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How ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is helping Netflix

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

“Avengers: Endgame” is smashing records like Hulk smashed everything in his many movie and TV appearances. Above all, it’s performing well in China where it’s close enough to all-time records to be mentioned in the same breath as homegrown favorites like “The Wandering Earth.”

The fact that “The Wandering Earth debuted in February and had the highest IMAX gross, which was then beaten by Avengers, creates an interest in seeing the movie. Endgame could gross more in China than “The Wandering Earth” and creating an even greater interest in seeing the Chinese film. If it was that good, it must be worth seeing, and for those who want to be able to say anything intelligent about the heavyweight duel overseas, they’ll have to find a way to see ‘The Wandering Earth” and find out what made it such a huge hit in China. In steps Netflix to fill the gap.

By promoting it as something people can see, Netflix is effectively able to use the free advertising generated by the comparison between “The Wandering Earth” and Endgame to get views of a Chinese film most wouldn’t ordinarily even find to watch much less consider. If Netflix or other streaming services begin to capitalize on the comparisons that go on with box office incomes, we could see a slew of international films gaining steam first through streaming. Once Americans get used to seeing foreign films with subtitles, there’ll be no stopping the influx of new and better films.

Even if those foreign film studios are as mired in sequel-itis as U.S. studios are, the stories and concepts will be new and more original to U.S. audiences. That’s good for storytelling and creativity because foreign films can introduce different ideas and viewpoints into American culture. For now, Netflix gains with having “The Wandering Earth” available to stream, and having one more way to create buzz through using another studios success.

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Wicked Comics Goes to the Movies and Every Comic Store Should Follow Suit

I have been to enough comic conventions to know that people who love comic books complain about the people who love the movies but don’t buy comic books. There’s a whole faction of geeks who love every issue of their favorite comic and consider someone who only knows the character from the movies and abomination.

Comic stores say they haven’t noticed an uptick in individuals coming into their store because of the film. For them, there just is no crossover. Perhaps, that’s because the comic stores need to take more initiative. Call it “The Avengers Initiative.”

A majority of movie-goers don’t go to comic stores. They probably don’t even know where the comic stores are. The simplest way for a comic store to attempt to harness the movie-goers who love the movies is to pay for an ad before the movie. Most movie theaters offer the opportunity to be in a slide show before the trailers. This offers an easy and less expensive way to get the word out about the shop, and placed before a “comic book” movie, it hits the target audience right where they live.

If the comic store can afford it, a comic store trailer, shot in high-def, should be appropriate for the movie screen. A trailer will even reach more people in their seats. Still, this isn’t the most effective way to reach people because most movie goers probably don’t have a reason to go to the store.

Setting up a booth with items themed to the film is the single best way to provide movie-goers an opportunity to find out about the comics. Any comic store that has also participated in a comic convention should already have the tools available to create a booth. By targeting the movie(s) in the theater at the time, a comic store can create an impulse buy and point of contact for new fans. Include a business card with every purchase, and you’re all set for getting new people involved in comics fandom.

It won’t be that easy. “Avengers: Endgame” openings promise to be chaotic. Imagine Free Comic Book Day without the giveaways. That also means more opportunities to generate revenue from the event.

National chain theaters may be less willing to give up lobby space for a booth. Of course, DC and Marvel could step in because it would be good for their comic sales and their movies. The theaters could see a rise in movie goers if the comic store is able to bring their patrons to the movie. Theaters also get the good will of comics fans and the advertisement that comes with the promotion of the event. A local theater may be more willing to partner with a local comic shop, and both could benefit from the exposure.

Most shops are run by one or two dedicated people. Having to give up a weekend, move everything, set up and take down is already a lot of stress. The change in routine, in addition to the increase in dealing with people who may not know what they want, can also be daunting, especially when there may not be any return. The keys to a successful theater run for a comic store setup is a willingness to get out of the comfort zone and a desire to improve sales at the store. Even if there aren’t any sales at the theater, the chance to meet people who love films can be worthwhile in and of itself.

Wicked Comics in Malta has partnered with Eden Cinemas for the opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame” for Comic Fest. They will have booths, cosplayers, retro-gaming, performances, local artists’ booths and comics. It looks like they’ve organized a mini-comic convention to celebrate “Avengers: Endgame.” Wicked Comics organizes the annual Malta Comic Con, so they have a head start on any comic store that may not have organized events outside the store before.

Private showings are already sponsored by larger comic conventions like Salt Lake’s Fan X’ “Avengers: Endgame” screening. They could add a comic store component to the screening, giving people more opportunity to purchase from local businesses.

It may be too late for comic stores to partner with movie theaters for “Avengers: Endgame,” but it can be something to keep in mind for the next big movie. Of course, it doesn’t have to be applied to just Marvel movies. Disney’s “Frozen 2” and DC’s next film could also make for good opportunities to partner with a local movie theater.

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Take a break with quirky ‘Aloha’

Aloha” (2015) brings broken Brian Gilchrist (Bradley Cooper) back to his Hawaiian military roots as a contractor designated to get the blessing of the king of Hawaii for a military base’s pedestrian gate, which would allow private contractors access to the launch area of the military base. Gilchrist is assigned Fighter Pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) as his military watchdog for his time in Hawaii. There is a love triangle involving quiet man Woody (John Krasinski) and his wife Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who also happens to be Gilchrist’s ex from 13 years ago.

The real problems arise when Ng discovers that billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) has put a nuke in the payload of the rocket being sent into space. Weapons aren’t allowed in the sky, and this would violate treaties. However, because Welch is a private citizen, it falls in a gray area; he never signed a treaty. Gilchrist is faced with the choice of further disgrace and saving the sky or keeping his lucrative job and losing Ng.

Stone chews the scenery as the intense, socially awkward, quarter Hawaiian, who loves the sky and Hawaiian mythology. Krasinski provides an amazing performance as the man who doesn’t talk much. Cooper and McAdams are good in their roles as is the rest of the cast, which includes Murray, Alec Baldwin, and Danny McBride.

“Aloha” is a surprisingly good film. It’s low key nature and quirky characters provide an interesting family/friend drama. If you need to find your way back to yourself, there are worse places to do it than Hawaii. Welcome to a pleasant diversion, or as they say on the islands – Aloha!

Read more about the islands with these links on Hawaii.

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Roger Ebert and What I Learned from the Nostalgia Critic about Living a Better Life

In the Nostalgia Critic’s tribute video to Roger Ebert, the Nostalgia Critic unpacks a lot of wisdom and lays it out for the viewer. What he sees in Roger Ebert is amazing, and what the Nostalgia Critic sees should be what we all strive to be.

The Nostalgia Critic’s greatest point about Roger Ebert, and by extension Gene Siskel, is that Ebert had a passion for movies. From the classics to animated films to the dreck released by Hollywood, like “Leonard 6,” Ebert was passionate about movies. When they were bad, he got angry about it. When they were good, he experienced great joy. These feelings and his expression of them were all a part of his love for film as an art and cultural signpost. The passion for film was a large part of what made him and Siskel so successful at a job that many would say is inconsequential. After all, “it’s just a movie,” but to them both it never was.

Passion is what makes us successful at life. Unfortunately, everyday life and its responsibilities can sap your passion. It can take what you love and tie it to money until your passion is squeezed out and turns to drudgery. Everyday life carries debts, worries and obligations that stymie and steal energy from your passion. It can even make your passion seem inconsequential, like the movies.

If you find your life is devoid of passion, seek out what brings you joy again and grab at it. Hold onto it and rekindle your passion because that’s what the human experience is about. When you are doing what you’re passionate about, you become a more creative and happier you.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The Problem with ‘the Single’ in Disney’s Movie Business

Disney movie tie ins

In his examination of Disney’s “Dumbo,” “Forbes” writer Scott Mendelson laments the Disney Company’s penchant for releasing big budget films that have already been made, including the live-action remakes of animated classics and the multiple sequels that Disney has released over the course of roughly the last decade, and while he acknowledges that the studios are in part to blame, he also lays the blame on movie goers. “The studios can’t responsibly green-light what they know audiences will not go to see in theaters.”

The Dollars and Sense of It All

In 1984, when Michael Eisner became CEO of the Disney Company, the top grossing movie was “Beverly Hills Cop” with almost $235 million and $316 million worldwide. Disney’s movie releases were in the tank and not making what they should be with a few exceptions. In 1984, Touchstone’s “Splash” opened at No. 1 on the chart and grossed over $69 million (Box Office Mojo) by the time it finished its run; it cost $8 million to make. The film was a huge success at the time, and it brought in about $62 million profit.

Eisner looked at the situation and decided that Disney and its movie making companies would make smaller budget films that would make money rather than hope for a summer blockbuster that could fail. They were going to hit singles rather than try for homeruns. In 1986, “Ruthless People,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “The Color of Money” were released with grosses of $71, $62 and $52 million making them the 9th, 11th and 12th highest grossing movies of the year. Eisner’s strategy was successful, and Disney carved out a niche with these low budget, over-performing types of films.

Flash forward to 2018 and the surprise hit (not Disney) “A Quiet Place.” With a budget of $17 million dollars, this is the type of film Disney would’ve happily made in the 1980s. The movie made $340 million dollars worldwide ($323 million profit). Marvel’s “Black Panther” cost about $200 million to make and brought in over $1.3 billion; domestically, it was the top grossing film of the year. It would take about three “A Quiet Place” size releases to make the same amount of profit as “Black Panther.” However, “Black Panther” was a surprise in its own way.

Marvel’s sure thing for the year was “The Avengers: Infinity War” – a sequel, which according to the just over $2 billion box office gross, you’re probably familiar with. The estimates for the cost of the film run between $300 million and $400 million. Even on the high side of the estimate, the film brought in $1.6 billion, or the rough equivalent of five “A Quiet Places.”

I understand these numbers aren’t exact. There are marketing costs to consider as well as what the actual theaters make, which is different depending on the country. However, the point is it doesn’t make any sense for a company that brings in $12.6 billion (2018 net income) to worry about $10 or $20 million, the budget of “A Quiet Place” for a return of only $323 million. As Mendelson pointed out, Disney had taken risks with “Tomorrowland” (profit at a scant $20 million), “The Finest Hours” (losses estimated at $20 million), and “The Queen of Katwe” (estimated loss of $5 million). These movies didn’t return enough profit to justify their existence.

Other Sources of Income

When “Star Trek” dolls were released and the series ended, the sales of the toys dried up as well. There wasn’t anyway to remind people about the purpose of the toys without the show. When “Star Trek: The Next Generation” returned the Star Trek universe to television, toy sales skyrocketed.

In 1983, Funimation released “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” after Reagan deregulated children’s programming. The show was designed to sell He-Man action figures. Once it made it on the air and He-Man sales sky-rocketed every toy company got involved in Saturday Morning Cartoons: “Transformers,” “Go-Bots,” “M.A.S.K.,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and “G.I. Joe” to name a few. Whether the show or the action figures came first is of little consequence, what mattered was that some of the cartoons were pulled from the air not because of the cartoons’ popularity, but because the toys lacked sales.

Disney’s synergistic approach to marketing means the media giant isn’t looking just at the movies. It’s also looking at what it can make from tie-ins. Dumbo’s new movie release, regardless of how it’s received, sells more stuffed Dumbos. Marvel’s movies sell more superhero action figures, Lego sets, and whatever else they put their characters on. These things all bring in more money. Disney princesses outsell Barbie now are a multi-billion-dollar market segment. Their inclusion in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” keeps them fresh, updates them for this generation and keeps the product moving. The Disney company not only needs to create movie sequels and remakes because they are smaller financial risks, but also because they sell more toys, products and Disney park experiences.

What’s It All Mean?

There’s no incentive for Disney to green-light smaller film projects, even if they become the next “A Quiet Place.” The movie industry can only stand so many new films before there aren’t enough movie-goers to see them all. Worse, people say they want new stories, but they only think they want new stories. Audiences still flock to their favorite characters and movie franchises because its an acceptable risk. To spend $10 to $15 on a movie that you may not like or know nothing about doesn’t make much sense when you know that Marvel (or DC or Pixar) has a release right around the corner.

Moreover, Disney can make more money from product friendly franchises that it can tie into its theme parks than it ever could from a movie that has to stand on its own two legs. This all becomes more problematic with Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and it’s looming control of 40 to 50 percent of the box office. The studios will have to schedule movies so they don’t cut into each other’s profits, which will mean fewer movies and fewer opportunities for a smaller film to get made.

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.

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‘Dumbo’ Takes Flight in Dark Fantasy

Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” is a cavalcade of stars with visually stunning environments that pays homage to the original while remaining wholly its own thing. With a visionary like Burton at the helm, it should come as nor surprise what direction the film takes. It is surprisingly dark, surprisingly, adult, surprisingly terrifying, and perhaps most surprising of all, endearing.

Michael Keaton, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Danny Devito, and Colin Ferrell are great. I particularly enjoyed seeing Joe Gatt (whom I met at Malta Comics and Pop Culture Expo in Malta); he’s the man.

Dumbo pokes fun at Disneyland and provides a look at animal cruelty. It’s “pink elephant” segment is amazing to behold, especially considering the cinematic origin of the scene.

Burton’s “Dumbo” won’t provide a template for “the Lion King,” “Aladdin” or any of Disney’s other creativity lacking tentpoles, but it should. Bringing something new to the story is what keeps it fresh. Bravo to Burton and his beautiful pachyderm portrait.

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company,” which includes “Frozen 2” plots Disney probably never considered. “Disneyland Is Creativity” is available today! You can also preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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Old Creativity and New Creativity collide in ‘Happy Feet’

In “Happy Feet,” every penguin has a heart song that he or she uses to find a mate. If the songs work together, the penguins marry and have eggs. The heart song is so important that a penguin isn’t a penguin without it. When Mumble is hatched with feet that compel him to dance, his father is worried and upset. He admonishes his son to keep his feet still; he knows other penguins wouldn’t understand.

Time proves his father right. His dancing is seen as an afront to the Great ‘Guin, and Mumble gets blamed for the lack of fish. Mumble doesn’t think that the accusation makes any sense. Mumble is ultimately banished from the penguin community. He goes to find the real culprit responsible for the missing fish – people. In the end, it’s Mumble’s happy feet that save the penguin community from starving as humans take an interest in the him, and after he teaches his penguin community to dance, the penguin colony on the ice.

Singing and dancing are creative acts, but if a person or penguin keep singing the same song, the act loses its creativity. Creativity must be something new. In the case of “Happy Feet,” it’s the dancing that is creative, and because it’s new, it threatens the status quo. Mumble, its initiator, gets punished for his creativity. When he returns to the community, his new creative act saves the penguins.

People rely on creativity to continue to adapt and grow, as a species and as individuals; people are also threatened by anything that’s new. It’s the paradox of creativity: human beings need it to survive and embrace it in words, but fear the change that comes with it and reject it out of hand. Creativity can be great and terrible. It’s up to us to embrace the innovations that will solve current problems and to encourage those creative acts that bring more beauty and true enjoyment, like dancing and singing, to life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Speakers’ Club March 16, 2019: Consensus

Speakers’ Club Rules.

Word Crimes sing-along:

Pure Imagination:

Minister’s Cat I.

One Word Story.

Native American Talking Stick:

  • Only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk.
  • Everyone else listens actively.

Let’s talk about a movie night. Come with your suggestion. It must be:

  • Something I have access to
  • PG-13, PG or G-rated
  • Be in English
  • Be less than two hours long

Do we want a movie night? TV series or Movie? Suggestions? Twilight Zone, Star Trek… Supergirl, Arrow… Disney… Classic or contemporary?

Yes, No, Abstain.

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‘Captain Marvel’: The Problem with Prequels

Before the movie everyone is waiting for, fans of the Avengers films have to, get to, or whatever your verb choice is, sit through “Captain Marvel.” The movie in and of itself, without its connection to the larger franchise, has nothing really wrong with it.

Clark Gregg is amazing and fun. Brie Larson is a badass, and Samuel Jackson delivers as Agent Fury. There’s plenty of action, one lame reveal, and an amazing cat made for the Internet. The lame reveal is lame, but it’s surprising in its lameness, which makes it less lame by a smidge. At any rate, Marvel makes a good movie.

The problem is that “Captain Marvel” is a prequel, so there aren’t any stakes to speak of. You know what’s coming next “Avengers: Endgame.” If you’ve seen the other Marvel films, you know the Earth isn’t in danger, at least during this film. Captain Marvel is coming to fight Thanos and save the current half of the Marvel universe. That meta-knowledge renders the stakes in this film pointless. Captain Marvel, Agents Coulson and Fury, and Korath are all safe. Flashbacks have the same problem as prequels, but they’re shorter. (Let’s not talk about a flashback in a prequel; it gets too difficult to process.) How do you raise the stakes if the audience knows the outcome?

“Captain Marvel” doesn’t answer the question well. Instead, it settles for a cliché shot at an ancillary character Still, it’s a nice film, with a beautiful tribute to Stan Lee and his cameo. “Captain Marvel” is just enough to whet the appetite for Marvel’s “Endgame.”

Read more blog posts about Marvel.

Which was better: “Captain Marvel” or “Wonder Woman”? Leave your answer in the comments!

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One Episode in: The Umbrella Academy devalues creativity

The only child, Number Seven, or Vanya as she likes to be called, without powers is perhaps slated to be the most powerful of all the superhero children gathered at the Umbrella Academy. In the first episode we’ve already seen Vanya, played by Ellen Page, practicing violin on a stage. She’s written a book, and her dream patterns were beeping off the chart and compared to the relatively normal brain patterns of the other children. She is clearly the most creative of the group, and that’s what makes her dangerous.

Diego and Luther are the tanks. Time and space travel boy is a freak! His fight scene against what appears to be an elite military group was incredible. Suggestive woman is dangerous, but says she has stopped using her power. And Klaus, a drug addict and cliché, speaks with the dead – that’s a different kind of freaky. That leaves Vanya, who is undervalued and underappreciated.

Creativity and the resulting innovations are what set the humans of today, homo sapiens sapiens, apart from other humans and animals. Being able to make something and then turn that to other uses is how people became the dominant species on Earth. People aren’t the fastest or strongest. They aren’t even the smartest necessarily, but people adapt the situation to their needs. Too cold? Build a fireplace and house. To hot create an air conditioner. To wet? Open an umbrella.

Vanya also trained with her father though she may not see it that way. She knows what the people in the group can do and how to use their powers, and as soon as she adapts her thinking to solving the problems at hand, she will be the one to guide the members of the Umbrella Academy to greatness with better chances for success.