HOW SOON WILL CINEMAS BE OPEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC?
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
FILM INDUSTRY NEWS WEEKLY DIGEST, SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28
New York City Cinema Reopening March 5 At Reduced Capacity
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said movie theaters in New York City will be brought into line with the rest of New York state as of March 5, when they will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with no more than 50 people per screen, masks, social distancing and other protocols. The guidelines include air filtration and purification standards previously specified by the Department of Health. Officials at Cuomo’s press briefing today said no Covid-19 testing will be required, as is the case for large arenas like Madison Square Garden and Barclay’s Center that can reopen later in February. Cinemas in New York City will follow the same guidance put in place for movie theaters in the rest of New York state back in October.
AMC Entertainment, the nation’s biggest chain and the largest movie theatre exhibitor in New York City, said it will reopen all 13 of our its locations promptly on March 5. AMC reopened its first theaters in August and said it has “welcomed back nearly 10 million moviegoers nationwide without a single reported case of COVID-19 transmission among moviegoers at our theatres. We look forward to welcoming back our New York City guests to the big seats, big sounds and big screens that are only possible at a movie theatre.” AMC shares surged nearly 15% during Monday’s session and 7% in late trading. Cinemark and Imax followed, both closing up about 6%. Marcus gained 4%.
Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi Sees CA Movie Theaters Reopening In 2 To 4 Weeks, Big Summer Releases Could Help “Light Up These Theaters Again”
Mark Zoradi, CEO of major exhibitor Cinemark and a former longtime Disney executive, sees some familiar elements on the summer release calendar, which he sees as a potential Covid-19 recovery turning point...“The last weekend in May, in that traditional beginning of summer, you have Cruella from Disney and you have F9 from Universal and you have Infinite from Paramount,” he said. “So, you’ve got three big movies.” The July Fourth weekend, he added, has Minions: The Rise of Gru and Top Gun: Maverick.
Given those studio commitments, declining virus infection rates and ramped-up vaccinations, Zoradi said, “We’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to light up these theaters again come this summer.”
New York City locations, dark for almost a year, will welcome patrons again next week, and Zoradi said he expects California to follow suit in the next two to four weeks. New York and LA together account for 15% of total domestic box office. Before the call, the company reported fourth-quarter results that vividly illustrated the brutal toll of the pandemic. Total revenue came in at $98.2 million, down from $788.8 million in the same period a year earlier, and net losses reached $2.03 per share on a diluted basis, compared with a profit of 22 cents in the 2019 quarter.
Asked to project the impact of shifting windows on Cinemark’s results, the CEO largely demurred, saying it is too early to tell, especially during a pandemic environment. “We’re looking at this as a way for us to look at, ‘Do we want to open our theaters up to some of this different content with different, restructured deals depending on the length of the exclusive window?'” Zoradi said. “It potentially has some negative but it potentially has some positive.”
As other industry figures have done, Zoradi also pointed to robust box office in China, Japan and Australia (territories all mostly on the other side of the pandemic) as evidence that consumer habits are not likely to permanently change. Asked about the viability of Cinemark booking films from non-traditional distributors like Netflix, Apple or Hulu, Zoradi said the company is in “active talks” with several of them. “We’re not talking about huge quantities,” Zoradi noted. “There’s a half a dozen pictures that are really important to some of the streaming services. They’re either big, important Academy movies or bigger, midsize commercial films that we would be interested in playing. We would be open to a shortened window, depending on the financial terms.”
Zoradi said private watch parties — which enable customers to rent out entire auditoriums — accounted for 24% of attendance and box office in the fourth quarter. More than half of the films watched in these rentals were library content (especially holiday staple Elf). These films “could have been enjoyed on the couch at home,” Zoradi pointed out, but the fact that people wanted to experience them on the big screen attests to pent-up demand. Perhaps the most encouraging statistic in the quarterly report was per-capita spending on concessions, which totaled $5.42, which Zoradi said was on par with the same period in 2019.
Paramount+'s Pitch: Big Name Reboots, Spinoffs and Sequels (Plus Sports)
…multiple executives touted the "mountain of entertainment" available on Paramount+, including 30,000 episodes of television and 2,500 films, many of which will make their way from theaters directly to streaming customers.
Among the 36 originals expected within Paramount+'s first year are a revival of Frasier, a Yellowstone spinoff and new Taylor Sheridan show starring Jeremy Renner. Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, will host a new weekly show for the service. Inside Amy Schumer, which last aired in 2016, will return. A streaming version of CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes that previously streamed on Quibi will also be available. Meanwhile, shows originally planned for other ViacomCBS networks — including a Halo adaptation, Star Trek animated series and the seventh and final season of Younger — will make their home on Paramount+.
On the film side, the service will benefit from shortened theatrical windows for many of ViacomCBS titles. Both A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 will stream on Paramount+ 45 days after they leave theaters, or about half the normal time it would take for a film to become available after leaves theaters. Under terms of a new output deal with MGM's premium network Epix, the studio's features, including Lady Gaga-starrer House of Gucci, Rocky franchise sequel Creed III and James Bond pic No Time to Die will head to Paramount+ after their theatrical runs. The service will also be home to 700 films from the Miramax library.
ViacomCBS will offer Paramount+ at two different price points. An ad-supported tier that features live NFL games, CBSN and thousands of on-demand original and library titles will cost $5 per month. An ad-free tier that also includes mores live sports, live local news and live CBS network programming will cost $10 per month.
The company says it expects to hit between 65 million and 75 million global Paramount+ subscribers by 2024, helping to fuel a projected $7 billion in streaming revenue. The investment in streaming doesn't come without its costs, however. ViacomCBS says it expects its investment in streaming content to grow from $1 billion in 2020 to more than $5 billion by 2024.
For the last few years, ViacomCBS has prioritized its role as a supplier for other networks, selling shows like Jack Ryan for Amazon and Emily in Paris for Netflix. Many of its crown jewel library shows like Yellowstone are also available for streaming on other services…ViacomCBS has also invested into the free streaming space through Pluto TV, which it acquired for $340 million in 2019.
JIM Gianopulos also mentioned that Paramount+ will ultimately tout 2,500 movies including the MGM library with the 007 franchise and Lionsgate’s Hunger Games movies. In addition, all the Paramount movies will finally be available in one silo service, which wasn’t the case with CBS All Access.
It was also announced today that Paramount Players will be producing three to four features a year for the revamped Viacom streaming service; on deck are a new Paranormal Activity, Pet Sematary and the Joey King movie The In Between.
‘Mission: Impossible 7’ & ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ To Hit Paramount+ After 45-Day Theatrical Run
In a clear sign that Paramount is committed to theatrical, but still open to the future of streaming, A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 will go on the streaming service 45 days after their theatrical release dates…Also going to Paramount+ 45 days after theatrical is the animated movie Paw Patrol on Aug. 20.
AMC Entertainment Awards CEO Adam Aron $3.75M Bonus
AMC Entertainment Holdings has awarded top execs $8.3 million in bonuses, including $3.75 million for CEO Adam Aron. Pre-pandemic, Aron received compensation of $9.67 million in 2019, up from $9.5 million in 2018.
"The bonuses were approved in order to recognize the extraordinary efforts of employees to maintain the company’s business and preserve stockholder value during the COVID-19 pandemic, encourage continued engagement and retention, and incentivize our management and employees during the continuing and unprecedented difficult business conditions," the parent of AMC Theatres said in an SEC filing on Friday.
AMC Networks Tops 6M Streaming Subs, Targets up to 25M by 2025
AMC Networks, the cable networks company that operates AMC, IFC, WE tv, BBC America and SundanceTV, has reported better-than-expected streaming subscriber growth for 2020 and better-than-feared U.S. advertising trends in the final quarter of the year. The firm ended 2020 with more than 6 million streaming subscribers, including AMC+, exceeding its target, and boosted its longer-term forecast.
AMC, led by CEO Josh Sapan, last year had raised its projection for paid subscribers for its four niche streaming services, namely Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC, saying it would end 2020 with more than 4 million, and around 5 million to 5.5 million subscribers when including AMC+, which features the best of AMC, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV, plus more. The new data means the company has handily jumped over the lower end of its 2022 target of 5 million to 7 million streaming subs, "implying an upgrade is coming," according to Macquarie Capital analyst Tim Nollen. On the earnings call, Sapan also touted the continuation of season 10 of AMC hit show The Walking Dead this weekend and 40-plus new TV episodes in the Walking Dead franchise, including Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, in 2021, calling it "a bonanza of epic and wonderful" for fans.
Netflix Will Spend $500M In Korea This Year As It Nears 4M Local Subs
Netflix says its spending in Korea will top $500M in 2021 as the streamer doubles down on local content production after hits including #Alive. During an event today to tout its upcoming slate, Minyoung Kim, VP of Content for Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, revealed that the service passed 3.8 million paid memberships in Korea as of the end of 2020. It has north of 200 million subs globally.
HBO & HBO Max Merge Production & Business Affairs Teams
The production and business affairs teams at HBO and HBO Max are being merged as the WarnerMedia streamlines operations between the cable network and streamer. The move will see a number of staff changes across the teams…The streamlining, under Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer for HBO and HBO Max, will see one single in-house production team and a single business affairs operation across the two platforms.
Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs and Production, HBO and HBO Max: “As HBO Max moves toward the same in-house production model that’s been the heart of the HBO programming line-up for the past many years, it’s become clear that we need greater consistency across the business and production practices of HBO and HBO Max.”
Amazon’s IMDb TV Launches On Chromecast, Soon To Hit Android TV Devices In U.S.
IMDb TV, Amazon’s two-year-old, free streaming service, is now available as a stand-alone app on Chromecast with Google TV and will soon be on other Android TV OS devices in the U.S. The distribution expansion follows recent launches of the IMDb TV app on Roku, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Sony Android TV devices. The IMDb TV app, featuring an extensive catalog of blockbuster movies and popular TV shows, will arrive on Android TV OS devices in the coming weeks. Last fall, Google announced a significant shift after several years in the connected-TV business, saying it would bring Chromecast and Android TV together in a unified interface. The result is the product now known as Chromecast with Google TV.
IMDb TV is among a handful of fast-growing free, ad-supported streaming services, along with the Roku Channel, Peacock, Pluto, Tubi and Crackle. These platforms generally carry about half the advertising load of traditional linear networks and promise advertisers superior targeting given they are delivering their programming via the internet. A marginal category a few years ago, AVOD is now seen as a key strategic priority for a range of players as TV advertising dollars continue to migrate from linear channels to the digital arena.
Disney Keeps 80% of Streaming Revenue By Calling It ‘Home Video’
For years, Disney has been keeping 80% of the revenue from older shows that it distributes to streaming platforms, leaving only 20% to be available to stars and other profit participants. It does so by classifying the revenue as “home video.” Under a formula dating from the introduction of the VCR, Disney subtracts an 80% royalty to its in-house distributor to cover the costs of distribution.
“It doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Douglas Johnson, managing partner of Johnson & Johnson LLP. “Home video is not the same as streaming. They’re not even close.” Johnson argued that the judge had failed to fully consider how cheap it is to distribute content to Netflix and other streaming platforms. “It’s one hit of the button — it digitizes the content, you’re done,” Johnson said. “They don’t have any costs. This is a total windfall to the studio with no justification.”
Netflix and Disney Plus Are Taking Different Tracks in Asia-Pacific (Report)
Japan is poised to emerge as the largest market in Asia for Netflix by the end of this year, according to a new study. Rival streaming platform Disney Plus is forecast to see its Asia-Pacific subscriptions double in the current year, and revenue increase by 160%, but its core market in Asia remains low-yielding India.
Data in two new studies from Media Partners Asia, a Singapore-based consultancy and analysis firm, highlights further stark differences between the multinational platform operators. Across the region Media Partners Asia forecasts that Netflix will have $3.3 billion of annual revenues and 33.3M paying subs. This compares with $2.4 billion of revenue in 2020 and 25.5 million subs, representing a 37% revenue increase from 7.8 million net customer additions (versus 9.3 million in 2020).
Japan is set to overtake Australia, to emerge as Netflix’s largest revenue generating market in APAC in 2021, and its largest market by subscribers. Considering that Japanese consumers were generally late adopters of online content delivery – many clung on to DVDs for their prestige and collectability – Netflix’s surge from Japan is remarkable.
WarnerMedia Parent AT&T Sells DirecTV Stake To Private Equity Firm TPG
WarnerMedia parent AT&T has clinched hotly anticipated deal to sell a significant minority stake in satellite broadcaster DirecTV to private equity group TPG in a deal that will net the telecom giant $7.8 billion.
The deal, expected to close in the second half of 2021, values DirecTV’s video business at $16.25 billion. In a hastily organized call with analysts Thursday, AT&T CEO John Stankey admitted, “We certainly didn’t expect this” in 2015 when the telco giant acquired DirecTV for $48 billion (or $67 billion including debt), testament to the steep secular decline in the business. A few years later, AT&T acquired Time Warner, envisioning a powerful combination of programming and distribution under one roof. DirecTV had 17.2 million video subscribers at the end of 2020, down from 20.4 million the year before.
‘No Time To Die’ Will Roll Out Internationally From September 30
The much-anticipated release of James Bond 25 is coming into focus – the film has officially been set to roll out internationally from September 30, eight days prior to its U.S. bow on October 8. The UK release calendar was updated this week to note that No Time To Die would hit cinemas on September 30, and Universal and MGM have now confirmed to Deadline that this will indeed be the date for the start of the wider international push. That falls in line with previous Bond releases such as Spectre and Skyfall, which began their theatrical lives roughly a week prior to their journeys stateside.
Fingers crossed this is the beginning of the end in what has been a long-running saga. The film has previously been set for November 2019, April 2020, November 2020, April 2021 and now October 2021 – cinema owners around the world will be licking their lips at the prospect of it finally seeing the light of day.