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Monday, December 19, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died the morning of Dec. 17, according to an official North Korean News broadcast at noon Dec. 19. Initial reports say Kim died of a heart attack brought on by fatigue while on board a train. Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and his health has been in question since. Kim’s death comes as North Korea was preparing for a live leadership transition in 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim’s father and North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, a transition that had been intended to avoid the three years of internal chaos the younger Kim faced after his father’s death in 1994. Kim Jong Il had delayed choosing a successor from among his sons to avoid allowing any one to build up their own support base independent of their father. His expected successor, son Kim Jong Un, was only designated as the heir apparent in 2010 after widespread rumors in 2009 and thus has had little experience and training to run North Korea and little time to solidify his own support base within the various North Korean leadership elements. Now, it is likely that Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, will rule behind the scenes as Kim Jong Un trains on the job. Like the transition from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il, it is likely that North Korea will focus internally over the next few years as the country’s elite adjust to a new balance of power." (STRATFOR)


"My friend Michael Thomas sent me a news article yesterday morning about the growing generosity seen in certain parts of the retail industry, of “anonymous donors” suddenly paying off lay-away plans for others, for strangers, to make it possible for them to share some of that cheer with their loved ones, especially the children. Here’s the link to it. Reading that, it occurred to me that that was probably how my mother managed to get this young writer his first typewriter – a lay-away, paying off little by little. Ironically, in all my life, she never expressed interest in my work and initially couldn’t comprehend my wanting to make a living at it. Nevertheless her instincts were to follow the boy's request and give. The day she picked out that typewriter, I was blessed: she gave me a life. Give is the mantra for this time, for all of us. Giving means many things. It may mean donating to City Harvest or New York City Rescue Mission, or CityMeals on Wheels or Stanley Isaacs, or God's Love. It may mean volunteering to serve meals on Christmas Day. It may mean even making an effort with just a 'hello' or a 'thank you,' or a 'pardon me.' Or the dollar you drop in that cup someone on the street is holding, or buying a sandwich for the guy on the corner who’s got his hand out for help." (NYSocialDiary)


"When it comes to cracking the digital media code, 2011 involved more testing than learning. Media companies seem to be locked in a feverish search mode. Their sense of urgency is reinforced by the continuous depletion of worldwide fundamentals: digital advertising’s encephalogram remains flat (at best); and when audiences grow, revenues do not necessarily correlate. As for legacy media such as large quality newspapers which still draw 70-80% of their revenue from print, they are still caught in a double jeopardy: losing circulation plus looming downward price pressure on ads. We see an unforgiving mechanism at work: on mature markets such as Europe or North America, print media currently absorbs about 25% of ad spending while time spent on newspapers falls well below 10%. On digital media the balance is just the opposite: the web takes roughly 20% of ad investments for 25% of time spent; as for mobile devices, there is almost no ad money spent (<1%), but people spend about 10% of their time on their smartphones — and the growth is exponential.
Last year, we saw many efforts in the 'right' direction—'right' being a rapidly redefined. Below is a subjective list of moves, trends, innovations, attempts that burgeoned in 2011 and are likely to become more sharply defined with this coming year." (MondayNote)


"When Howard Stern finally made a deal to join Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne as a judge on America’s Got Talent, the radio icon was immediately criticized by morality groups like the Parents Television Council. Stern in the past brought up the fact that original judge David Hasselhoff had bouts with the bottle — remember that widely circulated cheeseburger video –and nobody raised an eyebrow when he judged talent on the show. Off the air, Stern has led a squeaky clean life. I think the only critics he should answer to are the subscribers of Sirius XM Radio who pay monthly dues to hear his show and watched him cut back to three days per week and add to what was already a liberal vacation schedule. We understood it was either that or watch Stern retire, but it’s still a surprise to see him adding a side job." (Deadline)


"Three big Hollywood sequels led the North American box office pumping in some badly needed new content but that didn't stop the overall marketplace from suffering double digit losses over last year and the year before. Studios are hoping that audiences are just busy right now with holiday shopping and end-of-year activities and that their films will be well-positioned to take advantage of the extra free time people will soon have in the days ahead. Doing what its predecessor couldn't, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows debuted at number one with an estimated $40M from 3,703 theaters for a solid $10,807 average. The $145M-budgeted Warner Bros. sequel debuted 36% below the $62.3M of the first Holmes which launched in second place behind Avatar on the Christmas frame two years ago over what was the largest weekend in box office history. Since audiences are historically less available in mid-December, the follow-up was never expected to open at the same heights ... Opening in second place was Fox's kidpic threequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked which took in an estimated $23.5M from 3,723 locations for a $6,312 average. It was well below the debuts of its two predecessors as the first Alvin ... Paramount found itself in third place with a unique limited release of its action tentpole Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol which grossed an estimated $13M from only 425 locations which included about 300 IMAX venues plus other large-format sites ...The tactic was needed for three reasons. First, the franchise is old having been around for over 15 years with the last installment underperforming in 2006. This helps to eventize the film adding to the excitement. Second, Cruise has suffered from serious popularity issues over the last several years with many moviegoers being repelled just by his name alone. He is not the box office draw that he used to be and this special IMAX release allows action fans to focus on the high-octane entertainment and thrills they get and shifts attention away from the star." (BoxOfficGuru)


"Roman Polanski's 'Carnage' was the top debut at the specialty box office this weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today. The film, based on the play by Yasmina Reza, stars Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz as two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children have been in a fight that day in the park. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, it opened on 5 screens this weekend to a $85,696 gross, averaging $17,139. Considering the crowded marketplace, that's a respectable gross. Though it fails in comparison to Polanski's last effort, 'The Ghost Writer,' which debuted to a $45,752 average (from 4 screens) last February. That film went on to gross $15,541,549.   Also debuting was Alex Stapleton's doc 'Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel' Distributed by Anchor Bay, the film grossed $7,000 from 2 screens for a $3,500 average. The biggest story of the specialty box office this weekend, though, remained Focus Features' 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.' In its second weekend, Tomas Alfredson's UK spy thriller went from 4 to 16 screens and saw a 46% rise in grosses. It took in $452,278, averaging $28,267." (IndieWIRE)

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