Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Service of Can You Go Home Again? Do Revivals Work for Businesses Like FAO Schwarz or the Playboy Club or Comedies?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Photo: Pix11.com

I’m intrigued by the concept of revivals. Two once successful businesses that closed are attempting them now–FAO Schwarz and the Playboy Club—and a prominent theater critic wrote in his Neil Simon obit that they don’t work when it comes to comedy.

Charles Passy covered the Schwarz and Playboy stories in Wall Street Journal articles, “FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the ‘Big’ Piano– Midtown Manhattan store will be staffed with demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing costumed roles, including toy soldiers” and “Playboy Club Returns to New York, Bunnies and All, but Will It Hop? Industry experts question if the club’s concept will still work, as it comes back to the Big Apple after a three-decade absence.

Hugh Hefner and bunnies. Photo: Oldlarestaurants.com

I have memories of both. On a visit to FAO Schwarz with a first grade classmate and her mother the girl pointed to Santa and reported to my six year old self that he didn’t exist. I attribute happier recollections of the store with gift reconnaissance for my nephews. As for the Playboy Club, it paid bunny wait staff four times what other jobs I’d applied for after college offered. The reaction I’d expected from my father—he’d had a fit when he learned I’d modeled fully clothed for an art class—was only one of several good reasons I didn’t pursue the opportunity.

Terry Teachout’s Neil Simon obituary began “All comedy dates, and every pure comedian sooner or later becomes passé—even one as beloved as Neil Simon.” After “Lost in Yonkers,” wrote Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Simon would never again write a full-fledged box-office smash, and none of his plays has since been successfully revived on Broadway save as a star vehicle. His last bow there as a playwright, a 2009 revival of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ directed by David Cromer, closed after nine performances.”

Photo: Playbill

Teachout observed: “And while his plays remain popular with amateur troupes and smaller companies elsewhere in America, most of the major regional theaters tend to steer clear of his work.”

In an op-ed piece in the same paper associate editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey wrote that theater today is “dominated by crowd-pleasing jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular movies. In the last few decades of the 20th century, Simon, who died Sunday at 91, was a household name.” Broadwayworld.com proved Hennessey’s assertion. A headline last week was “Jerry Zaks will bring Mrs. Doubtfire musical to Broadway.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Hennessey continued: Simon’s “domination of the Great White Way from the 1960s through the ’80s has no contemporary comparison. The current toast of Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, has staged two original hit shows in a decade. In 1966 Simon had four plays running in Broadway houses at the same time.”

Do you think that FAO Schwarz and Playboy Clubs will/can fit today’s customers? What about revivals of once popular comedies–do they all become passé? Perhaps “Mash” and “Honeymooners” fans, or those who tune in to the TV version of “The Odd Couple” –derived from Simon’s play–don’t buy tickets to Broadway or major regional company theaters because they are simply too old or too poor? Or maybe laughter is out of fashion on the Great White Way?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Subscriptions: A Winning Business Model—Sometimes

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Photo: Tundra Restaurant Supply

Before Amazon customers buy a toothpick, its 100 million Prime subscribers have handed the company from $77.88/year to $119/year, representing the cost to students and everyone else respectively. [Some may be grandfathered at $99.99.] Nobody outside the company seems to know the breakdown so you can’t do the math but 100 million paying $1/year would represent a tidy sum.

Subscribers get benefits such as free fast shipping for eligible items, shopping deals, streaming films and TV shows.

Photo: videoblocks.com

According to Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post, “The real money, though, is in the buying power these shoppers wield: Prime members reportedly spend an average of $1,300 a year on Amazon, compared with $700 for its customers who are not members.” And it seems that many of the former don’t comparison shop.

The subscription model works for others such as Netflix, which Siegel reported has 125 million members. Health clubs too—which count on people paying for a year and not returning after a few months.

Photo: What’s-on-Netflix.com

On the other hand, MoviePass has had trouble calculating its fee and benefits–a shame as the concept originally served a purpose, especially for customers in cities where one movie ticket costs upwards of $15. Its monthly fee will soon increase to $14.95 from $9.95. According to Nishant Mohan in The Wall Street Journal, “MoviePass, which has more than 3 million members, lost $98.3 million on $48.6 million of revenue in the quarter ended March 31.”

Tuesday’s Journal reported that the company would limit subscribers from one movie a day to three a month. Ben Fritz wrote that the company had forecast 5 million subscribers by December 2018 which chief executive Mitch Lowe admits might not happen quite that fast. He told Fritz: “Ultimately, I believe this is a 20 million-subscriber business over the next three to four years.”

Meanwhile, it’s trying to stay afloat. It has competition such as AMC Entertainment Holdings with 175,000 members with a monthly $19.95 charge to see three movies a week at its US theatres. MoviePass “plans to limit the availability of first-run movies opening on more than 1,000 screens during the first two weeks.” It also has had technical glitches. One recent day its app featured showtimes for e-ticketing theatres, only, and none others.

I’ve noticed disgruntled customers gripe on social media. One subscriber wrote on Facebook: “I’m unable to cancel my account. They say you’re liable for a year. It’s crazy. You have to go thru their app for customer service and that took more than 2 hours.”

Have you had trouble getting out of a subscription? How many times can a company stumble and succeed in the end?  Are there some subscriptions you endorse? Any you don’t?

Photo: crisistimes.com

Service of the Comfort of Vintage

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

La la Land movie poster

Whatever “vintage” means to you—if you’re 20, 1980s films, fashion and décor might describe it while if you’re 50, it could be all things 1950. For some there’s comfort and perhaps a soothing visual to live with a grandparent’s furnishings; for others, reminiscences shared with an uncle while watching Audrey Hepburn on Turner Classic Movies brings smiles.

I thought of this after seeing “La La Land,” a movie I enjoyed. The writer/director Damien Chazelle is 31 yet he picked the 1940s/1950s romantic musical genre for the setting of his story. He added zero pyrotechnics, violence or gore and none were missed. The film set a record at the Golden Globe Awards winning seven including recognition for best motion picture—musical or comedy—performance by an actor and actress, director, screenplay, original score and original song.

Elle.com ran a article about what’s in or out in fashion. Nikkitight jeans Ogunnaike reported we should “anticipate a shift toward contrast denim styles in vintage silhouettes.” [This look is in contrast to skin- tight jeans popular today.]

I’d saved a December, 2016 section of The Wall Street Journal‘s “Off Duty,” because of its cover story, “Presents with a Past,” that featured 50 nostalgic gifts “whose origins date back decades and beyond.” The subhead continued that the gifts will “conjure a simpler time when the holidays were lower-voltage, but just as bright.”

Sidney Garber bracelet

Sidney Garber bracelet

Speaking of voltage, most of the suggestions would burn a hole in most wallets. There was a gold bracelet by Sidney Garber reminiscent of flexible metal coils first popular in the 1930s for $12,200; a 3-day slumber party at a historic English country estate @ $15,600/night for 16; Prada’s jewel encrusted mules for $1,150; a $685 pair of retro headphones; a mink stole for $5,500 and a chauffer to drive you from Paris to Versailles in a period Citroen starting at $370.

I don’t spend that kind of money for the loved ones on my list. The Wall Street Journal editors chose a few things under $100 too. There was a box of Turkish delight [$35]; a rubber band-propelled toy car [$25]; an apron [$47]; a ‘70s popular fondue pot [$95]; traditional Belgian speculoos cookies [$20]; a Mickey Mouse wall clock featuring a 1930s style rodent [$65], and an Italian knit necktie [[$90].

The J. Peterman Company catalog seems to be going strong with its focus on vintage-inspired men and women’s fashion.

Have you noticed vintage influences creeping back more now than in recent years? Do you welcome them or consider them old fashioned and therefore not worthy of your attention? Do you think that in turbulent times people look back to what they recall or think may have been a calmer period?

 Belgian Speculoos cookies

Service of Fear

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The Shining

It’s Halloween today. I decided that nobody is interested to know about everything that scares me nor would they want to address what scares them—we’ve got too many important things to be nervous about relating to the impending elections.

So I decided to lean on the “treats” side of the celebration and write about scary movies.

Halloween IIBut scary movies frighten me so I’m not the one to write knowledgably about them. I loved “Wait Until Dark”– [anything with Audrey Hepburn] –but tend to avoid such flicks. Guess I’m normally nervous and don’t need additional stimulus.

So I asked the people in the office in which I share space. What amazed me is that everyone had a favorite and there is only one duplicate! This is their list: 

     “The Haunting” –Lee A

     “When a Stranger Calls” –Mike S 

     “The Birds,” “Psycho” & “Rear Window” & “Trump TV”—David R

      “The Conjuring” & soon, by DJ  Trump: “When Mexico Attacks” –Pat C 

            The Gate“The Gate” –Danny M 

            “The Strangers” —Brandt Z 

            “Halloween II” –Joshua C 

            “The Thing” –Stephen H 

      “The Shining” –James B AND Jeff M           

      “Poltergeist” –Dan M 

       “The House of Wax” –Bambe L

       “Bones” –Kori M 

Do you like to be frightened by movies? What is your favorite scary one? Is there a difference between creepy and scary?

The Strangers

The Strangers

Service of Favorite Films

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Auntie Mame

Over the holidays we saw “Auntie Mame,” [1958], with Rosalind Russell, on Turner Classic Movies. I’ve seen it many times and enjoy it each time. I can too easily ignore my list of “to do’s” on a Saturday when one of my favorites appears. All it takes is for me to see a moment or two and unless I have hard deadlines or apply enormous restraint, a few hours melt away.

Some other films I enjoy seeing again and again include:

  • “Roman Holiday,” [1953] and “Sabrina,” [1954] with Audrey Hepburn
  • “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” [1957] with Alec Guinness
  • “An Affair to Remember,” [1957] with Deborah Kerr
  • “The Apartment,” [1960] with Jack Lemmon

    The Apartment

    The Apartment

  • “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” [1967] with Katherine Hepburn
  • “Kramer vs. Kramer, “ [1979] and “Out of Africa,” [1985] with Meryl Streep
  • “When Harry Met Sally,” [1989] and “Sleepless in Seattle,” [1993], with Meg Ryan and
  • “The King’s Speech,” [2010] with Colin FirthThe Thomas Crown Affair

My reaction to other “great films” that are repeatedly played such as “Lawrence of Arabia,” [1962] with Peter O’Toole or “The Thomas Crown Affair,” [1968] with Steve McQueen is a brisk “I’ve seen that, I’m not tempted.”  I may even have enjoyed the first viewing but don’t need another.

Recognizing that everyone’s lists will differ, what gives some films legs/why do they stand the test of repetition and others not so much? Is it: The story? The acting? The setting? The directing? How the film resonates with the personality of the viewer? What are some of your favorite films?

When Harry met Sally

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