell 7.9% to $23.24 billion from a 2004 all-time high.
Don't get us wrong, given the right flick we too head straight to the theater. But being working stiffs, like the average American, we have gotten choosier as tickets have gotten pricier. And after spending time abroad, one is left with a nagging question--why is the American pricing system so screwy and focused on mono-pricing. It's curious why the industry doesn't look to other shores for an example--especially since overseas box office numbers are strong. In Europe, for example, there is a plethora of pricing options: Students pay a major discounted price, there are monthly subscriptions to most chains that provide unlimited showings for one specific price and showings with certain stipulations under another price, the ability to purchase a certain number of shows for tiered pricing, and more. In fact, twice a year, France even offers the "Fete du Cinema" where you can see all the movies you want, no matter what time of the day for a special Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for a fraction of the cost. And even industry publications reported just last week that the springtime version of this movie gluttony "The Printemps du Cinema" attracted 2.6 million admissions across France, its highest-ever turnout since 2000.
So to get to the bottom of the pricing matter we began with simply inquiring at the MPAA and posed that if sales were down so drastically, might the MPAA consider the bounty of choices offered in other countries. We initially asked the MPAA, if and how these types of promotional offers were being considered in light of the rumored campaign to encourage theater-going. And while we must admit, they are as sweet as they want to be at the MPAA (in fact, shout out to Cara), once our questions were further examined, we were told that they could not speak about pricing and that we should speak with the National Association of Theatre Owners (powerfully referred to as NATO). So, we emailed key powerplayer there, John Fithian (who, by the way, responded immediately). "Our purpose is to represent the industry on matters of common interest before the government, the press, and the rest of the movie industry," he told us. "But we cannot involve ourselves in competitive matters within the industry. Most specifically, NATO is not involved in any way in the pricing decisions of our companies. Thus, unfortunately, I cannot help you with your questions. I am sure that the MPAA would understand this position, despite the fact that they forwarded your press inquiry to us."
So back we went to the MPAA and were then told to ask a local theater for their opinion on pricing options. Now, kidz, this maybe our black press paranoia speaking, but something just doesn't seem quite right. Most all of the chains have the same pricing, but no one can talk about it? The average consumer also has no idea what percentage of the ticket price goes where. Could it be that crazy to think that if the consumer were better informed and also promoted to, that maybe, just maybe, there could be a difference in the business? Are there even any hopes of a test of this?
Yes, we know that Europe has many subsidies that enable such cinema programs, but if we cannot even discuss these issues more openly in our country; how might we be able to develop better business models?
Seems to The A-List that instead of being so concerned about release windows of multi-platforms, we might all also begin to turn our focus also to the end-user. The consumer is speaking with her dollar--maybe it's time to listen.
WE STAND CORRECTED
"Thank Melissa Ross for the nod in the Urban Hollywood Hitter list (Issue #13), but [the article] omitted my recent documentary film that was broadcast on STARZ/ENCORE Cable Network. UNSTOPPABLE, Conversation with Melvin Van Pebbles, Gordon Parks, and Ossie Davis, is nominated for a NAMIC Vision Award on April 18th."
President, Black Filmmaker Foundation
Hollywood celebs Tichina Arnold, Jasmine Guy, Tisha Campbell, Duane Martin, Vivica Fox, and Da Brat jettin' to Turks & Caicos this past weekend to witness the fab wedding of LisaRaye McCoy to T&C Prime Minister Chief Michael Misick. Howard Hewitt, Ashford & Simpson, and Najae performed. The A-List wishes LisaRaye, the new First Lady of Turks & Caicos, much happiness.
Music execs Big Jon Platt, Vicki Lataillade, Dyana Williams, Kevin Black, Doc Wynter, Ken Wilson, and David Litton gatherin' in Palm Springs this past weekend for Miller London's annual Urban Network Conference. Tosha Thomas and the rest of the UN staff pulled off a great event.
Dallas Austin, Lisa Arrindale Anderson, Dave Hollister, D4L, Boyz N Da Hood, Crime Mob, G.Garvin, designer Ray Glover, Young Capone, Young Jock, Darlene Norwood, The Pace Sisters, Charles & Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Bobby and Ethel Jones, Sean Simmons and Lil I-Roc checkin' out the Atlanta premiere of Preaching To The Choir. The film took home the 2005 American Black Film Festival Audience Award, making it the first feature to be acquired out of an African-American film festival for national theatrical release.
Questions, Comments, Kudos, News Tips? Hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out and about? Our Gil Robertson IV will spot ya, but there's no promise you'll make his cut. Thanks as always to the Eagle Eye.