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Cloud

EA, Touting 'Profound Impact' of Streaming and Subscription, Announces Origin Access Premier (gamesindustry.biz) 73

EA CEO Andrew Wilson announced that the game publisher is making a big move into cloud gaming. The company is also planning to launch a new version of its Origin Access subscription service on PC called Origin Access Premiere that will introduce games like Madden, FIFA, and more the same day they launch at retail. From a report: During the publisher's E3 2018 press conference, CEO Andrew Wilson descried the combination of streaming and subscription as "the greatest disruption" to the world of entertainment of the past five years. He pointed to how this business model for movies, TV and books has changed those markets, and believes this combination will have "a profound impact" on the games industry in the years to come. Wilson's comments echoed those of his CFO Blake Jorgensen, who said back in November that a combination of live services, such as FIFA Ultimate Team, and subscriptions will lead to "uncapped" monetisation of its players over the longest possible period of time.

In its latest financials, EA revealed that 40% of its revenue last year came from live services, while full game downloads and physical game sales are dropping. Wilson reminded conference attendees of the publisher's recent acquisition of GameFly's Israel-based cloud gaming team, predicting a future where players can enjoy high-end games on any device anywhere with an internet connection. While there are tech demos for EA's streaming service out there, Wilson stressed that it's "not quite ready for full market primetime," but pitched it as a "promise of what we hope to bring you in the future." In the meantime, Electronic Arts took the opportunity to announce a new subscription system that shows the publisher continuing to push towards a service-based economy for video games. Origin Access Premier is a new addition to the firm's PC-based games service: a premium subscription that gives players access to even more titles.

Star Wars Prequels

'Solo' Will Lose $50+ Million In First Defeat For Disney's 'Star Wars' Empire (hollywoodreporter.com) 579

Zorro shares a report from The Hollywood Reporter: To borrow one of Han Solo's lines from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, "That's not how the Force works!" It's an apt way to sum up the troubled performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story. In one of the biggest box-office surprises in recent times, Solo is badly underperforming and will become the first of the Star Wars movies made by Disney and Lucasfilm to lose money. Wall Street analyst Barton Crockett says Solo will lose more than $50 million. Industry financing sources, however, say that figure could come in at $80 million or higher, although no one knows the exact terms of Disney's deals for home entertainment and television, among other ancillary revenues.
Businesses

FCC Asks Amazon and eBay To Stop Selling Fake Pay TV Boxes (techcrunch.com) 62

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig asking their companies to help remove the listings for fake pay TV boxes from their respective websites. From a report: These boxes often falsely bear the FCC logo, the letter informed, and are used to perpetuate "intellectual property theft and consumer fraud." With the rise in cord cutting, a number of consumers have found it's just as easy to use an app like Kodi on a cheap streaming media device to gain access to content â" like TV shows and movies -- that they would otherwise miss out on by dropping their pay TV subscription. As an added perk, various software add-ons enable consumers to stream movies still in the theaters, too. It's an easier way to access pirated content than visiting The Pirate Bay and downloading torrent files.
Piracy

Google's Chrome Web Store Spammed With Dodgy 'Pirate' Movie Links (torrentfreak.com) 32

Unknown third parties appear to be exploiting the Chrome Store's 'theme' section to offer visitors access to a wide range of pirate movies including "Black Panther", "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Rampage." From a report: When clicking through to the page offering Ready Player One, for example, users are presented with a theme that apparently allows them to watch the movie online in "Full HD Online 4k." Of course, the whole scheme is a dubious scam which eventually leads users to Vioos dot co, a platform that tries very hard to give the impression of being a pirate streaming portal but actually provides nothing of use. In fact, as soon as one clicks the play button on movies appearing on Vioos dot co, visitors are re-directed to another site called Zumastar which asks people to "create a free account" to "access unlimited downloads and streaming." Google services have a history of being exploited.
Movies

Most MoviePass Subscribers Have Gone To a Movie They Normally Would've Ignored (exstreamist.com) 45

Extremist surveyed 1,311 current self-reporting MoviePass subscribers and found that 82% of subscribers have gone to a movie they normally would have ignored. 13% of respondents said "No," while 5% were "Not Sure." From the report: While theaters are only reporting a slight uptick in foot traffic since MoviePass got popular, there is no denying that there are now more butts in seats of movies that otherwise might not get as much foot traffic. Perhaps the real winner in a world with MoviePass is the box office rake for "bad" movies. If you are a MoviePass subscriber, have you noticed yourself attending movies you otherwise wouldn't pay directly to see?
Star Wars Prequels

A Star Wars Boba Fett Movie Is In the Works (variety.com) 318

"Logan" director James Mangold is reportedly directing a "Star Wars" standalone movie centered on the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Variety reports: The untitled movie will be a part of the studio's Star Wars Anthology films, which are being spun off as origin stories. The first anthology film was 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," followed by "Solo: A Star Wars Story," starring Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo. "Solo" began opening in previews on Thursday night in North America, with forecasts of an debut weekend of $130 million to $150 million. Boba Fett debuted in 1980's "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and re-appeared in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" as a mercenary for the Galactic Empire. Jeremy Bulloch played the character in the two movies and Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice. Here's a video highlighting all the scenes starring Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy. Do you think it's wise to produce a movie around a character who's had such few scenes, relative to the others?
Businesses

Netflix's DVD Rental Business Is Still Profitable (fortune.com) 125

Netflix might be focusing on its streaming business, but the product that made its name is still alive -- and apparently well. From a report: The company's DVD.com DVD rental business has 3 million subscribers and generated a whopping $56 million in profit on just $99 million in revenue during the first quarter, CNBC is reporting. That staggering profit margin aside, Netflix's business has a wide selection of 100,000 DVDs, which easily overshadows the 5,600 streaming titles available on Netflix, according to the report. DVD.com's profitability might surprise some who moved on long ago from disc-based entertainment in the living room to streaming. Indeed, Netflix itself seemed to have moved on in 2011 when it split the DVD division from its now-core streaming operation. And whenever Netflix discusses its business, the company focuses on streaming and its place in the original content market rather than DVDs.
Businesses

MoviePass' Days Look Limited (bloomberg.com) 159

Kyle Stock writes via Bloomberg: Eight months after slashing its price and expanding membership past 2 million users, MoviePass is now at risk of going bust. The parent company, Helios & Matheson Analytics, which now owns 92 percent of MoviePass, said last week that it had just $15.5 million in cash at the end of April and $27.9 million on deposit with merchant processors. MoviePass has been burning through $21.7 million per month. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month revealed that the company's auditor has "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay solvent. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc., warns that MoviePass may not survive the summertime run of blockbusters. On Tuesday, Helios reported the performance of MoviePass for the three months ending on March 31. The company lost $107 million, earning just over $1 million from marketing deals and $47 million from subscriptions. Helios shares have fallen to decade lows of less than $1 after peaking at $32.90 in October, alongside the MoviePass hype.
Sci-Fi

Christopher Nolan Returns Kubrick Sci-Fi Masterpiece '2001: A Space Odyssey' To Its Original Glory (latimes.com) 135

LA Times' Kenneth Turan traces Christopher Nolan's meticulous restoration of Kubrick's masterpiece to its 70-mm glory: Christopher Nolan wants to show me something interesting. Something beautiful and exceptional, something that changed his life when he was a boy. It's also something that Nolan, one of the most accomplished and successful of contemporary filmmakers, has persuaded Warner Bros. to share with the world both at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and then in theaters nationwide, but in a way that boldly deviates from standard practice.

For what is being cued up in a small, hidden-away screening room in an unmarked building in Burbank is a brand new 70-mm reel of film of one of the most significant and influential motion pictures ever made, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science-fiction epic "2001: A Space Odyssey." Yes, you read that right. Not a digital anything, an actual reel of film that was for all intents and purposes identical to the one Nolan saw as a child and Kubrick himself would have looked at when the film was new half a century ago.

AI

Could Algorithms Be Better at Picking the Next Big Blockbuster Than Studio Execs? (wired.com) 74

In a world where artificial intelligence is no longer just a Spielberg-Kubrick collaboration, could algorithms be better at picking the next big blockbuster than studio execs? From a report: "Filmmakers are getting closer to understanding what moviegoers go to theaters to see thanks to neural networks fed off of data from previous box office hits," says Landon Starr, the head of data science at Clearlink, which uses machine learning to help companies understand consumer behavior. "Although this technology isn't spot-on quite yet, AI-powered predictions are likely stronger than the human calculations used in the past." And they're advancing quickly.

Vault, an Israeli startup founded in 2015, is developing a neural-network algorithm based on 30 years of box office data, nearly 400,000 story features found in scripts, and data like film budgets and audience demographics to estimate a movie's opening weekend. The company is only a couple years in, but founder David Stiff recently said that roughly 75 percent of Vault's predictions "come 'pretty close'" to films' actual opening grosses.

Scriptbook takes a similar approach, using its own AI platform to predict a movie's success based on the screenplay only. The Antwerp startup's AI analyzed 62 movies from 2015 and 2016, and claims it was able to successfully predict the box office failure or success of 52 of them, judging 30 movies correctly as profitable and 22 movies correctly as not profitable.

Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi Is Still Working on Its 'Stale, Male, and Pale' Problem, Says James Cameron (indiewire.com) 796

An anonymous reader shares a report: As science fiction finally earns mainstream acceptance in Hollywood, James Cameron believes the genre's awards drought will soon be over. "I predict that sometime in the next five to 10 years you will have a science-fiction film win Best Picture," he told reporters while promoting "AMC Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction," which premieres Monday. Films like "Arrival" and "Ex-Machina" have earned nominations, but as the older guard ages out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cameron believes that the membership's "prejudice" against sci-fi -- which he says "definitely exists" -- will fade. "They're definitely a red-headed stepchild when it comes to the acting, producing, directing categories," he said.

"Science fiction is kind of a commercial genre, it's not really an elevated dramatic genre. I would argue that until I'm blue in the face that science fiction is the quintessence of being human in a sense. We are technological beings. We are the only truly conscious species that we know of. We are struggling with ourselves over the issue of our own question for understanding, our own ability to manipulate the fabric of our reality. Our own technology is blowing back on us and changing how we behave amongst ourselves and as a civilization," he added. "I would argue that there's nothing more quintessentially human than dealing with these themes. But Hollywood tends to pull short from that."

But as Hollywood changes its perception of science fiction, Cameron stressed that the genre itself needs to continue to evolve from its origins of being too "stale, male and pale." "It was white guys talking about rockets," Cameron said of early sci-fi. "The female authors didn't come into it until the '50s and '60s and a lot of them had to operate under pseudonyms." But even now, "women are still unrepresented in science fiction as they are in Hollywood in general," he said. "When 14 percent of all film directors in the industry are female, and they represent 50 percent of the population, that's a big delta there that needs to get rectified."

Books

A Mass of Copyrighted Works Will Soon Enter the Public Domain (theatlantic.com) 113

For the first time in two decades, a huge number of books, films, and other works will escape U.S. copyright law. From a report: The Great American Novel enters the public domain on January 1, 2019 -- quite literally. Not the concept, but the book by William Carlos Williams. It will be joined by hundreds of thousands of other books, musical scores, and films first published in the United States during 1923. It's the first time since 1998 for a mass shift to the public domain of material protected under copyright. It's also the beginning of a new annual tradition: For several decades from 2019 onward, each New Year's Day will unleash a full year's worth of works published 95 years earlier.

This coming January, Charlie Chaplin's film The Pilgrim and Cecil B. DeMille's The 10 Commandments will slip the shackles of ownership, allowing any individual or company to release them freely, mash them up with other work, or sell them with no restriction. This will be true also for some compositions by Bela Bartok, Aldous Huxley's Antic Hay, Winston Churchill's The World Crisis, Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Pigeons, E.E. Cummings's Tulips and Chimneys, Noel Coward's London Calling! musical, Edith Wharton's A Son at the Front, many stories by P.G. Wodehouse, and hosts upon hosts of forgotten works, according to research by the Duke University School of Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

Throughout the 20th century, changes in copyright law led to longer periods of protection for works that had been created decades earlier, which altered a pattern of relatively brief copyright protection that dates back to the founding of the nation. This came from two separate impetuses. First, the United States had long stood alone in defining copyright as a fixed period of time instead of using an author's life plus a certain number of years following it, which most of the world had agreed to in 1886. Second, the ever-increasing value of intellectual property could be exploited with a longer term. But extending American copyright law and bringing it into international harmony meant applying "patches" retroactively to work already created and published. And that led, in turn, to lengthy delays in copyright expiring on works that now date back almost a century.

Movies

MoviePass Changes TOS To Prevent You From Seeing the Same Movie More Than Once (engadget.com) 69

MoviePass has changed its terms of service to prevent subscribers from seeing the same movie more than once. First spotted by iMore, the new limitation will apply to all subscribers, new and existing. MoviePass' website says, "We recently updated our Terms of Service to reflect that MoviePass subscribers are only permitted to see a select movie in theaters once with your MoviePass. We hope this will encourage you to see new movies and enjoy something different!" Engadget reports: This isn't the first time the company has done this, however. It limited users to seeing titles just once in its earlier days as well and CEO Mitch Lowe said the rule's reinstatement is to cut down on fraud. "When we took that policy down, we saw some people turning MoviePass into a cottage industry, standing in front of a theater selling their tickets to Star Wars, or whatever," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Lowe also said that new features are in the works including couples plans and options that include 3D and IMAX movies.
Businesses

CEO Doesn't Know if MoviePass Will Offer a Movie Per Day Plan Again (engadget.com) 39

The subscription service famous for supplying a movie ticket per day for just $9.95 a month hasn't been offering that wildly popular package since April 13. From a report: The company's too-good-to-be-true offer of one movie per day for $10 subscription model brought it 500,000 subscribers in one month, but MoviePass' finances show that the startup is struggling while still being dogged by its CEO's comments around tracking his customers. Recently, the company downgraded its available new subscriber plans to a three-month, $30 "limited time" offer that includes four movies per month and a three-month trial of iHeartRadio premium. It seems as if this offer now has no limit; CEO Mitch Lowe told The Hollywood Reporter that he was unsure if the movie-per-day plan would even return as an option. "Do you think you will go back to a movie a day?" a THR reporter asked Lowe at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. "I don't know," he responded.
Businesses

Netflix Could Start Buying Movie Theaters to Help Films Gain a Boost in Oscar Race, Report Says (indiewire.com) 49

Netflix has made a strong effort to land Oscar nominations since debuting its first original feature, "Beasts of No Nation," in 2015. The next step in the streaming giant's plan to secure film awards could be to buy and own movie theaters. IndieWire: A new report from the Los Angeles Times says Netflix is considering buying theaters in Los Angeles and New York in order to gain a boost during Oscar season. People familiar with the situation say the theaters would be used to give greater exposer to the feature and documentary titles Netflix is hoping to push into the awards race. According to the Times, Netflix executives originally considered purchasing the Los Angeles-based Landmark Theaters, which is co-owned by Mark Cuban. The theaters are well known for attracting awards voters by running first-run features, documentaries, and foreign films during Oscar season. Sources close to Netflix confirm the company has no current plans to buy Landmark properties. Landmark has three Los Angeles locations and 53 theaters overall in the U.S. Sources close to Netflix.

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