What We Learned This Week: April 27-May 3

LESSON #1: THEATER CHAINS DO NOT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON— I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat. I couldn’t be shaking my head and laughing harder at the puffed chests of theater chain companies like AMC and Regal this week and their little tiff with Universal Pictures over Trolls: World Tour. Companies like that on the ropes of bankruptcy trying to boycott/ban a studio’s offerings is the equivalent of biting the hand that feeds, especially when they’re starving. Sure, it’s cute to see more than one theater chain taking a stand, but what happens when the studios take a stand to trump them. This is billionaires arguing with zillionaires and no one wins, especially the quarantined theater-goer.

LESSON #2: LIFE WILL BE DIFFERENT WHEN THEATERS DO OPEN AND IT HAS BE— It looks like Texas is going to attempt to re-open some public places including movie theaters first and their guidelines are a really substantial swerve from the way things used to be. They’re saying be ready for “airport-style security” and possibly temperature checks. It’s not going to feel very welcoming, but maybe it will be safer. And that’s the point of all these new hurdles. In our current climate, we flat-out need to accept these changes.  The trouble is we know people are going to complain about the inconvenience. Fine, if you don’t like it, stay home.

LESSON #3: TEMPORARY CHANGES CAN STILL BE GAMECHANGERS— Easily the biggest industry news of the week was the shift of eligibility requirements for the Academy Awards. The Academy leadership is waiving the requirement for a 7-day theatrical run in the Los Angeles area to qualify. The gates are not fully open as they sound. The catch is films “must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” So, you’re good if you give your film to them and not just everyone.  The plan is for this to be a temporary one-year switch, but watch this catch on and sway members with the convenience and the openness. Watch this get a chance to stick around. I’d put a gentle bet on the table it could become the new standard.

LESSON #4: ELEVATE TO ATTEND A FILM FESTIVAL AT HOME— If you’ve never been to the flush fullness of a film festival, you have a chance to absorb one from home later this month. YouTube is teaming with Tribeca for We Are One: A Global Film Festival curated with works from the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, and Venice levels of prestige. Mark your calendars for May 29-June 7 and follow the channel here. Discover some excellent, enriching, and eclectic content you wouldn’t get anywhere else from the comfort of your living room or toilet seat (because we all know you crush a few binges while crushing a few other binges from this place).

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#131)

What We Learned This Week: June 17-30

LESSON #1: PRODUCER KEVIN FEIGE KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING AND TALKING ABOUT— Marvel film producer czar Kevin Feige has been a busy man with the soundbites this summer, three of which I’ll feature this week.  Success has put him in a powerful place, but a man doesn’t get to that level without smarts and savvy.  First, I loved his sentiments on whether or not Marvel films should no longer be overlooked as Oscar contenders saying “I would much rather be in a room full of engaged fans.”  He knows that’s the true victory and how awards aren’t everything.  Second, he explained the new three-movies-per-year quota that Marvel is churning out, where he’s not sweating saturation and relishes the chance to expand on the multiple franchise that have been started.  His logic on the matter is solid.  Finally, he’s gained and earned wisdom through his work.  When he was asked about what the DCEU can do to improve their product, he respectfully pointed to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and called that the “paradigm by which we should all still follow.”  I love that use of “we” where he sees everyone striving for the same endearment.  Over and over, Kevin Feige is a guy who flat out “gets it.”  More studio heads should follow his mentality and steady patience.

LESSON #2: UNDER-PERFORMING MIGHT FINALLY HAVE CONSEQUENCES— I know I have long shouted from the soapbox that these blockbusters we see come and go are “too big to fail.”  They may not meet inflated financial expectations that studio execs shoot for on some wish list spreadsheet, but they always, always, always make money.  And because they never lose money, I never think a big studio is really going to dramatically change their ways.  We’ll see little course corrections, but never wholesale change.  As mentioned last time here on WWLTW, we’re teetering on that point with Warner Bros. on their third DCEU head with Walter Hamada bumping Geoff Johns after he replaced Zack Snyder.  That’s the DC mess.  I never fathomed big changes would happen at the juggernaut that is Disney controlling LucasFilm no matter the perception of backlash that makes little click bait headlines and social media rants, but it’s happening.  The spinoff Solo won’t really lose money, but its disappointing haul has slowed plans for more A Star Wars Story anthology films, which presses the pause button on upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett films.  Mistakes were made with that film and its marketing and timing, but the surprising derailment is real.  Add to that the likely “firing” or “stepping down” (pick one) of Kathleen Kennedy at LucasFilm and you have real changes afoot.  What looked untouchable and unstoppable is reeling in its own way.  By the way, Kevin Feige is not going to take over LucasFilm, so calm those heart palpitations.

LESSON #3: MOVIEPASS MAY BE FAILING, BUT THEATER OWNERS STILL WANT YOUR BUSINESS— The caveat to that lesson title is that the theater owners want all of the business.  They don’t want to share the dimes you’re spending with with a middle-man service.  With MoviePass plugging more leaky holes in its business boat than it has dollar bills or hands, other companies want to fill that void.  Here comes AMC Theaters and their launch of their new “A-List” service.  Their pitch is up to three movies per week including any and all premium options including Dolby, IMAX, and 3D for $19.95/month.  No matter the provider or perks, price point is still the ultimate motivator.  $20 for as many as 12 premium movies a month sounds outstanding to me.  We’ll see if AMC can handle the financial gambles.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties on a podcast every now and then  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.