December 24, 2017




I don’t work for Movie Pass and I don’t have any stock in them, so what I’m sharing here is pure customer satisfaction. My son heard about Movie Pass on a podcast, and the podcasters were saying you could watch any movie you wanted IN A MOVIE THEATER for $9.95 a month, $6.95 if you pay for a full year ($89). It sounded too good to be true, but the podcasters had tried it out and told everyone how well it worked.

We put up the $20 to try a month for the both of us. IT KICKED ASS. We watched over $200 of movies that month, with movies costing between $8 and $13.75.

We were blown away by how easy it was, once we got the Movie Pass cards in the mail. It’s a MasterCard debit card, and you activate it on the first day you go to the theater. You download the Movie Pass app that’s a lot like Fandango, select the movie and theater you wanna watch it, and “Check In” when you’re within 1,000 feet of the theater. It applies a credit to your debit card for 30 minutes allowing you to buy the ticket. THAT’S IT. You can even get a Regal Rewards card and start racking up the points, which is what we’ve done.


John Campea posted a great overview that’s well worth the watch:

The idea is that the movie theaters want more people in the movie theaters to sell more at the concession stands, especially now that many theaters are offering beer and wine sales. Cinemark, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., is launching its own version of Movie Pass. It’s different than Movie Pass, which allows you a movie a day at a full range of theaters, Cinemark’s version allows you ONE movie a MONTH, with perks and discounts. Still, the idea is to get more butts in seats, hoping to attract people to the theater that would not have come if they had to pay the regular rates.


Cinemark does not think this is a long-term viable solution, which is why most of us questioned that Movie Pass could do it at all, but while it’s still around why would anyone not do it?


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How Sketchy Streaming Sites Really Work — And Why Some Are Legal

Source Business Insider    Christina Sterbenz
April 24, 2014

game of thrones streaming
Image by Gus Lubin based on “Game Of Thrones” and streaming sites.

You don’t need HBO to watch “Game Of Thrones.” All you need to watch the most pirated show ever, or almost anything, is either to download it from a torrent site or to Google “Game of Thrones streaming” and click one of the first links that comes up to watch it online.

Now, don’t take that as an endorsement. These activities, especially streaming, can be illegal; risk exposure to viruses; and often involve poor quality, pop-up ads, and other annoyances.

“It’s too complicated for most people,” Dan Rayburn, executive vice president for the streaming industry news site, told Business Insider. “With Netflix or whatever, you know what type of quality you’re getting, what type of device [the content] plays on.”

Yet millions of people still use these methods to watch live and recorded TV, whether to save money or time.In a new Business Insider/Survey Monkey poll focused solely on streaming, 14% of people admitted to streaming unlicensed content. Of the respondents who didn’t stream unlicensed content, 23% said it was because they didn’t know how, and 32% said it was because they think it is illegal. See full poll results here »

But is streaming unlicensed content online illegal? Jim Gibson, director of the Intellectual Property Institute at the University of Richmond law school, told Business Insider that streaming online content breaks the law in two cases.

When the user downloads even part of a file — called “pseudo-streaming” — it counts as a copy of copyrighted material, which is illegal. And when the user streams content as a “public performance” — namely, when it’s shown to a substantial number of people outside the normal family circle and its close acquaintances — it also constitutes a copyright violation.

Outside of these cases, accessing unlicensed streamed content is generally legal.

On the other side of the screen, however, uploading or posting unlicensed streamed content is illegal — even if it’s free, according to Gibson. “That’s the most basic part of copyright — protection of your work. When someone uploads a video online, they’re literally making a copy,” he said.

Online streaming sites may try to avoid trouble by not hosting their own content, instead acting as a search engine for links to streamed content, usually embedded from a secondary site. In that case, determining accountability requires the “inducement rule,” a test created in a 2005 Supreme Court ruling which states that a company or website can only be held accountable for distributing unlicensed content if it clearly encourage users to infringe a copyright.

“It does very much depend on the marketing and the uses [these sites] are encouraging …. You know, GM can make a car. You can use it as a getaway car in a bank robbery, or you can use it to get work. So we don’t say that GM is on the hook just because it provides a technology that can be used illegally,” Gibson said. The same goes for streaming websites.

These secondary sites, however, where the content actually exists, do violate copyright law. But they’re not usually as big as the primary sites, which aggregate unlicensed content. “If you have to choose your battles, you’re more likely to go after the bottlenecks. They give you the most access to infringing content,” Gibson said.

Just earlier this year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization took down, an illegal site streaming UFC fights live online, and seized its records. “Sites like that are shut down constantly,” says Rayburn, the CEO of “It’s not hard for law enforcement to find these sites. But it is hard to find out who’s running them.”

Still, many unlicensed online streaming sites continue to operate. Here’s a diagram of how most of them work:

Streaming InfographicMike Nudelman/Business Insider

As for the experience of using an unofficial streaming site, let’s see how someone might find FX’s “American Horror Story” online. Instead of Googling “American Horror Story streaming,” we’ll go straight to ProjectFreeTV, a site we know, and search there.

ProjectFreeTV screenshotProjectFreeTV

Searching here will yield a bunch of links to embedded content, generally hosted on a separate site. Choose the link you want to watch, considering load time and any other factors. We picked season three, episode three.

Projectfreetv screenshotProjectFreeTV

The links will bring you to another screen with an embedded video. When you press play, the first website, in this case, ProjectFreeTV, requests the file from the second website,


From the time you type the website’s name in the browser to the time you press play, three pop-ups as well as weird, sex banners interrupt the search. You’ll also have to navigate the links carefully. Only the large, blue play button will start the video, while the others could take you to outside websites or even start downloading files or programs, which potentially contain viruses.

Finally, the server sends the episode directly to your computer, bypassing the ProjectFreeTV and thus potentially avoiding legal repercussions.

Of course, the video might not play on your computer, since the original file could require software that you don’t have. Even if it works, the quality may well be terrible. If you can’t watch the video or don’t like what you see, then you can repeat the process with another link until you are satisfied.

This clearly is not an ideal video watching experience. But as long as it’s free and immediately available and there isn’t a serious government crackdown, a growing number of Internet users will continue to choose this option.

Cinemark announces $8.99-a-month subscription service to fill more seats — and take on MoviePass

Source LA TIMES     Ryan Faughnder
December 5, 2017

CinemarkCinemark’s offer, dubbed Movie Club, marks the latest move by theater chains to draw customers at a time when cinemas are contending with increased competition from other forms of entertainment, especially streaming services in the home such as Netflix. It’s also the cinema industry’s first direct answer to MoviePass, a New York start-up that offers unlimited movies in theaters for $9.95 a month.

Theater chains have long resisted discounting tickets, fearing that doing so would erode profits. But long-term pressures on the industry have prompted some exhibitors to rethink their opposition.

Cinemas have experienced a steady decline in domestic moviegoing in the last decade. The number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada hit 1.32 billion last year, compared with 1.4 billion a decade ago, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America. Box office revenues this year are down 4% so far, according to ComScore, thanks to movies that flopped.

The Cinemark deal also comes just months after MoviePass sparked a backlash from cinema giant AMC Entertainment when it reduced its monthly rate to $9.95 this summer. It previously charged up to $50 a month.

That represents a substantial discount for moviegoers. The average domestic ticket price (including matinee showings) reached a near record level of $8.93 in the quarter that ended in September, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, a trade group for the exhibition industry. In places like Los Angeles and New York, the cost of moviegoing is much higher.

Mark Zoradi, chief executive of Cinemark, said the subscription is not targeting people who already go to the movies multiple times a month. Instead, the chain is hoping the deal will encourage people who go to three to four movies a year to increase their annual moviegoing to about six trips.

The company, which has been working on the program since at least March, hopes that additional attendance will boost theater revenue through added sales of popcorn, soda and other concessions. Cinemark operates 533 theaters; locations in the Los Angeles area include Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15 and Cinemark Playa Vista.

“Our goal was really simple. It was to increase attendance and remove all of the pain points around it,” Zoradi said. “It helps us, our studio partners and the overall business.”

Cinemark’s deal may not have the same all-you-can-eat appeal as the MoviePass bargain. Still, the offer has benefits and flexibility that could drive customers to sign up, Zoradi said.

For example, if customers don’t use the ticket credit in a given month, it rolls over into the following months and does not expire. The program also includes the ability to reserve seats and buy tickets in advance with no online fees.

Eric Wold, an analyst who covers the major theater chains for B. Riley & Co., said Cinemark’s low Movie Club price could help it compete with MoviePass.

“Clearly, they’re trying to push people away from MoviePass and onto their own service,” Wold said. “I don’t think they would’ve started at this level if MoviePass hadn’t cut its price.”

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said Cinemark’s new offering will not hurt his company’s business.

“It is a recognition that moviegoers want different ways to transact with movie theaters,” Lowe said. “I think they’re seeing that this is really energizing people into going back to the theaters.”

Other exhibitors could follow suit, Wold said. Theater chains including AMC and Regal Entertainment Group have been trying to draw more customers by adding recliner seating, gourmet food and alcohol. But AMC in August criticized MoviePass for creating what it described as an unsustainable model that would hurt the industry.

MoviePass in October said it had grown to 600,000 subscribers, compared with 20,000 in 2016. Last month, the company lowered its offer to $6.95 a month for people who sign up for a full year.

Even with ‘Star Wars’ surge, moviegoing could hit 22-year low. Blame bad sequels, rising ticket prices and streaming

Source LOS ANGELES TIMES December 23, 2017

Hollywood is celebrating the end of 2017 with astronomical sales from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which is on track to soon exceed $1 billion in global ticket sales and eventually become the biggest movie of the year. But that won’t be enough to write a happy storyline for the industry.

Although 2017 movie ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada are expected to dip just below last year’s record of $11.38 billion, the number of tickets sold is projected to drop 4% to 1.26 billion — the lowest level since 1995, according to preliminary estimates from studio executives.

The falloff in ticket sales can mostly be explained by a handful of movies that flopped, especially during the dreary summer season that posted the worst results in more than two decades. Even such massive hits as “Wonder Woman,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “It” couldn’t make up for a lackluster summer lineup populated by rickety franchises (“Alien: Covenant”) and poorly reviewed retreads (“The Mummy”).

However, the long-term decline in attendance reflects systemic challenges facing the industry. Audiences are spending less time going to the movies and are consuming more entertainment on small screens and through streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon that are spending billions of dollars on original video content.

At the same time, while higher ticket prices have helped to offset attendance declines, they have made consumers pickier about what movies they’re willing to go see. And those increasingly discerning consumers turn to social media and Rotten Tomatoes to decide what’s worth their time and money.

“You cannot pull a fast one on the audience,” said Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment. “The tools that are available for consumers to decide how and where to spend entertainment dollars are so vast. Consumers know what works and what doesn’t long before the product becomes available.”

Challenges at the box office are helping to fuel a wave of media consolidation. Walt Disney Co. this month announced a blockbuster deal to buy entertainment assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion.

Murdoch’s surprise decision to sell the bulk of his media empire was at least partly motivated by concerns about the future of the movie business in a world dominated by streaming, analysts said.

Cinema chains also are bulking up to better compete. Regal Entertainment Group, the nation’s second-largest theater owner, last month agreed to sell itself to British theater company Cineworld for $3.6 billion.

For studios, the box office has become a land of princes and paupers, with a handful of movies and a couple studios increasingly dominating the business. As of Dec. 17, Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. accounted for 40% of domestic market share. In 2012, the top two studios (Sony and Warner Bros.) only took up 30% of the industry total.

Of the 165 wide-release movies this year, the top 20 claimed 51% of ticket sales in 2017, representing an increase of two percentage points from last year, according to estimates from distributors. Five years ago, the 20 biggest movies accounted for about 40% of annual grosses.

“It’s a really binary business between the haves and the have-nots,” said Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.

Nowhere was that trend clearer than last weekend, when the animated Fox movie “Ferdinand” opened against Disney’s “The Last Jedi.” The $111-million kids’ film about a fighting-averse bull opened with a pitiful $13 million, due to a lack of audience interest in the story and competition from Pixar’s hit computer-animated movie “Coco.” By contrast, the new “Star Wars” opened with $220 million — nearly 17 times “Ferdinand’s” debut.

Hollywood’s lack of fresh ideas also dampened ticket sales. Consumers clearly rejected aging franchises and retreads of old concepts and characters, especially during the summer months. Few people wanted to see Paramount’s R-rated “Baywatch” revival or Universal’s reboot of “The Mummy,” which was supposed to kick-start a series of monster movies. Ditto for the fifth “Transformers” movie.

“The films that underperformed were the fifth or eighth in the franchise,” said Eric Wold, an entertainment and media analyst with B. Riley FBR Inc. “Those franchises were already on the decline, so you can’t expect people to go run to them.”

Originality and quality really pay off

On the other hand, movies with the right combination of originality and quality scored big numbers.

Disney’s well-reviewed live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” and Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” scored with audiences, grossing $504 million and $412 million, respectively in the U.S. and Canada. Both offered fresh takes on beloved characters that audiences wanted to see on the big screen. New “Spider-Man” and “Thor” movies similarly avoided franchise fatigue.

It also helped if the movies appealed to women who’ve been underserved by the studios. The three highest-grossing films — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Wonder Woman” — were all led by female protagonists.

“Girls Trip,” an R-rated romp that centered on four black women, was the highest-grossing live-action comedy of the year, in a moviegoing climate that was not kind to comedies.

“We continue to hear that comedies are dead, but great content will disprove many current ‘rules’ as ‘Girls Trip’ did,” said Jim Orr, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures. “The audience is often saying, show us something new, something we haven’t seen before or done in a new and exciting way.”

Horror movies, which benefit from being seen in a dark room with a big crowd, had a banner year. New Line’s “It” defied all expectations by scoring $327 million, despite hitting theaters in the moviegoing dead zone of September. Universal Pictures’ “Get Out,” a social satire that’s now a front-runner for awards consideration, became a cultural phenomenon earlier in the year by tapping into a national conversation about race relations. It took in $175 million domestically.

“Look what happens when you put out a good film that people want to see. It breaks records,” said Phil Zacheretti, c​​​​​​hief executive of Phoenix Theatres Entertainment, which operates 13 movie theaters. “When you put out mediocre product, people aren’t stupid.”

Contributing to the winners-and-losers dynamic was the rise of social media and review aggregation sites such as Rotten Tomatoes that let moviegoers determine whether a movie is good or bad before it’s released. Some producers have estimated that a very high or very low Rotten Tomatoes score can cause a movie to miss or exceed pre-release estimates by as much as 50%. Critical reviews this year damaged Sony’s “The Dark Tower,” Warner Bros.’ “Geostorm” and Universal’s “The Snowman.”

Global market is profitable — and expanding

The international box office remains a bright spot for moviegoing. The global box office, which includes domestic and international revenue, is expected to hit roughly $39.4 billion this year, up 2% from 2016, studio executives said. China is still a lucrative market despite a substantial slowdown in that market.

“We have some huge challenges in the years to come, and there’s no question we’re facing huge competition,” Goldstein said. “But when you look at a global box office of $39 billion worldwide, there’s clearly a lot of interest in motion pictures.”

AMC, owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, recently signaled its plans to expand into Saudi Arabia after the kingdom lifted its ban on movie theaters.

Beyond looking overseas, major theater chains are spending billions of dollars on improvements to their auditoriums, adding recliner seats as well as expanded menu options and even alcohol.

“If we had sat on our hands five years ago and not started to upgrade our theaters, I would think we’d be down a lot more,” said Zacheretti of Phoenix Theatres, which is based in Knoxville, Tenn.

The investments in premium services, however, have made moviegoing more expensive. The average ticket price during the three months that ended in September hit a near-record $8.93 in the U.S. and Canada, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. People in cities such as Los Angeles and New York often pay double that amount.

To lure patrons, some theaters are abandoning their traditional opposition to offering discounts.

Cinemark, based in Plano, Texas, and the nation’s third-largest theater circuit, recently unveiled a subscription program that gives members a credit of one ticket a month, plus discounts on concessions, for a monthly fee of $8.99. The program is the industry’s first direct answer to MoviePass, a fast-growing New York start-up that lets people see a movie a day for $9.95 a month.

“We want to make moviegoing a little more affordable and let people take a little more risk when they go to the movies,” Cinemark Chief Executive Mark Zoradi said.