GOING TO THE MOVIES
The long awaited reopening of movie theaters is happening.
Some states in North America have allowed theaters operators to reopen at limited capacity following safety protocols.
Few traditions are anchored in our way of life like a dinner and a movie. For the past year, both dinners and movies were things we have been doing at home. For the restaurants and movie theaters which have weathered the covid-19 storm, this is a welcoming news. But not all have survived.
The strong desire to get out, to breath and live the way we used to has become priority number one for most of us. The vaccine made available to most in the US is certainly helping but warning signs of carelessness is threatening to jeopardize the progress made to resume a normal life.
However, the entertainment industry is seeing light at the end of the covid-19 tunnel. Regal Cinemas in association with Warner Brothers is reopening early April with Godzilla vs. Kong, hoping this is the beginning of a new life for theaters operators.
The broadcast of the anticipated mini-series about the Queen of Soul's life, took place at the end of March on National Geographic station. Since Aretha Franklin passing two years ago, fans were anticipating features, documentaries and TV series about their idol. The romanced biography written by Kenneth Biller, Noah Pink and Suzan-Lori Parks reveals an extraordinary life made of hopes, achievements but also tragedies such as a pregnancy while not even a teen yet, difficult relationships with men and complicated
one with her father.
An important place is made to the music, recording sessions and performances but it is outside of the studios and stages that we learn much about how Aretha led her career, how she step by step took charge of it, her vision, convinced against all to sing those songs, to step away from gospel and jazz, to dare pop. She was not easy to work with as many artists have strong personalities
We also learn how politically savvy she was, her influences beyond the music world.
One regret about the production is the use of many "flash back" to her life as a kid, which makes her bio somewhat chaotic and confusing.
In spite of those technical details, the story of Aretha's life is compelling, the performance of Cynthia Erivo is riveting as is Courtney B. Vance as Aretha's father.
NETFLIX & FOREIGN PRODUCTIONS
Netflix released the foreign productions most watched by US viewers.
Fueled by subscribers' demand, Netflix has acquired many series and films produced abroad in an attempt to not only satisfy a demand but also diversify programing and market the platform as the most divers, comforting the plurality of its programing, in an environment where its leadership is coveted by many.
A lot of this content was in original version with English subtitles.
Germany: the "Barbarians". This historical drama was one of the most watched series on Netflix in 2020.
France: "Lupin" is a remake of a popular crime series made in France in the early 1970s.
Omar Sy plays the main role. The documentary film "Cuties" was also a success with US audience.
Japan: The thrilling gamer drama series "Alice in Borderland" was also a big success with North American audience.
Mexico: "Dark Desire" was in the top 5 in 2020.
Poland: had a strong showing with "Squared Love".
South Korea: "Love Alarm" and its dystopian romance.
Spain: with "Money Heist" had a hit with this compelling story.
MUSIC LICENSING IN EMERGING PLATFORMS
Senior music editor Jem Aswad recently wrote an interesting article about an agreement between the "Triller" platform and the "NMPA" (National Music Publishers' Association). The deal will see the platform compensating the composers, songwriters and publishers covered by "NMPA" when their songs are used in videos on the platform. "NMPA" announced the deal on its social media platforms last month.
"NMPA" president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement announcing the agreement: “Music is foundational to Triller’s platform and it is essential that the composers and songwriters who create that music are paid for their contributions to the Triller experience. Music and video offer limitless potential to social media platforms, however compensating artists accordingly must be a primary consideration, not an afterthought.”
The license is opt-in, meaning that eligible publisher members must actively seek coverage; it will not happen automatically.
The blooming outlets for videos, films and shows of all kinds have made for very complicated relationships with music publishers.
The "NMPA" is protecting the rights of those who invested in music ownership.
Petr Kellner, one of the richest man in the world and founder of PPF, died in a helicopter accident in Alaska on March 27.
PPF regrouped companies in multiple industries: Telecommunication, Financial services, Real Estate, Biotech, Insurances to name a few. One industry he was involved with a great portfolio, is the media space.
Central European Media Enterprises (CME) is a media and entertainment group operating leading businesses in five Central and Eastern European markets: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. These operations include 30 television channels broadcasting to approximately 45 million people across the five markets, develop and produce content for the television channels, and, content is also consumed through subscription- and advertising-based platforms online.
CME was founded in 1994 with the launch of TV Nova in the Czech Republic. CME's television brands are market and audience share leaders in all of its markets with a combined 2019 television advertising spend of approximately US$ 916 million. Petr Kellner was a media pioneer in this region of the world.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASASBALL
The opening day of the 2021 season was on April 1st. For the first time since 2019, the league is now allowing some attendance, following two specific rules: 1) mask wearing is mandatory, 2) social distancing will be enforced, but no vaccine proof is required to attend.
The American favorite "Pastime" has began with unusual circumstances. Usually the start of the season announces Spring and warmer days. Pittsburgh and Chicago played under a snow fall and so did Detroit and Cleveland.
Because of multiple covid-19 positive test among Washington players, their opener Vs. New York Mets has been cancelled.
The return of fans in the parks are helping players who often feed from the loud support, fueling their drive to win the game. With vaccination on the rise, the league is hoping for normal attendance by mid summer. Until then, an average of 25% is expected, the others will have to watch the games on TV.
TERENCE BLANCHARD & SPIKE LEE
The importance of music in films is such, that Directors develop special relationships with the composers they favor to score their films. It is true for Steven Spielberg and John Williams, it is true for Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri, it is also the case for Spike Lee, whose relationship with composer Terence Blanchard spans 30 years and a collaboration on more than 15 films.
Here is an interesting fact, in spite of outstanding compositions, Blanchard had never been nominated by the academy until 2019 and "BlacKkKlansman"
It was time for the academy to recognize the genius behind music from "Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, Inside Man or Miracle at St. Anna". Terence Blanchard has scored outside of the feature format and provided music for the HBO Perry Mason and other projects.
For the jazz fans, Blanchard is first, a jazz musician. Composer, arranger, trumpet virtuoso. This is who he is for Spike Lee as well. The first few movies directed by Spike were scored by his father Bill Lee, jazz musician, Spike was early on, bathing into jazz and naturally turned to it for his scores. It is with "Mo' Better Blues" that Spike noted Blanchard's talent not only as a trumpet player but as a composer as well, and this is how the relationship began.
Their last collaboration is on "Da 5 Bloods" released on Netflix last year. Considered by many critics to be one of Lee's more impactful film.
With an increasing Hispanic audience in North America, Univision is launching PrendeTV, a free streaming platforms, supported by commercials. Univision is introducing it as the first streaming channels-based and VOD service, catering specifically to Hispanic audience in the United States.
Prende comes to complement two existing subscription streaming offering by Univision.
It comes with 40 streaming channels and over 10,000 hours of VOD.
Wade Davis CEO of the Univision network and former CFO of Viacom, revealed the streaming strategy this January with the open ambition to corner the North American market of television broadcasting in Spanish language.
The free access is opening the potential to a larger audience, with programing not available anywhere else, seducing announcers.
Before launching, Univision got the commitment of advertisers such as Chase, Coca Cola, Toyota and more, as well as the supply of programing from Caracol, Calinos, Cisneros, Globo, Filmrise, Banijay among many more.
After the acquisition of VIX streaming service, Univision is comforting its dominant position in the Spanish language TV market in North America.
There is no doubt, a return to normal life is only possible if the threat from the virus is so diminished, it can no longer find bodies to multiply and generate mutations making it stronger and the populations weaker.
The so called "Herd immunity" is the only solution to fight against this pandemic. Herd immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go. While not every single individual may be immune, the group as a whole has protection. This is because there are fewer high-risk people overall. The infection rates drop, and the disease peters out.
Vaccination is the only effective solution to achieve herd immunity, and while some resistance in the US took place, the vaccination program has allowed so far to protect a third of Americans. There are however disparities in the western world. Europe is far behind and has to go through more lockdown periods to keep the virus from spreading and mutating.
The pandemic will disappear if a majority of countries opened to international trade and various exchanges have a successful vaccination program. For the film industry, scenes that would have been shot in international places, will have to be filmed in studios or American outdoors. Technology is such that DGI and other processes may fool the viewers. The U.S entertainment industry is pushing for vaccination, "conditio sine qua non" to the return of live shooting everywhere.