Commentary: What's next for the movie theater business?

Jon Patricof, Tribeca Film Festival's "Future of Film" blog, 5/21/12

At the end of 2011, many media analysts were predicting the demise of movie theaters, but the reality is this: the U.S. box office is up a staggering 16.5% year-to-date over 2011. In fact, it's the highest it has been in over six years. That performance is expected to persist throughout the year, making it likely that 2012 will be one of the highest grossing years at the box office in history. While box office receipts are one sign of strength, there are additional signs that things are looking better:

1. Cheaper and Easier to Market Films in Theaters. Lionsgate reported last month it spent 30% less on marketing The Hunger Games thanks to social media. Being able to save that much on marketing only makes theatrical releasing look even better, especially for larger studio films.

2. Experience Innovation is Happening Around The Edges. While the experience at the mainstream multiplexes still leaves much to be desired, smaller theater operators are bringing to bear some of the changes that consumers seem to desire.

3. The Netflix Model for Theaters is Still Possible. Last summer MoviePass promised consumers the opportunity to have an all-you-can-eat movie theater pass for $50 per month, launched with a lot of fanfare. Days later, AMC and Landmark announced they were not going to participate. [But] MoviePass is still around and kicking, and consumers seem to be using and enjoying it.

4. New Positioning. Generally speaking, exhibitors have done little marketing of the general movie-going experience. [But] we saw a small example last week when Imax launched its first ever campaign with new positioning aimed at the emotional aspects of seeing an Imax movie.

5. New Ideas. Ideas like Tweet Seats or MoviePass are exciting -- they illustrate untapped opportunities. [Another] idea that might add to the excitement is for major theater operators to open up "day and date" releasing for limited run independent films at the same time as [video on demand].


Commentary: What's next for museums?

Matthew Caines, Culture Professionals Network, 5/17/12

It was a meeting of museum minds [during] an online live chat. Jim Richardson, founder of MuseumNext, kicked things off by painting the picture of a hyper-personalised museum of the future: "Imagine an exhibition which can learn what you like as you browse the galleries, can understand the level of information you'd like about each piece and then tailor that for you. I also think the museum experience is becoming increasingly collaborative. Museums are becoming more comfortable with letting audiences have a say, and again technology can facilitate this." Some museums are already exploiting their tech-savviest audience members -- such as the Imperial War Museum -- but consultant Mar Dixon raised the point that in rushing ahead to dress up our museums for a more connected experience, we risk neglecting those who don't own a tablet or smartphone: "Will this force smaller museums to come up with apps? I worry that volunteer-led museums are going to get pushed aside - I love the concept and support it, but how can we make it feasible for all?" Hedley Swain [of] Arts Council England [then raised another issue:] should a museum be looking to reach wider and more diverse audiences or focus on improving the experience for its current level of visitors? Keith Merrin, director of Woodhorn Trust, [added]: "I think we need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to decide whether museums are 'for them' - lots of people are currently not being given that choice because of social, economic, intellectual or geographic barriers." How museums break down those barriers will become the subject of much debate in the coming months. What was so great about this particular online chat was that [participants] spent almost no time bemoaning a lack of funding. Instead the debate naturally drifted into the opportunities that existed for museums in the future - however near or far that may be.


Commentary: What's next for theatre criticism?

Catherine Love, The Guardian Theatre Blog, 5/17/12

Discussions about the future of theatre criticism seem to be evergreen. One relatively neglected aspect of the conversation, however, is how criticism might fully explore and exploit the growing possibilities allowed by digital developments. While words alone can create a rich tapestry of critical response, imagine how much richer this might be with the addition of images, video, audio, geotagging -- the list goes on. Some are embracing the possibilities of digital criticism and experiments are beginning to take shape. Twitter, for instance, has opened up instant discussion. Luke Murphy has taken the trend to another level by aggregating such reviews on one feed -- an intriguing idea, but one arguably limited by the tweet's inherent brevity. Matt Trueman played with structure in his clickable review of Constellations, an experiment that had its flaws but asked fascinating questions about how the form of theatre criticism might reflect the form of the theatre being critiqued. [And] might we begin to see purely visual responses to theatre through platforms such as Pinterest, or more video responses along the lines of blogger Eve Nicol's refreshingly enthusiastic YouTube reviews?  The digital space even has the potential to set out a whole new model for how critics might engage with the theatre they write about. Theatre writers Jake Orr and Maddy Costa are beginning to do just this through the creation of Dialogue, an online playground where theatre makers, writers and spectators can open up new conversations. Thanks to the flexibility allowed by online criticism, where page space is not an issue and responses can go further than words, the role of the critic could in future go beyond reviewing to play a greater part in the space between theatre, creator and audience.


Commentary: What's next in social networking?

John D. Sutter, CNN, 5/18/12

901 million users later, can anything replace Facebook? What could even compete at this point? More likely, apps and micro-social-networks [won't] dislodge Facebook but at least compete with it in some respects -- or augment its capabilities. Here's a list of sites and apps that kinda-maybe-sorta could challenge Facebook's dominance. Or, at the very least, offer a partial alternative.

Highlight: This "social discovery" app was the buzz at this year's SXSW conference. Essentially, [it] aims to give people real-time information about people around them.

Path: It's mobile-first, which is important in a world where people network on their phones more and more; and it's intimate. Path caps users' friend lists at 50 people, ensuring that you're actually communicating as the real you with people who you really know in real life.

Pinterest: "the hottest social media start-up since Facebook and YouTube" surged in popularity in late 2011 and is the third most-visited social site in the US, excluding mobile usage. But there have been questions of late about whether the site's popularity is waning.

Viddy: "like Instagram, but it's video," Viddy lets users record and upload 15-second video clips, then stylize them with retro-hipster-looking filters.

Tumblr is more of a blog network than a social network, but it is an increasingly popular platform for creative types to share videos and short stories about their lives.

Google+ is the constant butt of jokes in the tech world. The funny thing is the network continues to maintain some steam and relevance long after the haters thought it would die. In part, that's because of the big-fisted control Google maintains over Internet searches.

Twitter: The micro-blogging site has turned into more of a news feed than a social network these days. There are websites (and tablet apps) that aggregate links shared over Twitter and that may well be the future of this network, which pioneered real-time communication online.

LinkedIn is often overlooked. Mostly because it's no fun to socialize when you're wearing a tie and shoving your resume in the face of everyone you meet. But the 10-year-old site has proved itself as the premier location for a special kind of networking -- the business-y kind. And there are some signs it's loosening up.

Airtime: An app with no users? Why's it on the list? [Its creator,] Sean Parker is launching this much-anticipated app on June 5. The Napster creator is regarded as one Silicon Valley's main taste makers -- or at least one of the richest. So it's possible this social-video startup could rise to the point that it challenges Facebook. Who knows? But it's worth watching.


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Update: After fans complain, Met Opera reverses ban on Opera News reviews

Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times, 5/22/12

Reacting to a mini-firestorm that erupted [yesterday] with the news that the Metropolitan Opera would no longer allow Opera News to review its performances, the company reversed its decision early [Tuesday] afternoon. "From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News," the Met wrote in a statement. "Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans."

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