Ben Fritz

Aug. 22, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.

DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

Hero Complex Exclusive: Art from Action Comics #1 variant cover from DC's "The New 52." (Jim Lee/DC Comics)
DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio was at a comic-book store in New Jersey when he noticed something alarming. Over the course of an hour, only two customers came in. And, this was a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for most retailers. “The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.” Comic-book stores have become increasingly barren, with sales dropping consistently over the last three years and down an additional 7% so far in 2011. Theories abound as to why. Some blame convoluted story lines, while others point to cynical publicity stunts like killing key characters only to bring them back a few months later. But the main culprit more likely lies beyond the page: Today’s youth is far more interested in spending its leisure hours in the […]
Aug. 02, 2011 | 6:55 a.m.

Warners: ‘Green Lantern 2’ will be edgier; Flash has solid script

Green Lantern and The Flash (featured image)
Green Lantern may have a future on the big screen, but likely not with the same director. Despite the big-budget superhero movie’s disappointing box office performance so far, Warner Bros. executives still want to find a way to make a sequel work. Bringing superheroes from its DC Comics unit to the big screen is a top priority for the studio, and executives believe that the problem with “Green Lantern” was in execution, not concept. They even have ideas on how to turn things around next time. “We had a decent opening so we learned there is an audience,” said Warner Bros. film group President Jeff Robinov, pointing to the film’s box office debut of $53 million. “To go forward we need to make it a little edgier and darker with more emphasis on action…. And we have to find a […]
July 18, 2011 | 12:23 p.m.

‘Harry Potter’ beats Batman — but will the Dark Knight rise again?

Batman and Harry Potter cp
Hogwarts vs. Gotham City? Harry Potter and Batman fans will never find out who would beat whom on the battlefield, but the young wizard has proved himself dominant at the box office with the biggest global opening weekend in film history. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2″ raked in just over $169 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada, according to a final tally Monday morning by Warner Bros. That’s significantly more than the previous record for the biggest-ever weekend at the North American box office, set by “The Dark Knight” three years ago with $158.6 million. The David Yates-directed fantasy film also set a record for the biggest international opening with a massive $309-million take in 59 foreign markets. And that’s with China still yet to come. Call it magic or chalk it up to the […]
July 11, 2011 | 6:52 a.m.

‘Star Trek’ app: Does your iPad need an Enterprising spirit?

PADD
Let’s face it, the Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs), those tablet computers that Geordi LaForge and Dr. Beverly Crusher were always carrying around on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” were essentially Starfleet-issued iPads.  Actually, they weren’t even as tricked out as the iPad — no video chat, no 3G (because they were always handing them around) and by all appearances, not a single game, despite the obvious need for Angry Romulan Birds of Prey  during slow shifts down in engineering. So it only makes sense that CBS Interactive is launching an app today that essentially turns an iPad into a PADD. The PADD app features an interface that’s an exact reproduction of the LCARS interface used on the various “Star Trek” series. But instead of transmitting data and order for Starfleet officers, it features tons of information from the shows, including aliens, ships, technologies and episode guides. […]
May 22, 2011 | 6:22 p.m.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ rides 3-D prices to $346 million worldwide

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Today’s box office is ruled by tricky tides — pricey tickets, especially for 3-D and Imax screenings make historical comparisons a slippery business — which is why “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” can described as a record success (the film scored the biggest international opening of all time with $256 million in theaters beyond the U.S. and Canada) and also a bit of a disappointment (it fell short of the domestic opening weekend performance of the second and third “Pirates” films). To make sense of it all, we turn to Ben Fritz of The Times’ Company Town blog, who goes into the numbers: Captain Jack Sparrow no longer rules the high seas at domestic movie theaters, but took home record-breaking booty overseas with the biggest international opening of all time.  “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” debuted to $90.1 million in […]
May 17, 2011 | 1:52 p.m.

L.A. Noire arrives today with arresting ambitions: ‘It’s a redemption piece’

noire-cp
For people who have played video games the way Aaron Staton has, L.A. Noire will be something very, very different. The actor best known for his role as Ken Cosgrove in “Mad Men” says when he plays video games, he sticks to the most popular fare: “I played a lot of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto games. The only one I got near completing was Vice City.” Like most popular video games, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City features a lot of shooting. It’s one of the few game-play techniques – along with racing, fighting, and platform jumping – that designers have truly mastered and gamers have shown they love. But in L.A. Noire, which stars Staton and hits stores Tuesday, players do something very different: They interrogate. Australian development studio Team Bondi spent 82 days working with Staton and […]
March 16, 2011 | 6:40 a.m.

Homefront: Can THQ’s most expensive game occupy fan attention?

homefront
As a small child, Danny Bilson played with rubber prop guns on the set of “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Andy Griffith Show” while his father directed episodes. Forty-five years later, Bilson is still playing games in Hollywood, but now hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. As executive vice president of core games at THQ Inc., the 54-year-old former screenwriter is overseeing a business upon which the Agoura Hills video game publisher has staked its future. Once known for lightweight game adaptations of movies and TV shows such as “Cars” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” and World Wrestling Entertainment smackdowns, THQ is responding to market trends and a flagging stock price by transforming itself into a publisher of big-budget action titles. On Tuesday, it releases Homefront, an ambitious action game about America under North Korean occupation that’s the first original project […]
Feb. 15, 2011 | 11:20 a.m.

Teaching ‘Tron’ and guarding ‘Pirates’? Brand consistency in transmedia age

pirates
Ben Fritz covers the business of show business for the Los Angeles Times; here’s his latest — a report on a consultant team that helps studios keep their flagship brands on a consistent course… With their mania for film franchises, leading studios are behaving more like packaged goods marketers than the showmen of yore in pumping out movies, and appear more interested in taking direction from fanboys, brand managers and multimedia consultants. So the time appears ripe for consultants such as Jeff Gomez and Mark Pensavalle, co-founders of Starlight Runner Entertainment. Their job: To make sure that stories and characters remain consistent as a movie is reincarnated as, say, a TV series, a video game, a theme park attraction or an online virtual world. Their specialty is called transmedia, a term with roots in academia that has become the latest buzzword […]
Jan. 12, 2011 | 4:02 a.m.

‘Harry Potter': Will Hogwarts join DC Universe as online world for gamers?

Voldemort (400)
After years of waiting, fans of massively multiplayer games can finally visit Gotham City and Metropolis — but they’re not getting  closer to the corridors of Hogwarts. The Tuesday launch of DC Universe Online is high stakes for both developer/publisher Sony Online Entertainment and DC’s parent, Warner Bros. , but it turns out that it’s not their only dream project when it comes to massively multiplayer online (MMO) video games.  In 2007, Warner and Sony were in negotiations to do an MMO based in the world of Harry Potter, according to people familiar with the business dealings. The publishing and movie phenomenon would have been the perfect property to draw young players and fantasy fans of all ages into an online world where they could cast spells, attend Hogwarts and battle Voldemort together. However, the negotiations fell apart and Harry Potter MMO remains a pipe dream. […]
Jan. 11, 2011 | 5:00 a.m.

DC Universe Online: $50 million gamble aims for audience that World of Warcraft ‘can’t touch’

batman4
In creating an online video game based on Superman and the others in the DC Comics pantheon, it was no problem giving the characters the power to stop a locomotive or leap tall buildings in a single bound. They just couldn’t run faster than a speeding bullet. The developers of DC Universe Online encountered an unexpected problem when they set about creating the video game: Superheroes and villains that shared the Man of Steel’s velocity could also outrun bullets and dodge missiles fired to eliminate them. Players would quickly grow bored. “If people are always running away,” said Chris Cao, the game’s director at Sony Online Entertainment, “it makes the game less fun.” That hiccup, along with a multitude of others, added to a development process that was itself epic in proportion. Players create their own hero or villain and […]
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