Cell phones still No. 1 movie irritant for Regal CEO

People who talk and text on cell phones are still the number one source of movie theater complaints tracked by Regal Entertainment Group, Chairman and Chief Executive Mike Campbell told the Reuters Media Summit on Wednesday.

Campbell made news at a the 2006 Reuters summit by disclosing that Regal, the largest U.S. theater chain, had armed patrons in a few test theaters with gizmos that summon ushers to deal with problems ranging from rowdy audiences to a freezing auditoriums. Back then, Campbell reported that some patrons were “getting into physical battles in the theaters” over cell phones and that the chain had “had people assaulted with bats, knives and guns” over their electronic umbilical cords.

The program worked so well that Regal has now expanded it to 100 of its highest volume locations, and cell phone talkers and texters seem to be getting the message, Campbell said.

“We have noticed — at least our perception over the last couple of years is — we don’t seem to be having quite as many issues there,” Campbell said. “I think the message that we are trying to get out to customers, both subtle and not so subtle, is beginning to have some impact.”

Regal has used data from the expanded program to track whether a particular disturbance “is mostly a… one-off situation or is there a pattern across the country,” Campbell said.

AP tries to help grumpy, cash-strapped members

More cracks are appearing in the newspaper industry. Things have become so tough that the Associated Press has agreed to slash $9 million from its membership fees. With newspaper’s reeling from depressed advertising revenue, they are looking to save money wherever they can, and have been clamoring for a break from the AP.

PaidContent’s Staci Kramer talked to AP chief revenue officer Tom Brettigen about the cuts. Here’s what he said about how AP will make up for the drop in income.

“We have a lot to make up. We’ve been working on the revenue side; this undoubtedly is going to require some work on the cost side. For a company where the costs are primarily its people, it’s going to mean having to look at some positions.” AP already has a hiring freeze; now it’s looking at staff cuts. “It’s too early to be specific. It is a peculiar situation where we reduce the costs to the newspapers, which means we may be more than likely to make cost reductions. It will affect the news report as little as we can possibly make it.”

It’s budget cutting time


In the media world, it looks like it’s time for a trim. Whether that’s jobs, travel expenses, or anything else, budgets are coming down… With the economy in the sick ward, what did we expect?

Yahoo is among those expected to outline ways to cut expenses, including further job cuts, a source tells Reuters. The announcement will likely come when it reports quarterly results on Tuesday:

The Internet company will discuss the scale and timing of the future layoffs, but specific details on the exact jobs to be eliminated will not be disclosed, the source said.

What to say at times like these?

wallstreet.jpgThe financial crisis is tough on everybody — Madison Avenue copywriters included.

Stuart Elliott of the New York Times looks at how tough it can be to craft an advertising campaign in this climate, particularly if your client is in financial services.

He points to a new campaign by Washington Mutual, which was sold to JP Morgan Chase amid all the upheaval. What do you say to consumers? The creatives working on the campaign went for humor, Elliot writes, deciding on a headline reading “We love Chase,” followed by “And not just because they have a trillion dollars.”

Does the video games industry offer anything distinctively European?

Visitors play at an exhibition stand at the Games Convention 2008 fair in the eastern German city of Leipzig    At Europe’s biggest video games convention in Leipzig last week, evidence of a distinctive European flavour was largely absent, apart from in karaoke-style titles such as Activision’s Guitar Hero or Sony’s SingStar and sports games.
    Music from local bands and singers is a necessity for these titles, and the new World Tour edition of Guitar Hero delivered it in the form of artists such as Germany’s emo-lite Tokio Hotel, Swedish rockers Kent and Spanish 80s classic Radio Futura.
    Sony offered a more unusual twist with a Turkish Party edition of SingStar for release in Germany in November, to capitalise on the country’s large Turkish population as well as nostalgic holidaymakers.
    In the case of sports games, a title such the next annual revamp of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer is understandably expected to sell better in Europe than the United States.
    But outside these two genres, industry executives struggled to pin down differences. Konami’s head of Europe, Kunio Neo, noted that Europeans did not take to games with manga-style graphics as readily as gamers in the company’s Japanese homeland. Konami also said it expected one game in development, Lords of Shadow, to appeal particularly to European sensibilities — early artwork leans heavily on director Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth, which was set in Spain.
    Neo’s counterpart at Electronic Arts, Jens Uwe Intat, made similar claims for Mirror’s Edge, which he said had a high-end aesthetic which he hoped would be particularly successful in Europe.
    But Intat in general saw little difference between what made a hit game in Europe compared to the United States.
    “With the exception of American football all franchises that work in the U.S. work in Europe too — though as in the movie industry you see slightly different top tens,” he told Reuters just before the start of the Leipzig event.
    Yet critics can easily point to distinctive traditions of French, Italian and British film alongside Hollywood and Japanese movies, which has no equivalent in video games. Why do you think this is? Does it bother you?

GM to ad agencies: We need to talk

general-motors.jpgHow tough are things at General Motors?

Not only has the car maker scaled back on its advertising budget, but now it wants the ad agencies it works with to cut their fees by as much as 20 percent this year and next, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

It’s no surprise GM has pulled back on some marketing — just look at any figures over the past year. It’s not like anybody else in Detroit is going gangbusters with their spending either — Ford and Chrysler have also cut their spend, data from TNS shows.

But the WSJ article underscores the risks to the advertising and media industry posed by the meltdown in Detroit. Car makers, after all, are huge clients for advertising agencies. The money they spend also fuels revenue for the media companies that carry the advertisements, from television to print and beyond.

The drama builds in Hollywood


We’re once again wondering who will blink first in Hollywood.

The Screen Actors Guild and the major firm and television studios are having another pow-wow today, and the subject is an ominous sounding “final offer” that management has presented to the union.

As we have seen, the talks so far haven’t gotten around the same sticky issues that prompted a strike this winter by the Writers Guild of America strike. So a take-it-or-leave-it offer by the studios doesn’t sound too promising if the entertainment biz is to avoid another strike.

But wait! SAG executive director and chief negotiator, Doug Allen, suggested on the eve of his union’s formal response that the door to further deal-making remained open. He had this to say in an interview with Reuters:

Look who’s advertising in Sun Valley

sag-photo2.jpgThe Screen Actors Guild ran an ad in the local paper on Wednesday seeking better labor terms. We’re not talking about the L.A. Times here, but rather the Idaho Mountain Express, straight out of Sun Valley, Idaho, where Hollywood’s elite are bumping shoulders at the annual Allen & Co conference.

SAG was dealt a blow late Tuesday when another smaller Hollywood union ratified a new prime-time TV contract.  SAG’s contract talks stalemated last week over some of the same issues that led to a 14-week screenwriters’ strike that paralyzed Hollywood and centered on disagreements over how union talent should be paid for work created for the Internet.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists won final approval despite an unusual all-out campaign by SAG to vote down the AFTRA accord. A “no” vote would have given SAG more leverage to negotiate a more favorable settlement with studios.

The clock is ticking in Hollywood

hollywood.jpgTick, tock, tick, tock.

The countdown is underway in Hollywood, with just hours to go before the contract covering 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild expires. What happens next is anybody’s guess, though it would be some time before actors walked off the job.

Indeed, SAG president Alan Rosenberg said in a statement that it had “taken no steps to initiate a strike authorization vote” and that any speculation was “simply a distraction.”

The Hollywood Reporter writes that several options are left for the guild and the studios. “They could negotiate a contract extension, which could be by day, week or month, and keep talking; the studios could lock out the actors; or SAG could seek a strike-authorization vote from its membership, which will be at least a two-week process as the negotiating committee must vote on whether to bring a strike.”

NBC profits rise, but did the strike hurt?

Members of the Writers Guild of America carry picket signs at NBC television network studios in BurbankDid the strike hurt NBC’s wallet?

In a first quarter where scripted programming was severely limited by the effects of the lengthy Hollywood writers strike, NBC Universal managed to boost its revenue by 3 percent to $3.58 billion, and increase it profit also by 3 percent. But it fell far short of its target of 5-10 percent profit growth.

The truth is, NBC was a bright spot in a surprisingly weak quarterly financial report of parent General Electric, whose overall results were hurt by the soft economy. GE has so far said little about the catalyst or troubles of its media arm which has been struggling since favorites “Friends” and “Frasier” ended their runs four years ago and faces particularly intense pressure to rebound. NBC could again finish the season last in the ratings race behind Fox, ABC and CBS.

It’s possible the profit and revenue gains were the result of cost-cutting. Or, despite Bruce Springsteen’s assertion that there are “57 Channels and Nothin’ On”, maybe TV lovers, you know, love TV, no matter what is on — even if it is a never-ending stream of reality programs such as “Deal or No Deal” and “The Apprentice.”