Xeni on Hollywood: “Do as I say, not as I do”

Memoirs of a Free Geisha – DVD pirates successfully plunder Academy Award screeners

cademy members and movie production workers may wring their hands over piracy in public, but backstage some of them are apparently file-swapping like tweens. Despite studio attempts to prevent leaks online this year, and the threat of jail time and steep fines for movie pirates, at least four screeners are on file-sharing networks already. More may follow.

[…] In recent years, screeners have been issued on DVDs that contain watermarks—hidden data strings—used to trace leaks back to their sources. Other anti-piracy measures include encrypting DVDs so that they will only play in special machines supplied exclusively to voters.

Academy members or others tapped in to the screener-distribution chain have already posted copies of Syriana, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, North Country, and Memoirs of a Geisha to the peer-to-peer file-sharing network BitTorrent, complete with “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” blurbs and studio IDs.

[…] Even more than technology or forensics intelligence, the screener system relies on human trust—the trust that those responsible for processing, distributing, and reviewing screeners won’t do what this latest round of leaks proves they have.

Here in Hollywood, you just can’t trust anyone.

Ahhhh, DRM

Evolution of the Starbucks Distribution Channel

Starbucks Adding Movies to Its Menu [pdf]

On Thursday, Starbucks and Lionsgate Entertainment announced a partnership to promote the release of the studio’s upcoming “Akeelah and the Bee,” making the independent studio the first to clinch a marketing deal with the coffee behemoth. Starbucks plans to promote the film, its DVD and its soundtrack in its 5,500 North American stores, sharing in a cut of the profit.

[…] With Starbucks outlets blanketing the country, virtually every Hollywood studio has been wooing the chain, hoping it can help boost lethargic movie attendance and stagnant DVD sales.

Starbucks proved its entertainment marketing prowess by giving the music industry a much-needed shot in the arm. The company co-produced the late Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company,” which has sold more than 1.3 million CDs.

“They broke the mold when they decided to do music,” said Ron Paul, founder of Technomic Inc., a food market research company. “If bookstores have coffee, then why can’t a coffee store sell books and movies?”

Also Starbucks to Add Movie Products

Movie Industry Adopting Record Industry Pay Model

Hollywood Studios Rewriting Pay System for Their Talent [pdf]

The upshot of these new deals, which are called cash break-even, is simple: If the film is a hit, the directors, lead actors, writers and others will enjoy an even richer payday, but only after the studio has recouped its investment. If it’s a bomb, the studio will be spared the ignoble task of cutting bonus checks on a money-losing dog.

[…] Disney’s dealings on its “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies dramatize why the new formula makes sense for the studios. It will cost Disney some $600 million to make and market the next two “Pirates” films, the first of which comes out this summer. For example, if Disney were to pay star Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer under the old formula, the studio would pocket only about 70 cents on every dollar coming in.

At that rate, Disney might not recover its investment for years.

But under the new formula, the studio will keep 100% of the revenue until it is reimbursed for its costs. After that, Disney will split the remaining proceeds with the film’s cast and creators — which could yield a windfall far greater than they might have received under the old system. (Director Michael Bay struck a similar deal on “Pearl Harbor,” and his ultimate payday exceeded $40 million.)