Netflix Announces ‘Bright’ Movie Sequel

Netflix Jan. 3 announced plans to make a sequel to sci-fi action movie Bright, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton.

The subscription streaming video pioneer announced the sequel on its official Twitter account. The sequel will again be written and directed by David Ayer.

“Announcement: Orc auditions for the @BrightNetglix sequel are now closed. Thank you. Have a nice day,” read the tweet.

The $90 million movie, which features Smith and Edgerton as two LAPD officers paired to fight crime in an alternate universe, generated 11 million viewers at launch — the largest viewership for Netflix original movie, according to Nielsen.

Roku Launching Home Entertainment Tech Licensing Program

Roku Jan. 3 unveiled a licensing program designed to entice third-party consumer electronics manufacturers to incorporate its technology in audio devices, including sound bars, speakers, multi-room audio systems and surround sound.

Dubbed Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program, the campaign enables OEM brands to incorporate Roku Connect software as a home entertainment network.

Roku Connect devices can connect wirelessly and be controlled by voice commands and a single remote. In addition, OEM brands will be able to license smart sound bar and smart speaker hardware reference designs along with the Roku operating system, Roku OS.

Chinese TV manufacturer TCL is Roku’s first OEM partner and will announce its plans to offer the first device under the new program at its press conference at CES on Jan. 8. TCL manufactures Roku-branded TVs.

Roku also announced plans to launch a voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, that is optimized for home entertainment.

Both technologies are expected to be rolled out as a free software update to the Roku operating system by this fall to most Roku TV models and Roku players.

“Consumers will love the benefits of a home entertainment network, such as having more affordable options, adding one device at a time, using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement.

In other news, Roku and Funai Electric Jan. 3 announced that Funai will extend its Roku TV licensing agreement to include the Magnavox brand, in addition to the previously announced Philips brand.

The Magnavox Roku TVs will feature the Roku operating system and are expected to be available in select retailers in the United States this spring.

“Magnavox is a respected, 100-year-old American brand and remains an American-designed TV product line. With the launch of our Magnavox Roku TVs we bring the latest smart TV technology to this trusted brand,” said Peter Swinkels, GM, product planning, Funai Electric, in a statement. “The Roku OS delivers a wide breadth of content, simple navigation and search, an easy-to-use remote and regular software updates so we can offer a great TV experience to our customers.”

“Just a couple of months ago we announced our partnership with Funai to market Philips Roku TVs, and now we’re happy to bring the Magnavox TV brand into the Roku TV licensing program,” said Chas Smith, GM of Roku TV and players, in a statement. “Magnavox is recognized for its very long history of delivering quality and high-performance at a smart price, and will no doubt build a very compelling Roku TV for consumers.”

 

LG Bowing 88-Inch 8K OLED TV at CES

Bigger — especially hype — is better when it comes to the annual Consumer Electronics Show taking place Jan. 9-12 in Las Vegas.

LG Electronics announced it will showcase the world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display featuring 33 million pixels — four times the clarity of 4K Ultra HD.

“OLED is clearly a next-generation technology leader and for this reason, LG Display is accelerating its research and development into OLED so that we can provide differentiated products to customers and markets,” CTO In-Byung Kang said in a statement.

LG says the OLED TV display maintains a slim design without requiring excessive backlighting. The company noted LCD displays with 8K resolution inevitably get heavier and thicker because backlight units need to be placed directly behind the panels to achieve the same level of brightness and picture quality as 4K displays — the current top resolution.

OLED displays, however, are superior for higher resolution due to lower aperture ratios — the area that light can pass through as it is not covered by the black matrix and the wiring portion (electric circuit) in the entire area of the pixel.

LG announced its 8K OLED display creates even more “delicate” images, citing comments from DisplayMate, a display-testing and rating body, praising OLED TVs as visually “indistinguishable from perfect,” with the highest absolute color accuracy, the highest absolute luminance accuracy, and the highest contrast ratio.

LG’s newest model likely won’t come cheap. The manufacturer’s currently available 77-inch 4K OLED TV reportedly retails for $20,000.

Amazon Prime Video and ITV to Release Series Starring Kate Beckinsale

Amazon Prime Video and ITV Jan. 3 announced they plan to produce The Widow, an eight-episode Prime Original and ITV series, starring Kate Beckinsale.

The series is written by Harry and Jack Williams.

“The Widow” follows Georgia Wells (Beckinsale), who has cut herself off from her previous life. After seeing her “late” husband on the news, she seeks the truth about her past, taking her into the African Congo.

The show will distributed globally by all3media International and will premiere on ITV in the United Kingdom and on Prime Video in the United States and in more than 200 countries and territories.

“We are thrilled to continue our existing relationship with Kate Beckinsale on the heels of her incredible performances in Amazon Studios’ critically acclaimed films,” said Brad Beale, VP, worldwide TV content acquisition, Amazon Prime Video. “Harry and Jack Williams have created a powerful story, which will be brought to life by one of the world’s most talented actresses, and we are excited to bring this thrilling series to Prime members around the world.”

2017 U.K. Video Spending Up 7.5%

Consumers in the United Kingdom spent £2.69 billion ($3.65 billion) on video content in 2017, up 7.5% from £2.5 billion ($3.39 billion) in 2016, according to the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), which cited data from the Official Charts Company and IHS Markit.

Spurred by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and transactional VOD, 62% of consumers rented/streamed video, while 38% purchased content. Notably, 51% of consumers acquiring content chose packaged media, including DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD Blu-ray.

“Audiences are clearly embracing digital options and the freedoms they afford,” BASE CEO Liz Bales said in a statement. “At the same time, the strength of physical disc sales figures should not be underestimated.”

Bales said retail demand for “event-status” titles, franchise collections and family-friendly fare underscores the need for both physical and digital distribution.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson) was the top-selling title with 1.55 million units sold (74% DVD, 13% Blu-ray, 13% digital).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Disney) was No. 2 with 1.38 million units sold (51% DVD, 36% Blu-ray, 13% digital).

Dean Pappadakis, category and commercial director, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, said success with the 2016 live-action remake of The Jungle Book underscored the studio’s belief in the Beauty and the Beast reboot. It was a strategy he said Disney followed by expanding the Star Wars brand with Rogue One.

“Audiences embraced both titles and their enduring love for the respective source materials became a strength for these superb productions that have collectively gone on to tell a heartening story in terms of continued audience engagement across the video category as a whole,” Pappadakis said in a statement.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment topped packaged media market share with 19.7% in sales volume. The studio’s Bridget Jones’s Baby was the only romantic comedy to exceed 1 million unit sales.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment topped Blu-ray market share with 18.5%, due in part to the retail success of Dunkirk (640,000 units) and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Dunkirk generated the biggest first-week 4K Blu-ray Disc sales with 16,000 units

Other top-selling titles included The Girl on the Train (Twentieth Century Fox, distributing on behalf of eOne)Wonder Woman (Warner), La La Land (Lionsgate, distributed by Elevation Sales) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).

Jonathan Broughton, principal analyst, home entertainment, IHS Markit, said disc sales continue to resonate despite ongoing declining consumer demand.

“Disc remains the second largest market segment — at roughly 70% the value of subscription [VOD],” Broughton said, excluding the double-digit increase in digital retail sales.

‘Game of Thrones’ Top Pirated TV Show in 2017

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” ended 2017 as the most-pirated television show — topping AMC Networks’ “The Walking Dead.” The popular period fantasy has earned the distinction for the past six years, according to TorrentFreak.com.

The site announced 400,000 users illegally shared season seven’s final seventh episode on BitTorrent — just one of many platforms used to pirate movies and TV shows.

While the series attracted upwards of 10 million live TV viewers per episode, in addition to millions more on-demand, the seventh season of “Thrones” was pirated more than 1 billion times, according to Mashable.com.

Data from MUSO.com, an anti-piracy software company, showed the latest season of “Thrones” was illegally streamed (84.7%), shared (9.1%) and downloaded (5.6%) 1,029,787,668 times through last September. The numbers do not include internal security breaches that resulted in select episodes being leaked before their initial broadcast.

A separate report on Finder.com found that 94% of “Thrones” viewers do so legally through pay-TV, on-demand, online TV and digital retail.

Top 10 Pirated TV Shows in 2017:

  1. “Game of Thrones”
  2. “The Walking Dead”
  3. “The Flash”
  4. “The Big Bang Theory”
  5. “Rick and Morty”
  6. “Prison Break”
  7. “Sherlock”
  8. “Viking”
  9. “Suits”
  10. “Arrow”

(Source: TorrentFreak.com)

Will Premium VOD Plans Get Lased in 2018?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Hollywood’s long-running attempt to stream theatrical releases early into consumer homes at a premium price may be dead on the vine following Disney’s $52.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film and other 21st Century Fox assets.

Fox Film CEO Stacey Snider, along with Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, has been a vocal proponent of premium video-on-demand. The business model would charge consumers $30 to stream movies in the home 30 to 45 days after their box office debut.

That mindset could change as Disney CEO Bob Iger has made no secret his desire to maintain the current theatrical window. That makes sense as Disney ended 2017 No. 1 at the domestic box office with more than $2.2 billion in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Warner Bros. and Fox finished second and fourth, respectively.

With Disney planning to launch proprietary over-the-top video services around movie brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, it would appear mining short-term incremental revenue during the theatrical window could undermine the media giant’s larger, future digital payday.

Indeed, Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres – the world’s largest theater chain – has said any PVOD deal (i.e. revenue sharing) with studios would have to be fiscally incremental to exhibitors.

Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends studios didn’t learn much following Universal Pictures’ short-lived attempt in 2011 to stream action-comedy Tower Heist early in homes for $59.99. The campaign was scuttled before launch when theaters (totaling more than 3,000 screens) threatened to boycott the movie. Pachter said the PVOD “threat” has even less of chance of materializing without Disney/Fox on board.

“I think PVOD is stupid and a dead issue,” the analyst said in an email.

Amazon Unveils Best of Prime 2017

Amazon Jan. 2 announced its Best of Prime 2017 — revealing some of Prime members’ favorite content of the year. Prime members used their digital benefits in 2017 more than in any previous year, according to the company.

Customers in more than 240 countries and territories around the world made season one of “The Grand Tour” and “Sneaky Pete” the most streamed Prime Originals.

Dec. 30, 2017, was the biggest streaming day of the year around the world, and the top streamed series on Prime Video that day were season two of “The Grand Tour” and Golden Globe-nominated “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Manchester by the Sea was the most watched Amazon Original Movie in the United States.

Live coverage of 10 NFL “Thursday Night Football” games on Prime Video this season reached more than 17 million combined viewers in more than 200 countries and territories.

Based on trailer views, among the most anticipated Prime Originals in the United States were Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” and the third season of “The Man in the High Castle.”

“Tens of millions of members around the world enjoy the many benefits included with Prime, and in fact, more new paid members joined Prime worldwide this year than any previous year,” said Greg Greeley, VP, Amazon Prime, in a statement. “In 2017, more than 5 billion items worldwide shipped with Prime and members used digital benefits like Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Reading more than ever before.”

Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot topped the Best of Prime 2017 as the best-selling products purchased by U.S. Prime members from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon, according to the company.

New countries that joined Prime in 2017 include Mexico, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Singapore. Prime is also available in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, India, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium and Austria.

 

Battle of the Sexes

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/2/18;
Fox;

Comedy-Drama;
Box Office $12.6 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some sexual content and partial nudity.
Stars Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Andrea Riseborough, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Eric Christian Olsen, Natalie Morales.

The marketing materials for this high-profile sports film positioned it as a comedy, and it has been nominated as such in the corresponding categories for a slew of awards, including the Golden Globes.

But watching it yields one of those classic disconnects between expectations based on the trailers, and the film itself. While the film certainly has moments of levity, centered mostly on the performance of Steve Carell as aging tennis icon Bobby Riggs, whatever comedic elements come through are mostly due to how much of a farce the real-life event at the center of the story was, and how much Riggs acted like a clown trying to promote it.

Otherwise, the movie is mostly a straightforward biopic drama about tennis legend Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) discovering her sexuality while fighting to raise the stature of women’s tennis on the professional circuit

The key event of the title, of course, is the legendary 1973 exhibition match between 30-year-old King, at the time the world’s top female tennis player, and the 55-year-old Riggs, a ruthless self-promoter and gambling addict whose claim to fame was winning the three big titles (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) at Wimbledon in 1939, and who threw himself back into the spotlight by betting that even in his old age he could beat any top woman in the circuit.

And Riggs made good on his word, defeating Australian Margaret Court after King initially refused to play him and then stumbled in the rankings to push the Aussie star into the spotlight. In the aftermath of Court’s defeat and positioned to take on Riggs for the honor of all womanhood, King is portrayed as focused on practically nothing but training for her match with him, to the detriment of her regular tournament play, and relationships with her husband (Austin Stowell) and her lover (Andrea Riseborough).

Riggs, on the other hand, seems barely interested in the match at all, soaking up the publicity and sponsorship money in one long poolside party. It’s not until she starts to pull ahead of him in their match when he finally seems to care about the result, and I suppose it’s up to viewers to decide what lessons can be gleaned from the outcome following such a set-up, or if it does, in fact, support what many would infer as the obvious message of the film.

But these are fairly straightforward re-creations of historical events, and the film has a great look retro look about it, which has become something of a trend recently in period pieces. Where the film really shines is in conveying the idea that people should be true to themselves and accepting of others, and only then can societal barriers be torn down. It is here where the film has bigger fish to fry than the result of a highly publicized stunt.

Emma Stone disappears in the role, making it somewhat jarring to be reminded what the real King looked like when she turns up in archive footage in the bonus materials. She and Carell are captivating in their respective roles whenever they’re on screen pushing forward their separate storylines that eventually converge.

The Blu-ray includes an interesting behind-the-scenes featurette about the level of detail used by the filmmakers in re-creating the 1970s setting. They even brought on an old friend and coach of Riggs to train Carell to emulate Riggs’ playing style. The Blu-ray also includes an interview with the real-life King, plus raw footage of the filming of her entrance into the Astrodome for the big match.

Redefining Home Entertainment – Welcome to Media Play News!

Welcome to Media Play News, dedicated to informing, educating, and entertaining everyone involved in the business of bringing entertainment home.

We have launched a new responsive website filled with the latest news, research and analysis, reviews, and blogs essential for your business.

We are unveiling a new daily e-newsletter and breaking news alerts to keep you in the loop with the latest home entertainment news.

Later this month, we will debut a new monthly magazine that will be available in both print and digital editions, a carefully curated collection content culled from our website and 24/7 industry coverage.

And we are beginning the new year with an invigorated social media push, augmenting our Facebook and Twitter pages with Instagram and, soon, a new YouTube channel focused on bringing our content to the masses.

Our team has had a good run as Home Media Magazine under Questex LLC, and as Video Store Magazine under Advanstar before that.

And now, as we begin our third chapter, as Media Play News, I sincerely hope I can count on your continued support as we embark on this ambitious and exciting new venture.

We believe our industry both needs and deserves an independent trade publication – perhaps now more than ever – to cover our business from an insider’s perspective, with a focus on what’s important to you.

We reach a broad audience of retailers, both digital and physical, as well as a growing group of analysts, entertainment and technology reporters, and other consumer influencers.

We are your voice, your representative – and we will continue to champion and advocate for our industry in our blogs and columns while providing the world with first-class coverage of the home entertainment industry and its ongoing evolution.

I’d like to make it clear that we are not just reinventing ourselves. We intend to redefine the very concept of home entertainment. Initially, home entertainment was renting movies on videocassette. Then it became the sale or rental of discs, first DVD and then Blu-ray Disc.

Today, home entertainment is a multi-faceted industry that ranges from disc to digital distribution, from Redbox to Roku, from iTunes to Netflix. And with the promise of premium VOD, the home entertainment business – with its guiding principle of bringing entertainment home – stands to play an increasingly greater and more significant role in the overall entertainment business.

Bringing entertainment home. That’s what you’re all about – and that, too, is what we are all about.