26.March.2012: Ben Fritz of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hollywood trade publication Variety is up for sale. He quotes Ken Sonenclar, managing director of the media investment banking firm DeSilva & Phillips: “Variety is not just a brand, it’s a trophy brand, and you might find someone overpaying for that reason.” Later in the same piece Sonenclar warns, “Whoever buys it will have to reinvent Variety for the digital world…You can’t just run it more efficiently. That’s a dead end.” The Los Angeles Times business pages also dish out a recent report from IHS Screen Digest that “consumers will watch more movies online than on DVDs in 2012 for the first time, but will spend far less doing so.”
On Friday Cartoon Brew posted animator Glen Keane’s letter of resignation from Disney. “I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore,” he writes. “I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.” At The Playlist, Drew Taylor provides an overview of Keane’s impressive 37 years at Disney, during which time he designed and animated the central characters of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. More speculatively, Taylor writes, “When Disney Animation lost ground to Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, and all but shuttered its traditional animation department, Keane was adrift. He worked on the ‘Mickey’s PhilharMagic’ attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and his experience, animating Ariel not in 2D animation but in full-on computer animation, inspired him to try his hand at directing. That film, Rapunzel, was a tortured and overlong process, with Keane’s goal of creating a moving Renaissance painting seen as too daunting and experimental, with little of the emphasis placed on the fundamental aspects of character storytelling.”
The Hunger Games may have posted the third biggest opening in box office history this weekend, but Peter Knegt reports on another significant story in the specialty grosses. October Baby, an abortion-themed film being promoted to pro-life audiences, “jumped in the overall top 10 despite its screen count [of 390], taking in $1,718,427. That made for a $4,306 average, the highest in the top 10 save for Hunger Games and 21 Jump Street.” The film may seem made to order for the primary season, but Knegt points out that it was actually released for a few weeks last autumn in Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi: “timed against a ‘personhood’ ballot initiative and backed with funding from the American Family Association.”
A fine overview of South by Southwest’s film festival comes from Cinema Scope’s Leah Churner a little more than a week after it wrapped. She takes stock of the festival’s changing character (“Some filmmakers I spoke to were upset by the new emphasis on red carpets—not just because Austin is supposed to be casual, but because the shortage of hotel rooms meant that many of them had to sleep on floors in adjacent zip codes and take the bus to their premieres”) but ultimately judges that “Film is the underdog of the festival, embodying the original SXSW ethos of micro-budgeted creativity.” Among the many shorts singled out for praise in Churner’s article is the Safdie Brothers’ The Black Balloon, “a prog-rock riff on The Red Balloon with music by Gong.” You can stream several of Benny and Josh Safdie’s earlier films at Fandor.