Alamo Drafthouse Movie Chain Files For Chapter 11 Austin, Texas-based, dine-in movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has filed for voluntary Chapter 11 in Delaware Court and agreed to sell basically all its assets to an investor group including one of its founders Tim League.The parent company bankruptcy makes it one of the highest-profile casualties of the pandemic that shuttered theaters a year ago…The nation’s largest chain, AMC Entertainment, skirted close to bankruptcy several times but has managed to raise enough cash to see it through this year and a more robust return to moviegoing.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema did everything it could to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. It furloughed most of the staff, cut pay for those who remained, rented out theaters for private events, paused costly development projects, leaned on its merchandising business to keep revenue coming in, and launched an on-demand movie service.In the end, it was not enough. The company — the largest privately held theater chain in the U.S. — filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday morning. Alamo Drafthouse joins Studio Movie Grill and Cinemex, two other sizable theater chains that also found they could not survive the prolonged shutdown and the absence of new releases without bankruptcy protection

‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’ Going Earlier This Summer In a positive sign for exhibition, and NYC reopening this Friday, Sony is moving up their release of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway from June 11 to May 14. Not only is Sony getting a jump on summer, but it’s clear there is an appetite for family movies as the pandemic calms; i.e. last weekend Warner Bros. theatrical release of Tom & Jerry overperformed with a $14.1M opening weekend — and that’s with a same-day release on HBO Max.

Universal Shifts Summer Release For ‘F9 I hear that the slight shift in theatrical dating for F9 has to do with major overseas markets. They’re still not open despite NYC reopening this Friday and Los Angeles expected to reopen in the near future as Covid cases decrease and vaccinations increase in the city. There is a chance as overseas markets do improve during the pandemic, that F9 could begin its theatrical journey abroad before domestic. All of that said, Universal is trying to have as many markets go at once for F9 as possible.Minions is the most profitable franchise for Universal, hence the huge release date change for that pic. The studio is making sure that the pic’s promotional partners are able to join the ride and support their brands up through the film’s 2022 release.

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ Takes Over Memorial Day Weekend Vacated By ‘F9’Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II is opening early, on Memorial Day weekend, May 28, moving up from its Sept. 17 slot….Earlier today Universal announced that it was delaying F9 from that four-day holiday slot to June 25, to bank on more overseas markets that will be coming out of the pandemic….Last week on Paramount+ day, it was announced that A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 would get a 45 day theatrical window before arriving on the revamped Viacom streaming service.The fact that there are a number of movies moving up, i.e. A Quiet Place Part II and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway underscores the confidence that studios have in moviegoing making its way back as New York City reopens this Friday and Los Angeles expected in the near future.

Cinemark Won’t Be Playing Disney’s ‘Raya And The Last Dragon’ The No. 3 U.S. exhibitor Cinemark will not be playing Raya and the Last Dragon this coming weekend as Disney makes the title available both in theaters and as a $30 purchase on Disney+ on March 5. As the major studios experiment widely with theatrical windows during the pandemic, Raya is a clear case that not all exhibitors will just swallow whatever is thrown at them. Essentially I hear from sources that Disney remained quite tough on their terms for Raya. If exhibition didn’t like the terms, well, then they don’t have to play the movie. On the flip side, I hear that Warners on their recent HBO Max titles, i.e. Wonder Woman 1984, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Little Things and Tom & Jerry lowered their rental terms, and hence that’s the reason why more exhibitors took to the titles.A Cinemark representative tells Deadline tonight, “In the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a discrete, film-by-film basis, focusing on the long-term benefit of exhibitors, studios and moviegoers. While we are having conversations with The Walt Disney Company, we have not yet reached agreeable licensing terms for Raya and the Last Dragon. As we continue to work with our studio partners, we remain optimistic that we will reach mutually beneficial terms that will provide moviegoers the opportunity to see the exciting film lineup in our theatres.

Imax: Robust Asia Box Office Bodes Well For Moviegoing In Asia, Imax has reached pre-pandemic levels on releases including Demon Slayer, Detective Chinatown 3 and Shock Wave 2 despite capacity limitations and a lack of Hollywood content. The strong box office showing indicates pent-up demand among global moviegoers, a good sign as theaters around the world reopen. New York City, a key market, will open theaters tomorrow for the first time in almost year. With vaccines rolling out and Covid cases falling, Imax is set to benefit from a pipeline of big screen-friendly Hollywood blockbusters, in particular in the second half.Imax said it installed 71 Imax Experience systems and signed agreements for 65 for the full year, including 33 systems and 11 signed agreements in the fourth quarter — ending the year with 527 systems in backlog.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond Sees Movie Business And “Pure” Streamers Landing On Standard Theatrical Window In 45-Day RangeImax CEO Rich Gelfond believes a growing consensus around the long-fraught topic of theatrical movie release windows will boost the recovery of exhibition in 2021 and beyond. In addition to major studios endorsing exclusive windows of 30 to 45 days (half the historical period), either officially or by implication, the executive also believes streaming services will meet them halfway. Netflix, Apple, Amazon Prime Video and others will abide a standard window of about 45 days for their high-profile titles, Gelfond predicts. Many studios are owned by parent companies pushing aggressively into direct-to-consumer streaming and releasing major films online at the same time they hit theaters. But Gelfand expects the windows adjustments to also work in reverse. Tech companies, as they invest in mega-budget projects with top filmmakers and stars, will accept limited windows in exchange for the “stature” afforded by a theatrical engagement, he said.“We’re going to see some of the pure streaming companies — the Apples, the Netflixes, the Amazons, they’re going to change their release patterns because the movies aren’t going to be 90 days like they used to be,” Gelfond said. “I think you’re going to start to see them put their movies on theatrical platforms, driven somewhat by talent, which wants to publicize it, and driven somewhat by economics.” With a theatrical release, “a movie gains much more stature. … the streamers will find that they can get some of that benefit with a theatrical release.” A series of comments from executives in recent days support Gelfond’s read of the market…

Germany Advises On Potential Cinema Reopenings German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday extended Germany’s current lockdown to March 28, while also unveiling plans to relax certain Covid restrictions. Under a five-step process, cinemas may be able to reopen beginning March 22 at the earliest (this would be part of Stage 4). All will depend on the infection rate…In the wake of Merkel’s announcement, Constantin Film chief Martin Moszkowicz tells Deadline, “Realistically, I don’t think we will be able to release our bigger titles before May or June.” He does believe that smaller releases may be possible, but large-scale titles will be problematic. While Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon begins theatrical rollout overseas this week, it is not scheduled for the European majors which are currently closed (UK, Germany, France, Italy). The next major studio movie is Warner Bros’ Godzilla Vs Kong which is eyeing late March.

German Distributors Look Ahead to Busy Year as Pipeline Clogged With Pics German cinema looks set for a major boost this year from some of the country’s most commercially successful and critically acclaimed directors tackling such eclectic subject matter as U.S. torture in Guantánamo, the impact of bipolar disorder on family, and a folkloric love story about the Grim Reaper. The pandemic postponed a number of scheduled 2020 productions, which will likely make 2021 a busy year as production companies make up lost time.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar On Movie Outlook And Adding Cheaper AVOD Tier To HBO MaxWarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar expects the upcoming launch of the cheaper, ad-supported version of streaming service HBO Max to unlock new value and boost subscriptions. “It turns out that most people on this planet are not wealthy,” Kilar said during a virtual appearance at Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecom conference. “If we can wake up and use price and be able to kind of invent and do things elegantly through advertising to reduce the price of the service, I think that’s a fantastic thing for fans.”Kilar did not provide any new specifics about the ad-supported tier, but he said it is on track to launch later this year. Pricing, launch date and details about the ad experience all remain tightly under wraps as the company works out all of the kinks.

‘Nomadland’ Going Directly To Disney+ Star In UK Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland will go direct to the recently-launched Disney+ offshoot Star when the film launches on April 30 in the UK. The movie will be available to UK and Ireland cinema-owners once venues re-open. At present that will be from May 17 but that date could move back if the country’s Covid situation doesn’t improve as hoped.Oscar contender Nomadland has been a critical darling since it premiered at Venice last year, where it won the Golden Lion. The film also scooped the People’s Choice Award in Toronto and recently won Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director at the Golden Globes. Searchlight Pictures took world rights. Shutting At Least 60 Retail Stores In North America, Will Focus More On E-Commerce Walt Disney Co plans to close at least 60 Disney retail stores in North America this year, representing about 20% of its worldwide total, the company said today. The move will see the entertainment conglomerate focus more on digital shopping platforms. Disney said it is also looking at cutting back on its European stores…There are approximately 300 Disney stores in the worldwide market. Disney did not reveal how many jobs would be lost as a result of the closings.“While consumer behavior has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” said Stephanie Young, president of Disney’s consumer products, games and publishing. Young added, “We now plan to create a more flexible, interconnected ecommerce experience that gives consumers easy access to unique, high-quality products across all our franchises.”

Amazon Fire TV Boosts Live Lineup To 200 Free ChannelsAmazon Fire TV has bolstered its lineup of live streaming channels to more than 400 — half of which are free, ad-supported offerings — and has updated several features. Nearly 20 programmers are supplying live channel content, among them bundled subscription services like YouTube TV, Sling TV and Philo. Newly integrated on Fire are free offerings like Xumo and Amazon’s IMDb TV and news app. Plex will soon join the fold.Fire reaches more than 50 million U.S. households. Its live offerings have seen a 130% increase in engagement over the past year, Amazon said

Netflix Greenlights First-Ever Animated Asterix Limited SeriesNetflix has partnered with Hachette’s Les Editions Albert René and playwright Alain Chabat to create the first-ever animated limited series based on the iconic French comic book The Adventures of Asterix. The 3D animated series will be made in France and streamed on Netflix around the world in 2023. Chabat, who wrote and directed 2002’s Mission Cléopâtre, will serve as showrunner.

Netflix India Unveils Slate Of 40 Films & Series Netflix today hosted an event in Mumbai unveiling a hefty slate of upcoming films, series, documentaries, reality programs, and comedy specials. There were a total of 40 projects touted during today’s showcase. Monika Shergill, Vice President of Content at Netflix India, said: “… how do we identify that one story that everyone will love? We don’t. Each and everyone of us have our own tastes and moods and all of us want to see our lives reflected on screen…Our upcoming lineup features more variety and diversity than we have seen before. From the biggest films and series, to gripping documentaries and reality, and bold comedy formats. We are taking our next big leap in India to bring you more than 40 powerful and irresistible stories from all corners of the country.”
Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch Says Best Way To Nab Streaming Subs Is Have 16 Original SeriesStarz CEO Jeff Hirsch said “mid-budget films play better on our service than anything else,” as per the exclusive first-window output deal for Lionsgate and Summit films announced this morning….“Movies are important to our service. Big box office movies drive a lot of acquisitions and conversions,” he said on a Q&A at a Morgan Stanley media conference Tuesday afternoon. “It’s also great that I can walk across the street with [Motion Pictures Group chairman] Joe Drake and say ‘Look, how did this perform, can we make another one?’”…Growth, however, is mainly driven by original series. How many? Sixteen, he said. “We will have 12 this year, rising to 16 next year.”Starz has 28 million subscribers, more than half are streaming subscribers. It offers more than 7,500 premium television episodes and feature films.

The Days Of Knowing How Big A Movie Is Are Seemingly Over In A Streaming-First Era Last week, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry debuted on Apple TV Plus. The documentary became the “biggest hit title for young adult audiences that Apple has had so far across its slate of films and TV series,” according to Deadline, drawing a “record-breaking 33 percent new viewers to the service.” Sounds impressive, right? It would if Apple provided any kind of context for declarations like “biggest hit” and “record-breaking” subscriber adds. Instead, we’re left wondering:

  • How many subscribers does Apple TV Plus have currently?
  • How many people actually watched Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry?
  • How many of those new subscribers are on free Apple TV Plus trial plans?
  • How do those viewership numbers and subscriber additions compare to every other title?

Without any of this context, 10 million people could have watched Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry or 10,000 people. In a pre-streaming world, if the documentary was released in theaters or debuted on a network like MTV, there would be actual statistics. Weekly box office reports and Nielsen breakdowns exist to provide public insight into how well a movie or TV show is performing.As of right now, there’s no reason for the companies to release numbers…None of this matters to the streaming companies.

Google Promises To Stop Tracking Your Browsing History To Sell AdsGoogle Wednesday addressed the hot-button issue of consumer privacy, explicitly promising not to track peoples’ browsing history in order to feed them ads. It said Chrome will offer a first iteration of new controls in April. “People shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web in order to get the benefits of relevant advertising. And advertisers don’t need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising,” wrote David Temkin, Google’s director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust, in a company blog post called “Charting a course towards a more privacy-first web.”
He cited a study by the Pew Research Center that 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, tech firms or other companies, and 81% say the potential risks they face from data collection outweigh the benefits. “If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” he said. He said Google’s web products will be powered by “privacy-preserving APIs” that prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers. Many in ad-tech are phasing out third-party cookies (which show browsing history) but some are finding workarounds. “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” Temkin said.
acebook COO Sheryl Sandberg yesterday at the same event talked about how getting users comfortable with targeted advertising is one of the social media giant’s biggest challenges.

Streaming Wars Could Shake Up TV’s Ad Dollars Big advertisers are scrambling to follow their consumers to Hollywood’s new streaming services as well as to the new screens consumers are using to find their favorite movies and scripted comedies and dramas. When the upfront starts in May, the TV companies will have to ramp up nascent systems and technologies in which digital rivals are expert. At issue: As more onetime couch potatoes migrate to streaming video, big advertisers eager to court them are shifting the manner in which they spend their money. Madison Avenue is funneling more of its dollars into so-called programmatic advertising that is keyed via software to appear in front of specific niche audiences, and is eager to test “addressable” commercials that can be sent to car buyers or expectant mothers via set-top box or smart TV.
“We are not just interested in which network is going to deliver the highest adult 18 to 49 ratings anymore. We are looking for where our targets for our advertisers are consuming content and what is the most effective and efficient way to reach them,” says David Campanelli, executive vice president and chief investment officer at Horizon Media, an independent media-buying agency. “You are really buying across the portfolio and not just what the big shows are going to be in primetime.

Disney Spotlights Ad Tech in Bid to Court Madison Avenue As more consumers get their movies, dramas, comedies and even live sports and news from video delivered by broadband, big media companies are rushing to follow them — and help advertisers do the same. Walt Disney Co. has unveiled a suite of new products that lets sponsors buy across TV and digital with more ease and also place their commercials with greater precision. The company believes that over the next five years, most of its business across linear and digital will be automated, conducted in what is known in the industry in “programmatic” fashion, and is working to give clients what they want in advance of the annual sales session known as the upfront, when U.S. TV companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of their next programming cycle.Disney isn’t the only one working toward such goals.
Many media companies are folding assets once separated by divisions under a single umbrella. As audiences splinter around programs and behaviors, advertisers want to give these smaller groups commercials that are more likely to appeal, and crave technology solutions that can help accomplish the task. NBCUniversal has in recent weeks brought its local station ad inventory under its central ad-sales efforts, and is planning a technology conference for advertisers later this month. Disney debuted what it calls its Disney Audience Graph that helps advertisers identify distinct segments of audience so they can place ads based on things such as buyer behavior, household characteristics, and psychographics. The company says the number of campaigns using data of any kind to target audiences has increased 56% over the past year. The company also unveiled what it calls its Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange, a buying system that allows advertisers buying programmatically to bid more easily for the audiences they wish to target.

Roku to Acquire Nielsen’s Addressable TV Advertising Business Under the agreement, announced Monday, Roku will obtain Nielsen’s video automatic content recognition (ACR) technology and dynamic ad insertion (DAI) system, which can replace ads in linear feeds with targeted, household-level spots on over-the-top streaming platforms. In addition, Nielsen and Roku are entering into a multiyear pact under which data from Roku’s platform will be incorporated into the forthcoming Nielsen One cross-media measurement solution. Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising group had struck deals for addressable advertising tests with TV programmers including Disney, CBS, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, A+E Networks and AMC Networks. After the deal closes, Parampath said, Roku plans to have “renewed conversations” with those media partners as well as other smart TV makers about working with Roku to enable addressable ads.In addition, Roku’s base of smart TVs and other devices will be pulled into the Nielsen One proposed cross-media currency spanning streaming and traditional TV, augmenting the company’s existing deals for data from DirecTV, Dish and Vizio smart TVs. All told, Nielsen One will draw on nearly 100 million devices with the addition of Roku. Nielsen’s Brown commented, “As Roku brings the power of dynamic ad insertion to all forms of TV, we’re excited to help monetize the addressable market by measuring smart TV as a currency.”