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《绿野仙踪》重返电影院,助好莱坞对战Netflix

John Patrick Pullen 2019年02月17日

尽管60多年来这部米高梅的音乐剧在电视上经常重播,但周日票房收入仍然高达120万美元。

直升机挂在《星球日报》大厦边缘随时可能坠落,乘客性命危在旦夕,下方的人群也岌岌可危。但我们知道最后一定没事,也许不是所有人都知道吧。比如我四岁的儿子就嘴巴大张,在座位里急得手直乱挥,像游泳一样,这是他第一次在电影院看非动画电影。他看到路易斯·莱恩身处险境吓得尖叫,担心得不得了。没过多久,克拉克·肯特跑过一扇旋转门,变身超人飞入大都会的夜空,所有人得救了。满屋观众镇定自若地看着钢铁巨人再一次拯救世界。我儿子也大叫一声“哇”,引得其他观众大笑欢呼起来。

我一边捏几颗儿子的M&M巧克力豆吃一边想,这就是电影魔术的意义所在。“你会相信有人会飞。”这是1978年超级英雄电影的口号。但到了2018年年末,人们还纷纷为周日日场电影《超人》买票,情况已经很清楚,像超人透视能力一样清楚,当年口号里更重要的是“你相信”,而不是“飞”。坦率地说,特效和环绕立体声是不错,但绝佳的电影体验关键在于观众,跟朋友还是陌生人一起看关系不大,即使已经看过无数遍也不影响。

这也正是Fathom Events在现代影院重映经典电影的重要卖点,关键在于影迷像吃爆米花一样热爱。明显例子可以看看Fathom Events的票房情况,《绿野仙踪》举办了重映三天纪念朱迪·嘉兰版上映80周年的活动。尽管60多年来这部米高梅的音乐剧在电视上经常重播,但周日票房收入仍然高达120万美元,而且上映的银幕不到700块。如此票房成绩,已经推动“多萝西的黄金之路”跻身当日全国票房前八名,而且每厅平均票房轻松打败正式上映排名第一的《玻璃先生》(在3,844家电影院上映),每厅至少高出340美元。可以肯定的是,这是《绿野仙踪》创纪录的周日,也成为目前Fathom Events单日票房收入最高的经典重映片。票房大获成功后,Fathom Events决定于2月3日和5日加映两天。

重映影片票房之王的竞争非常激烈。Fathom Events由帝王娱乐、AMC和Cinemark组建,每年与特纳经典电影公司(TCM)合作向全球各大影院发行约25部经典电影,也做独立发行,每次均使用标志性的“聚光灯”标志。去年2月,1982年的小众电影《黑暗水晶》上映四天,票房净赚100万美元。两个月后,电影《油脂》40周年纪念重映,卖出了10多万张门票,赚到120万美元。挤满电影院的不光是《油脂》的影迷,而且都是超级影迷,Fathom Events的首席执行官雷·纳特说。“观众穿着戏服,还跟着唱歌。”纳特说,“现场没有弹球(显示歌词)或字幕之类,但气氛超级热烈。”

对于Fathom来说,“经典”一词不仅意味着“老”。当然,他们曾经上映《无因的反叛》(1955年上映——译注)和《银色圣诞》(1954年上映——译注),但也发行过《虎胆龙威》、《辣身舞》,甚至近年的《暮光之城》,通过短期上映爆红片帮Fathom、电影版权方还有影院赚钱。纳特说,或许Fathom模式中最棒的部分就是通常不用为发行的影片付钱。“我们做的就是每年以实物交易的方式,用价值约1亿美元的存货出去交换。”他说。

例如,交换资源可能包括《海王》等新电影前的贴片,用来宣传《超人》40周年纪念版蓝光光盘比较自然。“这种模式确实非常非常不一样,基本上写张支票就可以获取内容。”纳特表示。

“Fathom是我们分类业务的重要组成部分。”20世纪福克斯的国内电影发行执行副总裁斯宾塞·克莱恩说。他说,福克斯与Fathom的合作最多,因为Fathom拥有最大的电影院网络、推广能力强大、剧院营销机会很多,再加上跟TCM有合作,合作中也包括在电视上推广福克斯的电影。

但此类只是二轮上映,且票价低廉。高端数字电影院为了填补非高峰时间上座率,也很愿意跟Fathom合作,比如《绿野仙踪》就选在周日、星期二和星期三上映。“对一些消费者,尤其是老年观众和年轻家庭来说,周六上午是黄金时段。” AMC的首席内容官伊丽莎白·弗兰克表示。“如果观赏老电影对影迷具有吸引力,人们也重视出门娱乐的体验,我们就可以提供他们最感兴趣的娱乐。”

类似娱乐方式也包括Fathom其他的垂直渠道,包括将现场活动分发给影院(因此Fathom的名字里就带有“活动”),例如大都会歌剧院的演出、拳击比赛,甚至音乐会。Fathom成立13年来,收入最高的音乐活动是“单向组合”音乐会,单场赚到数百万美元。“内容的多样性和多元化是Fathom最特别之处。”他说。

每位接受采访的电影高管都否认,Fathom最大的竞争对手是Netflix之类公司,但很难否认流媒体对电影的影响。也就是说,如果搜索之前提过的电影名,在订阅服务的分类里不太可能找到。这可能不是巧合,因为好莱坞在合力限制Netflix,把魔鬼装回瓶子里。内容商品化不仅对商业环境不利,还会导致观看体验变差。

“大多数消费者在家娱乐时都是分心的,经常是手机放在面前,一边做饭或洗衣服。”弗兰克说。“看电影的体验完全不一样,坐在黑暗的屋里,100%注意力只能放在银幕上。”

尽管如此,电影圈人士相当自满,电影的成本也确实高昂,但还是很难跟觉得哪也不如家里好的观众们争论。不好意思了多萝西,但Fathom不同意,毕竟手里有票房作为证据。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

The helicopter hung on the edge of the Daily Planet building, menacing the crowd below and threatening the passengers inside. We knew everything would be fine—well, maybe not all of us. Sitting in the theater next to me at his first non-animated movie, my four-year-old son—mouth agape and swimming in the theater’s stadium-style seat—was ensnared in suspense as Lois Lane screamed in terror. It didn’t take long for Clark Kent to run through a revolving door and emerge as Superman, leaping into the night sky of Metropolis to save the day. The packed house took the Man of Steel’s heroics all in stride. That is, until my son yelled “Wow!,” prompting the audience to erupt into laughter and cheers.

This is what movie magic is all about, I thought while pinching a few of my kid’s M&Ms. “You’ll believe a man can fly,” was the 1978 superhero film’s tagline. But in late 2018, after we punched our tickets for that Sunday matinee showing of Superman: The Movie, it became clear as Supes’ x-ray vision that the catchphrase was more about the “you” than the “flying.” Putting it bluntly, special effects and surround sound are nice, but a great moviegoing experience is all about the crowd, whether you’re with friends or strangers, and even if you’ve already seen the film more times than you can count.

That’s essentially the big selling point behind Fathom Events’ business of screening classic movies in modern theaters, and moviegoers are gobbling it up like buttered popcorn. Case in point is Fathom’s current box office offering, The Wizard of Oz, which is in the middle of three days of screenings in honor of the Judy Garland joint’s 80th anniversary. Though it has been shown on television for more than 60 years, the MGM musical pulled in $1.2 million at the box office on Sunday, despite playing on fewer than 700 screens. Those numbers were good enough to turn Dorothy’s yellow brick road run into the #8 domestic movie of the day, while blowing away the per screen average of #1 title Glass (which showed in 3,844 auditoriums) by at least $340 per screen. To be sure, it was a record-setting Sunday for Oz, making it Fathom’s highest-grossing, single-day, classic film release to date. The film’s current box office success prompted Fathom Events to add two more dates to Oz’s screenings on Feb. 3 and 5.

And there’s been plenty of competition for this top slot. Owned by Regal, AMC, and Cinemark, Fathom distributes around 25 classic films a year to theaters worldwide in a partnership with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and on its own under its “Spotlight” banner. Last February, a four-day run of the 1982 cult classic Jim Henson live action fantasy film The Dark Crystal netted $1 million at the box office. Two months later, a 40th anniversary re-release of Grease pulled in $1.2 million, selling more than 100,000 tickets. And it wasn’t just Grease fans who packed the movie houses; it was super-fans, says Ray Nutt, the CEO of Fathom Events. “People were dressed in costume and they were singing away,” Nutt says. “There was no bouncing ball (displaying the lyrics) or anything—they just had a blast.”

For Fathom, the term ‘classic’ doesn’t simply mean ‘old.’ Sure they’ve shown Rebel Without a Cause and White Christmas, but they’ve also distributed Die Hard, Dirty Dancing, and even Twilight, filling theaters with short-run smashes that print money for Fathom, the film’s owner, and theaters alike. Perhaps the most brilliant part of Fathom’s model is that it generally doesn’t pay for the titles that it distributes, says Nutt. “What we do is barter out about a hundred million dollars worth of inventory each year,” he says.

For example, that might include the advertising slots before the new movies like Aquaman, which would be a natural place to promote the 40th anniversary Superman Blu-Ray disc. “It’s a very, very different model in terms of just writing a check to acquire content,” says Nutt.

“Fathom is a huge part of our catalog business,” says Spencer Klein, 20th Century Fox’s executive vice president of domestic film distribution. Fox works with Fathom more than anyone else, he says, because Fathom has the biggest network of movie theaters, the strongest outreach, in-theater marketing opportunities, and a deal with TCM that also includes on-television marketing for Fox’s films.

But these are no mere second-run, dollar ticket movie showings. In filling seats in off-peak hours—like Oz’s current Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday run—high-end, digital projection movie theaters are very happy with what Fathom brings to the table, too. “For some consumers, especially for an older audience and young families, Saturday morning is prime time,” says Elizabeth Frank, AMC’s chief content officer. “If it’s attractive to moviegoers, and people value an out-of-home entertainment experience, then we exist as exhibitors to serve them the entertainment that they are most excited about.”

That entertainment includes Fathom’s other verticals, which includes distributing live events to theaters (hence the ‘Events’ in Fathom’s name) like performances of the Metropolitan Opera, boxing matches, and even music concerts. The highest-grossing music event in Fathom’s 13-year history was a One Direction concert that brought in several million dollars, says Nutt. “The variety and diversity of content is really what makes Fathom special,” he says.

Each movie executive interviewed for this piece denied that services like Netflix are Fathom’s biggest competition, but its hard to deny the impact that streaming video has had on movies. That said, run a search on the titles mentioned above, and you’ll be unlikely to find them included in the catalog a subscription service. That’s likely not a coincidence, as Hollywood has made a concerted effort to put Netflix’s genie back in the bottle. Not only is the commoditization of content bad for business, but it makes for poorer viewing experiences.

“Most consumers, when they’re engaged in entertainment in the home, they’re half-engaged in it. They’ve got their phone in front of them, they’re cooking or they’re doing laundry.” says Frank. “The movie-going experience, it’s just that—100%, in a dark room where the only thing you have to do is focus on what’s on the screen.”

Still, complacency and cost being what they are, it will be hard to argue with bing-watchers who think there’s no place like home. Sorry Dorothy, but Fathom begs to differ—and it has the box office receipts to back it up.

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