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RADIO ROOM DINGH DONGHS

News Flashes: (April 16, 2019) Major red alert (for Christmas 2019, not for danger!) as the unmanageable avalanche of entertainment-related in-home hardware gear, software, and programming choices to gift are sure to make Holiday Season 2019 a record-breaker on the spending side. Consumers will have to (somehow) pick and choose among TV panels, projectors, accessories, streaming services, etc. dangled before them. One head scratcher, among many, will be figuring out how Disney +’s upcoming plenitude of streaming content plus low price will impact consumer decisions ( dumping cable becomes even more tempting or getting that latest, truly greatest Blu-ray DVD player less so?)…

Billionaires, the almosts or just plain reckless who are willing to throw from $3 million to $18 million at what used to be known as a TV screen might want a look at the Sony Manhattan headquarters lobby where Sony shows off two huge panels (one using LED display technology and the other bundling stackable OLEDS) measuring 15’ x 12’ and 25’ x 18’ ‘ for the whopper. What fun for the right (sized) home!…

And monied movie fans also have available the new Red Carpet Home Cinema service launched by industry veterans Fred Rosen and Dan Fellman. This new entertainment perk brings studio movie premieres day and date into the homes of what the service calls its VIP subscribers. They pay a piddling couple of thou to access a title, depending on the film, although members also fork over a reported $15,000 for in-home equipment that enables the Red Carpet feed and access. About half the Hollywood studios are participating licensors while others continue to watch exhibition’s 3-month exclusivity window continue to narrow…

Max Van Sydow, the beloved Swedish star who just turned 90, was scheduled to play the Bishop in PBS’ exquisite new Masterpiece Theater 6 - episode series Les Misérables but another acting treasure, Derek Jacobi, stepped in to join stars Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins.

One of the world’s largest theater circuits — S. Korea’s CJ CGV — now offers at some of its venues luxury mattresses and pillows for movie-goers (who, hopefully, aren’t movie-snorers).


Flares and Forecasts: Again riding the waves of inclusion, conversion, intersection, diversity, divergent paths and unrelenting change, the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), running April 24 to May 5 and packing a telephone book’s heft of program and event offerings, again this year includes a sidebar called Tribeca X, described as “A Day of Conversations to Celebrate the Intersection of Entertainment and Advertising.” But this year for the first time comes a best feature film award (other categories honor shorts, episodics, VR shows). The three feature award finalists boast some big names on screen (e.g., Stephen Fry, Kyrie Irving) and big brand attachments (e.g., Pepsi, Carlsberg, Patagonia). Asked how these brands figure in these projects (maybe as financiers, as beneficiaries of brand placement?), Tammie Rosen, EVP of Communications & Programming, Tribeca Enterprises answered that “The brands funded and produced the works. What’s really interesting is that brands are stepping in more and more where studios used to be to help get quality stories made and released. And in all of these [features] it’s not about product placement but an aligned belief in subject matter.”

Brands acting as feature film financiers and producers should be no surprise to those who remember so many decades of advertising being inseparable from traditional radio and TV…

More evidence at Tribeca of brand/movie synergy comes by way of big new brand Airbnb which produced and financed one of the strongest TFF official selection docs, Gay Chorus Deep South, caught at one of the pre-fest screenings. A hugely moving and entertaining look at the renowned San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as the group toured a handful of southern states in an effort to confront anti-LGBTQ laws and sentiments and, more personally, estrangements some Chorus members endured with their southern families…

And don’t think that blockchain mania isn’t part of the massive media mash-up picture pushing for its close-up. Launching in downtown Manhattan is Screenbreaker, a festival touting “blockchain entertainment…where the bravest ideas and innovations are front and center…and where the way we create, distribute and share content is being redefined.” And, uh oh, “where the entertainment industry will be shaped for the future.”

Also attempting big time to re-shape the entertainment and arts experience is The Shed, the uniquely designed brand new huge arts center in Manhattan’s new mega Hudson Yards, a huge, splashy, controversal mainly commercial but also residential development on the city’s west side. The Shed’s large spaces and moving parts, including a large retractable roof, aim to please audiences across all demographics and pocketbooks with innovative programming. While no film programs have been announced (the facility, including several big galleries, seems to favor live performers, artists, mixed media, etc.), several names well-known to cinephiles, like great Oscar winner Steve McQueen, Lucretia Martel and Bjork, are already important Shed contributors.

Those doubtful of big new tech’s impact on legacy entertainment should note that Netflix is reportedly in talks to buy Hollywood’s famed Egyptian Theatre from the American Cinematheque in what would be the streaming giant’s first big step into exhibition. Not to fuel a rumor but, fueling a silly notion, might Amazon — so rudely bumped a few months ago from Queens, New York — be nosing around Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall?

This Changes Everything, a remarkable doc about Hollywood’s ghosting of women through the decades who work behind the cameras, has been making the festival and special screening rounds for about a year. But according to its producer, the doc will finally hit theaters this fall. This must-see, including damning stats attesting to the discrimination and in depth looks at efforts of the ACLU and EEOC to right matters, includes a litany of testaments from many bold-faced film personalities, film historians, academics and activists who have been instrumental to the changes slowly improving the shameful, historic status of women in film and TV…

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché is an exceptional soon-to-be released doc about the film pioneer who, beginning in 1896, should have changed the fate of women in film. Over many decades as the industry was born and grew, Guy Blaché was a writer/director/producer/studio head, an industry innovator of narrative filmmaking across genres and special effects. But she disappeared, not just from the industry but from memory as a giant of her field. The intensely-researched Pamela Green doc then kicks in as a satisfying real-life mystery yarn that delves into remarkable archival material, detective-like research and plain good luck at it crosses continents to uncover Guy-Blaché and family survivors. Jodie Foster narrates and a pile-up of bold-faced industry personalities and film historians, academics and activists weigh in.


Floating: With the 50th anniversary of Stonewall imminent, the TFF will, in another debut, go all-out gay with its inaugural Tribeca Celebrates Pride celebration, a day-long event celebrating LGBTQ+ culture and honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The event will take place at the fest’s Spring Studios downtown hub.

Hollywood’s pulse is being taken and it’s quickening. A recent Vanity Fair piece, about how so much change is creating turmoil there, noted that “Hollywood is a town run on self-interest and fear.” The observation reminds that Tinseltown and Tweetertown (D.C’s White House) are first cousins though hardly the kissin’ kind…

And techsite Recode recently featured former Hollywood insider Barry Diller in an interview with tech journo-savant Kara Swisher. Once a top executive at ABC, Paramount and Fox. he now sits atop IAC and Expedia Group, having spent years ago touring the country for months to learn more about this new Internet thing that was growing. About the old country and current studio dilemma he left behind, Diller told Recode that “the people who used to have all the power in the entertainment business have a lot less…Hollywood is now irrelevant…It used to be these six movie companies essentially were able to extend their hegemony into everything else. It didn’t matter whether they started it. When it got big enough, they got to buy it…That table [of six] dominated media worldwide. That’s over. [Now] for the first time, they ain’t buying anything. Meaning they’re not buying Netflix. They are not buying Amazon.”

Those dizzied by all the video streaming shifts and choices might take comfort in knowing that changes in music streaming are getting nearly as complicated and unpredictable. (if such a measurement is possible).

The just released MPAA Theme Report covering 2018 is a trove of interesting stats and trends, including even more convincing numbers revealing the spike in streaming service adoption and continuing surge of international b.o. numbers (Asia Pacific alone at $16.7 billion) that dwarf the North American $11.9 billion total.

Fathom Events is now playing marketer in a whole new way by simultaneously offering filmgoers in select venues across the country early looks at features about to open. Both Fox Searchlight’s Tolkien, a gorgeous bio pic of Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien’s rise from orphan to Oxford to one of the world’s most acclaimed storytellers, and, from Screen Media, Terry Gilliam’s 25 years in the making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, whose early reveal prompted the not-quite-pull-quote-ready cry of “meshuggah!” from the Dinghy crow’s nest. Whether these Fathom word-of-mouth salvos for these films impacts in the marketplace will be interesting to see...

Not to be missed, no matter the fate of Gilliam's effort, and surely floating somewhere in streamland is the 2002 Lost in La Mancha doc about the free fall of Gilliam’s first swing at The Man…, which had Johnny Depp to star. But a perfect storm of windmill-size production crises that the doc captures shut down the project.


See-worthies: You Don’t Nomi, a savage/hilarious deconstruction by critics and fans of iconic Hollywood bomb Showgirls and Aamis, a lovable/weird/shocking Northeast India take on the intersection of lust and cannibalism, are two more of a handful of upcoming Tribeca Fest entries caught early. Both films are certain to find happy, long-term post-fest homes in the commercial marketplace…Sauvage/Wild, the graphic, new sexy French arthouse splash about the wanderings of a self-destructive young street hustler, is a showcase for star Félix Maritaud, one of those proverbial big screen “revelations” but not because he reveals so much skin here…Neon’s Amazing Grace, a 1972 doc capturing a young Aretha Franklin performing gospel also captures fleeting glimpses of the late/great director/producer (and actor in Tootsie!) Sydney Pollock, who was set as the doc’s original director until complications arose….Prosecuting Evil, Canadian Barry Avrich’s bio doc about the remarkable lawyer Ben Ferencz, nearing 100 years of age, scarily smart and delightfully articulate, who was the Nuremberg prosecutor of Hitler’s Eisatzgruppen murderers and at the forefront of the creation of an international criminal court. With the horrors of the Holocaust and the Eisatzgruppen crimes specifically evoked in detail, the doc is ironically, thanks to Ferencz, powerfully feel-good…Also really feel good is the TFF doc Ask Dr. Ruth, about you know who...Her Smell, which has Elizabeth Moss, detouring like a number of her post-35 year old peers, onto an indie route and into extreme characters far removed from their usual roles [e.g. groundbreaker Charlize Theron (Monster), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer) and Julianne Moore in the current Gloria Bell]. For Her Smell, Moss ventures to the role of a drug-addled, teetering on the brink Courtney Love-like strung out punk star. Moss, like the others, goes rogue in a role to remember.

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