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Grease is the word at the Odeon 5 cinemas, but only at the right price

August 10, 2022

By Peter Holmes

The Odeon 5 cinema complex in Orange has joined the national scramble to get hold of a fresh copy of the 1978 film Grease, following the death this week of one of its stars Olivia Newton-John.

The price for a cinema to hold a Grease screening will likely be considerably more expensive today than it was, say, on Friday, before Newton-John’s passing.

The Odeon 5's Mitzi Cronk explained the process to The Orange News Examiner.

“We have a head programmer based in Melbourne, who I’m in email and phone contact with every day,” she said. “He is already onto it.”

Grease is owned by entertainment behemoth Paramount. While some films earn a percentage of the box office receipts, others are hired out on a per-screening basis. Grease is in the latter category.

Once a fee has been set by Paramount, staff at cinemas such as Odeon 5 will make a decision about whether they think they can recoup that investment.

If, for example, a cinema bought Grease for three screenings, but there was only enough demand for two, they would still have to pay for three.

Cinemas don’t always take what’s on offer, even though they know a particular film might be popular. If the numbers don’t work, the film doesn’t show.

Cronk gives the example of a hugely successful movie franchise. After one of its stars died, the Odeon 5 wanted to re-screen the franchise films, but the fee was too high for the Odeon 5 to see a way to recoup, so it passed.

In the case of Grease, time is crucial.

Cronk started to feel mildly unusual when she opened her Stan streaming service yesterday to see Grease being promoted. Free to air TV will also likely have the film within its libraries. If the Odeon 5 and other cinemas around the nation don't move soon, the moment will have been lost.

In a perfect world Cronk would show Grease three times - once each on a Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon - within the next few weeks.

The Odeon 5 screens Grease occasionally due to its enduring popularity, but Cronk is hopeful that if the cinema screens it again in tribute to Newton-John, it would receive a new, spruced up digital version from Paramount.

Grease would be sent to participating cinemas as a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), which contained video, audio and data streams.

Cronk said these were housed in an object about the size of a brick, but much lighter.

The film would be downloaded from this box into the cinema’s projection equipment, and then the DCP box would be ejected and couriered to the next cinema on the list supplied by the film’s distributor.

An electronic key (KDM - key delivery message) would then be sent to the cinema via email. The key would allow the cinema to play the encrypted DCP file.

Cronk said there was usually enough time to check the digital print was in good working order before screenings, but that on one occasion - ahead of a midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) - the electronic key was only emailed at 11:59pm, in order to stop any piracy at cinemas around the world.

Olivia Newton-John, who starred as Sandy in Grease alongside John Travolta, died of cancer on August 8 in California. She was 73.

The singer, actress, businesswoman and activist was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.

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