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By Jonathan Papish, Phil Contrino, and EntGroup Consulting

Disney's Avengers: Age of Ultron will have no problem holding the #1 spot at the Chinese box office this week. The action flick is poised to fend off five newcomers.

With $155 million and counting from its Chinese run, Avengers is already a huge success. While the superhero flick won't top the recent record of $390.5 million set by Furious 7, we see it ending its run in the $250-$275 million range. This is the final weekend Ultron has little competition as another Disney summer blockbuster Tomorrowland opens Tuesday, May 26. Globally, Ultron is up to $1.15 billion with its eyes on the $1.51 billion haul of 2012's Marvel's The Avengers.

Four homegrown titles will try to steal away attention from Age of Ultron: Alibaba and the Thief (阿里巴巴大盗奇兵) , Unforgettable Blast (迷于狂), Feed Me (哺乳期的女人) and Love Without Distance (土豪520). All four titles are aimed at different demographics. Alibaba is an animated flick for kids, Unforgettable Blast is for twentysomethings, Feed Me is for arthouse film enthusiasts and Love Without Distance is for adult crowds.

Alibaba has already earned nearly $600K from advance screenings, so if buzz is strong it could end up connecting with families who have children that are too young for Ultron. Love Without Distance comes with name recognition courtesy of Francis Ng (his third film released in six weeks), Ma Tainyu and Zhou Weitong, which means it could turn into a modest hit. Unforgettable Blast is already battling negative buzz. As for Feed Me, it could find a niche among viewers who crave something other than a blockbuster.

One other imported film is entering theaters this week, India's P.K. (我的个神啊). The highest grossing Indian movie of all time will try to reverse the trend of Bollywood cinema not catching on in China. Only six Bollywood films have entered China since 2010, and the last one, Happy New Year starring Shah Rukh Khan, failed to hit even $1 million. Popular actor Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) is providing the lead actor's voice in this dubbed version of P.K. which could bring in some fans, however chatter from Sina Weibo indicates the nearly six-month delay since the domestic Indian release has hurt box office prospects since fans have already gotten their hands on HD copies. Still, according to EntGroup's EFMT Marketing Index, P.K. boasts the strongest awareness, intent to purchase and word-of-mouth levels of any new release this week.

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Camille Rizko, Founder and CEO, Doremi Labs, 1985-Present

Interview by Daniel Loria

How did the founding of the company come about?

The company was founded in 1985 in my garage, and we incorporated in 1988. The original mission was to build a tapeless 8-track digital audio workstation for post-production. Ten years later we started aligning our technology to imaging; we started with audio and went to imaging in 1995. It culminated in 2005 with the imaging for cinema.

What were some of your first products to really get traction in the cinema industry?

Our first product, the digital audio workstation, was successful and we built that until 1994. We sold hundreds of those products. In 1995 we introduced the video disc recorder for post-production application, and we sold that for roughly another ten years-and we sold thousands of those products. Then in 2005 we branched out to digital cinema exhibition with our digital cinema server, and that was also quite successful.

What did the spread of digital cinema mean for Doremi as a company?

We were approached back in 1998 to do digital cinema, but at that time we just didn't see the market. We refused those requests solely based on the cost of digital cinema when compared to a film projector. The quality of the presentation was lower back then. In 2005 when we started seeing the DLP technology and what it offers exhibitors, that's when we went into digital cinema. We came in with a server and a technology that no one else had.

How much did you focus on digital cinema before 2005?

Before, when it was film, it was only an experiment, and a lot of companies were spending a lot of money on those experiments hoping for a major [breakthrough]. We didn't play that game because we didn't think the [analog] business would be deserted unless there was a cost-benefit analysis that made sense-and that only happened in 2005. That's when the studios came out with the virtual print fee (VPF) model and established that deal, which enabled the financing of the migration.

I take it the launch of your digital cinema server brought a new era for the company, or was there another moment that you would single out?

It was in 2005. We had a product that no one else had; people were still scrambling with old technology, and we came in with a technology that worked, a quality of presentation that was at least as good-if not superior-to film, and the stability of a digital image. This was a winning combination for us that translated to sales.

What were some of the challenges you faced with Doremi?

With Doremi, the earliest challenge for us was always finding the right fit between our products and our customers. We constantly monitored our early clients, listened to their requests, and adapted our products to their needs. It helped us overcome our initial lack of experience in cinema and post-production. The other challenge we were having early on was that our customers were so successful with our products that they were keeping it a secret and not telling people they were having results with our product. Another one was to basically go out there, find new clients, and inform them of our customers' success ourselves.

How important is it for companies to embrace the global marketplace in our industry?

It was always important for Doremi. We always had higher international sales than local sales in the United States. Our primary markets were Europe and the U.S., but our products were sold through dealers all over the world. We are living in a global marketplace, but it has always been that way-even in the late '80s when we started.

What is on the horizon for the cinema business now that the digital conversion has mostly been completed?

I think the next big thing for our industry is immersive sound. That's one of the main reasons we're in business with Dolby; we approached them because we felt like their immersive sound technology was the next step, and we wanted to be a part of it. There is also high dynamic range (HDR), which is also being developed by Dolby.

How did the Dolby deal come together?

We looked at the landscape and saw that we were the leading manufacturer and the leading presence in the exhibition market, and Dolby was coming out with what we believe to be the best immersive-sound offering. So we came together and decided to maintain the leadership of both companies; it made sense for us to join forces and continue this journey with Dolby.

 

 

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by Damian Wardle, VP of Worldwide Theatre Technology & Presentation, Cinemark

In 1985, while most of us were enjoying Back to the Future and its creation of a DeLorean time machine, Camille Rizko was busy unknowingly creating the future of digital cinema by establishing Doremi Laboratories Inc. Today, with Doremi celebrating 30 years as a global presence in the theatrical industry, it is only fitting that Camille is being recognized in the BOXOFFICE Hall of Fame for all he has done for the industry.

Camille was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, but he moved to France to attend universities in Nice and later Paris, where he received an engineering degree from what is known today as Centrale-Supélec. Camille then relocated to Southern California, where he earned an MBA at UCLA. It was during his tenure at UCLA that Camille's entrepreneurial streak started and where he introduced himself to the cinema industry by becoming a distributor for post-production devices.

After graduating, Camille literally started Doremi from his garage. (Note to self: that is probably why he is so crazy about cars today.) It wasn't much later that his brother, Emil Rizko, and Safar Ghazal joined him in the business. After asking himself, "What can I do for this industry?" Camille introduced his first product, the DAWN (Digital Audio Workstation Nucleus), an audio editing device with the capability to play eight high-quality audio tracks from one hard disk. However, it was the debut of the V1 in 1994 that put Doremi on the map. Camille conceived what would be considered the first DVR, turning his successful start-up into a global company and opening facilities in France and Japan. It was Camille's design that replaced the commonly used VCR.

Camille's experience with the V1 and other video products gave him a tremendous springboard into digital cinema. In 2004, working from a request from Texas Instruments, Doremi created a server for the emerging digital cinema market. Under Camille's leadership, Doremi produced the DCP-2000 Digital Cinema Player and the DMS-2000 Digital Mastering Station, both JPEG2000 compression projects. After Camille's demonstration of a playback of a DCP at CineEurope in 2005, Doremi received thousands of orders.

In 2009, when exhibitors were opting for a 4K digital solution, Camille led the charge with TI and Barco to develop a 4K DLP solution with the first 4K integrated media block (IMB) in the market. After this accomplishment, Doremi simply dominated the digital cinema server market.

In all the years I have known Camille, I've always been impressed at his ability to balance what the customer wants with what he envisions for the future of the industry. When he is challenged with a product request, one can literally see the ideas flowing in his mind. The attention he pays to his customers' needs and his willingness to be flexible in such a changing industry are invaluable. No matter how large Doremi grew, Camille's leadership and vision still remained the rudder that steered the company toward success.

It's hard to pinpoint Camille's single greatest contribution to the industry. The answer will vary; studios may claim the V1 forever changed post-production, while exhibitors still delight in the creation of the DPC-2000 and the 4K IMB. However, one point is difficult to argue-Camille's mark on the industry is definitely significant. His creations touch hundreds of millions of moviegoers around the world each year. With the combined efforts now of both Dolby and Doremi, the digital entertainment sector can only expect more ingenious products and industry-leading technological innovations from the newly formed giant. Personally, I cannot wait to see what Camille creates next.

 

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PRESS RELEASE:

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SHANGHAI - (May 19, 2015) - Wanda Cinema Line, the largest movie theater operator in China, continues to demonstrate its high level of confidence in the innovative Christie Vive AudioTM system by equipping its latest "Wanda Hall 9" auditorium at Wujiaochang Wanda Cinema in Shanghai with Christie's cutting-edge cinema audio solution, which utilizes ribbon driver speakers and Class D amplifiers.

"Wanda Hall 9" is an exclusive class of cinema auditoriums targeted at movie aficionados. There are currently three such auditoriums located in Beijing and Shanghai. This particular auditorium at Wujiaochang Wanda Cinema complex boasts over 270 premium seats and a huge 17-meter high-gain metallic projection screen. It is the second theater in China to embrace Christie Vive Audio's expansive line of cinema-specific audio technologies that are compatible with the leading immersive and surround audio formats in the market. This Vive Audio system has also been configured to meet the requirements of the Dolby® AtmosTM sound technology system. Last year, Wanda Cinema Line became the first cinema chain in Asia to equip its Beijing CBD Wanda Plaza cineplex with Christie Vive Audio, to great success.

"Our first Christie Vive Audio installation in Beijing received much acclaim from patrons and industry players alike since its opening in May last year, and we're convinced that Christie Vive Audio is one of the best cinema audio solutions that effectively delivers the power and performance that offers the best sound experience for our patrons," commented Maojun Zeng, general manager, Wanda Cinema Line. "We've decided to deploy Vive Audio at our most high-end "Wanda Hall 9" auditoriums as we are fully committed to constantly equipping our theatres with the most modern technologies and high quality presentations."

"We're proud and honored that Wanda Cinema Line, our longstanding partner, has once again chosen Christie Vive Audio to be installed at the Wujiaochang Wanda Cinema in Shanghai. This fully demonstrates their strong confidence in our cinema audio solution in delivering dynamic, richly detailed and enhanced aural experience to movie-goers," said Lin Yu, vice president, Christie Asia Pacific. "Our innovative audio solution and digital cinema projectors, coupled with our team of dedicated technical professionals, will continue to put Wanda at the forefront of the cinema industry."

The groundbreaking Christie Vive Audio, which offers truly rich, dynamic and detailed sound, unlocks the full potential of the DCI digital cinema audio format and supports leading formats such as Auro 11.1, Dolby® AtmosTM, 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound. It consists of wall and ceiling surround speakers that use unique ribbon driver technology in a line array design, purpose-built for cinema environments.

The installation in Hall 9 auditorium comprises more than 50 Christie Vive Audio speakers of varying combinations, including LA3 screen channel speakers, LA3C speakers for ceiling surrounds, LA3S speakers for advanced surround effects, LA4S speakers for wall surround effects, S215 subwoofers (for full range frequency response), as well as S218 for Low Frequency Effects (subwoofers) channels. The extensive range of speakers are driven by the Christie CDA line of professional amplifiers utilizing an advanced high-speed Class D architecture that offer high power output and efficiency and are designed for long-term, continuous operation.

Similar to Wanda Cinema Line's Beijing CBD Wanda Plaza in downtown Beijing, the Wujiaochang Wanda Cinema in Shanghai offers the complete Christie experience to movie-goers by delivering most stunning and memorable movie-viewing and cinema sound experience. Visuals in Hall 9 auditorium are powered by the Christie CP4230 4K DLP® Digital Cinema Projector, which offers the brightest and highest resolution in its class, as well as the most robust and cost-effective 4K DLP Cinema® solutions.

Christie Vive Audio has been embraced by numerous cinema operators across the globe and the number of installations continues to increase, with the groundbreaking cinema speaker system on target to power its 150th screen in time for some of this year's most heavily anticipated blockbuster movies. At the current pace, the company anticipates a 100 percent increase in Christie Vive locations, with up to 300 auditoriums pumping out rich, dynamic, detailed cinema audio by the first quarter of 2016.

 

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By Daniel Garris

Universal's Pitch Perfect 2 was off to a terrific first place start this weekend with $69.22 million. The highly anticipated musical comedy sequel starring Anna Kendrick outpaced its already lofty pre-release expectations in a big way. Furthermore, Pitch Perfect 2 has already out-grossed the $65.00 million final domestic gross of 2012's Pitch Perfect. An effective high-profile marketing campaign and the rush out of the film's fanbase (which continued to grow after the original film was released to the home market) both helped turn Pitch Perfect 2 into an event film. Pitch Perfect 2 opened a very impressive 41 percent ahead of the $49.03 million debut of Universal's Neighbors last May.

Pitch Perfect 2 opened with $28.01 million on Friday (which included an estimated $4.6 million from Thursday evening shows), was down 12 percent on Saturday to gross $24.75 million and declined 33.5 percent on Sunday to take in $16.46 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.47 to 1. The audience breakdown for the film skewed heavily towards female moviegoers (75 percent) and towards moviegoers under the age of 25 (62 percent). The film received a promising A- rating on CinemaScore.

Following in the footsteps of Fifty Shades of Grey and Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2 represents another strong performer thus far in 2015 for Universal. The studio looks to continue its strong start to the year in the coming months with the likes of Jurassic World, Ted 2 and Minions.

While it ultimately didn't challenge Pitch Perfect 2 for first place this weekend, Warner's Mad Max: Fury Road was off to a very solid second place start $45.43 million. The critically acclaimed action film starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron opened on the high end of expectations (which were strengthened due to the film's very strong critical reviews). Fury Road was one of this summer's bigger question marks due in part to its high price tag and the 30-year gap between it and the Mad Max franchise's last film, 1985's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Mad Max: Fury Road opened 11 percent below the $51.05 million start of 2012's Prometheus and will hope to hold up better than Prometheus did.

Mad Max: Fury Road took in $16.61 million on Friday (which included an estimated $3.7 million from Thursday evening shows), fell a slim 3 percent on Saturday to gross $16.15 million and was down just 21.5 percent on Sunday to gross $12.67 million. That gave the film an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.73 to 1. The audience breakdown for the film skewed heavily towards male moviegoers (70 percent) and towards moviegoers over the age of 35 (54 percent). Mad Max: Fury Road received a B+ rating on CinemaScore, which suggests that the film may not be going over quite as well with moviegoers as it has with critics.

Avengers: Age of Ultron fell two spots to place in third this weekend with $38.86 million. In the process, the blockbuster superhero sequel from Disney and Marvel zoomed past Furious 7 to become the highest grossing release of 2015 thus far domestically with a 17-day take of $372.03 million. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Avengers: Age of Ultron claimed the fifth largest third weekend gross of all-time (behind only Avatar, Marvel's The Avengers, Spider-Man and The Dark Knight).

Avengers: Age of Ultron was down a sizable 50 percent from last weekend, which was understandable given the one-two punch it took from Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road this weekend. In comparison, 2012's The Avengers fell just 46 percent in its third weekend to gross $55.64 million, while 2013's Iron Man 3 fell 51 percent to gross $35.77 million. Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently running 19 percent behind the $457.67 million 17-day take of The Avengers and 10 percent ahead of the $337.66 million 17-day gross of Iron Man 3.

Warner's Hot Pursuit landed in fourth place with $5.72 million. The comedy from MGM and New Line starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara fell two spots and a sharp 59 percent from last weekend. The added presence of Pitch Perfect 2, mixed word of mouth and last weekend's debut being inflated a bit by Mother's Day all contributed to the film's decline this weekend. Hot Pursuit has grossed a softer than expected $23.45 million in ten days. That places the film 8 percent behind the $25.52 million ten-day take of 2011's Something Borrowed.

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