HOLY HORSEPOWER—A VENDING MACHINE FOR CARS?!

Written by Fred Bailey

Alibaba has an amazing scheme for 2018.  The company intends to jump-start two colossal car vending machines, one in Shanghai and the other in Nanjing.

And you won’t have to deal with salesmen.

You do need a smartphone app.  You pick out a car online, personalizing it with touch-ups here and there, and a giant vending machine rotates your choice out of a mammoth garage.

You put down a deposit, and then—believe it or not, you can take the car out for a test spin for three days!

If you decide to buy, you complete the sale.  But if you want something different, you can start all over again with a new car.

If you’re a member of Alibaba, you’re allowed five test drives per month.  That’s 15 days!  Half a month!

In the meantime, Ford has signed a deal with Alibaba to come up with 15 electric car models for China by 2025.

This idea is pretty impressive, but it does have a lot in common with an American start-up, Carvana, founded a little over three years ago in Arizona.  It’s an online-only used car dealer, featuring a car vending machine that’s eight stories tall:  “Vending fresh cars daily!”

Here’s a link to a 30-second Carvana video:

https://www.carvana.com/vendingmachine

THE WOLF OF THE WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE

Written by Fred Bailey

Three things you should know about China’s Wolf Warrior 2.

#1—It dominates the world box office at $850M in tickets sold.

#2—It’s China’s foreign-language Oscar submission this year.

And #3—It’s China’s all-time biggest-grossing film.

In case that’s not enough, here’s something else:  According to Box Office Mojo, it’s also number 55 in the world’s 100 top-grossing movies, the only non-Hollywood entry on that list.

Made on a budget of about $30M, it is a thunderous action spectacle.

Where did it come from?

It’s the work of its 43-year-old writer/director/star Wu Jing.

Born in Beijing to a family of martial artists, Wu got his start in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s.  After more than 20 action thrillers and a lot of TV, he got some good advice from a mentor who told him, “Do everything yourself…win or lose, it’s in your own hands.”

He went off on his own to make the original Wolf Warrior on a $12M investment from his wife.  People told him he’d be lucky if he broke even.

But it surprised them all when it brought in $90M and opened the way for a record-breaking sequel.

Wolf Warrior 2 is set in Africa and co-stars ubiquitous American character actor Frank Grillo as the villain of the piece.

Grillo has been around about as long as Wu.  You might have seen him in The Purge: Election Year, in two Captain Americas: Winter Soldier and Civil War, as well as grittier stuff like Zero Dark Thirty and The Grey with Liam Neeson.

Not that anybody says it will, but it’s not going to hurt Grillo’s career to be spotted prominently in one of the most widely-seen movies ever made.

A.R. IN YOUR AUTO

Written by Andria Chek

Ever wondered what it’s like to ride in Batman’s Batmobile through Gotham City? Now you can find out. According to The Verge, top tech and entertainment companies Intel and Warner Bros. are partnering to bring a whole new level of entertainment to self-driving cars. Called the “AV Entertainment Experience,” virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology will be utilized and identified as the most prominent game changer for autonomous vehicles.

While on the road, not only will riders be able to watch their favorite TV shows, browse their phones, or even take naps, but through AR technology, they will also be able to immerse themselves in a reality where the interior of the car replicates that of the Batmobile, complete with the windows creating an effect of driving through Gotham City.

According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, “Intel’s goal is to ‘enable’ passengers in their self-driving vehicles to ‘view advertising and other discovery experiences.’” Integrating VR/AR technology is just one way to achieve that. Self-driving vehicles allow tech and entertainment companies (such as Intel and Warner Bros.) the chance to take advantage of this new technology. By integrating immersive content into self-driving cars, you won’t even realize you’ve reached your destination. Maybe sitting in traffic won’t be so bad after all.

CHINA—A VITAL MARKET FOR APPS

Written by Fred Bailey

China is the biggest smartphone market in the world, surpassing the U.S. in 2016 to become the leading purchaser of apps.

So it comes as no surprise when Apple chief Tim Cook tells us Chinese developers have made a total of almost $17B at the App Store, an Apple-run digital distribution platform which itself has earned $70B overall since its kick-off in 2008.

Which in turn means that revenues for China’s 1.8M local mobile app developers constitute about one-fourth of the global total.

The App Store started off with some 500 applications available for sale.  By January of 2017, the store was offering more than two million apps.

Cook revealed those figures while keynoting the fourth World Internet Conference in scenic Wuzhen, one of the six ancient towns south of the Yangtze just outside of Beijing.

“The theme of this conference—developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits—is a vision we at Apple share,” Cook noted in his remarks.  “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”

China is an essential element in Apple’s global strategies. The iPhone maker has the majority of its products manufactured in China, but it’s facing some pretty stiff competition from domestic organizations like Huawei and Xiaomi.

It was the second time Cook has made an appearance in China this year, since a meeting with President Xi in October.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also attended the 2017 World Internet Conference, commenting, “Technology is giving opportunities at a global scale, driving interconnectedness and cooperation…It’s a big trend, and I think it’s almost irreversible at this point.”

Executives from Cisco, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn also participated in the conference.

What’s in the future for THEME PARKS?

Bright and shiny is how you might think of theme parks today, but tomorrow they’ll be brighter and even shinier.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a major part of that.  It’s going to advance to where it can chat with you, tailoring attractions to fit your needs and desires.

AI facial and clothing recognition will be used to locate you and capture images, giving you instant access to all the digital content they’ve gathered on you so you can share it instantaneously.  Photo-Drones may catch key moments without interrupting what you’re doing.

Everything will be more interconnected and multisensory.  Attractions will flow into one another seamlessly, galvanizing the entire experience.

Disney, however, has disavowed VR headsets because they block your view of reality and put you in a fake digital world—but Augmented Reality isn’t verboten at Disneyland.

In fact, Disneyland now has an underground Operational Command Center to monitor line lengths and population density, taking steps and easing foot traffic when necessary.

Soon you’ll be able to book a ride on your personal device and not have to wait in line at all.

Designers and engineers will invent dark rides that can identify you, adapting your involvement in the show specifically for you with multiple ride paths and interactive variable media, concocting rides that are constantly morphing and evolving.  The result? Encouraging you to do the rides again and again, magnifying the fun in the process.

Totally immersive dining experiences are just around the corner.  You’ll board an adventure gondola and get whisked away on a journey through far-away galaxies or the old-timey west or deep under the ocean.  A dinner ride like that could last as long as 90 minutes.

Theme parks have come a long way since Walt Disney’s dramatic revision of the concept in the 1950s, but there are still some big steps and giant leaps on the horizon.

by Fred Bailey

How technology and immersive storytelling are changing the leisure experience was one of our dynamic topics at the Hollywood Entertainment Technology Festival on Nov. 10.  To find out more, please visit:

www.HETFest.com

THE GREAT WALL

The Great Wall is a flop.  That’s according to broadly accepted conventional wisdom in the film industry.

As the most recent and prominent U.S.-China co-production, the Hollywood Reporter called it “a disaster for all concerned” and said that The Great Wall lost “at least $75M.”

Yet, according to Boxofficemojo.com, as of April 2017, the movie earned $332M internationally, including $171M in China and $11M in Russia.

Other sources put the global figure at over $350M.  A take-out in Mashable reads:  “The Great Wall is an international hit, just not in the U.S.”

Admittedly, its U.S. earnings were disappointing at just over $45M, but the worldwide box office figure isn’t too bad when you consider its budget was estimated at $150M.

The box office take doesn’t include ancillary earnings like Blu-ray and DVD sales and rentals, streaming revenues, etc., and whether or not marketing costs were included in the budget can’t be readily determined.

The film, helmed by legendary Chinese director Zhang Yimou, is still pulling in those secondary revenues.

Perhaps this wide-spread thumbs-down judgment is tempered by overall box office results in China—in 2015 box office growth in China was at 49%, but in 2016 it was down to 4%.

Chen Yiqi of Sil-Metropole says that’s not a decline but a healthy adjustment, so you could look at The Great Wall’s $171M Chinese revenues as a 2017 antidote to the 2016 slump.

Hong Kong Director Stanley Tong: “We need to learn from Hollywood on how to take on a global market.”

But it seems the movie must’ve enhanced that knowledge considerably, as its non-China, non-U.S. market hit at least $116M.

Chen Yiqi adds: “We should explore more co-production opportunities and learn from them.  It will help the Chinese film industry to grow and mature in the long run.”

by Fred Bailey

 

International Co-Production is one of many topics to be covered at the 2nd annual Hollywood Entertainment Technology Festival, Nov. 9-11.  To find out more, please visit:

www.HETFest.com