MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

Showest, cont’d

When ShoWest members couldn’t be found at a screening, seminar, buffet or banquet, they likely were strolling among the booths at the concurrent trade show, noshing on popcorn, hot dogs and soda pop. It’s here that exhibitors traditionally have been introduced to the latest in concessions, projection and other technical equipment, ticketing devices, lighting fixtures, furniture and janitorial supplies. If it were up to the concessionaires represented here, America’s multiplexes would more closely resemble convenience stores, their walls lined with refrigeration units and sales counters strewn with impulse items. Exhibitors, though, have easily resisted the temptation to make pennies on a dollar, when the mark-ups on popcorn and Coke remain so impressive.

Even so, theater owners remain an easy target for people who consider obesity to be the foremost problem facing the republic. (Has anyone been to a baseball game, lately?) Monday, Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton joined First Lady Michelle Obama in her crusade to force Americans to care more about their personal health than the corporations in whose financial interest it is to fatten them for the slaughter. (Has anyone seen The Informant! and Food, Inc.?)

Lynton told NATO members that adding healthier food options was the “right thing to do for our industry, for audiences and for our country.” To this end, he produced the results of a studio-backed survey that suggested two-thirds of the moviegoers polled “would prefer something healthier than candy, popcorn and soda … and 42 percent of parents said they’d buy more food at the theater,” if there were less-caloric options.

“Audiences love them,” he said. “I’m just talking about adding some healthier items to what you already sell.”

If the major studios have been reluctant to subsidize the exhibitors’ transition to digital cinema, it’s hardly likely they’d help them afford increased shelf space, freezers units and the additional employees they’d need to dice tomatoes and switch out brown lettuce and rancid fruit salads. Neither did he mention how food companies masquerade their otherwise bland-tasting health food with cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other suspect chemical sweeteners. If theater owners saw the potential for profit in serving healthy treats – and, here, I’d bow both to their experience and greed – they would already be stocking granola bars and flaxseed tortilla chips.

This year’s inventory of untested snacks held few surprises, apart from the occasional new flavor of gummy candy, tea, fusion, vitamin and semi-frozen drinks (all delicious, by the way). The only addition to the menu that I didn’t recognize from years past was Texas Tito’s giant, individually wrapped dill pickles, absent “messy brine.” Instead of arriving in a barrel, the pickles are packaged to be sold from a convenient candy-counter box and have a one-year shelf life. While huge and reasonably tasty, the dills inarguably are butt-ugly.

Hearing-impaired viewers could benefit from Doremi Cinema’s newly introduced CaptiView Closed Caption Viewing System. The easily portable device fits into a seat’s cup holder, where it can receive wireless transmissions from the theater’s server. A flexible gooseneck arm supports a small, easy-to-read captioning screen, with a built-in rechargeable battery. It can be adjusted to suit the viewer’s preferred eye line and allows captioning in four different languages. Like most compact reading lights, it can be easily moved to different seats and theaters in a multiplex. Besides being a sales tool, CaptiView represents a convenient and inexpensive way for theaters to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

American audiences are only now getting accustomed to 3-D eye-ware that doesn’t make them look entirely dorky. There’s no way of knowing how much the evolution of frames already has helped boost box-office revenues, but, clearly, it hasn’t hurt.

Why stop there, though. Only four months after the government-approved guidelines for 3-D-ready HDTVs and Blu-ray machines were announced, Panasonicannounced last week that it’s sold out its initial order of sets. This, despite a scarcity of entertainment options and affordable equipment.

Fashionistas and early adopters, alike, will be happy to learn that 3-D eyeware is taking its place alongside other stylish glasses. A trio of exhibitors – 3-D Glasses Global, Look 3D Eyewear and XpanD – showcased their lines of glasses, which, we’re told, blend fashion and functionality in the pursuit of multidimensional fun. Not only can the eyeware be purchased for repeated use at home and theater, but some high-end models can be worn outside, as sunglasses.

The selection at 3-D Glasses Global and Look 3D was every bit as exhaustive as that at most mall outlets. Indeed, so familiar were they, the frames might very well have been purchased at a liquidation sale. If the 3-D trend continues to bloom, fans of Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Lady Gaga could wear facsimiles of the Ray-Ban Wayfarers they favor. Already, Australia-based Look 3D has yellow Shrek models set for sale to individual consumers, marketing concerns and theater owners. Early adopters could stage parties for their kids, at which 3-D movies would be shown on the TV in the rec room, and the themed glasses could be handed out, later, as party favors.

How much of a threat to the theater-going experience this represents is unknown. If it approaches the one posed by piracy, maybe we’ll learn about it first at ShoWest.

– Gary Dretzka
March 22, 2010

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon