OCT 2011 UPDATE 1: Toby Mensforth to be new Executive Director of Forest Exploration Center, Milwaukee

Here’s the 411:

This completely contrived and invalidated statement is all thanks to Gretchen Jaspering, who has shown that when a GSCA leader exits their post to start their own firm, inevitably he or she will end up running a science museum somewhere.

For almost a decade, Mike Sullivan ran the Gulf Coast Exploreum in Mobile, AL.  He and his wife Eleanor were two of the folks I most admired in the industry.  Originally founded in 1976 by the Junior League of Mobile, the Exploreum grew to be an industry leader in how science centers operate.  Following Sullivan’s departure in 2009, an extensive search began for a replacement.  And this month, another person I admire, was appointed to the position – the former VP of Sales and Marketing for the St Louis Science Center and former President of the GSCA (where she oversaw the merger of the GSTA with the LFCA) – Gretchen Jaspering.

The Blog wishes her well in this new position and looks forward to seeing what initiatives she has in store.

Now on to the industry changing saga of Greg and Mike.

Back in March, Greg MacGillivray told delegates to the GSCA Film Expo in Los Angeles that his firm, MacGillivray Freeman Films, had entered into negotiations with IMAX and Warner Brothers to distribute and market MFF’s upcoming films.  A month later, I was flown to the East Coast to interview with a prestigious institution and one of the matters that came up was if it is was in their best interest to keep their affiliation with IMAX or to switch to another system.  My recommendation was to wait and see what happened with the MFF deal and if this would make future MFF films exclusive to IMAX system operators (much like IMAX produced and distributed documentaries currently are).

Lo and behold, The Blog has recently acquired a copy of a letter sent from Greg MacGillivray to theater operators that states:

[Some theater operators] were concerned that our films would not be available to non-IMAX branded theatres. This is true, but it is also good business for all of us as I feel we
could never sell our educational documentaries successfully for many years by
relying on an XYZ (new) Brand. By continuing to support the IMAX Brand, our
customers, I feel, will continue to purchase tickets…

…I think this alliance will be of benefit to everyone, including other film
producers, because it will help grow and stabilize our industry and lead to
long-term prosperity. The only possible losers will be digital projection
companies which are not associated with IMAX, and I apologize to them, while
encouraging them to continue to improve their projection quality.

Now if there’s one thing that I know from being chased by two armed Humvees from a nonexistent military base in the Nevada desert, it’s that conspiracies do exist.  There’s this fellow that started off selling laser systems to theaters before joining MFF, where he ended up in charge of film distribution and business development.  Somewhere in the midst of these negotiations between MFF, WB, and IMAX, this fellow, Mike Lutz,  jumped ship – this time to IMAX.  I’m not going to squander commentary on what may have transpired behind the scenes, but I do know that advantages can be found all around:

  • IMAX gains a representative trusted by theater operators to head their institutional sales and retention initiatives.
  • MFF has someone who understands their business practices in a senior position at IMAX.
  • IMAX no longer has to worry about production of their own documentary films.
  • MFF gains additional marketing and production capital.
  • MFF increases their footprint by having greater access to commercial IMAX venues.
  • MFF gets much needed cash infusion for its One World, One Ocean campaign.

Perhaps this partnership might lead to something along the lines of Pixar and Disney?

And now, as John Cleese would say, on to something completely different.

I dare say that without Charlotte Huggins, there would not have been a Polar Express or an Avatar.  This producer was one of the powerhouses behind the IMAX 3D and the 3D CGI animation revolutions in cinema.  Now she’s joining vfx house Rhythm & Hues as an Executive Producer in its Special Projects division, which provides animation for theme parks and other attractions.

Rhythm & Hues (R+H) produced some of the most advanced animation for attractions during the 1990’s.  This included work for Universal Studios Florida, four Disney theme parks on three continents, Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, and IMAX’s 3D ride Race for Atlantis, which played in Las Vegas, France, and Germany.

Following the recent openings of Star Tours 3D and next year’s Despicable Me, Transformers, and updated Spider-Man attractions, Huggins joining R+H is yet further confirmation that we’re entering a new renaissance for film-based attractions.

As for this blogger, I’ve just finished my participation on an advisory panel for a new autostereoscopic tablet being developed by a Silicon Valley firm.  I can’t say more, but it should be to market by late next year.  Other than that, I’m working on a few other rather interesting projects that I hope to tell you about soon.

But until then, I’ll see you next week.  That is, unless something breaking comes through the grapevine – like Toby being hired at a museum.




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