How Hard is It to Learn Japanese?

For about a month and a half I have been dating this Half Japanese girl that I met in the computer science lab at school. It took a lot longer than that to convince her to let me step up to the batter’s box. At any rate she speaks Japanese pretty much perfectly, even though she has not ever lived there. She watches things like jdrama that she gets off the internet, but with no subtitles. So I have no idea what is really going on, beyond what little you can tell from following the action. She is not really very interested in teaching me how to understand the language, although some of the time she will explain what is being said. At any rate this obviously takes all of the enjoyment out of watching a TV show. It is not like she is going to change, this is one of her favorite things. So I need to learn how to figure it out. Continue reading

And the Award for Most Movie TV Production Goes to

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The Motion Picture Association of America takes pride in its impact on America each year. On any given year, the MPAA projects that $40 billion is spent with over 330,000 American businesses through film and television productions. In 2013, the industry supported 1.9 million jobs and $113 billion in wages paid out.

The industry that was once dominated by Los Angeles and New York has changed to see other cities and even other countries — we’re talking about you, Vancouver — become major players. Incentives have changed the economic impact for some states, with six recording more than $1 billion in movie and television-related wages in 2012-13. (Illinois, which just hit $1 billion, is not profiled.)

1. California

California’s $18.2 billion in wages came largely from Hollywood, where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this weekend is giving out the Oscars for achievement in the movies. In 2012-13, California was the setting for 318 films and 347 TV series, according to the MPAA. Those productions created 186,853 direct jobs and 129,789 production-related jobs.

Despite its iconic status and constant production, California continues to lose ground to other states and

Reasons Subscribers Love Netflix Latest Quarter

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Things are off to a great start for Netflix (NFLX) in 2015. The company served up 10 billion hours of digital content during the first three months of the year, and the stock hit a new all-time high after Wednesday’s quarterly report.

Good news for Netflix has translated into great news for its shareholders, but consumers are also getting in on the fun. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that a financially thriving Netflix translates into a better deal for its subscribers.

1. The Content Vault Is Getting Deeper. Netflix’s subscriber base is growing. There were nearly 62.3 million streaming accounts worldwide at the end of March, up 13.9 million over the past year and a hearty 4.9 million through just the first three months of 2015.

Serving a growing audience is important, because Netflix invests some of that incremental revenue in more content. Netflix now has $9.8 billion in streaming content obligations, up from $7.1 billion a year earlier and $5.7 billion the year before that. That’s the beauty of the scalable nature of digital delivery. Subscribers are

Back to the Future Day How the Movie Predictions Hold Up

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At least, that’s what those celebrating “Back to the Future Day” say.

In the second installment of the popular trilogy, 1989’s “Back to the Future Part II” characters Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) land their time traveling DeLorean in what is now our present day, Oct. 21, 2015.

Through their eyes, we see the future envisioned by producer Steven Spielberg and director Robert Zemeckis. Through our eyes we can see how close they got — and in some cases, what we got instead.

Time Travel

No, we still don’t have time machines, and we don’t even have scientists agreeing on whether we could time travel, but that doesn’t mean we stopped experimenting with the possibility, as Space.com reports. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia recently simulated how time-traveling photons might behave, the Daily Mail reported. Their research suggests that if we ever could travel back through time, we could deal with the grandfather paradox cited in “Back to the Future”: If we stop our grandparents from meeting, we wouldn’t be born to travel back in time.

Flying

The Equalizer Exacts Rare Box Office Vengeance for Sony

Remakes and adaptations are classic fare for Hollywood executives who want a stream of reliable hits. From novels to video games to theme park rides to comic books, studios will go anywhere to find a bankable idea. Even television, despite its mixed history as a source for box office hits.

According to Box Office Mojo, TV adaptations account for exactly zero of the top 50 domestic and global box office performances. “Star Trek” (77th, $257.7 million domestic) and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (69th, $694.7 million worldwide) get closest.

So when “The Equalizer” — based on the 1980s TV drama of the same name — banked the fourth-best September opening in U.S. box office history last weekend, it amounted to an uncommon — and badly needed — victory for Sony’s (SNE) Columbia Pictures.

Box Office Vengeance

Starring Denzel Washington as an ex-CIA officer trying to atone for his sins, “The Equalizer” earned $34.1 million to top last weekend’s U.S. box office haul — the fourth-best September opening on record, Box Office Mojo reports.Audiences polled on opening night gave the film an A- CinemaScore. At Rotten Tomatoes, 60 percent of critics and 82 percent of viewers rated “The Equalizer” fresh. In each case,

Mom Wants Kardashian Kids Line Banished From Babies R Us

Is the idea of a baby in diapers rocking a pleather miniskirt so she could be just like the Kardashians enough to rock your sensibilities? Could you even imagine such a thing being for sale at your local Babies R Us?Well, the short, short skirt — with attached diaper cover — really is for sale at the chain. And so are the Leatherette Panel Leggings.

Check out this description: “Your biker babe will thrill in Kardashian Kids Girls Leatherette Panel Leggings!” The leggings are made of cotton, spandex, polyester, and polyurethane. Polyurethane. And these are not Halloween outfits.

There’s also a healthy dose of leopard print outfits, bibs and pajamas. And there’s faux fur and even gold metallic pants, described like this: “Who’s that lady? Oh, just the goddess of glam in these Kardashian Kids Girls’ Lurex Woven Pants! The shimmery gold material adds major wow factor to any outfit, so pair it with a fashion top to give her a funky-fab look in a flash!”

To be fair, it’s not all trashy, but a Kansas mom found enough of it offensive that she launched a Change.org petition to try to get the Toys R Us division to stop selling the

As Multiplexes Slump IMAX Thinks Big and Grows Bigger

Americans aren’t going to the movies the way we used to. There were 1.34 billion multiplex tickets sold in this country last year. That’s a big number, but attendance has generally been shrinking since peaking at 1.58 billion in 2002. In fact, over the past 15 years there has only been one year — 2011 — in which exhibitors drew fewer customers than they did in 2013.

This year is shaping up to be even worse, but one company is making the most of the situation. IMAX (IMAX) has been able to grow its fleet of super-sized projection systems, thanks to theater patrons willing to pay a premium for the experience.

IMAX posted hearty third-quarter results on Thursday. Revenue climbed 18 percent, fueled in part by a 12 percent uptick in the number of theaters around the world with IMAX screens. Adjusted earnings grew ever faster, soaring 83 percent to a better-than-expected showing of 11 cents a share. IMAX has now beaten analyst profit targets in four of the past five quarters.

You’re not seeing this kind of growth at traditional multiplex operators. AMC (AMC), Cinemark (CNK), and Regal (RGC) are all expected to post declining quarterly revenue when they report

Can Amazon and Netflix Bounce Back

Two of the market’s biggest dot-com rock stars have had a rough 2014. Amazon.com (AMZN) — the world’s leading online retailer — has seen its stock shed a quarter of its value this year. Netflix (NFLX) was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 companies in 2013, but this year it’s been a different story. The leading premium provider of streaming video has seen its shares slump nearly 10 percent so far this year.

Netflix’s slide may not seem so ominous, but keep in mind that the stock has shed nearly a third of its value since peaking just three months ago. That’s a big drop in a short time, rivaling the disappointment Amazon investors have faced this year.

Thankfully, history is on their side. Amazon hasn’t posted back-to-back years of stock declines since 2001. Netflix has yet to post two consecutive years of negative returns since going public in 2002. This certainly doesn’t guarantee that either company’s stock will bounce back in 2015, but it does show that Amazon and Netflix have been able to bounce back from adversity.

Bang a Gong, Amazon

At least one Wall Street pro thinks the leading online retailer will bounce back in the year ahead.

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Ideas to Save the Multiplex and the Future of Movies

There’s less gold in silver screens these days. Box office watcher Rentrak is reporting that ticket revenue in the U.S. and Canada slipped 5.3 percent in 2014. Ticket prices are creeping higher with every year, so the decline in multiplex attendance is actually even more pronounced than Rentrak’s revenue tally. You have to go back to 1995 to find the last time that movie theaters sold fewer than the roughly 1.25 billion tickets sold last year.

How bad was 2014 for exhibitors? Well, Disney’s (DIS) “Guardians of the Galaxy” was the top draw, ringing up a little more than $333 million in domestic ticket sales. You have to go back to 2001 to find a year in which the highest-grossing film made less than that.

Something’s not right at the multiplex. Let’s go over a few ways to make it right.

1. Improve the In-Theater Experience

The home theater experience has improved dramatically over the past decade. High-def, Blu-ray and now 4K Ultra HD make pictures screened at home richer than ever before. The popularity of streaming services opens up the options beyond what’s on TV, available on demand, or in one’s physical media collection. Even something as simple as the DVR

Meet the Big Successful Movie Studio Without a Blockbuster

It’s an article of faith that the big Hollywood movie studios spend much of their capital and energy making huge, bloated tentpole films. By and large that’s still true, but last year there was one notable exception.

Comcast’s (CMCSA) Universal, one of the oldest of the old-line Hollywood movie houses, didn’t have a single monster-budget film in release in its fiscal 2014, which traditionally runs from January to December. In spite of that, Comcast says the division is on track to record its most profitable year ever.

Once in a Century

It’s quite a feat to claim that all-time record. That’s because, in one form or another, Universal has been in the film business for over a century.omcast’s definition of “profitability” is a bit loose — specifically, it’s referring to operating cash flow (i.e., the money generated by its normal business activity). On a year-over-year basis, that metric more than doubled in the first nine months of last year, rising to $634 million from the previous $291 million.

Regardless, that winning effort helped lift Comcast’s adjusted net profit by 11 percent to $1.9 billion. More impressively, the film unit’s win also came in a down year for movies generally, with total annual

What Went Wrong at DreamWorks Animation

The feature films released by DreamWorks Animation (DWA) are typically frothy entertainments that feature happy endings. In real life, though, the studio itself might not have such a cheerful final act.

The company has had to take writedowns for four of its last six films, and it’s posted a net loss in two of its preceding four reported quarters. Recently, it announced layoffs that will send around 20 percent of its staff packing. Overtures to potential buyers haven’t yet succeeded. How did the company fall this far?

Different Movie, Same Ending?

In some ways, these developments shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the entity that DreamWorks Animation was spun off from (and derives its name from) was pegged for major success only to fall far short of the mark itself.

This was DreamWorks SKG, an omnibus entertainment company founded in 1994 that was supposed to be a major power in film, TV and music.

On the film end, the idea was to create a new big-time live-action and animation studio that could stand toe to toe with Hollywood majors like Disney (DIS), Viacom’s (VIA) Paramount and 21st Century Fox’s (FOX) 20th Century Fox.

But DreamWorks SKG, in spite of a few successful movies

Cue the Closing Credits on Going Out to the Movies

Dinner and a movie used to be the standard date night in America. But that’s changed as home theaters have gotten better and the instant gratification of on-demand content has spread. The result may be a long, slow death spiral for the movie theater, once an iconic part of entertainment in America.

The Decline of the Box Office

For more than a decade, box office ticket sales have been in a slow and steady decline in the U.S. Ticket sales peaked in 2002 at 1.58 billion when the average cost of a ticket was $5.81. In the just over 12 years since, annual sales have fallen 20 percent to 1.27 billion last year and ticket prices have jumped 43 percent to an average $8.30. For a family of four, that means a $33.20 bill just to get in the theater.

From the industry’s perspective, the problem has been masked by rising ticket prices, which have kept total box office revenue fairly flat. But if attendance continues to dwindle, the movie theater will be in trouble long-term.For Hollywood, the downward trends at the box office don’t have an easy fix because a number of factors have driven consumers away from the theater.

AMC Theatres Is Trying to Save the Multiplex

These are tough times to be a film exhibitor. Movie theater operators in this country sold 1.26 billion tickets last year, and that’s the lowest box office tally since 1995. That compares to the 1.34 billion guests that the industry entertained a year earlier, and even that was a problematic performance.

The industry peaked in 2002 when it sold 1.58 billion admissions. There are plenty of possible explanations for the malaise that multiplex chains are experiencing today. Home theaters have improved dramatically with the rollout of high-def, 3-D and now 4K televisions. Patrons have tired of escalating ticket prices and costly concessions. Some will also argue that the quality of the product has also deteriorated.

One way or another, the industry is going to have to find a way to elevate its game. Folks aren’t coming, and AMC Entertainment’s (AMC) quarterly report on Tuesday shows that even the leaders that are seen as innovators are struggling. However, AMC Entertainment is also getting a lot of things right, and shareholders are enjoying the feature presentation.

Extreme Makeover: Multiplex Edition

Shares of AMC Entertainment hit new highs this week after the parent company of the AMC Theatres chain posted better-than-expected results. The headline of

Amazon Studios Will Be Making Oscar Contenders Soon

Not everyone cheered when Amazon.com (AMZN) revealed its plans to make movies. Why? Some fear that films are too risky an investment compared to episodic programming.

There’s certainly logic in that. Netflix’s (NFLX) initial $100 million bet on “House of Cards” bought two seasons and 26 episodes. A $100 million movie would buy 90 to 120 minutes of something that offers zero guarantee of box office success. Nevertheless, my study of cinema’s most acclaimed films says Amazon investors have a lot less to fear than the skeptics might think.

What Amazon Is Really Doing

Before we get to the numbers, let’s review what we know about Amazon’s plans. Studio executives aim to fund and bring to theaters 12 movies each year, putting the company on par with majors such as Disney (DIS), 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Paramount Pictures, Sony (SNE) and Time Warner (TWX), all of which distributed at least 13 movies last year. Features will stream on Amazon Prime within four to eight weeks of theatrical release.

Don’t expect theater operators to like that model. Shared-revenue agreements tend to skew at least 90 percent of the gross in favor of film distributors through the first two weeks and 80 percent or

Which Studio Has Most to Gain Sunday Not One You Expect

Most actors will say it’s an honor just to be nominated for an Oscar. But when it comes to the movies themselves — and to the benefits for the studios that make them — there’s a big difference between winners and nominees.

2013 film nominees added just under $168 million in U.S. grosses from the date their privileged status became known through the end of their theater runs, according to historical data supplied by Box Office Mojo. Winner “12 Years a Slave” accounted for $17.6 million of that total — a better than 45 percent boost to its domestic earnings. (That year’s nominees averaged a 26 percent gain.)

The True Value of an Oscar

For studios, the Oscar effect is like a bonus. Release a film that does well critically, and theaters keep it around longer, adding earnings that would otherwise be lost to new films taking their turn in the cineplex. This Sunday, one studio has more to gain than its peers.

We’ll get to who I’m talking about in a minute. First, let’s review the financial benefits of an Oscar win, drawn from my analysis of four years’ worth of results:

  • On average, Best Picture nominees see a 36.9

Why DreamWorks Hates Cinderella

Walt Disney (DIS) is hoping that to mine gold out of glass slippers this weekend. “Cinderella” — a live-action film based on the family entertainment giant’s animated classic — hits thousands of multiplex screens across the country Friday.

It’s not packing much of a punch in terms of movies stars. “Downton Abbey’s” Lily James and “Game of Thrones’ ” Richard Madden star as the fairy tale couple. It should still be a Hollywood smash. Disney has fared well in recent years with spinning some of its hand-drawn animated fare into modern flicks. From “Alice in Wonderland” to rebooting “Sleeping Beauty” with “Maleficent,” Disney’s been milking its enviable catalog of content. It also doesn’t hurt that the Disney Princess toy line has been a huge success, making the seemingly timeless “Cinderella” popular again with young girls.

Disney is rolling these days. The stock hit an all-time high earlier this month. The same can’t be said for its theatrical animation rival DreamWorks Animation (DWA), probably the only company out there that dreads the arrival of “Cinderella.”

A DreamWorks Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

DreamWorks Animation has fallen on hard times. A few rough movie releases and the mismanagement of costs resulted in a painful

When He Knew Sex in the City Would Be a Hit

By his mid 30s, Darren Star was already a massive success in television, having created “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place.” But his greatest achievement was yet to come: “Sex and the City.” In AOL’s original series “Inspired,” Darren discussed creating the show, what his aspirations were, and how the series and its subsequent films exceeded all of his expectations.

“ ’Beverly Hills 90210′ and ‘Melrose Place’ were big popular successes,” he told AOL. “But I loved the idea of working at a network where the bar was all about how good the show was, not what your numbers were.”

Star also discussed the moment in an early episode when he realized that “Sex in the City” would fulfill its promise. “I remember being in the editing room and watching this episode where all the women were all off on their separate journeys. But at the end of all these separate journeys they all met each other at this movie theater,” said Star. “And I thought wow: that to me is the heart of the show. It’s about how they can have these struggles, and be beaten up, and have their ups and their downs, but in the end they’re just

Are You Ready for a Star Wars or Marvel Cable Channel

Disney (DIS) has spent billions acquiring Marvel and “Star Wars” parent Lucasfilm, and it’s just starting to monetize its purchased collection of superheroes and sci-fi stars. We’ve seen movies, consumer products, and theme park integration — and the family entertainment giant is just getting started.

There’s plenty of real estate left to conquer, and Disney’s next big step could be television.

“We have said that with these channels and these brands — ESPN, ABC, Disney, maybe even down the road something related to Star Wars and Marvel — we do have an ability as a company to take product, specifically filmed entertainment, television, movies, directly to consumers,” CEO Bob Iger said during last week’s conference call when asked about Disney’s chances to roll out its own streaming service.

Wait a minute. Disney is starting to talk up the potential of Star Wars or Marvel television channels being on the same level as its ESPN, ABC, and Disney Channel juggernauts? This could get interesting.

Green With Hulk Envy

Disney rolling out a Marvel Channel or Star Wars Network probably wouldn’t come as a surprise, especially if we’re talking about streaming television, where adding channels is far easier to do than with conventional pay-TV access,

Major Reasons Why Television Viewing Is Way Down

Traditionally, fall premiere week for broadcast television networks has been a sparkling time of peak sampling as millions upon millions of viewers tune-in to new and returning shows.

Save for 16 million viewers gobbling up Fox (FOXA) hip-hop drama “Empire” last week for its second season premiere, a more than 60 percent leap in total viewership since its series debut of 9.9 million viewers in January, according to Nielsen stats, this year’s fall premiere week not only experienced sagging ratings, but fewer male millennial viewers. New primetime shows, from Fox’s Tuesday sorority spoof “Scream Queens” with a 1.7 Nielsen rating in the 18-to-49 adult demographic to Comcast-owned (CMCSA) NBC’s Thursday drama “The Player” with a 1.2 rating, fell limp.

So what are some major reasons TV viewing is down?For one, glut. An estimated 400 scripted shows are expected to be broadcast on TV and online services such as Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon.com (AMZN), up from 211 on the air in 2009, according to The New York Times. Experts say a glut of TV content and viewing platforms as well as a varied range of good and bad shows have thinned out linear TV audiences. “Appointment TV is dead. It’s a

5 Horror Movies

It’s that creepy time of the year when Hollywood tries to frighten you. Several horror movies will be making their theatrical debuts in the coming weeks, hoping to cash in on the Halloween frenzy that tends to dominate October.

Let’s go over some of the more promising slated releases and then wrap things up with a few tips to save money as you test your jump-scare mettle at the local multiplex.

‘The Final GirlsThe first of October’s horror flicks is more campy than creepy. “The Final Girls” stars Taissa Farmiga from “American Horror Story” fame as a girl who gets transported back to a 1980s camp-based slasher flick that starred her now-deceased mother. There’s humor. There’s blood. There’s family bonding. Think of it as “The Purple Rose of Cairo” meets “Scream” and you will be in the ballpark of what to expect.

The film gets its title from the slasher flick trend where the last female character left standing — the final girl — is often the one that does in the baddie at the end of the movie.

‘Crimson PeakIf you’re hungry for highbrow horror, the art-house pick this season will be Guillermo del Toro’s latest release. “Crimson Peak” details an

Has Disney Lost Its Mind With Its Latest Annual Pass Hike

Disney (DIS) is no stranger to price hikes at its theme parks. It’s been raising the cost of its one-day tickets to Disney World on an annual basis since 1989, and more often than not that means eventually boosting the price for its annual passes.

Some are arguing that Disney may have gone too far with its latest move, jacking up the price for a full year of access to Disneyland by as much as 35 percent. The increases at Disney World weren’t as severe, but all comparable annual passes have gone up in the double digits.

It’s not just annual pass holders feeling the pain: Your car is going to be paying more the next time it wants to visit one of Disney’s six domestic theme parks. Disneyland parking prices increased by a buck, with Disney World’s parking lots rolling out a steep $3 hike.

Use the Force, Luke

The increases are substantial, and they might seem to be coming at the most unlikely time. Disney’s boldest expansion project — the 14-acre Star Wars Land that will spice things up at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California — is still several years away.

Some of Disney’s parks are