GKIDS and Shout! Factory Bring ‘Birdboy’ to Disc

Animation distributor GKIDS and Shout! Factory will release the award-winning Birdboy: The Forgotten Children on Blu-ray and DVD March 13.

Based on Alberto Vázquez’s graphic novel and award-winning short film, Birdboy relates the story of a group of teenage critters in a post-apocalyptic world searching for a better life.

Co-directed by Vázquez, the film won last year’s Goya Award for Best Animated Feature. Vázquez also won the Best Animated Short Film prize in the same year for Decorado.

Extras include an interview with the filmmakers, the original Birdboy short film, the Decorado short, and the theatrical trailer.

Animated ‘The Star’ on Disc Feb. 20

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release faith-based animated movie The Star on Digital HD Feb. 6, and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 20.

The film follows a small but brave donkey named Bo (voiced by Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”), who embarks on an adventure during the events of the Nativity and encounters other animal friends along the way.

The voice cast also includes Aidy Bryant, Keegan-Michael Key, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias and Patricia Heaton.

The title song of The Star earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song by Mariah Carey and Marc Shaiman.

Extras include: “Star-aoke: Sing-Along with Bo & Friends”; “Life Is Good” Dance-Along; Lyric Sing-Along Videos of “The Star” by Mariah Carey, “Can You See” by Fifth Harmony, “Children Go Where I Send You” by Kelsea Ballerini, “We Three Kings” by Kirk Franklin and “Life Is Good” by A Great Big World; “Sweet and Sparkly Stars” cookie recipes; “Star Mason Jar Votives” craft tips; video sermon “Faith All Year Round With DeVon Franklin”; and a featurette about the cast.

‘LBJ’ Director Rob Reiner to Be Honored by AAFCA

Veteran actor, writer and director Rob Reiner — who most recently directed LBJ due from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Electric Entertainment on digital and disc Feb. 6 — will receive the inaugural Stanley Kramer Award for Social Justice from the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).

The award recognizes him for his career-long activism and support for progressive politics. The director, whose LBJ earned AAFCA’s Seal of Approval, will be presented his award at the 9th AAFCA Awards, scheduled for Feb. 7 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.

“Even as an actor, Rob Reiner made a statement. In the years he spent on ‘All in the Family,’ he was the liberal voice countering Archie Bunker’s extremely conservative one,” said Gil Robertson, president of AAFCA, in a statement.

Much like Kramer, as a director, writer and producer, Reiner, has craftily used the art form as a springboard of political activism that has resonated far beyond Hollywood, noted a Sony release. His films have spearheaded progressive dialogue on a variety of critical societal issues, be they gender roles and attitudes in When Harry Met Sally or race and justice in Ghosts of Mississippi.

The AAFCA honored Kramer at its 2017 ceremony and decided to create the AAFCA Stanley Kramer Award for Social Justice to encourage and applaud filmmakers like Kramer for infusing their films with a sense of purpose and social responsibility.

“Film served as an important vehicle to explore and examine social issues for Kramer,” Robertson said in a statement. “Our hope is that, through this awareness, it will inspire other filmmakers to continue making those statements.”

Reiner’s LBJ takes a look at President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Woody Harrelson), covering the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. The film also stars Michael Stahl-David, Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, Jeffrey Donovan and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Ramping Up Original Content Spend

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are switching from content licensing to content creation in a major way. By 2022, the investment in original movies and TV shows will triple to $10 billion annually, according to new data from The Diffusion Group.

“The Big-3 SVOD players own 60% of TV streaming time,” Brad Schlachter, senior advisor at TDG, said in a statement. “They are looking to maintain if not grow this share by creating compelling originals that serve both to attract new users and retain existing subscribers even as subscription rates increase.”

Indeed, among Netflix subscribers, 21% rate originals as “absolutely critical” in their decision to keep using Netflix, while 41% rank them “very important.”

“The data is unequivocal,” said Schlachter.

Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu – through sophisticated user data – have a much better understanding of the limits of licensed content versus the benefits of original fare.

TDG contends that as studios like Disney pull their most compelling content from SVOD platforms, the necessity of a strong slate of originals becomes all the more obvious.

But the Big-3 are not the only players eyeing a larger slice of the originals on-demand streaming market. In fact, companies such as Facebook and Apple are investing in original TV-quality programming to distribute directly to consumers.

“Of course, not all originals find an audience or generate a huge buzz,” said Schlachter. “But when they do, it can change the fortunes of a company. Just look at what ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ did for Hulu, or what ‘House of Cards’ did for Netflix.”

Netflix Interested in MoviePass?

NEWS ANALYSIS: Wall Street loves scuttlebutt. Rumors and speculation make stocks do crazy things.

On the morning of Jan. 30, shares of Helios and Matheson Analytics, majority owner of theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass, edged up slightly (2%, the day after rising 9%) on talk Netflix is an interested suitor.

MoviePass has been in the news lately as a significant disruptor of the theatrical ecosystem. The service gives members access to one screening daily for a $9.95 monthly fee. In less than six months more than 1.5 million people have signed up.

What piques Wall Street attention about MoviePass – besides the disruptor subscription business model – is the fact that CEO Mitch Lowe once was a senior executive at Netflix and is often credited with co-launching the streaming video behemoth. Lowe also once headed Redbox.

Of course there is no official word from Netflix, considering many observers characterize the “news” as crazy.

MoviePass pays theater operators full value for tickets used by subscribers. The service is now trying to extract revenue-share agreements with major chains as it has with about 1,000 independent screens.

The company says it has driven significant attendance to theaters. Market observers contend MoviePass accounts for about 4% of foot traffic at AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest chain.

Indeed, Netflix has a tortured history with theaters. It doesn’t much care for them. The service contends the 90-day theatrical window is archaic in today’s tech-savvy market with ubiquitous access.

Netflix, which is planning to bow upwards of 80 feature movies through next year, makes original movies – such as the big-budget futuristic cop drama Bright – available globally for streaming concurrent with theatrical.

As a result, theaters passed on the Will Smith- Joel Edgerton buddy film that reportedly generated 11 million streamings in the first 72 hours upon launch. Ditto for Okja, the $50 million Korean sci-fi drama and Cannes Film Festival nominee.

Regardless, Wedbush Securities Michael Pachter says suggestion of Netflix’s interest in MoviePass is as much amusing as baffling.

“That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Pachter said. “Remember, Mitch Lowe was a co-founder of Netflix [with Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph], and presumably, they’re no longer best friends.”

Entertainment One Appoints Mark Gordon President and Chief Content Officer

Independent studio Entertainment One has appointed Mark Gordon president and chief content officer, film, television and digital, and has agreed to acquire the remaining 49% of The Mark Gordon Co. for $209 million subject to shareholder approval.

In this newly-created role, Gordon will lead the company’s creative units.

Steve Bertram was also appointed president, film, television and digital. In his new role, Bertram will oversee all commercial and distribution operations.

Gordon and Bertram will drive the growth of eOne’s content groups and distribution platforms, accelerating its strategy to increase the volume of premium content, according to the company.

“Mark Gordon is one of the industry’s most accomplished film and television producers with a long track-record of success and commitment to putting talent first. Mark’s leadership over content creation across eOne underscores our vision to be the preeminent platform-agnostic content company in the world,” said Darren Throop, eOne CEO, in a statement. “Today’s transaction signals that we are focused on investing heavily in the best creative talent. This is where Mark shines and what we know he’ll continue to do well into the future with eOne and all of our resources fully behind him.”

“Darren’s commitment to support our vision gives me confidence that we will achieve the quality and volume of premium content on a much broader scale both domestically and internationally,” said Gordon, in a statement. “Ultimately, it is the creative partnerships with producers, writers, directors and actors that will bring us success. It is our mission to provide them the opportunity to tell great stories and to be financially rewarded for their work.”

“Mark’s unwavering support of creative talent and relentless pursuit of the highest quality content have been the foundation of his success,” added Bertram, in a statement. “His creative instincts, deep relationships, and unique understanding of the content audiences crave, have supercharged our business over the past three years. I couldn’t be more excited to unleash that power across eOne, and to leverage eOne’s global resources to extend Mark’s talent-friendly approach.”

Entertainment One acquired 51% of The Mark Gordon Co. in January 2015. Since then, the two companies have collaborated to establish an independent studio, producing and financing film, network, cable, and digital premium content, distributed by eOne around the world. Most recently, under Gordon’s leadership, MGC has produced feature films such as Murder on the Orient Express; the Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated Molly’s Game; and the upcoming The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. He has also led the company in producing television series such as “Designated Survivor” and “The Rookie.”

John Morayniss, who led eOne’s television business since its inception in 2008, has decided to step down, but will remain with the company to help facilitate a smooth transition, according to eOne.

“I want to recognize John, whose focus, innovative deal-making and charismatic leadership of our television business over so many years has helped make us the global force we are today. John’s relationships across the industry resulted in exponential growth across eOne’s television business in Canada and around the globe, and he leaves us with incredible momentum. I’m thankful for his continuing support through the transition,” Throop said in a statement.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/30/18;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $1.58 million;
$25.99 DVD, $26.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content including brief graphic images, and language.
Stars Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt, Connie Britton.

The story of Wonder Woman’s creators is so fascinating that it’s a bit surprising it hasn’t been the subject of a movie until now. Of course, it only took 75 years to bring the most iconic female superhero of all time to the big screen, so who’s to say with these things?

Certainly the resurgent popularity of Wonder Woman in the past few years, thanks to her appearances in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and her own solo film, sparked a renewed focus on her origins as a character. And societal taboos likely muted the true extent of the salaciousness surrounding her creation in ways it really takes the passage of decades to appreciate. Still, this better-late-than-never docu-drama is a well-timed accompaniment to her cinematic adventures.

Conventional wisdom holds that Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, a Harvard psychologist who invented the lie-detector test and wanted to create a positive role model for young girls in the vein of how Superman influenced young boys. But there’s so much more to it than that.

But the deeper truth is that Marston and his wife, Elizabeth, were involved in a fetishistic, polyamorous relationship with his research assistant, Olive Byrne. Both women would provide major help and inspiration in creating Wonder Woman.

Many of these “how something was created” type of movies seem to rely mostly on nostalgia to carry the story, hoping audiences will appreciate seeing the introduction of all their favorite traits.

With Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, however, writer-director Angela Robinson isn’t so much interested in the nostalgia behind Wonder Woman’s creation, but what drove the people responsible for it. To that end, the film is structured with a framing device of Marston (Luke Evans) defending the Wonder Woman comic book to a censorship board after it, like many comic books at the time, is labeled a subversive element.

Then, in flashbacks, we learn the circumstances of Marston’s relationship with Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), a fierce academic resentful that she isn’t being taken seriously in a university system dominated by men. The arrival of Olive (Bella Heathcote) inspires lustful tendencies in both of them, and as they develop the lie-detector their three-way relationship quickly turns sexual. Rumors of their unconventional relationship cause them to be shunned.

In need of work, Marston creates Wonder Woman as a means of using comic books to spread a subtle feminist message. Elements of the bondage and role play in his own sexual life seep into his writing, with Wonder Woman known as much for her suggestive outfits and lasso of truth as she is her strength and heroism. Marston tying her origins to Greek mythology then comes across as a thinly veiled excuse to infuse lesbian overtones into the comic, in the guise of an island of paradise populated entirely by women.

Ultimately, though, the core of the film is the relationship between William, Elizabeth and Olive, and their struggles to stay together amid the pressures of societal norms.

The idea that the three of them as a group should be considered the creator of Wonder Woman is put forth in a motion comic on the Blu-ray called “The Secret Identity of Charles Moulton,” which was the pen name Marston used to obscure from the academic community that he was writing comic books.

The eight-minute featurette “A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon” is a more conventional piece about the real-life characters, while the six-and-a-half-minute “A Crucial Point of View” featurette focuses on Robinson’s motivations for making the film.

The Blu-ray also includes three interesting deleted scenes that run a total of about five-and-a-half minutes.

‘Call Me By Your Name’ Headed to Home Video

Another Best Picture Oscar nominee is headed for home video.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Call Me By Your Name, a romantic drama set in 1980s Italy, on Digital HD Feb. 27 and Blu-ray Disc and DVD on March 13.

Aside from its Best Picture nom, Call Me By Your Name was nominated for three other Academy Awards: Best Actor (Timothee Chalamet) Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love”) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

In the film, directed by Luca Guadagnino, Chalamet plays a precocious 17-year-old, Elio Perlman, who spends his days in his family’s villa transcribing and playing classical music and reading. He meets and falls in love with Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar who arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Perlman’s father (Michael Stulhbarg), an eminent professor.

In addition to its four Oscar nominations, Call Me By Your Name was named one of the Best Movies of the Year with an AFI Award from the American Film Institute. It was also nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Picture, and received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Chalamet) at the Screen Actor Guild Awards. The film also received the most nominations of any film at the Film Independent Spirit Awards with six nominations, including Best Feature, Director, Male Lead and Supporting Actor.

The Digital, Blu-ray Disc and DVD releases of Call Me By Your Name include the music video for the Oscar-nominated song “Mystery of Love,” by Sufjan Stevens, as well as audio commentary and two featurettes. In the commentary, Chalamet and Stulhbarg discuss bringing their characters to life and their fond memories of making the film. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette, “Snapshots of Italy: The Making of Call Me By Your Name,” and a cast Q&A.

Call Me By Your Name opened in a limited release in November 2017 and then went wide in January 2018, earning $11.4 million domestically.

Netflix Expanding Spanish Pay-TV Access with Telefónica

Netflix reportedly is about to sign a distribution agreement with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica.

Under terms of the deal – which hasn’t been publicly disclosed – Telefónica would offer full access (i.e. content integration) to Netflix on its Movistar pay-TV service, which has 3.7 million subscribers, according to Reuters.

By comparison, Netflix’s pay-TV deals with France’s Orange and Vodafone in the United Kingdom enable subscribers direct access to the SVOD pioneer.

Telefónica has operations in almost 20 countries outside Spain, and is the fourth-largest company globally, according to Forbes.

Moviestar, which recently launched original series, “The Plague” to record viewership for a Spanish telecom, has already taken a page from the Netflix playbook enabling subscribers access to all episodes at launch.

Indeed, 20% of viewers binged-streamed the entire series in the first four days, according to Variety.

Netflix has more than 1.1 million subs in Spain – low by European standards.

 

Ajit Pai, FCC Oppose Federal Involvement in 5G

Speculation regarding the federal government possibly taking over implementation of a national 5G mobile network was met by disapproval from the Federal Communications Commission.

The National Security Council entertained a PowerPoint presentation outlining the pros and cons of government/private 5G rollouts, according to Axios.com. A 5G network is about 1,000-times faster than the current 4G, capable of downloading a full-length HD movie in one second.

Some security agencies contend the federal government would help expedite 5G deployment at a time when other countries such as China are actively pursuing the technology. China reportedly is spending more than $400 billion on 5G.

The FCC, which has jurisdiction over 5G, contends private – not government – channels drove innovation and investment in 4G. A blueprint that should be emulated for 5G, according to FCC chairman and Trump appointee Ajit Pai.

“What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure,” Pai wrote in a statement. “Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.”

Unlike net neutrality, which the FCC repealed following a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, the agency appears to be on the same page when it comes to 5G.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against repealing net neutrality, says that while the U.S. must lead in the deployment of 5G, localities have a central role to play; the technical expertise possessed by industry should be utilized and cybersecurity must be a core consideration.

“A network built by the federal government, I fear, does not leverage the best approach needed for our nation to win the 5G race,” Clyburn said.