Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 Stories

Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 Stories

New Amazon 3D SmartPhone a Disruptor? Not at $200

Amazon is way-way-way late to the SmartPhone business, which means that CEO Jeff Bezos had one job yesterday, and that was to dazzle. 

As is the case with anything from Amazon, the Fire Phone is impressive. Apparently, you do not need glasses to enjoy a 3D screen that promises to work better than previous (and failed) 3D entries in the SmartPhone wars. The Fire Phone also comes….

with near state-of-the-art specs for media: It has a 4.7-inch screen, quad-core 2.2.Ghz processor, and 2 GB of RAM. The phone has a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera with an f/2.0 lens, optical image stabilization, physical shutter button and unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. For audio the phone offers stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus, and ear buds with stay-flat cables. TV viewers can use Amazon’s Second Screen and X-Ray features to access info about what they’re viewing. Buyers will be able to access Amazon’s new Prime Music streams and downloads, mostly for older tracks — and not including Universal Music. And readers can access Amazon’s Whispersync feature, which gives users the ability to go back and forth between text and audio versions of their books.

One of the more intriguing features is Firefly — a visual recognition program with a dedicated button. It can scan bar codes, and identify songs and audio from TV shows. It also can identify phone numbers and instantly place calls, and bring up Wikipedia info about art work. Bezos says Firefly can recognize 100M items in “real world situations.”

Is that enough, though, to move people off of their beloved Apple Smart Phones?

The cost is $199 for 32GB or storage if you agree to a 2 year contract through AT&T. In Obama’s America, it is very hard to see how doubling the cost of an Apple iPhone is going to move a lot of product. Moreover, AT&T isn’t everyone’s best option in whatever service area they happen to live in. 

The 3D feature might actually work, but that gimmick is already rounding a corner towards the end. Fewer movies are being released in 3D and 3D televisions have been a total bust. 

A bigger screen is great, as is the Cloud feature that allows you to take unlimited photos.
The price is an issue, though, and not a small one. 

Regardless of my opinion, the smart money is on Amazon. The company’s stock rose after yesterday’s big rollout. 

Netflix Disrupts Further with Late Night Show

Regardless of what you think of the burnt out shell of a woman that is Chelsea Handler, the fact that Netflix is moving into Late Night with Handler is huge-huge-huge. 

Why do we hang on to the major league con job that is insanely overpriced cable television? Other than habit and finding technology a little befuddling, it is because of those things cable offers that streaming does not: live news, sports, and a Late Night show. 

Ratings already prove that people would rather watch a whole list of late night hosts not named Chelsea Handler, but if Chelsea is there for $7.99 a month, is that good enough compared to a Jimmy at $99.99 a month?

The justifications to get continue to get flayed by cable are quickly being knocked down one by one by one…

Could an Aereo Victory Be The Kick In the Pants the TV Biz Needs?

My gut tells me that the Supreme Court is not going to buy Aereo’s argument that those tiny little antennaes mean the company is not hijacking over-the-air television without the proper licensing.

Regardless, let’s hope that just the threat of Aereo is the kick in the pants television business needs:

“I think it’s one of those events that forces the broadcast industry into action out of its inaction,” Mark Aitken, VP, advanced technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, told a panel at the SMPTE “Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age” conference on the campus of Stanford U. “I think that if Aereo wins you already have networks on the precipice with their affiliates in terms of allowing things like streaming, which would have been unheard of, but becoming a complimentary component to what we do as long as there’s a way to measure it.

“One of the reasons we suffer as an industry is that we are unconnected to understanding where consumers are, what they’re watching, where they’re watching it and why,” said Aitken, adding that broadcasters need to improve their relationship with viewers. “So I think that in a certain sick sense, a decision that would hoist Aereo forward might be a very good bad thing,” he said.

People want to watch what they want to watch wherever and whenever they like. Period. 

Moreover, there is the obscene cost of cable that is only obscene because we are forced to pay for a gajillion channels we never watch. 

The broadcast network, though, are loathe to move into streaming (at least outside of a cable subscription) because of the buttload of money they make off of cable television licensing revenues.  ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and even cable channels like AMC, TNT, and Fox News could stream their networks if they wanted to, but they want no part of killing off or even weakening the cash cow that is bundled cable. 

These networks are so addicted to the old, they can’t embrace the new. 

Clint’s ‘Jersey Boys’ Looking Like a Flop

Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the hit broadway show “Jersey Boys” cost somewhere around $40 million to produce and will open somewhere around $14 million, if tracking holds. Nikki Finke says that will mean a 4th place showing. It’s also hard to see how a period musical will sell well overseas. 

With a 59% rotten rating and tepid word-of-mouth from those who have seen it, “Jersey Boys” is likely to disappear fast. 

An almost certain weekend winner is the sequel “Think Like a Man Too,” which is expected to debut in first place between $30 and $40 million. 

Overall, this is a weekend that allows the box office to breathe a little after getting hit with a new tentpole week after week after week. 

Next weekend is going to explode with the arrival of “Transformers IV.” Summer 2014 could really use a blockbuster that debuts in the $125 million range and goes on to pass the $300 million domestic. If “Transformers” doesn’t do it, nothing will. 

Michael Jackson ‘Hologram’ Show Sparks New Legal Crossfire

The legal battle appears to be over the technology and credit for same

Anyway, the technology is pretty amazing, which makes you wonder where it will go. Some years ago there was a big uproar over CGI’d movie stars long dead selling things like vacuum cleaners in television commercials.

Imagine 20 years from now and super groups like the Rolling Stones are long dead. But through this technology, you can still see them play — in their prime! The same could be true of any musical group or performer. In fact, I wonder how many of them are already preparing for immortality by working with CGI experts to have their every move downloaded.

For 20 years, newer groups have been annoyed over the fact that Elton John, Billy Joel, the Stones, Springsteen, etc., refuse to go away and clear the stage for the next generation. 

Now these acts will never go away and surrender the stage. 

Quick Hits

Clint Eastwood brings classic themes to the feel-good ‘Jersey Boys’ 

The Valley as Seen in The Karate Kid — Then and Now 

Hannity, Beck, Norquist, Ron Paul to appear in ‘Atlas Shrugs 3’

Batman Movie Reboot ‘The Batman’ in 2019?

Criterion Announces September Bluray Releases