>> “Jackass 2.5” Premieres over the Internet

>> “Jackass 2.5″ Premieres over the InternetBlockbuster Inc. will present “Jackass 2.5” free of charge at Blockbuster.com beginning Dec. 19 through Dec. 31; on Dec. 26, DVDs of the film will be available for purchase on the site and at major retailers, as well as for rent at Blockbuster stores and the company’s Web site. The film will also be available for download at iTunes, Amazon.com and other sites at a price.In lieu of box-office sales, the venture expects to make money from DVD sales, downloads and embedded ads online the latter being exactly the kind of new-media revenue stream that Hollywood writers are striking to get a piece of. While that wouldn’t necessarily apply to “Jackass 2.5” because it didn’t require writers, the marketing strategy is an example of what writers expect to see more of in the future.

Lesinski said the nature of “Jackass 2.5” made it a natural to try out on this new form of distrubution.

“When this idea first came up, it was clear that `Jackass’ had a lot of potential on the Internet,” Lesinski said. “First of all, the demographics are just right. And, if you go on to Youtube today, you can see there’s lots and lots of (people) doing stunts … a lot of those people are just copying what the `Jackass’ guys developed a long time ago.”

Lesinski said the movie’s online distribution has potential to be “a game-changing model for Hollywood.” But will those used to watching 5-minute YouTube vidos sit still for a longer film?

Lesinski thinks so and, at some point, he says, clips of various scenes will be ripe for viral video sharing.

Yahoo! Movies/Associated Press

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>> “Golden Compass” Numbers Point South

Golden Compass

New Line’s The Golden Compass opened to $26 million over the weekend, an opening number that indicates that it not only won’t make back its estimated $200 million budget, but that we won’t be seeing the second two books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Reviews are mixed, so I doubt this will have long Christmas legs, but there are some basic “DUH” things that probably kept this from being a hit.

1. Pullman wrote the book as a sort of “anti-Narnia”, a fantasy filled with philosophical opposition to C.S. Lewis’s classic. New Line decided the best way to sell the film was to make it look as much like Narnia in the trailers–a scrubby little Brit befriends talking animals in a winter wonderland. Their very early marketing, which pandered to the Tolkien crowd, was probably a better idea, but an even better idea would’ve been to sell the film as a trilogy that takes the audience to places they have never seen before.

2. New Line released a movie whose source material questions God and organized religion during the CHRISTMAS SEASON, when even non-believers are feeling extra religious. If, by some miracle, New Line decides to produce The Subtle Knife (the second installment), let’s keep its “let’s invade Heaven and kill God” storyline as far from December 25th as possible.

3. Nicole Kidman is too icy cold a personality to open a film for adults with good box office numbers. Try to sell a “kid’s” movie with her face being the Number One image, and you really have your work cut out for you.

4. Trust your audience. New Line hedged their bets at the last minute, and director Chris Weitz did a final edit to the film that truncated the storyline as it appears in the book. The major complaints against the film are that it is too vague when it shouldn’t be. I haven’t seen the film, but I saw the first minutes of it online, and I winced at the opening narration that sets up the world–a pat answer to the complexities of the story, and one that removes much of main character Lyra’s characterization. In the novel, we, the readers, learn things as Lyra learns things. If the film gives you the Cliff Notes version of her world in the first 2 minutes, what motivation do we have to get sucked into Lyra’s world and her adventure?

>> New Line Tries Their Hand at Animation

New Line Tries Their Hand at AnimationNew Line is venturing into the animation business for the first time in its 40-year history by acquiring Ilion Animation Studios’ $60 million feature “Planet 51” from Handmade Films International.Written by Joe Stillman (“Shrek”), the story is set on a planet whose inhabitants live in fear of an alien invasion. Their paranoia is realized when astronaut Capt. Charles “Chuck” Baker arrives from Earth. Befriended by a young resident, the astronaut has to avoid capture in order to recover his spaceship and return home.

The film is directed by Jorge Blanco and co-directed by Javier Abad and Marcos Martinez, who worked with Blanco on the worldwide best-selling video game “Commandos.”

“Planet 51” is scheduled for completion in March 2009.

New Line plans to release the movie in 2009, backed up with a merchandising push that will involve a video game from Pyro Studios.

Yahoo! Movies

>> Movie Ads Make a Cool Half-Billion

23463328.jpgRevenue from ads on movie screens reached $455.7 million in 2006, up 15% from $394.8 million in 2005, according to a report out today from the Cinema Advertising Council.Offscreen revenues, including all ad initiatives in theaters that don’t involve the movie screen, also surged 15%, hitting $38.3 million from $33.2 million in 2005.

Clifford E. Marks, the org’s prexy and chairman as well as prexy of sales and marketing at major onscreen ad firm National CineMedia, said the revenue gain is only part of the story. The resistance to the notion of ads before a feature film has significantly eroded among audiences and ad buyers alike, he said.

“If you go back to when we were putting up slides and showing photos of local Realtors, we have come a really long way,” Marks said. “You don’t hear of people booing commercials or the backlash we used to hear from people.”

That’s because we’re used to it, not because we like it. These people are fooling themselves.

–John

Variety

>> Spoiler: Harry Potter Kills Luke Skywalker & James Bond!

emma_drunk1.jpg Warner Bros. is touting another “Harry Potter” milestone: Top-grossing film franchise worldwide. Ever.According to numbers-crunchers at the studio, the first five installments in the wizarding film series have amassed more than $4.47 billion worldwide, passing the worldwide B.O. for all previous 22 James Bond films and the six “Star Wars” movies.

Bond, which dates back to 1962, has generated $4.44 billion worldwide and the “Star Wars” pics have pulled down $4.23 billion since the first release in 1977.

None of the tallies account for inflation or rising ticket prices.

And domestically the “Star Wars” franchise still far outpaces the boy wizard. All told, the “Star Wars” pics have grossed $2.18 billion, while the “Harry Potter” franchise has grossed $1.41 billion. But then there are still two more “Potters” to go.

Warner prexy and chief operating officer Alan Horn acknowledged it would be hard to come up with an apples-to-apples comparison among the top three franchises.

“It’s just a fun number,” Horn said of the milestone. “It is not any way to diminish the box office totals of ‘Star Wars’ and the Bond movies.”The fifth installment has grossed more than $900 million thus far, with just under $300 million coming from domestic B.O. The studio projects it will generate an additional $20 million to $25 million overseas.

Bond filmmakers, meanwhile, are doing their best to keep adding to their franchise’s tally, with at least two more installments of that series in the works. Although Sony is calling the next installment “Bond 22,” Warner included the “unofficial” Bond movie, “Never Say Never Again” in its tally.

The “Star Wars” franchise, meanwhile, is dormant — at least for now.

Variety

>> The Return of Smellovision

smell.jpgMegan Dickerson always loved the rich colors and melodic scores of the film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” But she also longed to experience the sweet scents of chocolate and schnozberries.

A self-proclaimed multisensory artist, Dickerson is now trying to revive “Smellovision.”

She’s staged outdoor showings of “Willy Wonka” for hundreds of people and used oscillating fans and artificially scented oils to distribute aromas of blueberry pie and banana taffy during the film. With help from local art houses and the Boston Children’s Museum, she plans to bring other films for sniffing to theaters this fall.

“There’s been a crazy response to the movement,” Dickerson said. “I guess there just aren’t enough opportunities for wonder out there, but there’s something nostalgic about this art action that makes you feel like a kid again.”

Smellovision never quite caught on, though it dates back to the late 1950s, when a signal from a “smell track” on the film activated a tubing system to transmit odors to each seat. Aroma-Rama, a similar application, piped odors into the theater through the ventilator system.

In the 1980s, Odorama made a stale debut with scratch-and-sniff cards, which also briefly made their way into living rooms. Outside of theme parks, scent-themed flicks weren’t visited again until last year, when two movie theaters in Japan offered aroma wafts for back-row seats during the Hollywood adventure film “The New World.”

Dickerson isn’t the only one trying to bring the concept back. In March, Trisenx Holdings Inc. started a Web site (http://scenttv.tv/) where, for $17.95 a month, users can sniff out “scent-enabled content” that includes movies, music videos and news.

Equipment for Dickerson’s Smellovision projects is donated by the Coolidge Corner Theater and the Brattle Theater, both independent Boston area art-house cinemas where she plans to show movies this fall.

Dickerson, a manager of community programs for the Boston Children’s Museum, said she’s always been fascinated with the psychology associated with smell, and started to experiment with fragrances through a program with the Sense of Smell Institute at the museum.

She was especially struck by the idea of “scent memories.”

“This will inevitably give us a sense of comfort and draw us back to a playful place, and give us flashbacks of things we may have forgotten about,” she said, noting that a strawberry-lemon bottled scent in her collection triggers memories of her older brother’s hair gel.

Besides the sweet smells of fruit and cotton candy, Dickerson’s boxes of bottled scents ordered through the Fragrance Foundation include dirt, condensed milk, fizzy lemonade, grass and sushi.

She sometimes mixes fragrances together for a certain stink, and if that doesn’t work, she has another trick.

“Sometimes, if you just tell someone that a smell is something it’s not, they will automatically perceive it to be that scent,” she said. “It’s all psychological.”

Dickerson hopes to organize a Smellovision film festival, and plans to work with movies like 1960’s film “Scent of Mystery” and John Waters’ “Polyester” (1981) movies that “make no sense without the smells,” she said.

Indoor Smellovision can pose problems with separating smells over the course of the show, according to Terry Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute.

“The problem is that the scents are layered on top of one another, and people get sick from all of the smells mixed together,” Molnar said. “I’m sure there’s better technology out there now that could refresh the air in a theater, or could evacuate the air in the room before the next comes in.”

Dickerson said she may hand out small, squeezable “scent bottles” so that individuals can experience the fumes from their seats.

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said Smellovision will always attract curiosity, but the payoff to adding scent to movies is not as great as it was for sound or color.

He said it’s doubtful Smellovision would ever survive outside of IMAX theaters and Disney World.

“I think it’s forever going to be a novelty,” Thompson said. “There are not terribly many occasions where we’re watching a movie or television show and thinking the technology is so inferior because it doesn’t bring us smell. It’s just not necessary, and there aren’t very many movies that would make us even care about smell.”

Yahoo! Movies

>> China Pushes Pro-Communist Movie Season

 

china.gifAs the Communist Party leadership unites for its 17th Party Congress, studios and cinema chains are expected to toe the party line, showing only films that uphold the vision of a harmonious society. The State Administration of Radio Film and Television, in a circular to distributors and exhibitors late last week, said that the period around the Party Congress will be known as “Outstanding Golden Domestic Film Exhibition Month.”

Despite a banner year that has seen such Hollywood imports as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Transformers” perform well at the box office, Hollywood studio executives trying to sell their wares in China were not surprised by the blackout. Periods in which Hollywood movies are barred have been common in the Chinese movie year and are designed to give domestic films a leg up at the box office.

“The interesting part this time is that it is almost a blackout for local-language blockbuster films as well, since only ‘quality,’ i.e. propaganda, films can open during this period,” a Hollywood executive in China said.

The next big Chinese-language film on the horizon, Ang Lee‘s racy wartime drama “Lust, Caution,” was set to premiere September 23. It has been postponed, and will likely get a new government-approved release date at the end of October, after the Party Congress ends.

The congress takes place once every five years to pick new top-level leaders and chart the course of China’s centrally planned economy.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter