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By Daniel Garris

Universal's Ride Along 2 debuted in first place over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend with $41.01 million. The PG-13 rated comedy sequel starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart debuted towards the lower end of expectations and 16 percent below the $48.63 million four-day start of 2014's Ride Along. The film had been widely expected to debut a bit below Ride Along due in part to less pre-release excitement and the potential for sequel fatigue. With that said, Ride Along 2 still registered the fourth largest four-day Martin Luther King weekend debut of all-time and the eighth largest thee-day January opening ever with a three-day take of $35.24 million. Ride Along 2 received a B+ rating on CinemaScore. While that's a solid score, it's also significantly softer than the A rating Ride Along received on CinemaScore and suggests that the film will be more front-loaded than its predecessor was.

Thanks in part to healthy word of mouth and its 12 Academy Award nominations; Fox's The Revenant continued to exceed expectations with a close second place take of $37.53 million over the four-day frame. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was down a very slim 6 percent from last weekend's already stronger than expected debut. The Revenant has grossed an impressive $95.70 million after eleven days of wide release (and an additional two weeks of platform release). That places the film 24 percent ahead of the $77.32 million eleven-day take of 2010's Shutter Island. The Revenant represents another strong performer for DiCaprio and should continue to hold up well going forward. The film took $31.80 million over the three-day weekend.

After leading the weekend box office for each of the past four frames, Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens fell to third place this weekend with a four-day take of $33.02 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise was down a solid 22 percent from last weekend. The Force Awakens passed the $850 million mark this weekend and continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $858.95 million through 32 days of release. The film is currently running 70 percent ahead of the $504.87 million 32-day take of 2009's Avatar and 45 percent ahead of the $592.84 million 32-day gross of last year's Jurassic World. The Force Awakens took in $26.34 million over the three-day frame. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, The Force Awakens claimed the fourth largest three-day fifth weekend gross of all-time (behind only Avatar, 1997's Titanic and 2013's Frozen).

Paramount's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi debuted in fourth place with a four-day start of $19.22 million. The Michael Bay directed action thriller debuted a bit below expectations. While it wasn't expected to do so, 13 Hours was unable to deliver the type of break-out performance that other war themed thrillers such as American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty have delivered in recent years during the month of January. Potential for 13 Hours appears to have been weakened by the politics that have surrounded the 2012 Benghazi attack, as well as the break-out performance of The Revenant. 13 Hours is running 27 percent behind the $26.42 million four-day start of 2012's Act of Valor. 13 Hours took in $16.19 million over the three-day frame.  The film did receive a strong A rating on CinemaScore, which suggests that 13 Hours will hold up well going forward.

Fellow Paramount release Daddy's Home rounded out the weekend's top five with a four-day take of $11.90 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg was down a solid 21 percent from last weekend. Daddy's Home continues to impress with a stronger than expected 25-day gross of $131.86 million. That places the film 32 percent ahead of the $99.65 million 25-day take of 2010's The Other Guys. Daddy's Home grossed $9.55 million over the three-day weekend.

Meanwhile, Norm of the North was off to a lackluster sixth place start this weekend with a four-day take of $9.38 million. The modestly budgeted computer animated film from Lionsgate opened in line with its already low expectations. Martin Luther King weekend is typically a strong weekend for family films, but Norm of the North was unable to take advantage of the holiday frame. Norm of the North opened a very underwhelming 63.5 percent below the $25.70 million four-day start of 2014's The Nut Job. Over the three-day frame, Norm of the North took in $6.84 million. Norm of the North received a lackluster B- rating on CinemaScore, which isn't a good sign going forward. On top of that, the film will be facing added competition for family audiences from Fox's Kung Fu Panda 3 beginning on January 29.

The Forest landed in seventh place with $6.98 million. The PG-13 horror film from Focus and Gramercy starring Natalie Dormer was down a respectable 45 percent from last weekend's debut. The Forest has grossed a stronger than expected $22.31 million in eleven days. That places the film essentially on par with the $22.40 million eleven-day gross of last year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. The Forest took in $5.98 million over the three-day weekend.

Thanks in part to the five Academy Award nominations it received; Paramount's The Big Short was up 4 percent to take in an eighth place four-day gross of $6.44 million. This weekend's hold was especially impressive given that The Big Short is playing in 764 fewer locations than it was last week. The Adam McKay directed comedy drama passed the $50 million mark this weekend and has grossed $51.76 million in 39 days. The Big Short grossed $5.30 million over the three-day frame.

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PRESS RELEASE:

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The German post-production facility Rotor Film has installed a 69-loudspeaker Meyer Sound cinema system in its recently opened mixing stage-the largest in Europe that offers both Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D immersive surround sound technologies. Located in the Babelsberg "Media City" complex in Potsdam, the room features one of the largest Meyer Sound cinema monitoring systems ever installed.

Before making the critical decision on loudspeakers, Rotor Film held intensive comparative listening tests, with participation by management, staff, and associated independent mixing engineers.

"We invited about 20 sound designers and freelance engineers as our guests to listen to a wide range of audio samples," says Christoph Engelke, technical director at Rotor Film. "Based on everyone's listening experiences, a Meyer Sound system was the clear choice for our two top managers, Holger Lehmann and Martin Frühmorgen, and myself."

To accommodate mixing for 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos, the system comprises three Acheron® 100 screen channel loudspeakers, four HMS-12 and 30 HMS-10 surround loudspeakers, and nine X-800C high-power cinema subwoofers. For Auro-3D extension, the system includes another three Acheron 100 loudspeakers and 20 more HMS-10 loudspeakers.

"So far, we've had a very good response from visiting engineers on the Meyer Sound system's performance," reports Engelke.

Equipped with seating for 200, the 400-square-meter room can be used to both mix and screen films. It features an Avid Pro Tools S6 mixing console with 64 faders and four Pro Tools systems running HD11 and HD12 software. In addition to a full slate of plug-ins from Waves, Altiverb, iZotope, and others, the studio also offers outboard effects by Lexicon, TC Electronic, and Eventide. Color grading is achieved with a Baselight TWO system on a Blackboard 2 control surface, and films are screened with either a Barco DP4K-32B digital projector or an all-format Kinoton film projector onto a 14.5-by-6.1-meter screen.

Rotor Film is located in the Babelsberg Medienstadt (Media City), a district of Potsdam that has been a center for film production since 1912, as well as for television in recent decades. Historic films produced at Studio Babelsberg include "Metropolis" and "Blue Angel," while more recent productions include "The Bourne Ultimatum," "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and "Bridge of Spies."

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PRESS RELEASE

Premium 270-Degree Cinema Experience Opening Second U.S. Site at Town Square 18, Las Vegas on February 5, 2016

Los Angeles, CA and Las Vegas, NV (January 19, 2016) - ScreenX, the world's first multi-projection system that allows theatre-goers to go beyond the frame of the movie screen by extending the images onto the theatre walls, is opening its second site in the U.S. in Las Vegas on February 5, 2016. Created by South Korean company CJ group - which previously introduced 4DX around the world, including in the U.S. - ScreenX is the next evolution in theatre technology. It immerses the audience into a 270-degree viewing environment that utilizes three sides of the theatre to express more of the story and provide a panoramic experience.

After launching the first publicly available theatre at the CGV Cinemas Los Angeles earlier this month, ScreenX is set to open its second screen at the AMC Town Square 18 in Las Vegas, NV, located a short drive from the heart of the Las Vegas strip and Las Vegas Convention Center. For the second feature film to be shown in this unique format on American soil, ScreenX will feature Mojin: The Lost Legend. Already breaking records in China, Mojin is a science fiction tale following the adventure of a retired tomb raider pulled back into his old profession.

"Mojin is the perfect film for residents of Las Vegas to experience ScreenX's innovative and immersive 270-degree format for the first time," said Paul Kim, Director of Content, ScreenX. "We are thrilled that together with AMC we are able to bring ScreenX to another location in the United States."

Since debuting in 2012, ScreenX has quickly grown its Asian business, currently operating more than 78 screens in 47 locations in South Korea as well as screens in China and Bangkok. It was showcased exclusively for industry attendees of CinemaCon 2015, also at AMC Town Square 18 in Las Vegas.

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PRESS RELEASE:

"Swiss Army Man" and "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" receive the 2016 Dolby Family Sound Fellowship

Virtual reality projects from Jaunt and Specular Theory to premiere in festival's New Frontier exhibition in Dolby Atmos

SAN FRANCISCO & PARK CITY, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sundance Institute® and the Dolby® Institute, along with the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, announced today that Swiss Army Man, written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, written and directed by Taika Waititi, have both been selected as the 2016 recipients of the Dolby Family Sound Fellowship. This fellowship provides a range of postproduction resources to allow the recipients to fulfill the creative potential of their films' soundtracks. Chosen for their creative and unique soundscapes and sound-design potential, Swiss Army Man and Hunt for the Wilderpeople will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival® at the Eccles Theatre in Dolby Atmos® on January 22, 2016.

Concurrently, as part of the 10th anniversary of New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival, audiences will experience two virtual reality (VR) pieces over headphones, featuring the immersive sound of Dolby Atmos for virtual reality technology. Collisions, directed by award-winning Australian filmmaker and renowned artist Lynette Wallworth, who returns with her third project at Sundance as the first filmmaker to be part of the Jaunt|Sundance Cinematic VR Residency Program, will play throughout the festival. Also featured is Perspective; Chapter 2: The Misdemeanor, created by artists Rose Troche and Morris May, with Specular Theory, the newest VR collaborator with Dolby. The New Frontier category showcases the intersection of storytelling and technology in many media forms, including cinematic virtual reality.

The world premieres of Swiss Army Man and Hunt for the Wilderpeople will be presented in Dolby Atmos at the Eccles Theatre at 3:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively, on January 22, 2016. Since the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the Eccles Theatre has been permanently outfitted with Dolby Atmos, an award-winning technology that breathes life into storytelling by allowing filmmakers the creative freedom to easily arrange sounds anywhere in the movie theatre and creating the most engaging cinema sound experience.

In Swiss Army Man, alone on a tiny deserted island, Hank (Paul Dano) has given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore, and he soon realizes it may be his last opportunity to escape certain death. After befriending the corpse and gradually discovering its special powers, the duo go on an epic adventure to bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams. Music video gurus DANIELS, a.k.a. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, craft a wholly original debut feature bursting with limitless creativity both in content and form. Their consistently surprising script spans a wide range of emotions: from the ridiculously absurd to a touching exploration of what it means to be human. Given what are likely to be some of the most unique roles of their acting careers, co-leads Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe give their all to a movie musical that celebrates the wonder that cinema offers.

"As our first time mixing a film in Dolby Atmos, we were instantly amazed and drawn to the technology-it really brings our movie to life in a way we never thought possible," said The Daniels, co-directors and writers of Swiss Army Man. "A big part of this film is being inside our characters' heads-experiencing life through their eyes and ears-and Dolby Atmos is helping us take the audience on that journey."

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, written and directed by Taika Waititi (co-writer and co-director of last year's smash hit comedy What We Do in the Shadows), stars Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and breakout Julian Dennison (Paper Planes). The film tells the story of Ricky (Dennison), a defiant young city kid, who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle (Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this heartwarming adventure comedy.

"I'm excited and humbled that Sundance Institute and Dolby have chosen Hunt for the Wilderpeople for this incredible opportunity," said writer-director Taika Waititi. "This fellowship will help the soundscape of the New Zealand bush-a character in the film-come alive in a major way and take the film to the next level. We are thrilled to debut it at the Festival!"

Sundance Institute and the Dolby Institute collaborated on the film-vetting process; a committee made up of members from both organizations with the help of Academy Award® winning sound designer Skip Lievsay (Gravity) selected the winning films. The winning filmmakers have used the grant to create native Dolby Atmos sound design and sound mixes for Swiss Army Man and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Emmy® award winner Brent Kiser worked with Academy Award nominated mixer Beau Borders to mix Swiss Army Man at the Dolby mixing stage in Burbank, California, while two-time Academy Award winner Mike Hedges mixed Hunt for the Wilderpeople at director Peter Jackson's facility, Park Road Post Production, in Wellington, New Zealand.

"Swiss Army Man and Hunt for the Wilderpeople are two of the most wildly original movies we've seen that have amazing potential for creative sound and music-we think they will certainly be the talk of the Sundance Film Festival this year," said Glenn Kiser, Director, Dolby Institute, Dolby Laboratories. "The originality of these filmmakers' visions have creatively stretched the Dolby Atmos format. Audiences are going to take a wild ride with both these movies."

In addition, Dolby will host two panel discussions for creatives at the New Frontier Gateway at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The "Immersive Sound for Virtual Reality" panel on January 24 at 3:00 p.m. will feature the creators of the VR experience Perspective; Chapter 2: Misdemeanor, Rose Troche, Morris May, and their sound designer Tim Gedemer, in addition to Miles Perkins from Jaunt, who will be representing Collisions. The panelists will discuss techniques and concepts for maximizing the impact of immersive audio in VR movies. Joel Susal, Director of Virtual and Augmented Reality, Dolby Laboratories, will moderate the discussion.

On January 28 at 3:00 p.m., the panel "Using Sound to Tell Your Story: Swiss Army Man Case Study" will feature Swiss Army Man filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, along with sound designer and mixer Brent Kiser. With clips from the film, panelists will discuss how creative sound and music contributed to the immersive world of their off-beat buddy movie. This panel will be moderated by Glenn Kiser of the Dolby Institute.

Both panels will be held at New Frontier at the Gateway Center, 136 Heber Avenue in Park City. Both panels are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

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By Daniel Loria

A filmmaker, both in practice and at heart, Emily Best developed Seed&Spark after finding current independent production and distribution models out of touch with today's culture and technology. Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding and distribution platform that gives filmmakers the tools they need to take full control of their career. BoxOffice spoke with Best ahead of her closing keynote address at Art House Convergence.

Seed&Spark originated from an independent-film production; can you tell us more about that experience?

I made a movie with some friends in 2011 called Like the Water. This is before women and media hit the zeitgeist; we wanted to make a movie that we felt reflected women we recognized as opposed to the ones we were told we were. We wanted women who had strong friendships and complicated, interesting journeys as opposed to ones who had problems that only a man could solve. My friend Caitlin Fitzgerald was making Newlyweds with Ed Burns at the time; he was one of the first filmmakers to really embrace the digital revolution and released a movie theatrically that he made for $9,000. This was really the ushering in of a totally new era, and that's really when I got into filmmaking. I didn't enter with any of the traditional industry rules and regulations; I came into it knowing the ways things were changing and the opportunities that created. 

Is that where the crowdsourcing component of Seed&Spark comes from?

When we tried to fund this movie about women we recognized, we were constantly told there probably wasn't an audience for the film. Kickstarter and Indiegogo had been around for a little while, but we didn't want to ask for a pile of money. We wanted to get our community involved in a way that would help them understand what it would take to get the movie made and what the journey would look like. I don't know, maybe you don't need to get a group of women in a room for that long to get to the idea of a wedding registry: a list of things and their associated costs. We made a wish list and listed everything we needed: $20,000 in 30 days. We raised $23,000 cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans of locations, goods, and services. We listed bug spray and sunscreen because we were going to shoot in Maine over the summer, and my cousin-who didn't have a ton of money at the time-was working in a sports- supply warehouse in California and shipped us a case of each. He was a legend for it. A local car dealership loaned us a couple of cars for six weeks. A local coffee shop gave us 60 pounds of coffee and kept us caffeinated for our 22-day shoot. It's a way of filmmaking that respects what filmmakers are really trying to do; it captures a community in one way or another, it not only tells us a story. When we finished the film and started taking it around the festival circuit, people who contributed to our campaign would begin bringing friends to our screenings. Even when we were in Poland and Oaxaca, Mexico-places where we didn't know we knew people.

Beyond funding, Seed&Spark can also be seen as a disruptive platform for the current independent-film distribution model.

I was meeting all these gatekeepers: sales agents, financiers, and distributors. They kept telling me there wasn't an audience for the movie. I would keep on going to festivals, however, and we'd see how positively people reacted. Clearly, the gatekeepers seemed incredibly out of touch, but, more critically, they didn't seem to know how to reach a community of interest in a way beyond what they'd been doing for years.

Seed&Spark was born out of our desire to help filmmakers connect with the communities that would support their careers-not just for one film but for their entire career. We also wanted to distribute those films in a responsible way that could also reap financial returns for the filmmakers. A lot of people have said they're there to help filmmakers make money, but very few have meant it. We are a for-filmmaker, by-filmmaker company, and we're aiming to transform the industry into a place where we think we have a sustainable future making films. 

Last year we went on the road to teach this class called Crowdfunding to Build Independence, which is really about using crowdfunding to build a lasting, sustainable, direct relationship with audiences that can be monetized to build distribution for many films-not just one. We're building increasing numbers of features into our product, which allows filmmakers to leverage the data they gather about their audience from crowdfunding to build strategic and sustainable distribution plans. Not every [independent] film can be released theatrically, but the ones that do often aren't doing it based on anything other than their desire to release theatrically. We want every single person that touches a crowdfunding venture to receive a survey asking where they watch films. It would be a very different thing to start building a distribution plan if you had 500 guaranteed audience members who indicate they like to watch content at art-house theaters across three states. Then we can work directly with theater owners in each state. 

Speaking about distribution, can you tell us more about your partnership with Tugg, the communal film-booking platform?

Our partnership really centers around the educational efforts, teaching filmmakers that all the tools are available for them to control every aspect of their careers. Filmmakers will never have to talk to another gatekeeper again to create, generate, and capitalize on the demand for their own films. I fundamentally believe that while there will always be the business of the gatekeepers, if you're not telling the stories they're used to making money on, they're just not going to pick you. That is not going to happen. So you can either try and change the things that matter to you and write, produce, and direct films that look more like the ones they're making, or you can tell your own stories and connect directly with the audiences who are being massively underserved by the Hollywood model. It's a different way of coming to work; you need to take more entrepreneurial control of your career. That's really where Tugg and Seed&Spark have found our greatest overlap-in our desire to give filmmakers all the tools they need to build the sustainable careers they want.

There's a curatorial aspect to film programming, but the root of it all really does come down to what sort of films are being acquired by distributors. How does crowdfunding alter that model?

As we align more around our interests, taste becomes a very tricky way to judge things, because taste is heavily biased. We just saw Project Greenlight, and while Matt Damon is talking about meritocracy, we need to realize that a meritocracy to Matt Damon is stuff that looks like him. He's the success story, and therefore stuff that looks like him has merit. Inside our notions of merit and taste are built deep, entrenched biases: racial, gender, regional. We need to start thinking that part of diversity is getting people outside of New York and Los Angeles. Crowdfunding brings things to the forefront that might not be for me but that have huge audiences that feel they're well represented by these stories. The only kind of gatekeeping there should be is one where the audience says yes or no.

Ultimately taste doesn't sell tickets, demand does. With Seed&Spark you're identifying that demand on a community-by-community basis.

Our hope is that we can seed films directly into the communities that are demanding them. We can identify projects that might not think of themselves as art-house worthy, projects that have strong connections to communities. This is what the Internet promised it could always do, and we're doing it.

 

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