Writers of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Had Imagined an Even Darker Sequel

The writers of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story “had an idea for a sequel that would have been even darker and more morally ambiguous,” writes Screen Rant:

Rogue One told the story of how the Rebel Alliance gained access to the Death Star plans, and further explored the sacrifices that needed to be made to defeat the Empire. Famously, the movie led straight into the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and most of its main characters died, so there was never any true hope for a direct Rogue One sequel. However, the writers of Rogue One did once discuss an idea for a thematic sequel that would have delved into the moral ambiguity of the Rebellion.

Co-writers Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz conceptualized a Rogue One sequel show that would have involved a “Mossad-style Rebel team” tracking down fleeing Imperial war criminals after the fall of the Empire. This would have been an interesting continuation of Rogue One’s narrative; a Star Wars show in which the darker side of the Rebel victory could be explored. In that scenario, the Rebels would have had to fight on the offensive, not defensively, reversing the war’s dynamic entirely. The show could have explored how far the Rebels were willing to go to hold onto their hard-won freedom, and whether it mirrored anything the Empire did to hang onto its dictatorship.
At the time Lucasfilm was experimenting with “one-and-done stories within blockbuster movies,” the article point sout. But Solo: A Star Wars Story “was unable to replicate the same winning formula” as Rogue One. “After that, the ideas for Star Wars’ anthology movies fizzled out, essentially replaced with Star Wars TV once Disney+ launched in 2019.”
And in an earlier article, Screen Rant points out that The Mandalorian “has already filled in the story gaps that the Rogue One writers were looking to explore. That series dug deep into the criminal underbelly of the post-Empire galaxy and how the remaining imperial loyalists chose to spend their time.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Prime Video Replaces Netflix As No. 1 Streaming Service In US

Prime Video has supplanted Netflix as the No. 1 subscription streaming outlet in the U.S. in an annual ranking compiled by research firm Parks Associates. Deadline reports: The company didn’t disclose its methodology for how it isolates the number of Prime Video subscribers, a metric long cloaked in secrecy due to Amazon’s general reluctance to disclose statistics about its Prime business. Still, Parks has been a reputable tracker of the streaming space for more than a decade. For many years in the 2010s, its rankings looked consistent, with the former “Big 3” of Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu sharing the top three spots, always with Netflix at the top. Today, the rankings are much more fragmented given how many new players have entered the scene. The list reflects total subscribers through September 2022, via the OTT Video Market Tracker, a Parks offering described by the firm as “an exhaustive analysis of market trends and profiles of the nearly 100 over-the-top video service providers in the U.S. and Canada.”

Amazon said last year it has more than 200 million Prime members, with Prime Video among the program’s benefits. Several weeks ago, the company also recently said The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been viewed by more than 100 million Prime subscribers worldwide. […] Netflix, meanwhile, has hit a plateau in the U.S., even shedding a small amount of subscribers over recent quarters. The company reported 73.4 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada as of September 30, up 100,000 from the previous quarter but below levels in 2021 and earlier this year.

On a global basis, of course, Netflix continues to lead the field with a bit more than 223 million subscribers. Disney has been hot on its heels, with Disney+ now at 164.2 million and the company overall reaching 235.7 million across Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. The rest of the 2022 chart looks relatively similar to the 2021 edition, though NBCUniversal’s Peacock broke through to take the No. 10 spot as Showtime dropped out of the picture.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Adobe Thinks It Can Solve Netflix’s Password ‘Piracy’ Problem

Adobe thinks it has the answer to Netflix’s “password sharing” problem that involves up to 46 million people, according to a 2020 study. TorrentFreak reports: Adobe believes that since every user is different, any actions taken against an account should form part of a data-driven strategy designed to “measure, manage and monetize” password sharing. The company’s vision is for platforms like Netflix to deploy machine learning models to extract behavioral patterns associated with an account, to determine how the account is being used. These insights can determine which measures should be taken against an account, and how success or otherwise can be determined by monitoring an account in the following weeks or months. Ignoring the obviously creepy factors for a moment, Adobe’s approach does seem more sophisticated, even if the accompanying slide gives off a file-sharing-style “graduated response” vibe. That leads to the question of how much customer information Adobe would need to ensure that the right accounts are targeted, with the right actions, at the right time.

Adobe’s Account IQ is powered by Adobe Sensei, which in turn acts as the intelligence layer for Adobe Experience Platform. In theory, Adobe will know more about a streaming account than those using it, so the company should be able to predict the most effective course of action to reduce password sharing and/or monetize it, without annoying the account holder. But of course, if you’re monitoring customer accounts in such close detail, grabbing all available information is the obvious next step. Adobe envisions collecting data on how many devices are in use, how many individuals are active, and geographical locations — including distinct locations and span. This will then lead to a “sharing probability” conclusion, along with a usage pattern classification that should identify travelers, commuters, close family and friends, even the existence of a second home.

Given that excessive sharing is likely to concern platforms like Netflix, Adobe’s plan envisions a period of mass account monitoring followed by an on-screen “Excessive Sharing” warning in its dashboard. From there, legal streaming services can identify the accounts most responsible and begin preparing their “graduated response” towards changing behaviors. After monetizing those who can be monetized, those who refuse to pay can be identified and dumped. Or as Adobe puts it: “Return free-loaders to available market.” Finally, Adobe also suggests that its system can be used to identify customers who display good behavior. These users can be rewarded by eliminating authentication requirements, concurrent stream limits, and device registrations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Studio Ghibli Film Catalog Now Available on Digital Rental Platforms

Some of the most acclaimed films in animation history are finally available to rent online. GKIDS, the animation specialist distributer, has released the catalog of acclaimed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli starting Tuesday. From a report: 22 films from the studio — including Oscar winner “Spirited Away” and nominees such as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “When Marnie Was There” — will be made available to rent on all major digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon VOD, Vudu, Google Play and Microsoft. The films will be be priced at $4.99 per title, and all will be available in HD, with most being offered in the original Japanese language as well as English dubs.

The news marks the first time that Ghibli’s films have been made available via digital rental. The catalogue has been one of the pillars of GKIDS’ business since the distributer acquired the North American film distribution rights to the studio’s films in 2011, followed by the home media rights in 2017 — previously, the majority of Studio Ghibli films were distributed via the Walt Disney Company. Since 2017, GKIDS has partnered with Fathom Events to host a series of limited run screenings of the studio’s films throughout the year. The catalog was made available for digital purchase in 2019, and GKIDS has an exclusive deal to stream the films in the United States on HBO Max, where they have been included since 2020.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Netflix Customers Canceling Service Increasingly Includes Long-Term Subscribers

Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers last quarter and potentially two million this current period, according to a note to shareholders from last month. Now, new research highlights that the number of long-standing subscribers canceling Netflix rose precipitously in the past few years. 9to5Mac reports: The data provided by the research firm Antenna to The Information shows that people who had been subscribers for more than three years accounted for just 5% of total cancelations at the start of 2022, while it hit 13% in the first quarter of 2022: “Newbie subscribers, meantime, accounted for only 60% of cancellations in the quarter, down from 64% in the fourth quarter. Also in the first quarter, overall cancellations rose to 3.6 million people, compared with around 2.5 million in each of the preceding five quarters. Antenna says it draws its data from a panel of 5 million Americans who anonymously contribute their streaming subscriptions.”

While Netflix is losing ground, the streaming market as a whole is gaining more subscribers, and Antenna’s data suggest a connection between the price increase and Netflix’s subscriber losses: “‘Consumers vote with their wallets on a monthly basis, and now there are just more viable candidates on the ballot,’ said Brendan Brady, media and entertainment lead at Antenna. Also, since many entertainment companies, like NBCUniversal and Disney, have pulled their shows off Netflix and put them on their own services, Netflix has had to rely more on its originals, which have been hit or miss, he said.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Are Movies Dying?

As viewership drops for Hollywood’s annual Academy Awards ceremony, “Everyone has a theory about the decline…” argues an opinion piece in the New York Times.

“My favored theory is that the Oscars are declining because the movies they were made to showcase have been slowly disappearing.”

When the nominees were announced in February, nine of the 10 had made less than $40 million in domestic box office. The only exception, “Dune,” barely exceeded $100 million domestically, making it the 13th-highest-grossing movie of 2021. All told, the 10 nominees together have earned barely one-fourth as much at the domestic box office as “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Even when Hollywood tries to conjure the old magic, in other words, the public isn’t there for it anymore…. Sure, non-superhero-movie box office totals will bounce back in 2022, and next year’s best picture nominees will probably earn a little more in theaters. Within the larger arc of Hollywood history, though, this is the time to call it: We aren’t just watching the decline of the Oscars; we’re watching the End of the Movies….

[W]hat looks finished is The Movies — big-screen entertainment as the central American popular art form, the key engine of American celebrity, the main aspirational space of American actors and storytellers, a pop-culture church with its own icons and scriptures and rites of adult initiation…. The internet, the laptop and the iPhone personalized entertainment and delivered it more immediately, in a way that also widened Hollywood’s potential audience — but habituated people to small screens, isolated viewing and intermittent watching, the opposite of the cinema’s communalism. Special effects opened spectacular (if sometimes antiseptic-seeming) vistas and enabled long-unfilmable stories to reach big screens. But the effects-driven blockbuster, more than its 1980s antecedents, empowered a fandom culture that offered built-in audiences to studios, but at the price of subordinating traditional aspects of cinema to the demands of the Jedi religion or the Marvel cult. And all these shifts encouraged and were encouraged by a more general teenage-ification of Western culture, the extension of adolescent tastes and entertainment habits deeper into whatever adulthood means today….

Under these pressures, much of what the movies did in American culture, even 20 years ago, is essentially unimaginable today. The internet has replaced the multiplex as a zone of adult initiation. There’s no way for a few hit movies to supply a cultural lingua franca, given the sheer range of entertainment options and the repetitive and derivative nature of the movies that draw the largest audiences. The possibility of a movie star as a transcendent or iconic figure, too, seems increasingly dated. Superhero franchises can make an actor famous, but often only as a disposable servant of the brand. The genres that used to establish a strong identification between actor and audience — the non-superhero action movie, the historical epic, the broad comedy, the meet-cute romance — have all rapidly declined…

[T]he caliber of instantly available TV entertainment exceeds anything on cable 20 years ago. But these productions are still a different kind of thing from The Movies as they were — because of their reduced cultural influence, the relative smallness of their stars, their lost communal power, but above all because stories told for smaller screens cede certain artistic powers in advance.
The article argues that episodic TV also cedes the Movies’ power of an-entire-story-in-one-go condensation. (“This power is why the greatest movies feel more complete than almost any long-form television.”) And it ultimately suggests that like opera or ballet, these grand old movies need “encouragement and patronage, to educate people into loves that earlier eras took for granted,” and maybe even “an emphasis on making the encounter with great cinema a part of a liberal arts education. ”

In 2014 one lone film-maker had even argued that Ben Stiller’s spectacular-yet-thoughtful Secret Life of Walter Mitty “might be the last of a dying breed.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Douglas Trumbull, VFX Whiz For ‘Blade Runner’, ‘2001’ and Others, Dies At 79

Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects mastermind behind Blade Runner, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey and numerous others, died on Monday at age 79. His daughter Amy Trumbull announced the news on Facebook, writing that her father’s death followed a “two-year battle” with cancer, a brain tumor and stroke. Engadget reports: Trumbull was born on April 8, 1942 in Los Angeles, the son of a mechanical engineer and artist. His father worked on the special effects for films including The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars: A New Hope. The younger Trumbull worked as an illustrator and airbrush artist in Hollywood for many years. His career really took off after he cold-called Stanley Kubrick, a conversation which led to a job working on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of his most significant contributions to 2001 was creating the film’s Star Gate, a ground-breaking scene where astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles through an illuminated tunnel transcending space and time. In order to meet Kubrick’s high aesthetic standards for the shot, Trumbull essentially designed a way to turn the film camera inside-out. Trumbull’s ad hoc technique “was completely breaking the concept of what a camera is supposed to do,” he said during a lecture at TIFF. Trumbull earned visual effects Oscar nominations for his work on Close Encounters, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner. He also received the President’s Award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 1996.

Later in his career, Trumbull voiced distaste over the impact of computers on visual effects, decrying the cheapening and flattening impact of the new era of CGI. […] He spent the last years of his life working on a new super-immersive film format he dubbed MAGI, which he believed would improve the experience of watching a film in theaters. But Trumbull struggled to draw the interest of today’s film industry.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.