A Slowly Fading Marque?

With Americans having to adjust their budgets now more than ever to modestly harmonize with their incoming cash flow, cutting costs for entertainment expenses is indeed on most everyone’s agenda. Those who enjoy watching movies have had to lay this form of entertainment on the budget chopping block as well, but thanks to mediums such as Netflix and Video On Demand, movies can still be enjoyed for a reasonable price that can easily fit into modest budget. The average cost of going to the cinema is roughly around $25 per person, which includes tickets, snacks, drinks, and other refreshments sold at the concession stands. According to the results of an online survey conducted by “Harris Poll®” in December 2013, 57% of Americans favored watching movies at home as opposed to the 21% of Americans who preferred to go to the cinema. With approximately a little over one-half of American moviegoers faithfully visiting the cinemas, will this amount be enough to keep the cinemas alive within the next few years?

The participants who were surveyed in the aforementioned poll were also asked to give their opinions about the pros and cons of going to the cinema to watch movies verses watching movies using another medium. Being able to experience a movie in 3-D and in digitally mastered sound quality seemed to win the majority of votes on the pros’ list despite the fact that “rude moviegoers” was the number one reason on the cons’ list for why the participants would prefer to watch movies from home. The high cost of refreshments sold at the concession stand was another major turn-off for 62% of those surveyed, and an overwhelming 69% felt theaters take advantage of showing 3-D movies as an excuse to charge outrageously higher prices to view them.

With tablets and smartphones gaining more and more popularity for their video-playing capabilities, a majority of the moviegoers who are constantly on-the-go have converted their medium of viewing pleasure from going to the cinema into indulging in Netflix for downloading movies to their portable device. If the cinemas can come up with an idea that tops this convenience along with figuring out a way to offer lower prices for tickets and refreshments, then the cinema might have a fighting chance to stay alive.

©2014 Learus Ohnine

Hollywood, Politically Speaking…

Celebrities often have to be extremely careful of what they say, what they do, and how they react when interacting with the public. The slightest well-meaning act of kindness or opinionated compliment can be easily blown out of proportion by the public eye, who is constantly watching their every move and quick to scrutinize their analysis. The voice of a celebrity is so powerfully influential on the public that it’s no wonder why marketing companies scramble like mad to get a high-prolific celebrity to endorse a specific product. The market place seems to be a common place for opinionated endorsements by celebrities, but what about when it comes to politics? Should there be a thin line that separates Hollywood and “Washington”? Celebrities such as Shirley Temple, Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all tested this hypothesis by crossing over that thin line, making major contributions to society beyond the entertainment level of the silver screen.

Shirley Temple, America’s favorite dimpled-faced child star in the 1930’s, was appointed as a United States delegate to the 24th United Nations General Assembly in 1969 by President Richard Nixon, appointed as the United States Ambassador to Ghana by President Gerald R. Ford, appointed as the first female “Chief of Protocol of the United States” in 1976, and later appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia by President George H. W. Bush. She was in charge of all State Department ceremonies, including coordinating the inauguration ceremonial protocols for President Jimmy Carter.

Ronald W. Reagan, and American radio, film, and television star, was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States in 1981, serving two consecutive terms. Prior to his presidential victory, he served as California’s 33rd governor. During his first term, President Reagan was best known for his “Reaganomics” policy, which included reducing taxes, government spending, and inflation all in an effort to help boost the economy and control the money supply. During his second term, he focused primarily on foreign matters, including putting an end to the Cold War.

American director, producer, and former television and film actor Clint Eastwood entered the world of politics when he endorsed President Richard Nixon’s presidential campaigns both in 1968 and 1972. Labeling himself as a “liberal on civil rights”, his numerous endorsements influenced remarkable changes within the most prominent movements during that era such as the Equal Rights Amendment for women, pro-choice abortion, and same-sex marriages. In 1986, he was elected as mayor of his hometown, Carmel-by-the-Sea in California.

Eastwood’s impressive political views were supported by yet another Hollywood film actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed Eastwood to the California Film Commission after he himself became elected as the 38th Governor of the state of California in 2003. Nicknamed “The Governator”, Republican Governor Schwarzenegger expressed his political views quite differently than most other Hollywood celebrities of whom were reputed as having liberal or democratic stances on political issues. The Governor spent a majority of his time focusing on global-warming issues, and the other part of his time (as he called it) “behaving badly.” In 2010, a group called the “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” considered Schwarzenegger to be one of 11 “worst governors” in the U.S.

Conclusively, Hollywood has proved that it can have a positive influence on the political aspect of society. However, the effectiveness of this influence does not solely rely on the strength of that popular voice that speaks; it’s moreover how the weight of that political power is utilized is what gives the celebrity their influence.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

The Resurrection of the “Boob Tube”

Television viewers from around the world can certainly appreciate the way the “Boob Tube” has expanded not only its content by way of regular programming, but also its optional convenience of being able to access most programs at the viewer’s discretion. Gone are the days when it was imperative for television viewers to frantically race home from work in order to catch their favorite prime-time tv show at the exact moment it was to be aired or when the housewife had to postpone her housework during the only available airtimes for her favorite soap opera as to not miss one episode. Television viewing has become so advanced that not only do viewers no longer have to concern themselves with adjusting their own availability according to their favorite program schedules, they don’t even have to be present in front of a television screen to watch it.

VOD, or Video on Demand, has become the most popular (and most convenient) sought-out method for those who have a busy lifestyle and need to stay on-the-go, or even for those who just want to enjoy their favorite television programs and/or movies in the comfort of their own home at their own leisure by way of any preferred technological medium. Video on Demand allows its users to stream selected audio and video content through a “set-top box” connected to their television or personal computer to view in real time, or download content to a digital video recorder (DVR) or any portable media player device for leisurely viewing at any time. Users have the option of viewing their downloaded selected content in much the same style as with a VCR with functions such as fast forwarding, pausing, slow forward and rewind functions, etc.

For those who especially enjoy watching movies from the comfort of their own home without having to travel back and forth to the nearest video rental store, the most popular on-demand provider, Netflix, offers the widest range of variety for movies (and prime time episodes) for a small monthly subscription fee comparably lower than most video store rental rates. Netflix subscribers can choose between watching their favorite selected content online via Internet streaming or DVD and Blu-ray Discs via U.S. mail. Instant-watch devices compatible with Netflix include the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii, and the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch supported by the Android Version 2.2 and above web browser platform.

According to the research firm Rentrak, American households watched approximately 8.5 hours of programming per day through Video on Demand services with an all-in-all total of over 1 billion hours of VOD programming in 2012. With these statistics guaranteed to continue climbing with each passing year, television networks and cable companies can count on VOD to help build a new audience of viewers from all walks of life.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

The More, The Merrier (In Film)

Recently, there has been quite a bit of controversy over whether or not Hollywood should be allowed to utilize resources supposedly meant only for smaller-scale film makers and emerging talented artists. The Rob Thomas Veronica Mars project and Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” project drew attention to crowdfunding resources to help develop their artistic projects. Hollywood celebrity projects are also being presented at independent film festivals, which has sparked yet another concern for smaller-scale film makers. Emerging artistic-entrepreneurs are concerned these high-profile projects will deprive them of funding as well as having the presence of Hollywood-related productions at independent film festivals will increase commercial pressure.

Kickstarter, a for-profit fundraiser, is designed to assist artists in a collective effort to help generate the required capital needed towards the development of their creative projects. For those who contribute a donation towards a project (called “Backers”), the artist will reward their pledgers with incentives based on the amount pledged. With the presence of Hollywood celebrities promoting their work, aspiring film makers feel the competition for acquiring funding is now too intense, mainly because of the more appealing incentives being offered by these high-profile projects and the presumption of the celebrity to be already financially secure enough to not need the monetary support. However, the presence of “hollywood” on this site has statistically proven to have drawn more backers who are willing to take the risk to invest in a production. Consequently, the more investors equals greater chances of exposure and in meeting the proposed investment goals for all participants.

Aside from the storylines and genre preferences, surveys have shown that movie goers tend to go see movies that feature their favorite Hollywood performing artists. Therefore, one of the main revenue-generating reasons behind the box office success of a film is due to the casting of the most popular Hollywood stars. Since determining the cast of a low-budget film usually weighs heavily on the film’s budget, this limits the available options for choosing major revenue-generating performers for the production of the film itself. The initial purpose of creating independent film festivals was to allow emerging film makers the opportunity to display their talents without the pressures and conformities of hollywood competition.

Because celebrities have since been able to participate in these independent film festivals, many feel this contradicts the purpose of these festivals in focusing the attention on the work of a lesser-known talent. On the other hand, celebrities bring with them a fan base of many whom attend these film festivals for a chance to meet their favorite celebrity face to face, again more chances of exposure for lesser known talented artists in creating their own fan base. With celebrities and their affiliates in attendance, this also creates more exposure and networking opportunities for emerging artists, and also the possibility of receiving collaborative propositions from those already established within the industry.

Ultimately, the chances of emerging talented artists getting increased exposure is greater when their association is connected to those who are already established within the Hollywood studio system. Many celebrities have begun their career this way–associating, networking, and collaborating their way through exposure. Crowdfunding resources and independent film festivals are about more than just competition; it is now considered the best collaborative social networking system beneficial for artist from all walks of life…

© 2013 Learus Ohnine