The fate of "Star Wars" and film in general? Preorders.
The fate of "Star Wars" and film in general? Preorders. (Photo: Matthia Cortesi /

Entertainment industry needs preorders to stay alive

When the weekend is over, chances are the latest "Star Wars" film will have broken a number of box office records across the globe. The new chapter in the franchise has an international opening, and chances are pretty good that dollar-for-dollar, the movie will be a smashing success.

One record being pushed by the film isn’t talked about much, but it means more for the future of the movie industry than the likes of us in the audience will ever know.


In an era when storywriters hardly find big successes on original ideas, the filmmaking industry is standing on shaky ground. Some films earlier this year had a shortened window of cinema release before it found its way to a digital download stream. Producers and distributors are not seeing the big paydays that they once had.

With many of us carrying a smart device on us wherever we go, we have access to watch a film whenever the mood strikes. For us to take the time to go to a movie theater and watch a story with a group of strangers, well, it takes time or a special event for droves of people to even show up to fill a row of seats.

The industry has been grasping at whatever idea sticks to the wall to be the savior in a time where budgets and bottom lines need to be bigger commercial successes.

Preorders, seen by many at the major studios, is a place where the industry can prove itself. Before a single person sees the newest tale from far, far away, more than $100 million tickets will have been ordered through cell phones, computers or at the box office window.

That top dollar record, which "Star Wars" will likely break, is a proof of performance for the industry. It is a tangible show of support for an industry that could at any given moment see the floor drop beneath it.

For producers to pour money into a movie, it is a huge gamble. Proof of performance, which "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will provide, shows that breathing new life into a film that worked a generation before can still attract l…

The new apocalyptic thriller "Extinction" is currently out on DVD.
The new apocalyptic thriller "Extinction" is currently out on DVD.

Two creepy new DVD options bring fright to your Halloween night

As the seasons change, and Halloween approaches, there’s nothing like getting together with a group of friends and watching scary movies. Sometimes, watching someone jump in their seat is more entertaining than viewing the jump-causing moment on the screen.

For actor Ryan McCarten, the practice of watching horror films wasn’t as enjoyable as he through it would be.

"When I was 10 or 11, I always liked the idea of watching a scary movie," McCarten said. "But when I did, I would end up shaking for a week."

McCarten, known for his work on "Liv and Maddie" on the Disney Channel, has a starring role in the television-made film "R.L. Stine's Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls," now out on DVD.

"I think it’s a great film," McCarten said of the latest offering from the "Goosebumps" author. "The witch and the clown are pretty creepy, but they won’t keep you up all night."

McCarten said that he liked being involved in a spooky movie that young people can watch without getting terrified.

For those that grew up in the '90s with Nickelodeon, the "Goosebumps" TV show episodes were a must-watch. McCarten didn’t get the chance to see the original run, but he knew what he was getting into when he signed on to work in a story written by Stine.

"When I was in school, we always had a quota," he said of the number of books he and his classmates had to read. "We were always going and renting the ‘Goosebumps’ books at the library."

McCarten’s girlfriend Dove Cameron ("Descendants," "Liv and Maddie") also stars in the film, as the one who has to keep her friends safe from Dr. Hysteria and the traveling Hall of Horrors show that comes to the town of Danville. McCarten plays a demon named Hunter, who lures young souls into the cabinet for the family of evildoers to feed on.

"It was the best of all worlds to do what you love doing, and do it with the people you love," McCarten said of being able to work with Cameron.

For McCarten, he said that the cast went "all-in" wi…

PBS will air "Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration" tonight at 7 p.m.
PBS will air "Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration" tonight at 7 p.m.

Milwaukee producers present Mary Tyler Moore special on PBS

One tip for success is to surround yourself with good people. And if you are able to endear yourself to those folks, they will tell everyone else they know about how wonderful of a person you are.

That’s what happens in "Mary Tyler Moore: A Celebration," a special production that airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday night on PBS. Television acting legends Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Betty White, Gavin MacLeod, Valerie Harper and others share their love and appreciation for Moore, who some would say was America’s first television sweetheart.

"It just came together," said Steve Boettcher, who produced the special with Michael J. Trinklein. "The key players in her life had great stories to tell."

The Milwaukee-based pair and their production crew literally went through all of Moore’s career to pull some of the gems used in the presentation. That meant they had to watch every episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," the latter featuring the actress as the single, working woman surrounded by wonderful characters at WJW-TV in Minneapolis.

For Moore, the spotlight started following her when Reiner cast the then-unknown actress as Van Dyke's wife. 

"That show was supposed to be about the dynamics of the office of the writers," Boettcher said. "But it was Laura Petrie (Moore’s character) that stole the show. It, instead, became a family show, a husband and wife show."

Boettcher said that actor John Amos noted those programs that Moore was known for became the stick that sitcoms of today don’t measure up to.

"Those shows still hold up," Boettcher said. "They are still watched today."

It is no secret that Oprah Winfrey is a huge Mary Tyler Moore fan. When her talk show aired locally on WISN-TV Ch. 12, her crew recreated Moore’s apartment set from "The Mary Tyler Moore" show. She was given a large "O" to put on her wall that was in homage to the "M" that hung in the TV show’s apartment.

"(Winfrey) is very busy," Boettcher said, "but she was…

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch join the fight in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," released on Blu-ray and DVD this month.
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch join the fight in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," released on Blu-ray and DVD this month.

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is simply the best in action storytelling

This world needs saving.

It is this one constant that makes, no matter how far-fetched, the reality that bad things happen hit close to home. Our humanity is able to allow us to identify with a character in a rough situation and cheer for them when they overcome the adversity in their path.

I believe that is why superhero films are the top draw in the theater. When Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" made its way to the big screen in early summer, we were still a nation at war with terror. We live in a world that in a lot of ways needs saving. It has us searching for solutions in a world long for a lasting peace – even just for a couple hours of escape. 

In the new "Avengers," we see the uncanny group of heroes pushed to their physical and emotional limits to take down the very artificial intelligence that was created to save us from ourselves. In dramatic fashion, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) delivers Shakespearean-like monologues that speak to our condition of wanting better but being afraid of change. For him, only our destruction can bring about the proper condition of the peace in our time that we seek.

The box-office busting film took the world by storm again last Friday when it was released on Blu-ray, DVD, digital streaming download and On Demand.

In the combo pack, there isn’t only the next story in the evolution of the characters of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and others, but there are scenes that were dropped out of the film that share a greater insight into some of the new characters that were introduced in the story.

Most important of these – beyond the introduction of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – is the creation of Vision, the holder of the Mind Stone and the crux point of what connects this movie with all of the others brought forth by Marvel.

When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leaves the group, he goes on a vision quest figuratively and literally that seemed a bit out of place in a mor…