Movies

MoviePass Reveals Annual Subscription For $6.95 a Month (slashfilm.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares a report: MoviePass seemed like the deal of the century: $10 a month to see one movie a day at the theaters? No contest. But in the three months since the start-up company seeking to disrupt the theater market with a Netflix-like service launched its new business model, MoviePass has been plagued by technical hiccups, backed-up deliveries, and potential lawsuits. As the company expanded its operations, it finally began to settle into its new subscription base of more than 600,000 users. And now MoviePass is already offering up a new deal: an up-front annual subscription of $89.95, which amounts to about $6.95 a month. But how much of a discount is it really? The MoviePass annual subscription is a limited-time promotion that will last 12 months, according to the website. Users pay $89.95 up front, plus a $6.55 processing fee. "Once your year is up, your plan will convert back into your $9.95 a month. Offer valid until it's not. Limit two per household," the MoviePass website says.
Businesses

37% of Netflix Subscribers Say They Binge-Watch While at Work (netflix.com) 152

On-demand video streaming service Netflix has found that more people than ever are watching video outside their homes. About 67% of people now watch movies and TV shows in public, according to an online survey it commissioned of 37,000 adults around the world. The survey also found that about 37% of Netflix's US subscribers binge-watch shows and movies while at work.
Nintendo

Nintendo Is Making An Animated Super Mario Bros. Movie, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 69

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo has made a deal with Illumination Entertainment -- the animation studio that makes the Despicable Me movies -- to make an animated Super Mario Bros. movie. The film is currently in "early development," but the report comes as a surprise given how protective Nintendo is of their intellectual properties. Gizmodo reports: According to the report, the companies have been in negotiations for a year and the fact Universal (which finances and distributes Illumination's movie) has partnered with Nintendo for several theme parks was helpful. Right now, the deal is one for one movie, but there is potential for more. Of course, Nintendo is almost laughably protective of their intellectual properties, especially after the disastrous 1993 live action Super Mario Bros. movie. They've made Pokemon movies but, beyond that, rumors of movies based on Mario and The Legend of Zelda have been around for years. This is the vide game company's first big move forward in a long time, and the implications are extremely significant.
The Internet

CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15 (fastcompany.com) 142

harrymcc writes: In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies. They still exist, albeit in diminished form. But Oath, which owns AOL, which owns what's left of CompuServe, is about to finally shut them down. I wrote about the sad news for Fast Company.
Television

Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series (techcrunch.com) 109

Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series for its Amazon Instant streaming service. The show, which already carries a multi-season commitment, will "explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." TechCrunch reports: It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
Businesses

Amazon Developing a Free, Ad-Supported Version of Prime Video: Report (adage.com) 74

Amazon is developing a free, ad-supported complement to its Prime streaming video service, AdAge reported on Monday, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans. From the report: The company is talking with TV networks, movie studios and other media companies about providing programming to the service, they say. Amazon Prime subscribers pay $99 per year for free shipping but also access to a mix of ad-free TV shows, movies and original series such as "Transparent" and "The Man in the High Castle." It has dabbled in commercials on Prime to a very limited degree, putting ads inside National Football League games this season and offering smaller opportunities for brand integrations. A version paid for by advertisers instead of subscribers could provide a new foothold in streaming video for marketers, whose opportunities to run commercials are eroding as audiences drift away from traditional TV and toward ad-free services like Netflix and Prime.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Can Smart TVs Insert Ads Into Your Movies? (gigaom.com) 235

dryriver writes: Back in 2015, the owners of some Samsung smart TVs complained about their viewing of films and other content being constantly interrupted by a recurring Pepsi ad. It turned out that yes, the Samsung TV itself was inserting the ad into content.

Samsung said at the time that it was a software glitch that caused this. They left a function on by default that should have been off when they shipped the TVs. But it proves that Smart TVs have an unnerving capability built into them -- the ability to interrupt content playback with product ads actually stored on the TV itself.

So here's the question -- what if all Smart TV makers suddenly decide that having the ability to push custom ads to the owner of the TV is "fair game"? What if they decide "You want to own this model of TV for XXX Dollars? Well, you can have it, but we'll reserve the right to show you customized advertising as you are viewing stuff with it"? Are there any laws anywhere that would protect TV owners from such intrusive advertising?

The Media

Peter Thiel Could End Up Owning Gawker (pagesix.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes: Gawker's assets are now up for sale, and Page Six reports that they could be sold to a Hollywood movie studio which is "seriously interested" in adapting the site's stories into movies or TV shows -- and is also looking into filming the story of Gawker itself. Another interested buyer is described as a "group of hard-core Gawker fans" who are currently performing their own due diligence. But the bankruptcy manager for Gawker "has not ruled out the possibility" of selling the site to Peter Thiel. Also up for sale are "potential legal claims" Gawker may have against Peter Thiel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sci-Fi

CBS To Reboot 'The Twilight Zone' (hollywoodreporter.com) 125

phalse phace writes: During CBS's Thursday evenings conference call for their 3rd quarter earnings, CEO Leslie Moonves revealed that CBS was planning to reboot the classic fantasy science-fiction television series "The Twilight Zone." According to the Hollywood Reporter, "the show hails from Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw banner, with Marco Ramirez set to pen the script and serve as showrunner." This wouldn't be the first time CBS has brought the show back. "The network revived the series in the 1980s that ran for three seasons and again in 2002 for a season on UPN with host Forest Whitaker. The franchise has also been licensed to a new stage play set to premiere in December at the Almeida Theatre in London and run through January. The original series won three Emmys during its 156-episode run and explored topics including humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices."
Movies

How Kodi Took Over Piracy (wired.com) 143

A reader shares a report: For years, piracy persisted mainly in the realm of torrents, with sites like The Pirate Bay and Demonoid connecting internet denizens to premium content gratis. But a confluence of factors have sent torrent usage plummeting from 23 percent of all North American daily internet traffic in 2011 to under 5 percent last year. Legal crackdowns shuttered prominent torrent sites. Paid alternatives like Netflix and Hulu made it easier just to pay up. And then there were the "fully loaded" Kodi boxes -- otherwise vanilla streaming devices that come with, or make easily accessible, so-called addons that seek out unlicensed content -- that deliver pirated movies and TV shows with push-button ease. "Kodi and the plugin system and the people who made these plugins have just dumbed down the process," says Dan Deeth, spokesperson for network-equipment company Sandvine. "It's easy for anyone to use. It's kind of set it and forget it. Like the Ron Popeil turkey roaster." Kodi itself is just a media player; the majority of addons aren't piracy focused, and lots of Kodi devices without illicit software plug-ins are utterly uncontroversial. Still, that Kodi has swallowed piracy may not surprise some of you; a full six percent of North American households have a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content, according to a recent Sandvine study. But the story of how a popular, open-source media player called XBMC became a pirate's paradise might. And with a legal crackdown looming, the Kodi ecosystem's present may matter less than its uncertain future.
Movies

2017: The Year That Horror Saved Hollywood (qz.com) 156

A reader shares a report: If there's a silver lining in any of that for America's film industry, it's that the horror genre is still plugging merrily along, seemingly immune to the financial troubles that have befallen most studios. As the rest of Hollywood flounders in 2017, horror is in the midst of its highest-grossing year ever. On the backs of huge hits like It and Get Out, the horror genre has combined for a record $733.5 million in the US this year, according to box office data compiled by the New York Times (paywall). The year has proven that horror films are more than just cheaply made movies for niche audiences and can still cross into the mainstream to become bona fide successes. Ticket sales during the 2017 summer movie season, billed by Variety as "The Summer of Hell," were down nearly 11% from last year due to a series of epic flops, namely King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Dark Tower. Arguably the only saving grace was It, the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stephen King that became the highest-grossing horror film of all time in September (not adjusted for inflation). Today, it has made a very fitting $666.6 million (seriously) worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Following a solid first half of 2017 with Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, It helped Warner Bros. rebound from the disastrous King Arthur and the disappointing Blade Runner 2049 -- to say nothing of this month's box office catastrophe, Geostorm.
Star Wars Prequels

John Mollo, Oscar-Winning 'Star Wars' Costume Designer, Dies At 86 (hollywoodreporter.com) 13

schwit1 quotes the Hollywood Reporter: John Mollo, the costume designer who brought to life Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas' conceptual vision for Star Wars, has died. He was 86... "We discussed a few concepts when I joined the team, and George Lucas had a clear vision of what he was looking for. He liked the idea of the baddies having a fascist look about them, with the heroes reflecting the look of heroes of the American Wild West," he told www.starwarshelmets.com.

With McQuarrie's sketches and a meager budget of $1,173 for one costume, the London-born Mollo began shaping and fine-tuning Darth Vader's image through his knowledge of World War 1 trench armour and Nazi helmets, ultimately creating the look of one cinema's most memorable villains. His military influence is also visible in the regalia worn by the crew of the Death Star.

Working on Ridley Scott's Alien, " Molloâ(TM)s focus was to create used and well-worn clothing for the crew of the Nostromo on their long return trip to Earth as well as designing the patches and emblems emblazoned across their suits."
Android

Roku Wants To Start Streaming To Third-Party Devices (variety.com) 25

According to Variety, Roku is looking to start streaming videos on devices made or controlled by competitors like Apple and Google. The company's first foray into streaming on third-party hardware will likely involve mobile devices. From the report: The move could further accelerate Roku's efforts to transition from a hardware-revenue-based to a services-based business model -- a transition that has been in progress for years. Now, it plans to also stream some content on devices that don't run its operating system, with mobile being a likely first step. Key to Roku's expansion into mobile video is going to be the company's existing mobile app, which has already been downloaded tens of millions of times on iOS and Android. The app's current primary function is remote control, as it allows owners of Roku streaming devices and Roku-powered TVs to control these devices directly from their phones. In fact, the app can't currently be operated if there is not a Roku device available on the same Wifi network. This could change soon, as Roku is looking to integrate video playback directly into its mobile app. A first step is likely going to be the integration of the Roku Channel, an ad-supported channel that the company launched last month. The Roku Channel currently offers free, ad-supported access to several hundred movies from major studios like Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. as well as smaller publishers like American Classics, Fandor, FilmRise, Nosey, OVGuide, Popcornflix, Vidmark, and YuYu. However, Roku has been asking publishers to also grant the company the rights to stream their titles on mobile devices, according to a source familiar with these stipulations.
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 91

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, Movie Studios Sue Over TickBox Streaming Device (arstechnica.com) 135

Movies studios, Netflix, and Amazon have teamed up to file a lawsuit against a streaming media player called TickBox TV. The device in question runs Kodi on top of Android 6.0, and searches the internet for streams that it can make available to users without actually hosting any of the content itself. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The complaint (PDF), filed Friday, says the TickBox devices are nothing more than "tool[s] for mass infringement," which operate by grabbing pirated video streams from the Internet. The lawsuit was filed by Amazon and Netflix Studios, along with six big movie studios that make up the Motion Picture Association of America: Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

"What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs' copyrighted content," write the plaintiffs' lawyers. "TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox's customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization." The device's marketing materials let users know the box is meant to replace paid-for content, with "a wink and a nod," by predicting that prospective customers who currently pay for Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu will find that "you no longer need those subscriptions." The lawsuit shows that Amazon and Netflix, two Internet companies that are relatively new to the entertainment business, are more than willing to join together with movie studios to go after businesses that grab their content.

Google

Google Photos Now Recognizes Your Pets (techcrunch.com) 60

Today, Google is introducing an easier way to aggregate your pet photos in its Photos app -- by allowing you to group all your pet's photos in one place, right beside the people Google Photos organized using facial recognition. TechCrunch reports: This is an improvement over typing in "dog," or another generalized term, because the app will now only group together photos of an individual pet together, instead of returning all photos you've captured with a "dog" in them. And like the face grouping feature, you can label the pet by name to more easily pull up their photos in the app, or create albums, movies or photo books using their pictures. In addition, Google Photos lets you type in an animal's breed to search for photos of pets, and it lets you search for photos using the dog and cat emojis. The company also earlier this year introduced a feature that would create a mini-movie starring your pet, but you can opt to make one yourself by manually selecting photos then choosing from a half-dozen tracks to accompany the movie, says Google.
Television

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts (variety.com) 70

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.
Television

Cord-Cutters Drive Cable TV Subscribers to a 17-Year Low (houstonchronicle.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that's evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit... "DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting," said industry analyst Craig Moffett in a research note this week. Moffett added that while nobody expected AT&T's pay-TV numbers to look good, hardly anyone could have predicted they would look "this bad."

The outlook doesn't look much healthier for the rest of the television industry. Over the past year, cable and satellite firms have collectively lost nearly 3 million customers, according to estimates by market analysts at SNL Kagan and New Street Research. The number of households with traditional TV service is hovering at about the level it was in 2000, according to New Street's Jonathan Chaplin, in a study last week. Other analysts predict that, after factoring in AT&T's newly disclosed losses, the industry will have lost 1 million traditional TV subscribers by the end of this quarter.

Businesses

Real Moviegoers Don't Care About Rotten Tomatoes 173

In a recent essay published on the Hollywood Reporter, Martin Scorsese inveighs against two conjoined trends -- the widespread reporting of box-office results and the grading of movies by consumers on CinemaScore and by critics on Rotten Tomatoes -- and blames it for "a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers." In particular, he contends that this hostile environment is worsening "as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene." Richard Brody, a movie critic at the New Yorker, thinks Scorsese is missing the mark. He writes: I think that film criticism is, over all, better than ever, because, with its new Internet-centrism, it's more democratic than ever and many of the critics who write largely online are more film-curious than ever. Anyone who is active on so-called Film Twitter -- who sees links by critics, mainly younger critics, to his or her work -- can't help but be impressed by the knowledge, the curiosity, and the sensibility of many of them. Their tastes tend to be broader and more daring than those of many senior critics on more established publications. And, even if readers of the wider press aren't reading these more obscure critics, the critics whom general readers read are often reading those young critics (and if they're not, it shows). This is, of course, not universally so, any more than it ever was. The Internet is democratic in all directions -- it's also available to writers of lesser knowledge, duller taste, and dubious agendas, and it may be their work that's advertised most loudly -- but the younger generation of critics is present online and there for the finding. [...] What Scorsese doesn't exactly say, but what, I think, marks a generation gap in movie thinking that his essay reflects, is the appearance of an increasing divide between artistically ambitious films and Hollywood films -- the gap between the top box-office films and the award winners. For filmmakers ready to work on lower budgets, the gap is irrelevant. The filmmakers whose conceptions tend toward the spectacular are the ones whose styles may, literally, be cramped by shrinking budgets -- filmmakers such as Scorsese and Wes Anderson, whose work has both an original and elaborate sense of style and a grand historical reach.
Businesses

Hollywood Studios Join Disney To Launch Movies Anywhere Digital Locker Service (theverge.com) 48

There may be a grand unifying service to make accumulating a large digital cinematic library feasible, or so is the hope anyway. From a report: For several years now, Disney has been the only Hollywood studio with a digital movie locker worth using, but a host of other industry heavyweights have now jumped on board to launch an expanded version of the service called Movies Anywhere. It's both a cloud-based digital locker and a one-stop-shop app: customers connect Movies Anywhere to their iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, or Vudu accounts, and all of the eligible movies they've purchased through those retailers appear as part of their Movies Anywhere library. Given that the Movies Anywhere app works across a number of platforms, it basically allows them to take their digital film library with them no matter what device or operating system they're using. [...] The launch of Movies Anywhere should be the merciful, final blow that puts an end to UltraViolet, one of the entertainment industry's first attempts at putting together a comprehensive digital locker service. That service flailed due to a poor customer experience and lack of adoption on the part of big digital retailers like Apple. The team behind Movies Anywhere seems to have learned from UltraViolet's mistakes, however, as well as Disney's previous successes.

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