Sony Pictures Television, United Nations Foundation Fete Indian Filmmaker

Sony Pictures Television, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has announced Vinamra Pancharia, from India, as the global winner of the Picture This Festival for the Planet. Pancharia was feted July 31 following an all-day event with eight regional finalists on the Sony Pictures Studio Lot in Los Angeles.

Her winning film Tubelight will stream free in the United States on the ad-supported service Sony Crackle.

The Picture This Festival for the Planet was established “to celebrate everyday storytellers and change makers worldwide, showcasing the positive future they see for our planet through the art of film,” according to a Sony press release. Earlier this year, people from more than 70 countries were invited to submit videos between 1 minute and 8 minutes in length inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals agreed upon by all 193 member states of the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet and promote prosperity for all. The initiative was supported by SPT’s networks around the world.

Tubelight chronicles a homeless orphan’s dream of attending school. Despite not having the means, the boy sits outside a classroom window during the day and studies under a street light at night.

“Education is the foundation for building prosperity and health,” said Pancharia in a statement. “In Mumbai, at traffic signals, you find these kids selling books. They should be using them in the classroom. True progress is only possible when every child is in the classroom. It all boils down to education. With this film, I just want to create that call to change.”

As part of the Picture This Festival for the Planet, the eight short-film competition finalists were invited to the Sony lot for a day of networking and training. The day culminated with a screening of the regional finalists’ films at the Picture This Festival award ceremony, which was attended by film enthusiasts, Sony Pictures Entertainment executives, students, and representatives from the UN Foundation, United Nations, World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate, and other partners.

The other global finalists and short-films featured include Mark Lee (Malaysia, Mr. Garbage); Yatri Niehaus and Constantin Campean (Germany, Atlantis Real Estate); Daniel Mendoza (Mexico, Flying Home); Wally Tham (Singapore, Sayang Kalimantan); Francisco T. Navarro Ruescas (Spain,Huevos Ecologicos); Bethany Borg (United Kingdom, The Conductor); Carolyn Meub (United States, Why Do You Give?).

Regional finalists received airfare and accommodations for two nights in Los Angeles, along with a Sony RX0 Camera and a one year WeTransfer Plus account. The grand prize winner was honored with a Sony Alpha A9 camera and a SEL 2470Z lens.

“Through Picture This, we want to empower aspiring filmmakers to use their storytelling talents to inform audiences about the important issues we’re facing in today’s world, including the threat of global warming,” said John Rego, VP, sustainability, SPE, in a statement. “Thanks to Sony Pictures Television’s vast networks around the world and the UN Foundation, this initiative helped shine a light on these global goals that will make our planet a better place for all of us.”

The Picture This Festival for the Planet is the latest SPE project to bring awareness to the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the United Nations and SPE launched Angry Birds for a Happy Planet, a global youth outreach campaign that leveraged online and social media platforms to encourage action to protect the planet and fight climate change. In 2017, supported by the cast of the Smurfs: The Lost Village, audiences were encouraged to join “Team Smurfs” for the “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign that inspired everyone to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has been called to action. Businesses, organizations, individuals, and governments each play a unique and integral role to meeting our shared challenges head-on,” said Elizabeth Cousens, Deputy CEO, United Nations Foundation, in a statement. “The UN Foundation applauds the creativity and vision of these filmmakers to use their art to inspire equally creative answers. Local solutions can and must drive global action across our sustainability goals.”

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government and individual donors.

The global judging panel for The Picture This Festival for the Planet consisted of celebrity advocates and industry leaders.

To see all eight films, go to www.sonypicturethis.com. To view the winning video on Sony Crackle, go to https://www.sonycrackle.com/picture-this.

Fox Hosts Photo Op Pop-Up in New York to Celebrate Release of ‘Deadpool 2’ on Disc and Digital

Fox is hosting a “Deadpool and Friends’ Believe in Your Selfie Museum,” a limited run photo op pop-up, in New York City’s West Village to celebrate the home entertainment release of the Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut.

The title comes out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Aug. 7 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 21.

Nine distinct photo ops give fans the chance to take selfies recalling some of the Deadpool’s favorite things — from unicorns and rainbows to his X-Force members. Fans can dive into Colossus’s foam pit and see what they would look like with a pair of freakishly small toddler legs.

The pop-up, taking place Aug. 8-9 from noon to 8 p.m. and Aug. 10-11 from noon to 9 p.m., is located at 356 W. 12th Street.

Admission is free but limited. Guests (ages 18 and up) must register for an appointment in advance at https://dp2museum.eventbrite.com. There will be a standby line on-site (admission not guaranteed). Standby guests will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis as space allows.

The Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut includes 15 minutes of extra footage.

MoviePass Claims Box Office ‘Power’ as Stock Continues to Tank

With its penny stock cratering — down 49% in mid-morning (Aug. 1) trading at 25 cents per share — Helios and Matheson Analytics, parent of ticket subscription service MoviePass, is on a last-gasp PR offensive hoping to reassure fleeing investors.

HMNY said it paid back an emergency $6 million loan taken out last week to keep select operations (i.e. paying exhibitors for tickets redeemed by subscribers) running.

The firm issued an Aug. 1 regulatory filing outlining MoviePass’ contributions to studios and the domestic exhibition market — notably that MoviePass subs on average saw six more movies in the past six months than non-subscribers.

“It is incredible to see the power MoviePass has achieved with its sub base in eleven months,” Ted Farnsworth, CEO of HMNY, said in a statement. “MoviePass is one of the top contributors to the film industry without owning a single theater.”

HMNY said MoviePass accounted for 22.7% of opening weekend box office for Lionsgate’s Blindspotting; and 12% of the total box office for Magnolia Pictures’ U.S. Supreme Court documentary, RBG.

Other benchmarks included 16.8% of July 26 previews for Paramount Pictures’ Book Club; 13% of Warner Bros.’ Tag opening weekend domestic box office; and 5% of Universal Pictures’ The First Purge opening weekend. MoviePass said it paid for more than 150,000 tickets subscribers redeemed for First Purge.

The service said 30.8% and 25.4%, respectively, of its subs saw Oceans 8 and Game Night (Warner Bros.), compared to 4.9% of the U.S. moviegoing population. Another 17.7% (2.3%) saw Blockers (Universal Pictures) and 12.8% (1.6%) watched Hereditary (A24).

Indeed, with more than 3 million subscribers, MoviePass has had a major impact on exhibitor foot traffic. But its hemorrhaging money in the process. With subs paying just $9.95 monthly for daily access to a theatrical screening, attendance is up as subs flock to free screenings.

That could change as MoviePass implements a 50% price hike to $14.95 and restricts access to movies releases on 1,000+ screens.

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe says the company has learned “a few points” about the film industry over the past 12 months — which apparently didn’t involve overhead costs.

HMNY is spending millions more per month than it recoups in subscriber revenue — a fiscal reality that continues to spook investors — but not HMNY management.

“We are able to create immense value with our film partners by driving traffic to their films and effectively increasing the valuation of their films on the back-end deals they create,” Lowe said. “Not only do we want to provide an amazing deal for our subscribers, but we also want to be a positive force in Hollywood.”

“We are also beginning to see the benefits of our acquisition and integration of Moviefone.com (acquired from Verizon for an equity stake) into the MoviePass family, with new revenue being generated from studios and brands,” added Khalid Itum, VP of business development.

Shout!, Hasbro, Fathom Holding Animated ‘Transformers’ Movie Screening Sept. 27

The 1986 animated cult-classic The Transformers: The Movie is returning to theaters nationwide for a special one-night Fathom Events engagement Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. local time.

The special event is a collaboration between Fathom, Hasbro Studios and Shout! Factory, which restored the film for a Blu-ray release in 2016.

The Transformers: The Movie was a spinoff of the 1980s animated series based on the Hasbro toys, and featured the voices of Peter Cullen, Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Frank Welker and Orson Welles. The film earned $5.8 million during its initial theatrical run in 1986.

The screening will also provide moviegoers with a sneak peek behind the scenes of the upcoming Bumblebee live-action film, a prequel to the Michael Bay live-action “Transformers” movies. Bumblebee is due in theaters Dec. 21.

The Fathom event will also include a new interview with singer-songwriter Stan Bush, including recent performances of the songs “The Touch” and “Dare,” which feature prominently in the 1986 film.

A list of the 500 participating theaters is available at Fathomevents.com. Tickets will go on sale starting Aug. 3 online or through participating theater box offices.

Shout! Factory Inks Extensive ‘Sesame Street’ Distribution Deal

Shout! Factory Aug. 1 announced a distribution partnership with Sesame Workshop for the “Sesame Street” home entertainment library.

The multiyear pact makes Shout! Factory the official distributor for “Sesame Street” in North America with extensive rights, including DVD and Blu-ray Disc, video-on-demand and select digital, to more than 150 titles and programs based on the venerable TV show; as well as a minimum of four new “Sesame Street”-themed titles per year for cross-platform releases in the U.S. and Canada.

“For almost 50 years, the underlying goal behind every piece of ‘Sesame Street’ content has been to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder,” Scott Chambers, SVP of North America media and licensing at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement. “Shout! Factory’s focus on family content makes them a perfect partner to help Elmo, Big Bird, Abby Cadabby and all their friends reach young children with positive, fun and educational messages.”

Shout! Factory contends it can extend the “Sesame Street” brand via evolving home entertainment distribution channels — notably digital.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to distribute content through digital and on-demand; transactional outlets and on disc,” said Melissa Boag, SVP of family entertainment at Shout! Factory. “We look forward to presenting these immersive entertainment offerings to families and lifelong fans through Shout’s distribution channels.”

 

AMC Networks Pulls Trigger on RLJ Entertainment Merger

AMC Networks has agreed to buy majority (50.1%) interest in RLJ Entertainment, including over-the-top video properties Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel (UMC), for $65 million in cash.

AMC’s $6.25 per share offer represented a 47% increase from its $4.25 per share offer in February. In 2016, AMC entered into a merger-agreement with RLJE, giving $65 million in loans (now valued at $78 million) with the option to acquire the Bethesda, Md.-based home entertainment distributor.

AMC’s move puts a value of $274 million on RLJ Entertainment, which was created in 2012 by Robert L. Johnson through the merger of Image Entertainment and Acorn Media Group. Johnson, who founded and sold Black Entertainment Television (BET) to Viacom, retains a 17% stake in RLJ Entertainment, which becomes a private subsidiary of AMC.

“[Bob Johnson’s] management team is extraordinary, having successfully transitioned Acorn TV from a home video and DVD business to a leading direct-to-consumer subscription service,” Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Acorn TV was launched in 2011 by Acorn Media Group as a competitor to Netflix streaming British TV shows and movies over the Internet. Together with UMC, the two OTT video services have a combined 800,000 monthly subscribers – up 100,000 subs since the end of 2017.

While Sapan appears confused about Acorn TV’s history as a distributor of packaged media (it wasn’t), the CEO is spot on recognizing the value of RLJE’s majority stake in the Agatha Christie library — a brand filled with IP opportunities.

In 2013, RLJE licensed the film rights to Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to 20th Century Fox, which released a new feature film co-starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh in 2017.

Murder on the Orient Express, which starred Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and Michael Pena, among others, generated $352 million at the global box office. The title generated more than $9 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc sales.

“This acquisition furthers AMC Networks’ digital strategy by meaningfully accelerating our interests in direct-to-consumer ad-free subscription services that we own and control, in addition to providing us with access to strong IP as we continue to diversify our revenue opportunities, placing AMC Networks in a stronger position over the long term,” Sapan said.

RLJ Entertainment in May reported a first-quarter net loss of $6.5 million, compared with a net loss of $6.1 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 34% to $18.5 million, from $13.8 million a year ago.