Australia's Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson recently admitted to 60 Minutes that she tried to take her own life after a torrent of fiercely personal attacks on Twitter pushed her over the edge. "I've never had death threats of this ferocity. … There were people threatening to burn down my home and kill my animals. It was just horrendous." After reportedly spending hours digitally defending herself from more than 100 inflammatory posts, Dawson signed off with the messages "Hope this ends the misery …" and "you win x," along with a picture of a hand holding pills. An hour later, an ambulance arrived at her house and took her to the hospital. Dawson said their violent words just wore her down. "It just triggered that feeling of helplessness when the trolls got to me. They got the better of me, and they won."
John Mendel of the suicide prevention organization Lifeline Australia, said of such assaults, "Quite often these cyber-trolls have a pack mentality. So if the victim has exposed themselves and shown a weakness, they often invite further attacks from other people who misuse social media for these purposes." [news.com.au, 9/3/12; skynews.com.au, 8/30/12]
Studio stalwart 20th Century Fox is shaking up the moviemaking industry with new distribution plans that will affect both its theatrical distribution and video releases. The studio has announced its intent to phase out theatrical distribution of new movies on 35mm film by the end of 2013, instead distributing all of its feature films via digital media. The change may put some theaters, many of them in small towns, out of business. Thom Reeves, owner of the 86-year-old Isis Theater in Crete, Neb., for instance, told The Huffington Post he'll likely be closing the theater because he hasn't been able to come up with the $85,000 he needs to go digital. Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, said the average cost of converting a traditional theater to digital is about $70,000 per screen. His organization estimates that roughly 60% of the nation's 5,750 theaters have already made that conversion.
Separately, 20th Century Fox has also announced it will begin making its movies available for download weeks before it releases them to DVD, Blu-ray and as video on demand rentals. The studio hopes doing so will increase movie download sales. First up: Prometheus, which will be available via Fox's new Digital HD program three weeks before it's released via the other three media. Other upcoming releases which first will be available via download for $15 include Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Watch and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Outlets for Fox's new Digital HD initiative include iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy's Cinema Now, Walmart's VUDU and Microsoft's Xbox. [huffingtonpost.com, 9/6/12; deadline.com, 9/7/12 stats]
Bachelorette, a movie that premiered in just a handful of theaters Sept. 7, has already been seen by thousands of people thanks to an upside-down marketing strategy. The Weinstein Co. actually made the movie available on iTunes and other on-demand video outlets weeks before the Bachelorette's official release. The payoff? It became the No. 1 movie rental on iTunes on Aug. 14. And some industry observers suggest it was a savvy move. "When I saw the movie at its first Sundance screening, I instantly knew that the buyers, hoping for another Bridesmaids, were let down," says Matt Patches of hollywood.com. "The movie is dark and twisted—funny, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Miraculously, instead of trying to use marketing to sell it as something that it wasn't, the group that eventually picked it up … used [video on demand] to put the movie in front of the audience that wanted to see it. They were able to sell the movie for what it was because their avenue of distribution didn't cost too much. That's promising for the world of independent movies." [abcnews.com, 9/5/12]
The brain trust behind The Matrix trilogy failed to secure studio funding for their forthcoming project Cloud Atlas, which cost $100 million to make. Why? Says Lana Wachowski (formerly Larry Wachowski), who is still professionally teamed up with brother Andy, "The problem with market-driven art-making is that movies are green-lit based on past movies. So, as nature abhors a vacuum, the system abhors originality. Originality cannot be economically modeled." The film, which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon, is being described as the most expensive independent film ever made. [huffingtonpost.com, 9/4/12]
The big story at MTV's Video Music Awards this year was that there was no big story. Rihanna and One Direction were the primary winners, but the show itself fizzled. And ratings were down 50% from last year, a drop some have attributed to the fact that the broadcast was moved from its traditional Sunday night slot to a Wednesday night during the Democratic National Convention. Others, though, believe MTV's signature awards show has become largely irrelevant. The Los Angeles Times' Reed Johnson said, "To make up for the fact that the VMAs have less and less to do with actual artistry, the award show's producers and presenters have become more and more adept at keeping TV ratings high and the Twitterati in a vicarious lather by shocking Middle America with some new bit of carefully choreographed outrageousness." This year's show apparently lacked even that kind of sordid appeal. [latimes.com, 9/5/12]
Selling 69,000 units, former dc Talk rapper tobyMac topped the Billboard 200 album chart last week with his fifth solo effort, Eye on It. It's the first Christian album to hit No. 1 in nearly 15 years and only the third ever to accomplish that feat. The last album categorized as Christian to reach the top slot was LeAnn Rimes' You Light Up My Life—Inspirational Songs in September 1997. The only other Christian album to top the chart was Bob Carlisle's Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grey) in June 1997. [billboard.com, 9/5/12 stats]
DC Comics has announced that a new member of the Green Lantern Corps will be an Arab-American Muslim superhero who's struggling to cope with post-9/11 stereotypes. The character, Simon Baz, was created by Geoff Johns, an Arab-American of Lebanese ancestry. In the story, Baz is 10 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, then grows up in the shadow of suspicion generated by his religion and race. "One of the things I really wanted to show," says Johns, "was [9/11's] effect on Simon and his family in a very negative way." [huffingtonpost.com, 9/4/12]
Actor and martial arts master Chuck Norris has put his stamp of approval on the small Christian film Last Ounce of Courage (in theaters this week), which deals with a Vietnam War veteran's struggle to defend religious liberties in America. Norris said in a press release, "I neither star in, nor do I have an above-the-line credit on, or other affiliation with, Last Ounce of Courage. … Yet allowing the use of my 'Official Seal of Approval' is the least I can do to support a project so consistent with my core values and life principles."
In a separate interview with Fox News, Last Ounce of Courage star Marshall Teague said of the film's themes, "It's about faith, family and freedom. … We've had theaters filled with people openly weeping. After one screening, a gentleman came up to me and told me he had served, and that he had been waiting 85 years for someone to stand up there and say what I said. … Movies like this aren't considered 'fashionable,' and people are afraid of being jumped on for taking a strong stand. … In my lifetime, I have never seen more cruelty directed toward people who speak their minds. This is not the country I was born in, this is not America. And that really bothers me." [Assist News Service, 8/30/12; foxnews.com, 8/27/12]