A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Cinema nears its death rattle. PLUS: Emmy Noms.
ALSO: RIP Reese Schonfeld. AND: RIP Robin the Boy Wonder
The big news story in theatrical cinema in recent years has been the push by studios to shrink the exclusivity window for theatrical releases. Until now cinemas had movies exclusive for 90 days before they go to home video.
Huge news today with AMC (the largest US cinema chain) and Universal Pictures striking a deal that will shrink that window to just 17 days. That’s just three weekends.
After the 90 day window, Universal can start selling access to movies via premium video on demand (PVOD). We’ve seen tension between Universal and the cinema chains throughout the COVID shutdown with Universal releasing its titles like Trolls World Tour to PVOD instead of holding it back until cinemas re-opened. Universal rented the film to viewers (via platforms like Apple TV, Amazon, Google, etc) for US$19.98.
Universal Pictures controls some of the biggest movie franchises in cinema including The Fast and The Furious, Jurassic Park, and Despicable Me.
Will $19.98 be the standard price going forward, or was that just a cheaper price due to the shutdown?
Universal Pictures is the opening of a floodgate that will see other studios to the same - how long will it be until we see the shrinking of windows internationally?
Let me leave you with this big-picture thought as well: The only reason why cinemas still exist is because of a technology gap. There is no argument that movies are best experienced on the big screen. You cannot replicate screen size at home… yet. TV screen sizes are getting bigger and bigger. The standard screen sizes are now 65/75 inches - walk into your local store and you’re starting to see some 85 inch TV’s coming down in price.
What’s happening over the next few years? Screen sizes will be bigger again, but we’re also on the cusp of augmented reality being a thing. Apple are rumoured to be getting close to launching a product and there’s already a number of high quality VR headsets out there already. What does this mean for cinema? One of the big uses for VR headsets are watching home media in virtual reality cinemas. But the real game-changer is augmented reality (AR).
Why does AR change the game? Essentially imagine sitting at home in the evening. You want to watch a movie. Instead of just watching it on your TV, you instead slide on a pair of glasses. You’re still sitting in your lounge-room, but now instead of showing you a wall nearby covered in pictures of your family, you are instead seeing a massive cinema screen (or even rows of chairs leading up to a screen - as though a cinema has been built into your home). It is bringing an actual cinema experience into the home.
And that’s what the studios are concerned about. If they don’t have big release movies to play on home AR devices, but platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are there for it with new movies released every weekend, that completely takes out their business.
The technology gap between cinema and your loungeroom is getting bridged within the next five years. Studios need to be ready for it.
The Emmy Awards nominations were released this morning.
Disney+’s The Mandalorian scored 15 nominations. Not bad for the streaming service’s very first show. Most of the noms were in technical categories, but notably it did get a nomination for Best Drama and for Best Supporting Actor for Giancarlo Esposito. It also scored a nomination for cinematography, which, in my opinion, is the absolute star of the show.
A record number of black actors were nominated this year - 34.3% of acting nominees. The crucial phrase here is that these are *acting nominees* - diversity doesn’t really exist in the industry if it is only those in front of the camera being celebrated.
Director Lynn Shelton received a posthumous nom for the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere.
Netflix has a record 160 nominations (the most ever for a network), followed by HBO in second at 107.
HBO’s series Watchmen received 26 nominations - the most for any series.
A few weeks back we heard about the EP/showrunner of CBS dramas Hawaii Five-0, MacGyver, and Magnum PI being removed due to creating a toxic workplace culture. This week there’s an investigation into the behind-the-scenes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Show producer Telepictures and distributor Warner Bros. Television has brought in WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and an external firm to interview current and former staff about experiences on set.
Considering the years of rumours surrounding the hostility behind the scenes, this is likely to turn out to be an interesting story.
You likely have never heard of Reese Schonfeld, but he is one of the most impactful TV executives of all-time. He was the founding President of CNN when it launched in June 1980. While Ted Turner may have stumped up the money, it was Schonfeld who devised the shape and form of the channel. The founding of CNN gave shape and definition to cable television - prior to its launch cable TV was a wasteland of cheap content across a limited number of stations.
Schonfeld regularly butted heads with Turner and he was removed from his job in 1982. After CNN Schonfeld had a number of interesting roles, but most notably was the co-founder of The Food Network. He sold his share in the cable channel to Scripps in 1996.
One of the first media books I ever read was Schonfeld’s really wonderful autobiography Me and Ted Against the World. If you’re curious about the early days of cable TV and CNN’s role in it, definitely give it a read.
In the late 80s the team publishing Batman comics had a devilish idea: they set up a phone number that people could call if they wanted to see the Joker kill Batman’s sidekick Robin. A comic was released with a cliffhanger that had Joker taking to the boy wonder with a crowbar, then readers could vote by phone on what happened in the next issue - would the then-Robin Jason Todd live to see another day.
The fans voted to murder the little brat.
And so, in the final installment of the Death in The Family storyline, Batman discovers Robin’s dead body.
In 2020, this is now being done in a far more sophisticated way.
The new animated Batman: Death in The Family will use branched-storytelling in the same way as Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch or its interactive Kimmy Schmidt special. Viewers can decide in real time if they want to see Robin beaten to death. The film, coming out via Bluray, will have other options available as well with multiple endings.
Agency CAA has furloughed 275 staff - a huge move that will have major Hollywood industry implications. Source: Deadline
Polygon is celebrating the Muppets this week ahead of the launch of Muppets Now. Check out their dedicated Muppets coverage HERE.
Analyst Matthew Ball takes a really great deep dive into the future of Nintendo. Read: Matthew Ball.
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