AVP-R — another irreverent marketing hook

Four months ago, I noted that there was a curious religious — or at least seasonal — element to the green-band trailer for Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem. As the trailer reached its climax, the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’ played ethereally and ironically over images of various violent deeds, and a series of title cards told us “there will be no peace on Earth” this holiday season.

Now, Lou Lumenick of the New York Post notes that the studio behind the film is explicitly positioning it as a rival to one denomination’s religious observances:

20th Century Fox offers a novel alternative to midnight mass on Christmas Eve: midnight showings of “Aliens vs. Predator: Requieum” an 86-minute horror sequel starring nobody you ever heard of but featuring a cross between the titular creatures. Moviegoers at the Union Square in Manhattan and the Chinese Theater in LA will receive T-shirts emblazoned with “I survived Midnight-Mass-Acre Christmas Eve 2007.” Classy! Does Bill Donohue know about this?

I am neither Catholic nor a fan of the Alien Vs. Predator movies — I love the first two Alien movies, but not the sequels, and I thought the first cross-over film was pretty bad, though tolerable if you really lowered your expectations — so I can’t say the new movie’s release pattern clashes with anything on my schedule. I might see it out of curiosity, though, somewhere down the road.

Canadian box-office stats — December 23

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

The Golden Compass — CDN $6,170,000 — N.AM $48,418,000 — 12.7%
P.S. I Love You — CDN $610,457 — N.AM $6,505,000 — 9.4%
Atonement — CDN $512,524 — N.AM $5,787,000 — 8.9%
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story — CDN $362,464 — N.AM $4,100,000 — 8.8%

Enchanted — CDN $7,470,000 — N.AM $98,351,000 — 7.6%
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — CDN $681,141 — N.AM $9,350,000 — 7.3%
Charlie Wilson’s War — CDN $666,679 — N.AM $9,618,000 — 6.9%
I Am Legend — CDN $9,190,000 — N.AM $137,490,000 — 6.7%
National Treasure: Book of Secrets — CDN $2,110,000 — N.AM $45,500,000 — 4.6%
Alvin and the Chipmunks — CDN $3,410,000 — N.AM $84,867,000 — 4.0%

A couple of discrepancies: Atonement was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #11 in North America as a whole), while Juno was #10 on the North American chart.

Two articles on the perils of film preservation.

First, a Variety story from three weeks ago:

In Cannes this year, Martin Scorsese talked about the importance of preserving such films as Ahmed El Maanouni’s 1981 Moroccan music documentary “Trances.”

But he didn’t mention that his own “Taxi Driver” is deteriorating.

Although the 1976 film is part of Sony’s vast library, few are rallying to its aid. The myriad film-preservation orgs throw their money and muscle behind titles that are indie, foreign or obscure. It’s assumed Hollywood’s majors will take care of their own films. In fact, they don’t.

One Paramount veteran compared the studio’s vault to a teenager’s chaotic bedroom. In fact, a visitor accidentally stepped on the negative of “Rosemary’s Baby,” which was unspooled on the floor.

With constant pressure on the bottom line, studio execs often lack the funds — or interest — to make sure their heritage is being cared for properly. Digital technology, which was touted as the salvation of film, has turned out to be deeply flawed, deteriorating faster than anyone imagined.

Movies “get lost in the wilderness unless (studios) pay attention to them,” says Ridley Scott, who found the digital version of his 1982 “Blade Runner” in fragile condition. “We discovered inadvertently that a lot of digital stuff was fading quicker than expected. We think it’s safe forever on disc, but, in fact, it was actually fading.”

Roger Mayer, a former MGM honcho who’s now chairman of the National Film Preservation Foundation, estimates each studio spends $5 million to $10 million a year to fund preservation or restoration programs — a sum that wouldn’t even cover the marketing costs of a low-budget comedy. . . .

Things get scarier from there. And now for a story that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times:

But then came digital. And suddenly the film industry is wrestling again with the possibility that its most precious assets, the pictures, aren’t as durable as they used to be.

The problem became public, but just barely, last month, when the science and technology council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the results of a yearlong study of digital archiving in the movie business. Titled “The Digital Dilemma,” the council’s report surfaced just as Hollywood’s writers began their walkout. Busy walking, or dodging, the picket lines, industry types largely missed the report’s startling bottom line: To store a digital master record of a movie costs about $12,514 a year, versus the $1,059 it costs to keep a conventional film master.

Much worse, to keep the enormous swarm of data produced when a picture is “born digital” — that is, produced using all-electronic processes, rather than relying wholly or partially on film — pushes the cost of preservation to $208,569 a year, vastly higher than the $486 it costs to toss the equivalent camera negatives, audio recordings, on-set photographs and annotated scripts of an all-film production into the cold-storage vault.

All of this may seem counterintuitive. After all, digital magic is supposed to make information of all kinds more available, not less. But ubiquity, it turns out, is not the same as permanence.

In a telephone interview earlier this month, Milton Shefter, a longtime film preservationist who helped prepare the academy’s report, said the problems associated with digital movie storage, if not addressed, could point the industry “back to the early days, when they showed a picture for a week or two, and it was thrown away.” . . .

So perhaps copyright violation is really the least of anyone’s worries. Either the movies simply won’t exist to be pirated in the future, or the pirates will have inadvertently filled the gaps in the studios’ own archives. So democratize the process, I say.

Another overexposed typeface!

Hot on the heels of the feature-length documentary Helvetica comes this two-minute short, Trajan is the Movie Font:

UPDATE: More examples abound at the Retire Trajan blog.

Canadian librarians vs. “Hollywood lobbyists”

The arrests have begun under Canada’s new anti-piracy law, but apparently there is even more legislation to come — and Canada’s librarians are not happy. The Globe and Mail reports:

The Conservative government hasn’t even released its proposed copyright reform legislation, but already a showdown is brewing between media producers demanding protection from tech-savvy pirates and the grassroots efforts of thousands of Canadians who believe the bill will be unjustifiably restrictive.

As a result, what was once a low-key issue in Ottawa is morphing into a potential political storm.

Bemoaning the influence of “Hollywood lobbyists” on the federal government, Canadian librarians yesterday added their voice to the noisy chorus of people opposing a new copyright bill that has yet to see the light of day.

The Canadian Library Association is urging Ottawa to ensure its imminent copyright legislation does not attack Canadians who copy music and videos for their own use.

Don Butcher, the association’s executive director, said he supports laws that crack down on piracy, but is worried Ottawa will go too far.

“This is a battle between Hollywood lobbyists versus the average Canadian,” he said yesterday at news conference on Parliament Hill.

“Over the past few weeks, Canadians across the country have demonstrated that they have serious concerns about the shape of Canadian copyright legislation.”

Mr. Butcher later pointed to the May visit to Parliament Hill of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to support his claim that Hollywood interests are pressing Canada about piracy. . . .

Is Charlie Wilson’s War a “neocon” movie?

Max Boot at Commentary magazine writes:

I once wrote a column congratulating a well-known Hollywood liberal—George Clooney—for making “neocon” movies, i.e., movies like “Three Kings,” “The Peacemaker,” and even “Syriana” that support active American intervention in the world in support of our ideals as well as our strategic interests.

Now we can add some more Hollywood liberals to the “who knew they were neocons?” club. To wit, Mike Nichols, Aaron Sorkin, and Tom Hanks.

This is the trio responsible for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which I just saw and loved. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure yet, the movie tells the story of how a conservative, hard-partying Texas Democratic Congressman named Charlie Wilson got together with a right-wing Texas socialite and a blue-collar CIA officer to vastly increase the amount of American covert aid being delivered in the 1980s to the mujahideen fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan. . . .

Boot’s remarks are brief and thus lacking in nuance, but I admire their counterintuitive spirit. In fact, I think it would be fantastic if Universal Studios began quoting comments like these in ads pitched at conservative audiences, just as New Line Cinema recently quoted a controversially favourable Catholic review of The Golden Compass in ads pitched at Catholic audiences.