80.8 F
San Fernando
Monday, May 29, 2023

Longtime Valley Effects House Closing Down

The new year promises increased friction between the entertainment industry and the forces of technology. From the lawsuits filed against file-sharing companies by the film industry, to the conflict over new high-definition next generation DVD formats, to the demand for animators due to the popularity of CGI animation, the Valley’s entertainment industry will be shaped by a variety of technological innovations. Expect bloody war in the lucrative DVD market as the major Hollywood studios separate into two HD-DVD camps. Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. have put their collective weight behind a DVD technology known as HD-DVD. The three other heavyweights Walt Disney, Columbia/Tri-Star, and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer have backed a different format known as Blu-Ray. Both systems use blue-light lasers to record the increased resolution and fidelity of high-definition on discs and play them back. However, Blu-Ray advocates claim that Blu-Ray will have greater capacity than its competition. HD-DVD’s supporters tout its affordability and the fact that it will reach the market sometime in the next year. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of confusion in the coming year regarding these competing formats, with one side ultimately joining Betamax in the annals of obsolescence. The only local company certain to make a killing off of this new technology is Technicolor, whose manufacturing headquarters are in Camarillo. Technicolor has already inked a deal to manufacture both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs and to provide consumer HD-DVD players through its sister company, RCA. As always, the Valley-based film companies have a full slate of films that they hope to be the blockbusters of 2005. Warner Bros. spokespeople are hyping releases such as the next Batman film, “Batman Begins,” starring Christian Bale as the caped crusader. Additionally, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”; a re-make of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp; and a film called “Cyrana” starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, will hit theaters in the coming year. The company’s spokespeople claim that the studio’s core audience for 2005 will be “families.” Universal’s spokespeople extol upcoming big budget attractions such as “The Interpreter,” starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, which debuts April 22; “King Kong,” directed by Peter Jackson (of “Lord of the Rings”); “Cinderella Man,” directed by Ron Howard, starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger; “Jarhead,” starring Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal and the re-make of “The Producers,” starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Dreamworks flush off of the success of the animated film, “Shark Tale,” plans a spate of animated films for 2005, most notably “Madagascar” with voices performed by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. In addition, company spokespeople hype live-action films, “The Ring 2”; “The Island,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor. Disney’s 2005 is filled with question marks. After a tumultuous 2004, a verdict is soon expected in the Disney shareholders’ lawsuit against Michael Ovitz and Michael Eisner. Additionally, though Eisner’s contract isn’t slated to expire until 2006, company spokespeople have stated that Eisner’s successor will be named next June. Though Eisner has gone on record to state that he will serve out the duration of his deal, one can expect a major shift in power within the company by the summer. Family films On the production front, Disney also plans an emphasis on family fare in 2005, trotting out “Herbie: Fully Loaded”; the animated feature, “Chicken Little”; “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and the “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Having recently inked a new contract, the members of the Writers Guild can expect more comprehensive health care in the new year. “The new contact was 40 percent more than our previous deal. It is going to allow us to shore up the health plan which was a very large part of what we were negotiating for and what the deal was about. More is always good, but this time the funds went to health care, last time it went for foreign residuals,” Grace Reiner, assistant executive director of the Writer’s Guild said. “Other big issues that we will be working on are to keep an eye on the downloading of theatrical motion picture and television shows on the Internet. That’s an issue that all the guilds are paying attention to. We’re also working on increasing our jurisdiction to include reality programming.” The Writer’s Guild also might be affected by the possibility of a negotiation breakdown between the Screen Actor’s Guild and the major Hollywood studios. Talks began last month between the two sides towards a new three-year deal. SAG and its sister union the American Federation of Television Artists will see their current contact expire on June 30, 2005. The two sides are haggling over SAG/AFTRA’s demands for a greater share of the money earned by the studios as their TV shows and films enter secondary markets, such as DVDs, syndicated reruns, overseas distribution and the Internet. In other areas of the Valley’s diverse entertainment industry, the local animation business is flourishing, buoyed by the increased demand for CGI animated films and the box office success of recent animated films. Accordingly, the North Hollywood based Animation Guild Local 839, is negotiating a new contract and is hoping for an improved health care package. More organizing “The guild itself has moved to organize. We are currently negotiating a new contract with the studios. The new demands are revolving around the bridging of health insurance from one plan to another and rate classifications, which are of concern to animators. These are some of the issues that are outstanding,” Steve Hulett, business representative of the Animation Guild, 839 IATSA, said. “We’ve been on an upswing for the last few years. The animation industry seems to be robust. We’ve seen gains in employment and CGI has been a big driver. Dreamworks has hired, Disney has hired; Warner Bros. has got a pretty full plate in the coming year. I’ve heard from their production people that they expect a lot of production in Sherman Oaks in 2005.” Perhaps the only people not benefiting handsomely from the entertainment industry are the below-the-line workers. Cameramen, effects companies and propmakers, among others, have been decimated by the growing trend of runaway production. Tim McHugh, owner of Burbank-based effects company, Area 51 Productions feels that 2005 may be a year of local action against this trend. “The cameramen’s union has elected a new board with a more progressive take on the issue. Then the local propmakers union elected a slate of reformers. On SAG’s Hollywood Board, 13 out of 13 people are progressives who want to change the way that SAG deals with runaway production,” McHugh said. “There is a groundswell of people starting to address the issue. I feel the tide kind of turning in the town in 2005. We’ve been promised a lot of things. We have to engage our elected officials and say this is what you need to do if you want to stay elected.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles