By Daniel Garris

Warner's American Sniper broke out in a big way this weekend with a massive $107.21 million in its first four days of wide release. The Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper had clearly been building up major momentum leading up to its wide release and ultimately exploded out of the gate this weekend to a degree that nobody was expecting. With a three-day gross of $89.27 million, American Sniper easily established new opening weekend records for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and for the month of January as it outpaced the $41.52 million take of previous record holder, last year's Ride Along, by an astounding 115 percent. With the addition of a very strong performance in three weeks of platform release (which clearly helped build up buzz for the film), American Sniper has grossed $110.64 million through Monday.

In a break-out performance of this size, American Sniper clearly appealed to various audience demographics and to moviegoers throughout the country. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards male moviegoers (57 percent) and towards moviegoers over 25 years of age (63 percent). American Sniper also received an added boost from the strong performance of its fairly last-minute IMAX release, which was responsible for an estimated $10.82 million of the film's overall gross this weekend.

With no potential blockbuster performers arriving in the marketplace over the next two weeks, American Sniper is in perfect position to continue to dominate the box office throughout the rest of January. The film received an exceptional A+ rating on CinemaScore.

It was a tight race for second place between Paddington and The Wedding Ringer this weekend. While The Wedding Ringer placed in second over the three-day frame, Paddington moved into second place over the four-day frame.

Paddington took in respective three-day and four-day grosses of $18.97 million and $25.49 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company debuted on the high end of expectations. Paddington opened just 1 percent below the $25.70 million four-day start of The Nut Job over Martin Luther King weekend last year, which was quite respectable given that Paddington didn't have the added advantage of higher priced 3D admissions that The Nut Job and most other family films have. Paddington received an A rating on CinemaScore, which is a promising early sign for the film going forward.

Sony's The Wedding Ringer was off to a respectable start with respective three-day and four-day grosses of $20.65 million and $24.04 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad opened on the low end of pre-release expectations. The Wedding Ringer opened 14 percent below the $27.84 million four-day start of last year's About Last Night, but will likely hold up better going forward than About Last Night did (due in part to that film being a Valentine's Day release). Potential for The Wedding Ringer was no doubt limited at least somewhat by the breakout performance of American Sniper with adult moviegoers. The Wedding Ringer received a healthy A- rating on CinemaScore.

On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start Fox's Taken 3 was down three spots and a sharp 56.5 percent to land in fourth place with $17.05 million over the four-day frame. Audience overlap with American Sniper has clearly led to increased front-loading for Taken 3. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise has grossed $65.84 million in eleven days. That places the film a reasonable 25 percent behind the $87.80 million eleven-day take of 2012's Taken 2. Taken 3 grossed $14.72 million over the three-day frame.

Selma rounded out the weekend's top five with a four-day take of $13.85 million. The Best Picture nominee from Paramount was up a healthy 22.5 percent over last weekend's three-day performance. The film was helped out this weekend by the Martin Luther King holiday (Monday's $5.07 million performance represented an 86.5 percent increase over Sunday) and by its Best Picture nomination. Selma has grossed $31.51 million after eleven days of wide release. While Selma is performing softer than was widely anticipated, the film is still having a respectable run thus far with its modest price tag in mind. Selma took in $8.78 million over the three-day frame.

Four-day holiday weekend grosses for other Best Picture nominees included $8.02 million for The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game (playing in 1,611 locations), $1.87 million for Fox Searchlight's Birdman (playing in 471 locations) and $1.18 million for Focus' The Theory of Everything (playing in 509 locations). Respective current total grosses stand at $51.62 million for The Imitation Game, at $28.59 million for Birdman and at $27.49 million for The Theory of Everything.

Meanwhile, Universal's Blackhat was dead on arrival this weekend with $4.49 million over the four-day frame. The Michael Mann directed film starring Chris Hemsworth debuted in eleventh place and opened well below its already modest expectations. The decision to open Blackhat against American Sniper (and one week after Taken 3) always seemed like a puzzling one and Blackhat simply couldn't find an audience this weekend due in part to that decision. The film debuted 75 percent below the $18.03 million start of last year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Long term prospects for Blackhat are bleak and the film having received a poor C- rating on CinemaScore won't help matters either. Blackhat grossed $3.90 million over the three-day frame.

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movio.pngCEO Will Palmer Nominated for "Excellence in Leadership" Award

Auckland, NZ and Los Angeles, CA - January 20, 2015 - Movio, the global leader in customer intelligence and targeted marketing software for the film industry, is a finalist in the New Zealand International Business Awards. The awards recognize companies that impact the international business community through leadership, innovation, vision and tenacity. They are presented by NZTE, New Zealand's international business development agency, with support from strategic partner ANZ, one of New Zealand's leading banking and financial services groups.

Movio is nominated in the "ANZ Best Business Operating Internationally" category. Company CEO and Co-Founder, Will Palmer, is nominated in the "Excellence in Leadership" category. Winners will be announced at the prestigious black tie awards ceremony on March 25, 2015 at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland.

Under Mr. Palmer's direction, Movio is recognized as the global leader in marketing data, analysis, insights, and campaign creation and management for theatrical exhibitors, studios and distributors. The underlying premise driving Movio's growth is the increasing realization by the film industry that the (big) data generated about moviegoers at point-of-sale are invaluable assets.

Movio's software solutions make it faster and cost-efficient for exhibitors to analyze and use that data and execute personalized campaigns to their customers. Movio's latest development aggregates data across a region to provide film distributors and studios comprehensive market data, providing crucial audience insights.

"Our vision is to revolutionize the way the film industry interacts with viewers, increase box office revenue and improve the quality of content produced," said Mr Palmer. "We are thrilled and honored that our data-driven approach has been recognized as worthy of consideration from the New Zealand International Business Awards."

About New Zealand International Business Awards

The New Zealand International Business Awards attract a wide range of entries from a variety of industries. Past winners have included SMEs and large multinational organizations - from technology, health and design businesses, to those in the primary sector. There are few higher accolades for New Zealand companies than the New Zealand International Business Awards. The Awards celebrate the success of New Zealand businesses on the world stage, recognizing professional excellence, innovative practice and leadership through vision, commitment and success. These companies help grow and transform the New Zealand economy with exceptional export success in international markets. The Awards are organized by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, with the support of strategic partner ANZ, one of New Zealand's leading banking and financial services groups.

About Movio

Movio is the global leader in marketing data analysis and campaign management for cinema exhibitors, studios and distributors. A company of Vista Group International Ltd (NZX:VGL), Movio's mission is to revolutionize the way the film industry interacts with moviegoers. Movio maintains real-time, authoritative data on the loyalty activity and transactions of over 30 million customers. Movio operates in North America, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, China, Vietnam and Malaysia, and is currently targeting Europe as well as emerging markets in Latin America and Asia Pacific.

Website: www.movio.co

Twitter: @MovioHQ

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/movio


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carmikecinemas.pngCOLUMBUS, Ga.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Carmike Cinemas, Inc. (NASDAQ:CKEC), a leading entertainment, digital cinema and 3-D motion picture exhibitor, today announced the death of Company board member Alan J. Hirschfield, 79, who passed away on Thursday, January 15.

Carmike President and CEO David Passman stated, "We are deeply saddened by the news of Alan's sudden passing and our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Berte and their entire extended family. As a member of Carmike's Board Alan was an invaluable and frequent contributor, demonstrating and offering his wealth of knowledge, experience and relationships across the film and entertainment industries. He will truly be missed by all who had the good fortune to have known him."

Alan J. Hirschfield had served as an independent Carmike Cinemas director since April 2002 and was a member of its Audit and Executive Committees. From 1992 to 2000, he was Co-Chief Executive Officer of Data Broadcasting Corporation, a global provider of financial and business information, which merged with Financial Times/Pearsons, Inc. From 1986 to 1990, Mr. Hirschfield served as a consultant/investor in the entertainment/media industry. Prior to that he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Mr. Hirschfield was also President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Pictures, Inc. from 1973 to 1978.

About Carmike Cinemas

Carmike Cinemas, Inc. is a U.S. leader in digital cinema, 3-D cinema deployments and one of the nation's largest motion picture exhibitors. Carmike has 273 theatres with 2,892 screens in 41 states. The circuit includes 45 premium large format (PLF) auditoriums featuring state-of-the-art technology and luxurious seating, including 28 "BigDs," 15 IMAX auditoriums and two MuviXL screens. As "America's Hometown Theatre Chain" Carmike's primary focus is mid-sized communities. Visit www.carmike.com for exact show times and to purchase tickets.


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Art House Convergence 2015: The Keynote Speakers

Interview with Anne Thompson, Founder and Editor in Chief, Thompson on Hollywood


by Daniel Loria

Anne Thompson is among the best-known entertainment-industry journalists working today. She has served as an editor in some of the most respected trade publications, including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Premiere, and Film Comment. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, and Entertainment Weekly, among many other outlets. Her book, The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System, is available from HarperCollins. Thompson continues to cover the film industry through her blog, Thompson on Hollywood. BoxOffice spoke with Anne Thompson ahead of her keynote address at Art House Convergence to get her insight on the latest topics affecting theatrical exhibition today.

What would you say is the current state of the exhibition industry?

The transition to digital is well under way, and while the theaters have made the move to digital projection, I don't think the industry as a whole has figured out what the new model is going to be. There's a lot of innovation and experimentation on the independent side, and there's also a lot of pressure on the studio side for theaters to shorten their windows. I think that kind of give-and-take, push and pull, will continue to play out. And I don't think that's going to be easy or necessarily pleasant. I think it's going to be more and more challenging for everybody to step up their game and be open to innovation and experimentation and figuring out ways to reach audiences-figuring out the right film to show to their individual communities. This is not a time for following formulas or doing things the way you've always done them. This is a time to really stay ahead of the game. 

Studios seem to be spending more money on fewer films. Has this opened an even greater opportunity for independent and foreign cinema in North America?

I think the biggest mistake that Hollywood is making is that they're gearing so much of their product to the foreign marketplace and not offering enough diversity at different times of the year domestically. On the independent side, there is more opportunity for discovery of incredibly compelling, original movies that are not as formulaic. I think that's the most exciting thing: exhibitors can be more aggressive about seeking out the films that exist away from established avenues.

Do you believe attitudes concerning day-and-date VOD releases will change significantly in the near future?

I think we're still in an experimental phase. Theaters that are in the VOD space are trying out different things and figuring out what works for them and what works for different kinds of movies. I would like to see more transparency in knowing what the VOD numbers actually are. The more information we have, the more numbers we are working with, the better it will be for everyone involved. A lot of people simply don't know what those numbers are and make a lot of projections and assumptions that may or may not be based on fact. The sweet spot for VOD seems to be when you can establish a brand, get reviews, get a certain buzz going in the marketplace. 

With so many of the bigger exhibition chains investing money in new projection technology and value-added features like luxury seating, what can independent exhibitors do in order to stand out in the market?

I think Alamo Drafthouse has innovated beautifully in this space. They figured out a way to cater to the cinephiles without ruining the moviegoing experience. I think focusing on the experience is going to continue to be an important way to lure moviegoers to cinemas at a time when they're becoming more comfortable watching films in their living rooms. As digital living rooms become more common, comfortable, and sophisticated, it is going to become even more difficult for theaters to pull people out of their homes to see films. That's why I believe programming is the most important thing. Of course the quality of the experience counts, but the quality of the movie is primary. It's something I've learned in my own work as a blogger: you have to reach farther and find the right content in order to get people to read you. You have to reach people with the right hook; you have to reach people with the right topic. I think the same is true for exhibitors. It's about knowing your constituents and knowing how to reach them.

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by Russ Collins

In January, we are reminded of Janus (no, not the legendary distribution company, the Roman god), and are compelled to reflect back and look toward our future simultaneously. The Art House Convergence began as an idea, emerging from the first meeting of the Sundance Institute Art House Project in January 2006. There were 12 exhibitors in attendance and two dozen delegates. This year, our annual conference will have over 450 attendees from all over North America, as well as many international colleagues.

Besides the annual conference, the Art House Convergence now presents regional seminars, hosts the Art House Visiting Members program, and will be launching the newly expanded Sundance Institute Art House Project as a Good Housekeeping institutional validation program in participation with the Sundance Institute in January 2015. In addition to this growth, the IFP Festival Forum partners with the convergence during the annual January conference, providing networking and educational opportunities to film-festival professionals.

The key purpose of the Art House Convergence is to increase the quantity and quality of art-house cinema exhibition in North America. We do this by encouraging cinema exhibition that is innovative, inclusive, strives for win-win solutions, and promotes functionality and success, both financial and in terms of a humanistic and communitarian ethos. Our conferences focus on the education and professional development necessary to operate the community-minded, incredibly passionate art-house exhibitors we represent.

The result: the convergence movement has grown, and a sense of unity and camaraderie is building among art-house cinemas in North America. Art-house cinemas are looking beyond mere profit and are enthusiastically embracing a community cultural mission. For many if not most art-house operators, there has always been a mission, but now, collectively validated, it has grown much deeper. For the last eight years, our art-house community has celebrated this sense of community and unity at the Art House Convergence. Our collaborations with the IFP Festival Forum, our Art House Visiting Members program, and our upcoming Sundance Institute Art House Project program work to build that art-house community with not just cinema exhibitors but also with our cinema audiences.

We deeply appreciate the opportunity to partner with BoxOffice Pro for [their coverage] with a focus on art-house exhibition. Though we have many of the same burdens and opportunities as our commercial exhibitors, there are a few unique qualities to being an art-house exhibitor, and we are grateful to BoxOffice Pro for allowing us to share our stories.

Russ Collins is the founder of Art House Convergence and has served as CEO of the Michigan Theater since 1982.


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