The Catcher Was a Spy

DVD REVIEW:

Street Date 10/2/18;
Paramount;
Drama;
Box Office $0.7 million;
$22.99 DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for some sexuality, violence and language.
Stars Paul Rudd, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Connie Nielsen, Shea Whigham.

The Catcher Was a Spy is one of those strange-but-true tales that really drives up the curiosity factor based on its somewhat bizarre premise alone.

The film is based on a book of the same name that relates the true story of a former Major League Baseball catcher who was tasked with assassinating the head of Germany’s atomic bomb program during World War II.

The actual circumstances make a lot more sense when played out in context of course, even if the man at the center of it, the Jewish baseball player-turned-spy Moe Berg, would seem to defy most attempts to classify his character.

Berg, played here by the always affable Paul Rudd, was an avid reader who spoke several languages, demonstrated his smarts on radio quiz shows and was labeled an oddball for his eccentricities by coaches and teammates during an otherwise underwhelming 15-year baseball career.

After being invited to join an all-star team of Major Leaguers touring Japan in 1934, Berg learned from a Japanese friend that a war between the U.S. and Japan was likely inevitable, so he snuck onto the roof of a Tokyo hospital to film footage of the city’s harbor. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Berg gave the footage to U.S. intelligence services and ended up joining the OSS (precursor to the CIA).

Incidentally, while the film doesn’t dwell on the particulars, this was the same 1934 tour touted in Ken Burns’ Baseball in which a 17-year-old Japanese kid named Eiji Sawamura struck out Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession. (Sawamura was killed a decade later serving the Japanese navy in WWII.)

Anyway, the OSS eventually assigns Berg to a team looking into the activities of famed German physicist Werner Heisenberg (namesake for Walter White’s alias on “Breaking Bad”), trying to gauge his involvement in helping Germany develop an atomic bomb and assess what progress, if any, he has made on the project. The key moment comes when Berg is sent to stalk Heisenberg (played by Mark Strong) during a lecture in neutral Switzerland and shoot him on the spot if the scientist offers any hint that he is working on an atomic weapon.

Part baseball movie, part spy thriller, The Cather Was a Spy is an intriguing wartime procedural carried primarily by its old-fashioned sensibilities and the likability of its main cast. The screenplay is by Robert Rodat, who is no stranger to WWII movies having penned Saving Private Ryan.

The DVD includes seven deleted scenes that run a total of about nine minutes. Many shed a bit more light on Berg’s character and motivations, and had some of them been kept they might have helped the character study bona fides of a film that runs a svelte hour-and-a-half as it is.

UHD and HDR: A Dynamic Duo

It takes two — 4K Ultra HD resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) — to create what critics are calling the best home entertainment viewing format yet.

The increased resolution of 4K has found the perfect match in HDR, which offers brighter brights and darker darks and wider color gamut to create a more vivid and lifelike picture.

It’s the closest the home sector has come to matching the theatrical experience, experts say.

“Combined with technological advancements in film mastering and high dynamic range color, 4K is now the de-facto media format you didn’t know you couldn’t live without until you experience it fully,” says Miguel Casillas, SVP of production, home entertainment and digital distribution, at Lionsgate.

“4K HDR has solidified itself, both with consumers and within the creative community, as the best way to watch content at home,” says Jessica Schell, EVP and GM at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Consumers agree that 4K UHD with HDR is a format they can embrace — when the two are combined.

“The resolution doesn’t do it for me but the HDR, the expanded colors, does,” says Adam Gregorich, co-owner/editor at Home Theater Forum, a home entertainment enthusiast site.

“I’m a 4K junkie,” adds Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton, editor of Brainwavestalk.com, a site for fans of horror and the paranormal, citing the HDR effect. “So much of horror movies take place in the shadows, a lot of details get obscured, but with the remastering, the next richer depth of colors, especially black tones, you can still have that murky, in-the-shadows feeling, but now you can actually see what’s there.”

Home entertainment executives are also seeing promising growth in the market boosted by this consumer enthusiasm. “We’re very enthusiastic about the continued growth of 4K Ultra HD and the unparalleled cinematic experience it brings into the home,” says Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The 4K ecosystem continues its steady expansion, marked by a host of meaningful advancements over the past year,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Across the industry, we’ve seen a surge in 4K content offerings and devices as well as a diversified retail presence spanning both physical and digital customers, powering the format’s notable progress.”

“The growing number of digital providers and streaming devices supporting 4K coupled with robust sales of 4K UHD discs indicates that demand continues to grow for the exceptional home viewing experience that only 4K offers,” says Vincent Marcais, EVP of worldwide marketing at Paramount Home Media Distribution.

By the Numbers

Consumer uptake of 4K UHD TVs is helping to expand the market for content. In its mid-year report, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group noted that more than 8 million 4K Ultra HD TVs were sold in the first half of 2018, bringing the total number of U.S. households to 38 million. Growth of 4K Ultra HD content is expanding rapidly, according to the DEG, with 344 4K Ultra HD titles available on disc, representing more than $100 million in consumer spending for the first half of the year. There were also 473 4K titles available digitally through the first half. In the same time frame, approximately 1.7 million Ultra HD Blu-ray playback devices were sold (including game consoles).

The Consumer Technology Association expects 1.2 million 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players to ship domestically in 2018 (39% growth over 2017), which will make up 22% of all Blu-ray player shipments. UHD Blu-ray player revenue will reach $180 million (17% growth over 2017), according to the CTA.

“Consumers’ desire for a premium entertainment experience at home is the sales driver for both 4K Ultra HD TVs and Ultra HD Blu-ray players, which, when used together, provide the very best possible in-home viewing experience,” says Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of the DEG. “The speedy uptake of 4K Ultra HD displays and devices, combined with the rapid expansion of 4K titles available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally, make it possible for every entertainment lover to find something to enjoy with the richest picture and sound possible.”

“We are very encouraged by the format’s demonstrated year-over-year growth,” says Universal’s Cunningham. “UHD disc sales have doubled from the first half 2017 to first half of 2018 to $100 million in consumer spend and are now capturing a larger share of sales during a tentpole title’s first week of release, accounting for nearly 10% of all new-release sales.

Research also shows that 4K UHD TV households are driving a significant share of digital transactions.”

The new line of 4K TVs, which increasingly feature HDR, are a driving force.
“The TVs are better and better,” says Bill Hunt, editor at home entertainment enthusiast site The Digital Bits. “I’m kind of shocked at how fast they’ve gotten inexpensive. You can get a very credible set for a few hundred bucks. And if you want to spend $1,000 or more you can get a very, very nice set. Prices are getting better and features are getting better all the time.”

“Your bang for the buck goes further now than it ever did,” adds Home Theater Forum’s Gregorich.

Worldwide, Futuresource data shows 4K Ultra HD TV shipments increased by nearly 40% in 2017 and are expected to increase another 33% in 2018. Also, according to Futuresource data, standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales (minus Xbox) are on pace to surpass 2017 by 44%. Meanwhile, 15% of all Ultra HD Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be 4K UHD, with that percentage anticipated to be almost 25% in 2019.

The UHD Blu-ray player installed base worldwide is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018. Worldwide there are 29 4K UHD BD player models available and 11 4K UHD recorders/players available, according to Futuresource data. Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 7% of Blu-rays sold worldwide in 2018, rising to 28% by 2022, according to Futuresource.

“The prices have definitely come down to the point where it makes sense to [upgrade your Blu-ray player to UHD],” notes the Home Theater Forum’s Gregorich. “It just doesn’t make sense to not slowly start to make that change.”

IHS Markit anticipates the number of 4K households worldwide will be 188 million by the end of 2018, more than double that of 2016, with the number of households with a 4K TV predicted to grow from 121 million in 2017 to 501 million by 2022, according to the UHD Alliance.

“As consumers continue to transition to 4K, the UHD ecosystem is growing at an accelerated rate,” says UHD Alliance president Mike Fidler. “ABI Research is anticipating 4K UHD TV sales will surpass 102 million, representing 44% of total global flat-panel shipments and Hollywood studios continue to dramatically expand their 4K UHD offerings. And while content from traditional broadcasters remains limited, it remains a critical component of the content universe. In addition, filmmakers, studios and consumer electronics manufacturers are making a more concerted effort to deliver the full capabilities of 4K UHD with more awareness of HDR, wide color gamut, 10-bit color depth and enhanced immersive audio.”

In addition to fostering 4K UHD TVs, Blu-ray players, Blu-rays and other hardware, the UHD Alliance is looking to promote 4K UHD broadcasting.
“From the outset, the Alliance has been focused not only on helping consumers understand the benefits of 4K UHD with HDR, but also on fostering the growth of the UHD ecosystem,” UHDA chairman Michael Zink told broadcast executives at IBC 2018 in Amsterdam Sept. 18. “Broadcast is a critical component of the content universe, and the recent delivery of marquee events such as the Olympics, the World Cup and Wimbledon in 4K with HDR is a significant step toward ensuring consumers get the most out of today’s 4K UHD with HDR displays.”

Content Pipeline

Indeed, content, while perhaps not coming as quickly as the most avid 4K enthusiasts would like, is growing to serve the market, especially for the all-important gift-giving season.

“If you are a 4K enthusiast, it’s going to be an expensive second half of the year,” says The Digital Bits’ Hunt. “There are some really great titles coming that everybody wants to buy.”

In fact, home entertainment enthusiasts are buying 4K UHD titles even before they’ve got the equipment to play them.

“You have to have an HDR set to really benefit from the UHD,” says the Home Theater Forum’s Gregorich. “[But] I’ve seen some people buying in advance. They know they’re going to get the HDR set in the next year, so rather than buy the [regular] Blu-ray Disc they’re buying the 4K UHD Blu-ray so that they can enjoy the Blu-ray now and have the UHD for when they make that display upgrade in the next year or so. So we’re seeing some people do that, kind of future-proofing if you will.”

“I know a lot of guys who don’t even have 4K yet, but will buy the 4K version,” adds Hunt.

“We’re seeing 4K HDR content availability continue to broaden, with not only the latest theatrical new releases, but remastered classics like The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as TV franchises like ‘Westworld’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ and direct-to-video releases including our DC Universe animated movies, all available or coming soon in 4K HDR,” notes Warner’s Schell.

“I’m excited about 2001: A Space Odyssey,” Hunt says. “That title is going to look amazing on 4K.”

Going into the fourth quarter, the industry is rolling out some of its biggest films of the year on 4K UHD, says Universal’s Cunningham, citing Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

“Consumers can expect Fox’s new releases to be available in 4K UHD with HDR, many day and date, with digital and Blu-ray, such as the upcoming title The Predator,” says Danny Kaye, EVP at 20th Century Fox and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab. As far as Kaye is concerned, “It’s clear 4K UHD with HDR is redefining the premium entertainment experience.”

“For the industry, it’s important to expand our 4K content footprint alongside our consumer electronics and retail partners within this space; and for the consumer, we are excited to bring favorites such as Hotel Transylvania 3, Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Air Force One to market so that consumers can enjoy them in the highest possible quality,” says Sony’s Wong.

“More than 38 million U.S. households have 4K televisions, and clearly those consumers want to maximize the capabilities of their home entertainment systems, so Paramount is committed to delivering an array of titles to fill that demand,” says Paramount’s Marcais. “From enduring classics like the Jack Ryan films to contemporary blockbusters like Mission: Impossible — Fallout, fans can enjoy a diverse slate of movies from Paramount in 4K.”

Home theater enthusiasts are taking notice of the plethora of releases in 4K UHD.

“I like the fact that we’re seeing almost all big titles as day-and-date UHD releases,” says the Home Theater Forum’s Gregorich. “I like the fact that a lot of studios are going back and releasing catalog. I mean you’ve got Paramount doing all the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies. You’ve got ‘The Matrix’ collection coming out. You’ve had titles like Die Hard come out, so the fact that we’re seeing studios go back to catalog and release those films in 4K HDR is a good thing, and I’m finding that despite the fact that I swore Blu-ray would be it, I’m rebuying and replacing Blu-rays with UHDs.”
Gregorich is looking forward to the fourth-quarter sales.

“I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen with Q4 and Black Friday with the format,” he says. “I was actually sort of surprised at the number of UHD deals on Black Friday last year, and I’m really interested to see what we’re going to have on Black Friday this year. I was surprised at the number of $10 UHD discs last year at both Best Buy and Amazon. I did a lot of catalog catchup then. Hopefully, we’ll see something similar this year.”

Physical, Digital and Looking to the Future

Industry pundits agree that the physical disc is still the best way to watch 4K UHD with HDR.

“Home theater enthusiasts, serious film fans, cinephiles, they want stuff on disc,” notes The Digital Bits’ Hunt. “The guys who have the really nice home theaters, they don’t want to watch a 4K stream on their iPad. They want to be able to have the disc.”

Hunt is a disc aficionado.

“I don’t purchase movies digitally. It’s just not my thing,” he added. “If I’m gonna spend my money, I want the best quality, especially in a new format like 4K.”

Redbox, known for its national fleet of disc-rental kiosks as well as its Redbox On Demand digital store, last May began renting 4K Ultra HD rentals in six test markets. Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs rent for $2.50 per night, 50 cents higher than the rental rate for regular Blu-ray Discs (DVDs are $1.75). The test rolled out across more than 2,500 kiosks in Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Miami and New York City.

“This is a major move for Redbox as we focus on expanding consumer access to home entertainment options across price points and formats,” Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, told Media Play News at the time. “As the popularity of 4K content increases and pricing of 4K hardware decreases, we’re excited to offer the best viewing experience at the best price for 4K Blu-ray discs.”

But like all content, 4K Ultra HD is fast migrating from disc to digital. Nielsen recently reported that domestic DVD/Blu-ray household penetration has fallen to 67% in the first quarter of 2018 from 73% at the end of 2017, indicating consumers’ shift to other forms of delivery.

“We still believe 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray remains the premium format for viewing 4K HDR content,” says Warner’s Schell. “However, the digital infrastructure continues to improve, with most digital services now supporting 4K HDR content. And with the 5G infrastructure ready to deploy this year from AT&T and others, the availability and digital distribution of 4K content will continue to improve and proliferate globally.”

Home theater enthusiasts are preparing for the future as well, happy that studios are offering 4K digital copies in the physical combo packs.

“The fact that almost all the studios are giving you a 4K digital copy now instead of the 2K digital copy is sweetening that pot a little bit, just to know that I’ve got a more future-ready digital version,” the Home Theater Forum’s Gregorich says.

Digital retailers are catering to the 4K consumer as well.

“It’s likely that a new TV in the home will be a 4K TV, and there’s a dearth of premium content available,” says Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango. “That’s where providers like FandangoNow step in, with a vast assortment of big 4K titles, most in high dynamic range, ready to watch on demand — titles like Incredibles 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Deadpool 2 are just a click away.”

Streaming goliaths such as Netflix, too, are moving into 4K. Netflix reports subs require a minimum speed of 25Mbps to stream 4K content, and it is tinkering with higher pricing for 4K streamers in Europe, perhaps indicating the value of picture quality in the streaming realm.

No matter how the content is delivered, education is the key to expanding the format, observers say.

“Driving further awareness about the format and educating both physical and digital consumers on 4K UHD’s high-value, high-quality proposition will be critical to successfully driving broad adoption,” Universal’s Cunningham says.

“Consumers are witnessing an unprecedented and rapid convergence between 4K options in movies, gaming, streaming and affordable high-end 4K displays that have expanded from televisions to a bevy of smart devices and computers,” says Lionsgate’s Casillas. “The most exciting part is that the best of 4K is still to come.”

Even More Dynamic

Dynamic metadata, as opposed to static, is considered by many to be the height of HDR, allowing colors and brightness to adjust scene by scene.
Dolby Vision, which requires a licensing fee, and HDR10+, which does not, are two of the formats promoting this greater HDR capability.

HDR10+ is backed by 20th Century Fox, Panasonic and Samsung with support from Amazon.

“Fox has eyes toward the future and is committed to bringing consumers the best in picture and sound, often working hand-in-hand with leading technology partners on the development of content for the next generation of entertainment,” says Fox’s Kaye. “This includes the latest HDR10+ technology, which is gaining traction and will further improve the viewing experiences for all audiences.”

Dolby via Dolby Vision, which also offers dynamic metadata, and the sound enhancement, Dolby Atmos, is also vying to improve the home entertainment experience.

“Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos continue to gather exciting momentum across the entertainment ecosystem,” says Ron Geller, VP of worldwide content relations at Dolby. “Major Hollywood studios and independents are now delivering Dolby Vision on a regular basis, with all studios supporting Dolby Atmos for the home. With a wide range of content available including Dolby technologies, leading service and content distribution providers around the world are enabling the combined Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos experience. This includes Amazon, iTunes, iQIYI, Netflix, Rakuten TV, Tencent, VUDU, and others. From content creation and distribution to devices, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos are creating spectacular experiences for next-gen home entertainment.”

Dolby reports that more than 360 movies are available in Dolby Vision, with more than 400 hours of original content available from Netflix. Also, content partners supporting Dolby Vision include A24, Amazon Studios, BBC, Disney, HBO, iQIYI, Lionsgate, Magnolia Pictures, MGM, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros., among others. Content service providers supporting Dolby Vision include iTunes, iQIYI, Netflix, NTT Plala, Rakuten TV, Vudu and Tencent.

Also, Dolby Vision is available on 4K UHD Blu-ray with 80-plus titles in the market.

On the hardware side, 12 TV brands have Dolby Vision TVs in the market at prices as low as $350, according to Dolby. Apple announced support for Dolby Vision across iPhone, iPad and Apple TV 4K; Lenovo announced the first PCs supporting Dolby Vision; and Microsoft announced Dolby Vision support on Xbox One S and Xbox One X, according to Dolby.

Dolby Atmos is featured on more than 400 movie titles available in the home from all major studios and a wide range of independents, according to Dolby.

As for the home entertainment enthusiasts, they are captive to what the studios and hardware manufacturers support. But they are not too concerned about it.

“It’s whatever the studio opts to use for their authoring pipeline, so it’s not like I have a choice,” says HTF’s Gregorich. “I did as a conscientious decision make sure I had invested in playback hardware that would do both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Unfortunately, HDR10+ came out after I bought displays.”

Hunt, at The Digital Bits, is more sanguine.

“I don’t find it to be a big deal,” he says. “Some consumers swear that it is. Some enthusiasts swear that it is, but I don’t find it to be that big a deal. The key is if you’ve got a really bright display, like a display that can really handle the bright brights and the dark darks, you don’t need Dolby Vision. The Dolby Vision is more of a benefit when you’ve got a display that isn’t fully capable of displaying the full range of dynamics.”

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray All-Time Top 50 Sellers as of 8/25/18
All-Time Top 4K UHD BD Market Share as of 8/25/18

‘Schlock,’ ‘Twelve Monkeys,’ Italian ‘Torso’ Due on Blu-ray From Arrow and MVD in October

A collection of horror, a sci-fi classic and a British classic are coming out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group in October.

Schlock from director John Landis hits Blu-ray Oct. 16. The comedy pays tribute to monster movies of the past as it follows a prehistoric ape named Shlock on a rampage throughout southern California. The genre mashup launched the career of Landis and makeup effects wizard Rick Baker. The Blu-ray comes with a new 4K restoration. Special features include an audio commentary with both Landis and Baker; a new video interview with author and critic Kim Newman; “Birth of a Schlock,” a 2017 video interview with Landis; an archival video interview with cinematographer Bob Collins; 1972, 1979 and 1982 U.S. theatrical trailers; and U.S. radio spots.

Due Oct. 23 is Jim Van Bebber’s blood-soaked cult classic Deadbeat at Dawn. It’s the story of Goose, a gang leader trying to go straight until his girlfriend is brutally murdered by his rivals. Now pulled back into the world he was desperately trying to escape, Goose is hell-bent on getting retribution. The 1980s feature comes with a new 2K restoration and bonus content including a new audio commentary with Van Bebber, actor Paul Harper and guest Cody Lee Hardin, moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore; Jim VanBebber, Deadbeat Forever!, a new retrospective documentary on VanBebber and the Deadbeat legacy by filmmaker Victor Bonacore, featuring first-time interviews, rare footage, VanBebber’s college films and more; an archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary,  Nate Pennington’s VHS documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot; outtakes, newly transferred in HD; four newly-restored VanBebber short films; “Jim VanBebber Music Video Collection,” featuring never-before-seen director’s cuts; Chunkblower, a promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith-produced gore-soaked feature film; an image gallery; and a reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain.

Oct. 30 comes Sergio Martio’s Italian film Torso on Blu-ray. The giallo about a sex-craved maniac prowling the streets of Perugia looking for his latest victim is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s. The Blu-ray features a new 2K restoration of both the 94-minute Italian cut and the 90-minute English cut. Bonus features include new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colours of Sergio Martino; a new video interview with co-writer/director Martino; a new video interview with actor Luc Merenda; a new video interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi; a new video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Martino; a new video interview with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film; a 2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Martino; Italian and English theatrical trailers; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais.

Also coming Oct. 30 on Blu-ray is Terry Gilliam’s 1990s sci-fi classic, Twelve Monkeys. Based on a short film by Chris Marker, Twelve Monkeys opens up in 1996 with a group known as the Army of Twelve Monkeys releasing a deadly virus upon the world. Flash forward to the year 2035 where Bruce Willis is ordered to travel back in time to find a cure. The film was nominated for two Oscars. The Blu-ray features a new 4K restoration approved by Gilliam. Bonus features include audio commentary by Gilliam and producer Charles Roven; The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, a feature-length making-of documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha); an image galley; a theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin.

In a change of pace Oct. 23, Arrow Academy will release Distant Voices, Still Lives on Blu-ray. The debut from director Terence Davies allows viewers to peer into the life of a working-class family in 1940s and 1950s Liverpool, England. The new 4K restoration was carried out by the British Film Institute. Bonus features include commentary by Davies; an interview with Davies; an Interview with art director Miki van Zwanenberg; a theatrical trailer; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio; and for the first pressing only, an Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Christina Newland plus archive essays.

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Was Top Disc Seller in August, Outpacing ‘Deadpool 2’

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, was the top seller in August 2018 of combined Blu-ray Disc and DVD units sold according to the NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service.

The superhero team-up epic, which is just the fourth film to ever earn more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office, landed ahead of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Deadpool 2 for the month.

Deadpool 2 topped the weekly sales charts for three weeks following its Aug. 21 disc debut, but half of that run carried over into September. Infinity War was released a week earlier on Aug. 14, debuting at No. 1 on the weekly charts before settling in as a close No. 2 during Deadpool 2’s run, giving it the edge in August sales.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Ready Player One was No. 3 for the August, down from No. 2 in July.

Another Warner title, Life of the Party, debuted at No. 4, having been released in the first week of the August.

Paramount’s Book Club, released Aug. 28, was the No. 5 disc seller for the month.

Warner’s direct-to-video animated superhero actioner The Death of Superman was the month’s No. 6 seller. It debuted at No. 1 on the weekly charts the week following its Aug. 7 release.

The top seller for July, Warner’s Rampage, slipped to No. 7, while Universal Pictures’ Breaking In debuted at No. 8.

Stalwarts Black Panther, from Disney, and The Greatest Showman, from Fox, rounded out the top 10.

The arrival of Infinity War helped Disney take over the top five spots on the year-to-date top 10 chart. The top four remained unchanged from the previous month, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi remaining No. 1 on the list of the year’s top sellers, followed by Black Panther, Coco and Thor: Ragnarok, with Inifinity War moving into the No. 5 spot.

Deadpool 2 entered the chart as the year’s No. 10 seller so far.

According to NPD, the August 2018 top 10 by units sold were:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (Disney)
  2. Deadpool 2 (Fox)
  3. Ready Player One (Warner)
  4. Life of the Party (Warner)
  5. Book Club (Paramount)
  6. The Death of Superman (Warner)
  7. Rampage (Warner)
  8. Breaking In (Universal)
  9. Black Panther (Disney)
  10. The Greatest Showman (Fox)

Year-to-date Top 10 (through August 2018):

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney)
  2. Black Panther (Disney)
  3. Coco (Disney)
  4. Thor: Ragnarok (Disney)
  5. Avengers: Infinity War (Disney)
  6. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)
  7. The Greatest Showman (Fox)
  8. Justice League (Warner)
  9. It (2017) (Warner)
  10. Deadpool 2 (Fox)

 

‘Rampage’ Leads Disc Sales for July

Sling TV Launches Comedy Dynamics, DOGTV Channels

Sling TV has launched two a la carte channels — Comedy Dynamics and DOGTV — that can be purchased with or without a base subscription at $5 each per month.

Comedy Dynamics features one of the largest independent stand-up comedy libraries in the country, according to Sling TV. It features such comedians as Bob Saget, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish as well as shows such as “Coming to the Stage” and feature films such as Adventures in Comedy and Chee and T. Current customers can sample promotional titles available for free from Comedy Dynamics by going to “Sling Central” in the channel guide, and former customers can access the promotional titles on Roku devices by reopening their Sling TV app and viewing the “Free Shows from Premium Channels” ribbon on “My TV.”

DOGTV is a TV experience just for dogs. The veterinarian-recommended TV channel features programming designed to stimulate and comfort dogs. “DOGTV has been proven to support a dog’s natural behavior pattern and improve their well-being,” according to Sling TV. Categories are designed around a dog’s  mood, such as “Relaxation,” “Stimulation” and “Exposure.”

Comedy Dynamics and DOGTV join Sling’s library of individual channel offerings, which includes Showtime, CuriosityStream, Grokker, Stingray Karaoke, Docurama and NBA League Pass.

Amazon ‘Thursday Night Football’ – Spanish, British English and Women

Lost in the all-day Congressional spectacle involving U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the first NFL regular season TV broadcast ever exclusively called by women.

Veteran sports reporters Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm called the Sept. 27 “Thursday Night Football” featuring the Los Angeles Rams’ 38-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Amazon Prime Video – the first of 11 games the e-commerce behemoth will stream (and Kremer & Storm will call) this season.

To the casual viewer – on Prime Video – watching the women make history was as challenging as listening to the pair try and keep up with the live game video.

With Fox Sports having exclusive TV broadcast rights to “Thursday Night Football,” Prime viewers were by default linked to the broadcast called by veterans commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

It took a Tweet on social media by Storm to inform anyone who cared that to access her (and Kremer’s) webcast required going into the “audio & language” setting and clicking on the “Kremer & Storm” link. Other options include Spanish and English U.K.

Doing so displayed the live video feed with Kremer & Storm calling plays and offering analysis, respectively. The duo appeared at times caught off guard by the tempo of the game – issues that would undoubtedly affect anyone calling live sports in Los Angeles from a studio in Connecticut.

Kremer did her best injecting anecdotes from conversations she had earlier in the week with team general managers and related personnel. Storm never missed a play or player’s number.

Actually, hearing what the pair said was tough, however. A situation only partly remedied by increasing the volume. In addition, never once were the pair ever shown on camera. In fact, after one commercial break, the webcast defaulted back to Buck and Aikman – requiring the viewer to exit the webcast and go back into settings.

Kremer and Storm offer a fresh approach to NFL broadcasts. Too bad Amazon appears indifferent to their actual presence.

 

TiVo Targets Cord-Cutters with Old-School Antenna Technology

TiVo is looking to attract cord- cutters with an updated set-top box that enables users to bypass pay-TV through an over-the-air antenna.

The TiVo BOLT OTA is a premium, 4K Ultra High-Definition capable set-top box designed to work with HD antenna, equipped with an on-screen user experience that looks and feels like a high-end cable box.

The all-in-one home entertainment product aims to combine the features of TiVo’s legacy DVR with online streaming services. TiVo Bolt OTA allows consumers to record and watch free, over-the-air HD TV.

TiVo’s DVR includes four tuners to avoid recording conflicts and stores up to 150 hours of HD programming. They can skip entire commercial breaks on recorded programs and use voice-activated technology.

The set-top works with almost any HD antenna and television, enabling consumers to watch or record programming in HD using an antenna (sold separately), but without the cost of renting equipment from a pay-TV provider.

The set-top combines OTT video and over-the-air access, giving consumers access on one user interface to top streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Users can search live TV, recordings and popular streaming services to deliver personalized results. Plus, they can stream and download shows to their mobile devices, watch their favorite content on-the-go, or schedule recordings almost anywhere with the free TiVo app or add a TiVo Mini for a multi-room, whole-home TV solution.

“TiVo Bolt OTA is the perfect solution for a broad range of TV enthusiasts, including those considering cutting their cable TV subscription or those who might have cut the cord but are missing some programs that are only available via live TV,” Ted Malone, VP of consumer products and services, said in a statement.

TiVo estimates that cord-cutters and those who intend to cut service, represent 25% of the general pay-TV viewing population.

 

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Debuts at No. 1 on Home Video Charts

Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom easily debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Sept. 22.

The fifth film in the “Jurassic Park” franchise and the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World earned $416.6 million at the domestic box office.

Moving up to No. 2 was Walt Disney Studios’ Hocus Pocus, buoyed by the upcoming Halloween season and a recent 25th anniversary Blu-ray. Hocus Pocus was No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

No. 3 on the overall chart and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart was Warner’s Ocean’s 8, which debuted in the top spot on both charts a week earlier.

Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War slid to No. 4 overall but climbed back to No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart.

Deadpool 2, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, dropped to No. 5 on the overall chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart.

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 65% of total Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom unit sales; 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray made up 12% of the film’s tally.

Fallen Kingdom also debuted at No. 1 on the Media Play News rental chart the week ended Sept. 23.

Ocean’s 8, Tag (also from Warner) and Deadpool 2 each slipped a notch to No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Lionsgate’s Sibera, a thriller with Keanu Reeves, debuted as the No. 5 rental.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 09-22-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 09-23-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 09-22-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 09-22-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 09-22-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 09-24-18

College Football ‘Redbox Bowl’ Coming Dec. 31

Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based home to the San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 27 announced a multiyear partnership with Redbox to have the kiosk vendor serve as the title sponsor of the annual Bay Area college football bowl game.

The Redbox Bowl will feature teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, with the 17th installment of the game kicking off at noon PT on Dec. 31st. The game will be televised live nationally on Fox Sports, with a Spanish-language simulcast on Fox Deportes.

Redbox Bowl tickets go on sale Oct. 1st at www.RedboxBowl.com.

Since its inception in 2002, the bowl has been an annual fixture on the Bay Area’s college football landscape. Prior to being named the Redbox Bowl, it was known as the Foster Farms Bowl (2014-2017).

“Redbox’s mission is to deliver quality home entertainment to everyone,” Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, said in a statement. “And it’s through shared experiences like football games and movie nights that we come together with friends and family for meaningful occasions.”

Fans attending the Redbox Bowl can take home post-game entertainment when they follow in-stadium instructions for a Redbox promo code for a free one-night movie rental.

“A post-game movie night is always within reach for football fans everywhere,” said Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Redbox. “Most football fans live about 5-minutes from a Redbox kiosk and Redbox On Demand is available instantly, everywhere in the U.S.”

The game will continue to match teams from the Big Ten and the Pac 12 (outside of the College Football Playoff group). As in previous years, a day of community service by the players and coaches of the participating teams will be a featured component of their visit to the Bay Area. Historically the teams will serve meals to those in need at GLIDE and St. Anthony’s in San Francisco.

“We are in the midst of an incredibly exciting year for college football in the Bay Area and the addition of an innovative brand like Redbox as the game’s new title partner greatly adds to that excitement,” said Ryan Oppelt, executive director of the Redbox Bowl.

‘Melanie — For One Night Only,’ ‘Yes — Yessongs,’ ‘Glastonbury Fayre: 1971 the True Spirit of Glastonbury’ Coming From Screenbound and MVD

Three music titles from Screenbound International Pictures are being released for U.S. distribution through MVD Entertainment Group.

Melanie — For One Night Only, available now on DVD ($19.95), features the performer Melanie who, with guitar in hand, conquered Woodstock and the original Glastonbury with her songwriting, powerful voice and powerful message. She was once hailed by The New York Times as the female Bob DyIan and was the first solo pop/rock artist ever to appear at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House and the Sydney Opera House. Her record sales are more than 80 million to date and her songs have been covered by singers as diverse as Cher, Dolly Parton and Macy Gray. UNICEF made her its spokesperson, and she has continued to tour worldwide, but not in Britain. She played her last sell out British gig nearly 20 years ago before Jarvis Cocker sent her a special invitation to open the Meltdown Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, in June 2007. This DVD showcases that evening’s performance featuring hits including “Brand New Key,” “Beautiful People,” “Peace Will Come,” “Hush A Bye,” “Ruby Tuesday” and “Alexander Beetle.”

Yes — Yessongs, coming Oct. 19 on Blu-ray ($19.95), features the group that has been at the forefront of progressive rock and became a major force in popular music, selling more than 30 million albums and reaching platinum status multiple times worldwide. During the late 1960s, Yes were renowned for their live performances culminating in their album and film of the same name, “Yessongs.” Filmed in 1972 at London’s Rainbow theatre, the feature was released theatrically in the United Kingdom the following year with a quadrophonic sound track. The film features their new line-up of the time, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White.

Due Nov. 9 on DVD and Blu-ray ($19.95 each) is Glastonbury Fayre: 1971 the True Spirit of Glastonbury. Shot by acclaimed director Nic Roeg, the film features the first Glastonbury festival to have the pyramid stage. It was free to all and with a line-up that included Melanie, Terry Reid, Family, Fairport Convention, Traffic, Linda Lewis and Arthur Brown.

Based in the United Kingdom, Screenbound emerged from various U.K. distribution, production and DVD companies founded in 2003 by Alan Byron. In 2015, the companies were all brought under the Screenbound brand, and the international sales and distribution arm — Screenbound International Pictures — was launched to represent a classic film library of more than 500 titles.

“We’re delighted to be working with a specialist distributor such as MVD,” said Byron in a statement. “While they succeed with many genres of film and music, at their core is music video and that’s exciting.”

“We are honored to be working with Alan and Screenbound, and so pleased to be launching with some absolute classics in the music video genre,” said Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment Group, in a statement.