Relativity Media's descent into bankruptcy has been spiraling for many years, almost since its beginning according to some analysts. When the company first emerged back in 2004, it was greeted with a mixture of high hope and deep doubt. Relativity promised new approaches and a vague claim to modern...

Hollywood's obsession with China was a major theme of 2014. China represents the second largest film market in the world and has become a major market focus for numerous big budget American movies. It has also emerged as a bit of an enigma as Hollywood tries to second guess what the Chinese want. To Hollywood, the model for dealing with China going forward is the massive success of Transformers: Age of Extinction in its Chinese release. In the Hollywood master plan, China simply becomes a major market and financial backer for all things Hollywood. But like the old joke about two Hollywood moguls-Enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about me?"-certain factors get in the way of Hollywood's one-way-street strategic plans. Things like, China's tight control over the release of foreign movies every year; the sometimes slow payment process; the social and political concerns of the Chinese government and their censorship powers;. as well as the very real differences in film sensibility between American and Chinese audiences.

Since the original post was written, the Sony Pictures train-wreck has continued as the first boxcars plow through the rail-side shopping mall. It is becoming a disaster worthy of a Michael Bay extravaganza (minus the fiery explosions). So far: Federal investigators and the United States State Department have...

There is an old Hollywood joke about a studio called Miracle Pictures. The punchline is the company's motto: “If it's good, it's a Miracle.”

Sony can now change their name. As the fallout continues over the massive hack of data from Sony Pictures, the damage will reach levels that presumably will weaken – if not demolish – any chance for Sony to effectively continue doing business in the film industry. Right now it is hard to assess the damage accurately only because it is still under way and the whole thing resembles a slow motion train wreak with boxcars still flying through the air.

Screenwriters are the most fortunate people in the film industry. Fortunate, because they have so many other people out there just aching to tell them what to do. I was recently reminded of that point while reading Danny Rubin's blog piece How to Write Groundhog Day: 10 Rules for Screenwriters. Since Rubin actually wrote Groundhog Day, he has the advantage of having an honest to goodness major movie under his belt. That is more than some folks handing out advice (keep this in mind when signing up for a screenwriting class). Rubin's article has become a must read; and, to be honest, his advice is actually pretty good. The same is true of Colson Whitehead's article How to Write, printed several years ago in The New York Times. Heck, there are nuggets of wisdom to be found in most of the thousands of articles that turn up in a Google search on the topic. Writers are blessed or what?

The idea that big budget movies never lose money (no matter how they bomb at the box office) because of merchandising is one of the great myths of filmmaking. The merchandising concept was best summed up by Mel Brooks in one of the few funny scenes in Spaceballs. The formula for success is simple. Make a big expensive movie full of marketable characters and gimmicks. Cut licensing deals with toy manufacturers and cereal companies and fast-food restaurants across the globe. Then kick back and watch the money pour in. Once upon a time, it actually worked that way. Years ago, I saw the living embodiment of this approach. It was just a few weeks before the opening of the 1989 Batman and, while driving across town, I noticed a gentleman waiting at a bus stop in his Batman sneakers, Batman t-shirt and Batman ball cap while sipping a large Batman Slurpee. I suspect he had also eaten a bowl of Batman cereal for breakfast. So the old school theory sometimes works.

Marvel Studios has just announced phase three of their master plan. Good, because we can now announce that the commercial Hollywood film industry is dead. All we need is for Stan Lee to play the fat lady waiting in the wing for her song. The problem isn't necessarily the Marvel Studios plan. So far, it has been a marvelous plan. Beginning with the Phase One production of Iron Man in 2008, they successfully weaved together and nurtured multiple characters and titles in a gradual development steered toward the 2012 blockbuster Marvel's The Avengers. Phase Two has repeated, and even expanded the approach (and box office) as it heads toward next summer's release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. To be honest, Marvel Studios has done an amazing feat based upon a fearless commitment and a masterful sense of long term strategy. These are exceeding rare traits in modern commercial Hollywood. For that I congratulate them. I also have to add a soft but firm “Damn you!” Why? Because Marvel Studios has taken the entire commercial American film industry hostage.

One of the more "fun" aspects of evolution is its sheer unpredictability. Sure, mathematics and chaos theory provide some analytical parameters, but evolution is mostly wild and woolly. Which is something to keep in mind when reading recent news reports on the rapid changes taking place in film. A diverse ensemble of voices and messages can be heard on the current and impending future of the art and industry. Some may prove to be profound. Others will be less so. Taken together, the chorus they form is more significant than any individual part. First up is the recent pronouncement by James Spader that the era of classic films is over. Not just doomed (which is what the headline at says) but finished. Over! As gone as the sled at the end of Citizen Kane.

Harvey Weinstein has scored a first. He has succeeded in getting a movie shut out of theaters before it is even finished being made. In the past, he at least waited until the MPAA got a look at it. I can't wait to see the fit he will throw this time. Especially since the issue will effect the entire future of film distribution. With his recent announcement that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will be simultaneously released on both Netflix (via video on demand) and IMAX (to theaters), Weinstein has just fired the biggest shot yet in the rapidly emerging war for digital distribution. The response has been incredible. The three biggest theater chains have all announced their intentions to not show the film. In turn, the parent company of the AMC theater chain, the Chinese firm Dalian Wanda, is hinting that they might also refuse to show the movie in China. Not since 2006, when Steven Soderbergh tried to release the film Bubble on the same day to both theaters and cable TV, has there been such a massive negative reaction. But Weinstein is extremely committed to pursuing the digital approach. Less widely reported is the current handling by The Weinstein Company of the British film One Chance. Before its national release on October 10, the movie is being made available on Yahoo! Screen. Viewer response to this movie has been slightly more positive than the critical reviews, and the advanced digital release just might create some positive word of mouth for the title.