To Lure Young, Movie Theaters Shake, Smell and Spritz


LOS ANGELES — Having tried 3-D films, earsplitting sound systems and even alcohol sales in pursuit of younger moviegoers, some theater chains are now installing undulating seats, scent machines and 270-degree screens.
For an $8 premium, a Regal theater here even sprays patrons with water and pumps scents (burning rubber, gun powder) into the auditorium. Can’t cope with two hours away from your smartphone? One theater company has found success with instant on-screen messaging — the texted comments pop up next to the action.
“When I step back and think about what will get people off a couch, in a car, down the road and into a theater, the answer is not postage stamp-sized screens and old seats,” said Gerardo I. Lopez, the chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the No. 2 chain in the United States. “Why would they bother? What the hell, stay in the house.”
If Mr. Lopez sounds frustrated, he is. Ticket revenue in North America has fallen 4 percent this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to box office analysts, and attendance is equally down. The busy Thanksgiving and Christmas moviegoing periods are not expected to make up the ground.

Seats move to reflect the action in a movie at the 4DX Regal LA Live Stadium 14 in Los Angeles. CreditJ. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

The decline has hammered the biggest theater companies, with profit at both AMC and Regal Entertainment, the No. 1 chain, plunging more than 50 percent through the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period a year earlier.
But what really has the exhibition industry unnerved are two statistics released in the spring by the Motion Picture Association of America. Last year, despite a glut of extravagant action movies, the number of frequent moviegoers ages 18 to 24 dropped 17 percent, compared to a year earlier; the 12-to-17 age bracket dropped 13 percent.
The undiscerning young ticket buyers Hollywood has long counted on to turn out weekend after weekend are suddenly discerning. Or they are at least busying themselves with video games, living room wide-screen televisions and devices that can pull up thousands of movies with a couple of clicks. For many teenagers, the idea of focusing on a single screen for an extended stretch is anathema.
“The traditional moviegoing experience is at odds with the rest of their lives,” said Ben Carlson, president of Fizziology, a consultancy that focuses on entertainment and social media.
To combat the problem, theater chains seem increasingly open to trying just about anything. Regal, for instance, in June began offering something called 4DX in downtown Los Angeles. More than 100 seats buck and dip in close synchronization with the action on the screen. Compressed air blasts from headrests to simulate flying bullets. Fans provide a gentle wind effect.
There are two types of water effects: rain, which drops from the ceiling, and mist, which is squirted from the seat in front of you. (Patrons can turn off the water by pressing a button.)
“We’re adding to the story, not taking away from it,” said Catherine Yi, a senior editor for CJ 4Dplex, the company behind the technology. More 4DX theaters are on the way, both in the United States and abroad. Competing companies like D-Box and MediaMation are racing to roll out similar motion-seat offerings.
For many cinephiles, this is sacrilege. Even some Hollywood executives joke about bringing motion-sickness bags and raincoats.
But the target audience — men 18 to 24 — seems to enjoy it, with screenings often selling out, according to studio distribution managers. “It’s way cooler than it sounds,” said David Ramirez, 25, as he left a crowded 4DX screening of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” last weekend.

The theater also uses wind, rain and mist effects to try to bolster attendance by young males.CreditJ. Emilio Flores for The New York Times
Newfangled multiplex ideas come and go all the time. Peter Jackson in 2012 promised to revolutionize moviegoing by exhibiting his “Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in a faster, hyper-realistic 48 frames per second. Ticket buyers thought otherwise. The 3-D boom of recent years has also waned.
Going back further, Smell-o-Vision and AromaRama — 1960s-era attempts by exhibitors to compete with the surging popularity of television — both quickly fizzled.
But the current move toward interactivity and immersion is unlikely to go away entirely, analysts say, in part because of a generational shift.
“You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing, but my 18-year-old son might,” Amy E. Miles, Regal’s chief executive, told attendees at a gathering of movie theater owners in 2012, when some of the concepts now rolling out were first discussed.
Disney over the last two years has conducted theatrical testing of an initiative it calls Second Screen. Moviegoers were encouraged to bring iPads and use apps to play games that relate to the action in the movie. During one test, conducted during a rerelease of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 50 percent of the audience had iPads.
Allowing patrons to use their smartphones in certain auditoriums has been discussed intermittently by exhibitors, although worries about piracy, among other factors, have prevented that notion from moving forward in the United States. But theater chains paid keen attention to a recent texting trial in China.
At August screenings in 11 cities of “The Legend of Qin,” an animated movie, ticket buyers were allowed to log on to a Wi-Fi network and use their mobile phones to text with other attendees as the film played. The messages appeared next to the action, much like VH1’s “Pop Up Video” program.
AMC, now owned by the Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate, says it has no immediate plans to allow texting. But the chain is moving ahead with an enhanced experience called AMC Prime. Now operating in nine American cities with more on the way, AMC Prime theaters have ButtKicker-brand subwoofers inside reclining seats (the marketing slogan: “Get ready to feel every wow”) and 60 speakers over all, double the number in a standard AMC auditorium.
America’s third-largest chain, Cinemark, has lately experimented with theaters in four states (California, Florida, Illinois and Texas) that offer a 270-degree viewing experience. The first film to be shown in the format was the young-adult thriller “The Maze Runner.”
“Our customers really seemed to like it,” said Timothy Warner, Cinemark’s chief executive.
But Mr. Warner vowed that Cinemark would go only so far. “Unlike some of the others,” he said, “we still think the reason people go to the movies is to see movies.”

Frozen sequel confirmed? Idina Menzel says follow-up to Disney hit is ''in the works''


Actress Idina Menzel has confirmed there will be a sequel to Disney's smash hitFrozen.
Menzel, who voices Elsa in the animated film, admitted a stage show and Frozen 2 were "in the works" when quizzed about persistent rumours in an interview with the Telegraph.
"That they’re all in the works. Not the stage show – I don’t know what will happen with that – but the movie hopefully. We’ll see. I’m just going along for the ride," she said.
Frozen has become the highest-grossing animated film of all time since its release in November 2013. It took in more than $1 billion at the box office.
The film also spawned hit song Let It Go, which is sung by Menzel.
GettyMacy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Idina Menzel
The 43-year-old actress and Broadway star admitted she was surprised by the movie's success and her newfound fame among its young fan base.
She said: "I remember some of those classic Disney songs from movies, and you knew the character but you didn’t know the person behind the song. But this is different, this is weird."
While fans await a feature-length sequel, Menzel and co-stars Kristen Bell and Josh Gadd are expected to reprise their roles in a one-off short, Frozen Fever, next year.
Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck will return to direct the mini-adventure but it's not yet known if it will air on TV or in cinemas.
The short will feature a new original song written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who won an Oscar for Let It Go.
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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Teaser Trailer Debuts

Star Wars Force Awakens Falcon H 2014
Walt Disney Studios

"There has been an awakening — have you felt it?"

by THR Staff 

"There has been an awakening — have you felt it? The dark side, and the light," says an ominous voice, just before Hans Solo's Falcon soars into view and the franchise's iconic theme song plays.

For days, speculation has swirled about when and where the first look at the next Star Wars would debut. On Monday, Bad Robot's Twitter accounttweeted a note from the filmmaker confirming that that 88 seconds of footage would be debuting in theaters this Friday. Disney later revealed that the footage would be screening in just 30 theaters across the U.S. and Canada, with the teaser showing before every single showing of every single movie in the select theaters throughout the weekend.
In addition to the theatrical showings this weekend,the official Star Wars Twitter account also revealed that the teaser would arrive online on Friday. Watch it below.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to hit theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.

Christian Bale on Studying Moses: He Was a 'Freedom Fighter' for Hebrews, 'Terrorist' to Egyptian Empire


To prepare for the role of Moses for the upcoming film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” Christian Bale studied the biblical story, and came to realize that Moses was a very complicated figure.
“He was so much more human than I had ever imagined... had all sort of temptations and indulgences that he had grown up with,” Bale said in an interview with “Nightline.” “[He was] absolutely seen as a freedom fighter for the Hebrews, but a terrorist in terms of the Egyptian empire.”
Moses has been an inspirational icon for liberation movements throughout history, and is a central figure in the three Great Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“What would happen to Moses if he arrived today?” Bale pondered. “Drones would be sent out after him, right?”
Ridley Scott, who directed “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” depicted another ancient empire in upheaval in the 2000 movie, “Gladiator.” He teamed up with frequent collaborator Steve Zaillian, who wrote the script, for “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
“What he is writing is a story of revolution,” Bale said. “And that’s a story that can resonate, no matter what time.”
Watch ABC’s Chris Connelly’s full interview with Christian Bale and Ridley Scott in an upcoming “Nightline” feature.

Netflix CEO: Broadcast TV Will Be Dead By 2030

Nielsen Ratings are going to finally factor in Netflix traffic. Reed Hastings thinks it's too little, too late.

If you checked Nielsen Ratings, you’d think that the only people watching TV were age 54 and older (and you’d be right), and that Millennials are a black hole of immeasurable Internet content consumption—that is, until Nielsen starts measuring Netflix traffic next month.

But what does Netflix CEO Reed Hastings think about Nielsen’s bold step forward? Meh. Earlier this week, in Mexico City, he said that it’s “not very relevant” either way, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

For Nielsen, this might look like modernization, but for those of us ready to enter 2015, it’s more like a move from the Mesozoic to the Paleozoic Era.

“It’s kind of like the horse, you know, the horse was good until we had the car,” Mr. Hastings said. “The age of broadcast TV will probably last until 2030.”

The trouble is how Nielsen intends on reporting streaming ratings: Nielsen will capture audio from home televisions, which accounts for no traffic from people binge-watching on their phones or curled up in bed with a laptop. It’ll capture some of the traffic, sure, but Netflix will always be able to say, “that’s like, a fraction of the real viewership.” And they’d be right.

But 2030 seems mightly early, no? Well, given that TV viewership dropped a full 50% between 2002 and 2012—which is largely before the advent of cord-slaying streaming habits—the future for the next 15 years of broadcast television is possibly catastrophic.

You’d think that by now, cable companies would have some sort of half-baked strategy to prevent companies like Netflix from eating their lunch.

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Mike Nichols, director of 'The Graduate,' dead at 83

Director Mike Nichols, who brought fierce wit, caustic social commentary and wicked absurdity to such film, TV and stage hits as "The Graduate," ''Angels in America" and "Monty Python's Spamalot," has died. He was 83.
The death was confirmed by ABC News President James Goldston on Thursday. Nichols died Wednesday evening. Goldston said the family was holding a small private service this week.
During a career spanning more than 50 years, Nichols, who was married to ABC's Diane Sawyer, managed to be both an insider and outsider, an occasional White House guest and friend to countless celebrities who was as likely to satirize the elite as he was to mingle with them. A former stand-up performer who began his career in a groundbreaking comedy duo with Elaine May and whose work brought him an Academy Award, a Grammy and multiple Tony and Emmy honors, Nichols had a remarkable gift for mixing edgy humor and dusky drama.
"No one was more passionate than Mike," Goldston wrote in an email announcing Nichols' death.
His 1966 film directing debut "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" unforgettably captured the vicious yet sparkling and sly dialogue of Edward Albee's play, as a couple (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) torment each other over deep-seated guilt and resentment.
Nichols, who won directing Emmys for his works "Angels in America" and "Wit," said he liked stories about the real lives of real people and that humor inevitably pervades even the bleakest of such tales.
"I have never understood people dividing things into dramas and comedies," Nichols said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. "There are more laughs in 'Hamlet' than many Broadway comedies."
He was a wealthy, educated man who often mocked those just like him, never more memorably than in "The Graduate," which shot Dustin Hoffman to fame in the 1967 story of an earnest young man rebelling against his elders' expectations. Nichols himself would say that he identified with Hoffman's awkward, perpetually flustered Benjamin Braddock.
At the time, Nichols was "just trying to make a nice little movie," he recalled in 2005 at a retrospective screening of "The Graduate." ''It wasn't until when I saw it all put together that I realized this was something remarkable."
Nichols won the best-director Oscar for "The Graduate," which co-starred Anne Bancroft as an aging temptress pursuing Hoffman, whose character responds with the celebrated line, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."
Divorced three times, Nichols married TV journalist Diane Sawyer in 1988. He admitted in 2013 that many of his film and stage projects explored a familiar, naughty theme.
"I keep coming back to it, over and over — adultery and cheating," he says. "It's the most interesting problem in the theater. How else do you get Oedipus? That's the first cheating in the theater."
Not just actors, but great actors, clamored to work with Nichols, who studied acting with Lee Strasberg and had an empathy that helped bring out the best from the talent he put in front of the camera.
Nichols often collaborated with Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson. Other stars who worked with Nichols included Al Pacino ("Angels in America"), Gene Hackman and Robin Williams ("The Birdcage"), Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver ("Working Girl") and Julia Roberts ("Closer"). In 2007, Nichols brought out "Charlie Wilson's War," starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Just as he moved easily among stage, screen and television, Nichols fearlessly switched from genre to genre. Onstage, he tackled comedy ("The Odd Couple"), classics ("Uncle Vanya") and musicals ("The Apple Tree," ''Spamalot," the latter winning him his sixth Tony for directing).
On Broadway, he won nine Tonys, for directing the plays "Barefoot in the Park" (1964), "Luv" and "The Odd Couple" (1965), "Plaza Suite" (1968), "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1972), "The Real Thing" (1984), and Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (2012). He has also won in other categories, for directing the musical "Monty Python's Spamalot" (2005), and for producing "Annie" (1977) and "The Real Thing" (1984).
"I think a director can make a play happen before your eyes so that you are part of it and it is part of you," he said. "If you can get it right, there's no mystery. It's not about mystery. It's not even mysterious. It's about our lives."
Though known for films with a comic edge, Nichols branched into thrillers with "Day of the Dolphin," horror with "Wolf," and real-life drama with "Silkwood." Along with directing for television, he was an executive producer for the 1970s TV series "Family."
Nichols' golden touch failed him on occasion with such duds as the anti-war satire "Catch-22," with Alan Arkin in an adaptation of Joseph Heller's best-seller, and "What Planet Are You From?", an unusually tame comedy for Nichols that starred Garry Shandling and Annette Bening.
Born Michael Igor Peschkowsky on Nov. 6, 1931, in Berlin, Nichols fled Nazi Germany for America at age 7 with his family. He recalled to the AP in 1996 that at the time, he could say only two things in English: "I don't speak English" and "Please don't kiss me."
He said he fell in love with the power of the stage at age 15 when the mother of his then-girlfriend gave them theater tickets to the second night of the debut of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Marlon Brando in 1947.
"We were poleaxed, stunned. We didn't speak to each other. We just sat like two half-unconscious people. It was so shocking. It was so alive. It was so real," he said. "I'm amazed about our bladders because we never went to the bathroom and it was about 3 1/2 or 4 hours long."
Nichols attended the University of Chicago but left to study acting in New York. He returned to Chicago, where he began working with May in the Compass Players, a comedy troupe that later became the Second City.
May and Nichols developed their great improvisational rapport into a saucy, sophisticated stage show that took on sex, marriage, family and other subjects in a frank manner that titillated and startled audiences of the late 1950s and early '60s.
"People always thought we were making fun of other people when we were in fact making fun of ourselves," Nichols told the AP in 1997. "We did teenagers in the back seat of the car and people committing adultery. Of course, you're making fun of yourself. You're making jokes about yourself. Who can you better observe?"
Their Broadway show, "An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May," earned them a Grammy for best comedy recording in 1961.
The two split up soon after, though they reunited in the 1990s, with May writing screenplays for Nichols' "Primary Colors" and "The Birdcage," adapted from the French farce "La Cage aux Folles."
After the break with May, Nichols found his true calling as a director, his early stage work highlighted by "Barefoot in the Park," ''The Odd Couple," ''Plaza Suite" and "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," each of which earned him Tonys.
Other honors included Oscar nominations for directing "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "Silkwood" and "Working Girl," a best-picture nomination for producing "The Remains of the Day," and a lifetime-achievement award from the Directors Guild of America in 2004.
Never one to analyze his career and look for common themes, Nichols would shrug off questions that sought to link his far-flung body of work.
"What I sort of think about is what Orson Welles told me, which is: Leave it to the other guys, the people whose whole job it is to do that, to make patterns and say what the thread is through your work and where you stand," Nichols told the AP in 1996. "Let somebody else worry about what it means."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.