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April 18 2008

Can stop the Serenity? Are there enough copies of the Serenity film print to go around for all of the charity screenings this year?

The One True b!X has this and more to say:

Word filters out today that Can’t Stop the Serenity, the worldwide charity event which I founded in 2006 and which thus far has raised more than $160,000 for Equality Now faces an unexpected challenge: The destruction (against very clear and explicit instructions inside Universal itself, I should make clear) of all but twelve of the domestically-available prints of the film.

Shit. That's a serious problem. Seriously. Making new roles is hugely expensive.
For those who don't click through (which is always a good idea), here's the other important bits: The relevant parties -- meaning the Uni contact (who is NOT at fault here), this year's global coordinator Beth (who can't be having a fun day), and various organizers -- are batting things around.

The development certainly doesn't mean CSTS goes away for the year, but it does mean things are a little weird right now, as some intended dates might need to change, or some cities might need to show the film off of DVD instead.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-18 20:44 ]
Will showing it from DVD cause more legal entanglements?
I hear HD-DVD players are cheap now...
That might be a way to go - but different legal process from what I understand. Poor Beth!!
Will showing it from DVD cause more legal entanglements?

No, there is a process in place for the DVD rights. It's actually been an option anyway, under certain circumstances. Any new specifics given the current situation is part of what the relevant parties are working out.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-18 20:59 ]
If you have to use a digital copy, I'd highly recommend getting an HD DVD player and projecting the high-def version. 480i looks pretty awful blown up.
A DVD presentation falls under a different non-theatrical license, and that's routinely handled through a separate company, like B!x said.

I know it's something we've been investigating for our CSTS venue but that was before the limited reel supply problem came up.
I'm so sorry to hear this has happened. :( I hope some creative thinking and perseverance sees it all through. I have faith in the CSTS people-- you all seriously rock. Hang in there.
A DVD presentation falls under a different non-theatrical license, and that's routinely handled through a separate company

Like most things, it's actually a little more complicated than this. All of this is being worked out, as I understand it.
But who was the one who suggested getting rid of most of the original prints? This movie is three years old. What is the logic behind this, especially if getting the DVD rights to show the movie may be tougher to get? I'm hoping Universal get a very loud word about this, and sees the advantage of allowing the movie shown, either in HD DVD or original stock, for charity.
Perhaps we should get Joss & co together to remake the film (only do it with a new script and call it serenity 2) :)

Seriously though it makes me wonder why something of apparent value is destroyed, can anything be done to safe guard the remaining 'original' copies?

[ edited by Zol. on 2008-04-18 22:03 ]
Are there enough copies of the Serenity film print to go around for all of the charity screenings this year?


More like are there any copies? This is appalling.
Anyone see "Be Kind, Rewind?" Calling Jack Black and Mos Def... ;-)

I have faith that this will all work out okay. *fingers crossed tightly for b!x and the rest of the CSTS crew*
...Routinely handled by Swank Motion Pictures, is what I meant.

I just looked at the exhibition request form they sent back from my query earlier this week. The trouble is that the normal licensing terms include a percentage of gate receipts, so I hope Universal is able to work out a special CSTS rate without the gate percentage.

If you charge admission, your movie rental rate is the quoted rental price OR 50% of your gate receipts, whichever is greater. (...) If the admission price of your event includes something other than the movie itself (i.e. food, a band, drinks, an art show, etc.) you will fill out the audience report with only the amount of admission designated for the movie itself. You must assign some measure of the admission to the film. Even if the film is “free” to the customer (as a part of a ticket to another event) you must still report a percentage of your admission fee.
Some cities have been told that there is no print for them, and they have had to cancel. It isn't clear yet, how many cities are affected, as far as I know. Universal had been very good about making sure there were still prints before, but someone there screwed up. We've been assured here in Canada that we have prints available still.
This is appalling.

I agree, in the context of the charity events which were clearly a yearly thing.

I've had a few words around and it looks like the chance of international prints still existing is little to none. (On mass, I mean, to ship to the US).

[ edited by gossi on 2008-04-18 22:26 ]
Ok, once again (or perhaps just a little more clearly): Please don't go off the rails with explaining DVD rights. This is all being discussed and addressed by the people more directly in the know.

In other words, on that count, don't take anything here on the DVD issue as the gospel word until CSTS itself (meaning Beth or any of her assistants) gives a gospel word. The rambling on about Swank and rights and terms here isn't necessarily correct in this context, so let's just dial all that back until we know for certain.

Secondly, the reality is that much of the reason a high number of prints of Serenity still existed at all was because CSTS would need to be able to access them. That's partly why this has been so distressing (and I include amongst the distressed the CSTS contact at Uni).

But to answer Simon, yes there are some prints. There are (within the US) twelve of them. One of which will be held back in case any of the other 11 turns out to be damaged and needs to be replaced.

There are, of course, options. All the parties involves are working on making things work as best as they can within the new situation, and from talking to them indeed are working any angle they can think of.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-18 22:51 ]
Damn, first it was the "Once More, With Feeling" play rights and now this. I understand this is completely out of their control and they're trying their best, but it seems we keep running into the same roadblocks as of late. Just so frustrating because these events are towards charity. Hopefully, we can figure a way around the red tape.
Madhatter, these aren't the same roadblocks. The musical got canned because of licensing rights issues. We have no problem with the rights for CSTS, it's just that the prints improperly got destroyed. This isn't red tape, it's (in essence) an accident.
what the hell happened?!
Ahh, thanks 'bix. Thought I was missing something there.
b!x, Any ballpark sense of how much it costs to create a new print of the film? $1,000? $10,000? $10?
The one who destroyed the prints must hate women! (I kid, I kid)

In all seriousness, this is awful. Who DID destroy them?
Honestly, we will have to let go of any desire to know who got rid of the prints. We'll never know, and frankly shouldn't know anyway as it would obviously be an internal Universal matter.

And I have no idea what it costs to create a print, but I can't imagine the cost is less than prohibitive.
This is awful - just appalling, as Simon said. And however accidental, I don't get it. I would think there would be major checks and balances in such a case - especially as we've sortof - as a culture - discovered how distressing it is that we've destroyed so much irretrievable film and tape over the years...

And whatever happens, tap us if contributions are needed for prints. I mean, if we were gonna give for CSTS, we can pony up a little earlier, though sadly for a crap reason.
Wow, this is unexpected and distressing news. After last year's CSTS event in Melbourne, Australia where they showed the movie on DVD, I was quite disappointed and was resolve to see the movie "from the can" (if you will) again, but the possibility of that happening looks less and less likely. :(
Weevil, really you should check with the AU organizers. I have no idea what the print availability is like in Australia and New Zealand, as opposed to the issue of print availability in the US.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-19 01:40 ]
Do we know how many prints were lost? Do I even want to know? I'm tearing up a bit.
Do we know how many prints were lost?

Something like thirty. Remember, what prints remained in existence in many respects remained in existence because of CSTS, so the fact that there were 40-50 prints around was unusual. Most of the rest of the prints were long since destroyed after its original release.
Wow. This is just awful.
I don't swear much, but that is a %$&#ing disgrace!

There are only 2 possible scenarios here-
1. The prints were deliberately destroyed to prevent further theater style screenings. (In which case, someone's surely going to hell. Or possibly, will now go on to become head of the company.)
2. They were destroyed by an ignoranus. That is, an ass who had no idea how much good the CSTS screenings have done, and who didn't even bother to do any research before gleefully burning/shredding prints.

I really don't know which scenario is worse.
It's really not useful, or particularly productive, to blithely toss around #1, which is not, in fact, one of the possible scenarios.
I suppose Universal could get a write off for the cost of striking a few new prints as a charitable contribution, in part, but I also imagine the setup costs would raise the per-print cost quite a bit. (Even in the original print run it would have been several thousand dollars per, not counting delivery and other costs.)

Fortunately, assuming it is shown at one of the Alamo theaters, here in Austin we have really good DVD projection facilities. HD looks VERY nice on the big screen. That'd free up one print for someone else.
2. They were destroyed by an ignoranus. That is, an ass who had no idea how much good the CSTS screenings have done, and who didn't even bother to do any research before gleefully burning/shredding prints.

Most likely it was Less Accusatory Scenario 3, in which a Universal employee or contractor is told to destroy a certain batch of films, a miscommunication is made, and somehow Serenity is in the batch. Destruction, even dire destruction, has never required ignorance, malice, or glee. A simple miscommunication or mistake can do quite a lot of harm. Ir's especially easy in a big organization. Honestly, destroying rolls of film sounds rather tedious as far as work goes, even if it is just a matter of feeding them into a machine. It sounds like the AV equivalent of shredding documents. I bet it's a far cry from gleeful.

This is upsetting, but I don't think blame helps.
Landmark Theaters likes to show Serenity in their summer Midnight Madness series, maybe they're already holding a couple of prints. It wouldn't be more than that since they do it in a gradual roll across the country, but it might mean a couple of prints nobody is currently counting.
Anyone thinking that there is some kind of conspiracy or maliciousness here is being way less than helpful. And on top of that just plain wrong. Accidents happen, which this plainly is one.

Don't go proving folks right about how freaky and outright insane Browncoats are by jumping to the absolutely wrong conclusions. We don't need a repeat of the airport bar fiasco.

That being said, this is very unfortunate and I hope alternatives can be worked out. I can't imagine Universal not wanting to do everything they can to set this right. Good luck to everyone involved.
You're probably better off watching it from a dvd anyway. I imagine that those prints would be pretty battered after 3 years. As long as the cinema has a decent digital projector it should still look alright and the sound quality would probably be about the same if not better.
BIX- It was very clearly stated in your blog that you were sure that the destruction of the prints was completely UNINTENTIONAL. I think I picked up on your dejected tone and ran off a bit with it. No harm was intended in musing on the whys and wherefores but, reading back, my post had some pretty loaded language. My apologies.

You are all correct that finger pointing is not going to make one iota of difference. I have now holstered the finger, which is not only slightly uncomfortable, but has smudged my manicure to boot.

I guess we should get back to doing what we do best- finding solutions to the problem placed before us. (Plus, petitioning the PTB for my sushi making abilities to be declared a superpower. Fingers crossed!)

Please do contact me if there's anything I can do to help. Money? Beer? Sushi?!? ;-) )

[ edited by missb on 2008-04-19 09:59 ]
I don't know if this helps at all, but there was a high-quality DVD version lent to the military in 2005. I saw it twice in Bosnia.
Digital projection in all theaters can't get here soon enough.
There is also a regular screening on April 24, 2008 So there may be a print there or in the mail.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0379786/cinemashowtimes?location=map

Regal Davis Holiday 6
(Regal Entertainment Group) 101 F St., Davis, CA 95616, 530-753-3945

So Regal may have a print.

http://www.landmarktheaters.com/Films/FilmIndex_frameset.htm

Landmark theaters still has Serenity listed as a film available for showing at their theaters. I've seen it off the list at times, so they may really have a print.

The last Landmark screening was 2/2/2008 in Minneapolis, MN.

Uptown Theatre
(Landmark Theatres) 2906 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55408, 612-825-6006

Here is the rest of the April 2008 regular screenings

4/11/08 4/12/08
Criterion Cinemas
86 Temple Street, New Haven, CT 06510, 203-498-2500

4/4/2008 4/5/2008
Dundee Theatre
4952 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68132, 402-551-3595
This is just so sad for our fandom :( I'm so sorry, everyone!
Anonymous1, I think it's safe to say that those prints are not somehow in addition to what Uni knows about, but are included in what Uni knows about. They know where their prints are, heh.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-19 19:01 ]
Again with my same lame idea. MWR can't have technology beyond ours. They're just not that well-funded. And they were projecting it from a DVD onto a big screen with decent quality. My point, if I have one, is that we probably can't hope for any new prints. Those are expensive as hell. Copies of DVDs are not. So maybe we could plead for copies of what they gave the military back then, for our charitable purpose? If we can't use theaters, that's bad, but maybe not insurmountable.
Re: The mention of Landmark, it should perhaps be noted that the Clay Theatre in San Francisco is playing Serenity on the central CSTS weekend but is not part of CSTS. (I'm sure the SF Browncoats will have loads of fun trying to communicate the difference to potential filmgoers.)

While (I'm told) the Clay is not getting the special rate for it, it does nonetheless account for one print not in CSTS hands for that weekend.
Is this something we could somehow spin some positive media attention from? Just a thought...

Also, Australia has I think 5 prints of the movie, all are going to be used this year, but not till around July 4-6 (not all cities confirmed yet) and some cities will be using DVD. Unfortuantely, I think cost of shipping would be an issue along with time frame - even though we're running later this year, it takes a minimum of 7 days for shipping to the US.

The First WeevilThough nothing is 100% confirmed yet, Melbourne is using a cinema this year so will be using one of the prints & not DVD
I didn't know CSTS was already using the theatrical DVD. But in terms of positive spin, if in light of this accident, they could promise to make it available indefinitely...
Okay, maybe I am crazy, but if there is a serious lack of number of prints, why not just stagger the CSTS dates in each city and have the few prints that remain just make the rounds? Does it matter, truly, if we all sit down on the same day to watch our fave movie? If the money all goes to the same place, who cares WHEN we see it?
Genia, in fact it doesn't tend to be on the same day anyway. It just tends to be clustered around June 23 (Joss' birthday).

That said, it is true that they do tend to pile up on a few days since that was always the nature/definition of the event: Coordinated more-or-less-same-day screenings. (And even then, we've tended to have a few events in the couple of weeks before and after.)

That said, spreading them further out so the prints can be spread around (although that will depend upon very very very reliable shipping) is one of the options on the table for cities that cannot do DVD, or would greatly prefer not to.

The trick is to do that without having the events too far spread out from one another, otherwise it ceases to be a single event. In the end, I do believe a sensible balance is what we will end up with, as thigns get hashed out.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-04-19 22:44 ]


[ edited by Tinkrebel on 2008-04-20 23:43 ]
Please, everyone keep calm. It is an obstacle, one which we are dealing with. Everyone is working very hard to ensure as few cities as possible have to cancel.

A statement will be released soon, which we'll make sure gets posted over here too.

please note, Canada, the UK, and Aus are all fine for prints.

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