Category Archives: movies

Five dystopian ways to save Detroit

Will Detroit be back? Only in the reruns (maybe).

Will Detroit be back? Only in the reruns (maybe).

While it’s sad to see Detroit forced to seek bankruptcy protection, it’s not exactly a surprise either. If anything positive is to be made of the situation, it’s that the city is now a case study in how not to adapt to changing times and realities.

In a nutshell, the Motor City is in dire straits precisely because it couldn’t stop being the Motor City - it couldn’t diversify its economy from auto manufacturing fast enough, thereby leading to a steady, decades-long exodus of the population. As the people left, so did the tax base and so did the services. If there’s a better example of resultant urban decay, it’s hard to find.

Detroit could have escaped its present fate had it emulated Pittsburgh. The two cities used to be joined at the figurative hip, with one supplying the steel needed by the other. Pittsburgh officials, however, saw the writing on the wall a long time ago and smartly moved to diversify their economy. The “Steel City” is now hardly anything but; it’s a medical, financial and even robotics centre, with one of the healthiest economies in the United States to show for it. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Posted by on July 22, 2013 in movies


The real point of Sharknado’s online frenzy

sharknadoIf you use Twitter, it was hard to get away from Sharknado late last week, and the inevitable question that accompanied it: “What the heck is Sharknado?”

If you still don’t know, Sharknado is a low-budget movie produced by U.S. network SyFy about an out-of-control tornado that sucks up sharks from the ocean, then rains them down on Los Angeles. If the premise wasn’t bonkers enough, the movie stars car-wreck celebrity Tara Reid and Steve Sanders… er, Ian Ziering, who really hasn’t done much since the original Beverly Hills 90210. Put all that together and SyFy had all the makings of a viral hit.

Which is exactly what it was. The two-hour movie, which aired Thursday night, had 387,000 comments made about it, mostly on Twitter, where it topped out at 5,000 tweets per minute towards its climax. SyFy wasted no time in proclaiming Sharknado its “most social telecast ever.”

That didn’t stop some media observers from trying to rain on… er… Sharknado‘s parade. The New York Times mentioned how the movie tore up Twitter but not the ratings, garnering only 1.37 million viewers, or slightly better than what the network usually pulls on Thursday nights. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 15, 2013 in movies, television


Cineplex still failing with the simplest technology

cineplexIf there’s a clumsier implementer of technology than Cineplex - Canada’s largest movie theatre chain - I’d like to see it. Two years ago, I wrote about how the company had finally introduced a mobile app that wasn’t really mobile - you can buy tickets with it, but you still need to either print them out at home or scan your phone at an automated kiosk at the theatre itself.

That’s still the case, and with more people using that second option, the lineups at those kiosks are growing. Tell me again: what’s the point to buying in advance if you’re going to stand in line anyway? The problem could be solved, now as then, with scanners that zap your truly mobile ticket on your phone at the point of entry. For some reason, that simple logical answer is still escaping Cineplex.

The other day I saw a promotion at my local grocery store: buy a 12-pack of Nestea iced tea and get a two-for-one admission coupon to Cineplex. Well, how could I resist? I like iced tea and I like movies. What could go wrong? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 26, 2013 in movies


The future of movies isn’t all analytical

Robots are moving off the screen to behind it.

When I wrote my post last month about how Hollywood needs to play more Moneyball, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea. Indeed, the Harvard Business Review has a story along these lines, about how analytics are going to play an increasingly big role in film production.

The Moneyball concept comes from Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane, who was faced with the dilemma of trying to compete in Major League Baseball on a shoestring budget. His solution was to assemble low-cost players who were able to get on base in non-traditional ways (i.e. drawing walks) and ultimately score a lot of runs.

The plan worked wonderfully, with the A’s winning a string of division titles, and Brad Pitt eventually starring in a movie about the story. SAS has a short article and video where Beane, Pitt and others explain the concept in  more detail. The story also explains that Beane’s smart use of analytics can apply to any business. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Posted by on October 17, 2012 in movies, robots


Can Moneyball be applied to film making?

Cruise and Pitt: Moneyball with the Vampire.

Last week’s post about how the budgets for television shows may need to go down in order to adapt to the internet sparked some interesting discussion over on Twitter. The discussion involved films, of course, with one commenter suggesting that A-list actors such as Tom Cruise command huge salaries because they’re proven draws.

That got me thinking: do movie executives really cast their movies based on the drawing power of the actors? Of course they used to, so the better question is perhaps whether they still do? And if so, is it possible to play games with such a system, similar to how baseball manager Billy Beane played “Moneyball” with the Oakland Athletics?

Surely I’m not the first person to have thought of this - it would actually only surprise me if this sort of thing wasn’t widespread in Hollywood. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in movies


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,340 other followers