Neil Peart

AndyO Blog

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My list of best Washington State movie theaters

I recently updated my list of best movie theaters in Washington State. Let me know if you have any favorite theaters I should check out.

List of Best Theaters in Washington State

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posted by AndyO @ 10:56 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The highest-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation)

All this talk about Avatar racing toward Titanic's record as the highest-grossing movie of all time made me wonder: If these movies (and many others) were released the same year, which would really be the biggest money maker?

Well, the results are surprising. Thanks to Box Office Mojo, you can actually see how these movies stack up when you adjust them for inflation. For example, when I saw Star Wars back in 1977, the average price for a ticket was $2.23. Today, the average price is $7.35.

So, here's the list: (^ indicates multiple releases)

Rank Title (click to view) Adjusted Gross Unadjusted Gross Year^
1 Gone with the Wind $1,485,028,000 $198,676,459 1939^
2 Star Wars $1,309,179,000 $460,998,007 1977^
3 The Sound of Music $1,046,753,000 $158,671,368 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial $1,042,629,400 $435,110,554 1982^
5 The Ten Commandments $962,850,000 $65,500,000 1956
6 Titanic $943,342,300 $600,788,188 1997
7 Jaws $941,379,300 $260,000,000 1975
8 Doctor Zhivago $912,395,600 $111,721,910 1965
9 The Exorcist $812,679,700 $232,671,011 1973^
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $801,150,000 $184,925,486 1937^
11 101 Dalmatians $734,391,800 $144,880,014 1961^
12 The Empire Strikes Back $721,627,700 $290,475,067 1980^
13 Ben-Hur $720,300,000 $74,000,000 1959
14 Return of the Jedi $691,336,700 $309,306,177 1983^
15 The Sting $655,200,000 $156,000,000 1973
16 Raiders of the Lost Ark $647,842,600 $242,374,454 1981^
17 Jurassic Park $633,612,900 $357,067,947 1993
18 The Graduate $628,949,700 $104,901,839 1967^
19 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace $623,469,700 $431,088,301 1999
20 Fantasia $610,369,600 $76,408,097 1941^

So, as you can see, Avatar is nowhere to be found, but Titanic is.

The way this is calculated is through estimated number of tickets sold. For Star Wars, the number of estimated tickets is 178,119,600.

Here are the estimated tickets sold for Titanic and Avatar:

Rank Title (click to view) Studio Est. Tickets Unadjusted Gross Year^
6 Titanic Par. 128,345,900 $600,788,188 1997
52 Avatar Fox 60,917,000 $441,024,441 2009

It makes you realize that while Titanic did indeed sell a lot of tickets, Avatar is making most of its money from higher ticket prices -- both from inflation and the higher cost of the IMAX and 3-D format.

If Avatar were released the same year as Star Wars, it would only have grossed $135,844,900 instead of $441,024,441. (As of 1/13/09.)

Either way, James Cameron and George Lucas are both very wealthy. And they both make pretty good movies.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:12 PM   1 comments links to this post

Saturday, September 19, 2009

IMAX 3-D digital films: Upsell illusion

I just went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with the kids today at the Regal Thornton Place theater in IMAX 3-D digital. The total cost for the matinee show (11:40 am) was $40.50! That's $15.50 for me (instead of the usual $8.50 matinee price) and $12.50 for each kid.

Stepping into the IMAX auditorium eased my buyer's remorse somewhat. The screen reaches from floor to ceiling and wall to wall -- not as big as the curved Boeing IMAX theater at Seattle Center, but certainly bigger than the average screen.

When the film started, the sound system thundered like a freight train, and the image quality was sharp and vibrant. But then I noticed something that I'd noticed in two other IMAX films, Up and Night at the Museum 2:

The image didn't fill the entire screen.

Much like watching a 16:9 widescreen movie on a TV, there were black "bars" across the bottom and the top of the screen:


So, how is this much different than a regular movie image? Why am I paying almost twice as much just because the screen is large?

After doing a little research, I found that a firestorm erupted in May 2009 by actor/comedian Aziz Ansari after he saw the new Star Trek movie on a screen that he didn't consider to be of proper IMAX size. (Turns out, most people think this is around 72 feet high.)

According to IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond in a Wired article, the screen size isn't the only thing that makes IMAX what it is:

IMAX means the most immersive film experience on the planet. 3-D is going to be more obvious to you in IMAX. And in 2-D, IMAX means a special sound system. It means special treatment of the film so that when Star Trek is shown in an IMAX theater, it goes through a digital process where we up-res the movie so there's more brightness and more contrast.

And with the screen part of it: In all of these multiplexes, IMAX is the biggest screen. But it's not only screen size. There's something called "perceived screen size," which involves the relationship of the viewer to the screen. If you're in the first row, that screen is going to look a hell of a lot bigger to you than if you're in the 30th row. We typically take out the first four rows of seats in a theater and move the screen forward so it's a lot farther forward in an IMAX theater. Also, the screen goes floor to ceiling, wall to wall. By bringing a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall screen forward toward the audience, the viewer has the perception that the screen is larger than just the physical size.

I buy that there's a different process for converting a film for IMAX and that the sound system is better. But my beef is that the screen size is large but the movie isn't filling that screen. Well, then, I must be seeing a much better image resolution.

It turns out the image resolution might be only slightly better.

The IMAX digital film is created by using two Christie 2K resolution digital projectors. According to Wikipedia, "the two 2K images are projected over each other, producing an image that is potentially of a slightly higher resolution than common 2K digital cinema."

So, if the screen isn't larger, then you're not really getting much value for your expensive ticket -- just an image that is potentially of a slightly higher resolution. But I thought the reason for paying for an IMAX version of the film is so you can have the most immersive, amazing experience in a movie theater. Turns out it's not much different than going to the non-IMAX or 2D version of the film -- at least in some theaters.

Then what's going on here? Like many things in life, it's about money.

Let's take a look at The Dark Knight. $55 million of the $1 billion the film earned worldwide (18%) was from IMAX theaters. Without those "premium" tickets, the film takes in less money, the studio execs get smaller bonuses, the theater chains can't add more IMAX theaters, etc.

But the real crime with the smaller IMAX screens or the reduced projection size on a large screen is that the average moviegoer isn't even aware (at least consciously). They're paying extra for the IMAX brand -- and not really getting their money's worth.

So, as I see it IMAX has three problems (and to their credit, they're looking into fixing the branding problem now):

  1. Not all IMAX screens are equal in size.
  2. Not all IMAX screens are equal in resolution (digital vs. 70mm).
  3. The projection image size of the IMAX film doesn't always take up the entire screen size -- which brings us back to #1.

If you want to know which IMAX screens are the smaller size, here's a handy map:

View IMAX or LIEMAX? in a larger map

If you're interested in reading some other articles about this issue, see the following:

Roger Ebert's Q&A on IMAX (published before Aziz Ansari's blog)

LFexaminer: Is IMAX the next "New Coke"?

LFexaminer: Links to IMAX controversy articles

Variety: IMAX responds to screen size critics

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posted by AndyO @ 11:41 PM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Digital Movie Download War

Blu-ray DiscNow that Blu-ray has won the battle for high-definition discs, we can all go out and buy Blu-ray players and feel content with our purchases, right? That's what Sony would like you to believe. There are two problems with this:

  • Blu-ray players are too expensive (most over $300)
  • Many current Blu-ray players don't support Profile 2.0, so they're already obsolete (If you don't believe me, see this CNET post.)

There's also a secondary point about high-definition content. Most people don't care about it right now. 

Because I don't think Blu-ray will offer enough of an incentive to drop the good old DVD player, my prediction is that digital movie downloads will become the format of choice. I know, you might be thinking that a lot of people still want to drive down to BestBuy on Tuesday to pick up the latest DVD release and hold the shiny disc in their hands. But then I would remind you that people said the same thing about music CDs.

I've started to try out different digital movie download and streaming services. While I don't think all of them offer the average consumer the ideal experience, I think you're going to see huge advances in the next year that will make it easier.

Here are the services I've researched (or tried out myself):

Microsoft and the Xbox 360

When HD-DVD lost the HD battle, it was a direct blow to Microsoft. The company's technology was embedded in HD-DVD technology. However, Microsoft is also one of the first companies to start renting HD digital movies over its Xbox 360 system.

The good: I own an Xbox 360, and renting movies using the Xbox Marketplace is a breeze. You add "Microsoft Points" to your account and go buy or rent whatever you want. Once you rent an HD movie, you can start watching it in 10-15 minutes. The great thing about the Xbox system is you can go play a game while you wait. 

The bad: So far, the movie selection isn't as deep as I'd like to see. Plus, searching for a movie isn't as easy as it is using a computer. Xbox 360 Elite Pro bundle starts at around $500, so it's not cheap at this point. Once you start the movie, you have 24 hours to watch it--which can be too short. But this is standard with most digital downloads.

Digital Cable and DirectTV (satellite)

Cable has come a long way in the past 10 years. Not only can you watch HD content on your new LCD or Plasma TV, but you can watch it when you want. If any group is poised to take advantage of a new digital rental model, cable and satellite companies are probably in the best position.

The good: Familiar set-top box model. No computer needed. Additional services, including Internet, available as a bundle.

The bad: High cost per month. Limited selection of movies per month, depending on what the cable or satellite company makes available.


The Netflix Watch Now feature, which allows you to stream movies over your computer, is top-notch. They've continued adding titles, including entire seasons of hit shows. I watched the first season of Heroes using this technology.

The good: Unlimited viewing of 7000 titles. Movies start in about 30 seconds. DVD-quality is acceptable on an HD TV.

The bad: No HD Watch Now feature yet. Computer required.

Rumors: Being able to watch movies through Netflix on your Xbox 360.

Apple TV 2.0

I don't know much about this offering, having never used it myself -- but after reading this detailed review complete with side-by-side image comparisons, it seems like it's pretty good. CNET also liked it.

The good: Movies from every major Hollywood studio. HD available for most new titles. Integrated Podcasts and YouTube.

The bad: $229 for a stand-alone device (too much for some people). Doesn't work with older TVs that aren't widescreen.


I've watched one CinemaNow movie through my Xbox 360. The way this works is you download the movie to your PC, and then you can stream it over the Xbox.

The good: Large movie selection.

The bad: No HD options, except for a few titles that you can buy. The movie that I downloaded and watched through my Xbox 360 didn't look good enough on my HD TV.

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posted by AndyO @ 6:19 PM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Indiana Jones IV trailer

I saw this once in the theater, but now it's online. Can't wait to see this one!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Trailer


posted by AndyO @ 12:43 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thoughts on the 80th Academy Awards

80th Annual Academy Awards Anniversary 2008This year, I told my wife that I wasn't going to watch the Academy Awards. I said that I didn't have time, that I didn't really care who won, etc.

Around 7:00 p.m., Brenda turned on the show. I was working on the computer in the same room, and after a while I left the computer and sat down on the couch to watch. And then I pretty much watched the rest of the show.

Watching the show in high-definition for the first time, I found myself studying the audience and picking out, say, Harrison Ford or Jack Nicholson. It was almost as if I was standing there onstage with Jon Stewart. I was hypnotized.

Many people say that this was a banner year for movies. Some say that we haven't seen this level of creativity and quality since the 1970s. While I haven't seen all the films that topped the critics' list, I did see Juno and There Will Be Blood, and liked them both. I guess it tells you something that Hollywood outsiders, the Coen Brothers, won multiple Oscars this year for their movie No Country for Old Men.  

The morning after the Oscars, I read an e-mail story that my dad sent me about how many of the movies that have withstood the test of time didn't get the Oscar in their day. For example, Citizen Kane, recognized by most to be the best film ever made, only got one Oscar (for screenwriting). I wrote back:

Yes, I've heard that many of the greatest films were snubbed. I remember the first time I was aware of this was when Star Wars lost to Annie Hall for Best Picture. I think Annie Hall is a brilliant film (now, anyway), but Star Wars has had a much greater impact on film -- and is considered one of the greatest films now (like Citizen Kane).

So, it goes to show you that the Academy's taste doesn't always stand the test of time -- that the awards don't really matter as far as art is concerned. But for those of us who love movies -- the Academy Awards are a yearly party that we can attend to honor the craft of filmmaking (at least virtually). Which is why even when I say I'm not going to attend that party anymore, I somehow always find myself sitting in front of the TV.  


posted by AndyO @ 6:50 PM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, December 17, 2007

The AndyO Sweeney Todd trailer

On the website for Sweeney Todd, you can cut your own trailer. Here's the one I cut


posted by AndyO @ 12:22 PM   0 comments links to this post