Merchandising: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Preorders Are Up

The afterglow of the theatrical debut of Avengers: Endgame continued to loom large at retail April 30, as retailers continued to tout sales of catalog titles rather than push new titles with exclusive tie-ins.

Unsurprisingly, many of the sales involved previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, not to mention countless merchandise tie-ins such as toys, games and shirts.

Target’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ exclusive

Best Buy and Target are also taking preorders for their exclusive editions of the upcoming 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc of not just Avengers: Endgame, but also the still-in-theaters Captain Marvel, even as street dates for both have yet to be announced.

Target’s ‘Captain Marvel’ Blu-ray with booklet

Target is taking preorders for both priced at $34.99 and its exclusive is a behind-the-scenes booklet. Avengers: Endgame comes with an Avengers Initiative: A Look Back book, and Captain Marvel comes with a 40-page filmmaker book.

Best Buy is offering Steelbooks priced at $34.99 for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of each title.

Best Buy’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Steelbook

Best Buy is also touting preorders for Steelbooks for Warner’s May 7 release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Blu-ray/DVD combo at $29.99, and Universal’s May 21 release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at $37.99.

Other catalog sales offered at Best Buy include Blu-rays starting at $14.99, including a “May the 4th Be With You” promotion for recent “Star Wars” movies in a variety of formats.

Another Best Buy ad encouraged fans to “Have a Superhero Party” with a variety of MCU movies, including 4K UHD Blu-rays for $24.99 each, and the recently released Steelbooks for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War for $34.99 each.

In the digital realm, Best Buy offered $25 Showtime gift cards for $22.50 for fans to stream Showtime series.

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Target held a $15 movie sale, including Marvel Blu-rays.

Other discounts at Target included DVDs of the final season of “The Last Ship” for $19.99 (a $3 savings), season one of “Krypton” for $14.99 (a $5 savings), and season 11 of “The Big Bang Theory” for $20 (a $9.99 savings).

Apple Ups Q2 ‘Services’ Revenue to Record $11.5 Billion

Apple April 30 reported record “services” revenue of $11.5 billion, up more than 16% from revenue of $9.13 billion during the previous-year period.

As the media/tech giant shifts its focus from hardware products such as iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch, among others, it has upped scrutiny on services, which include sales of digital movies and TV shows on iTunes and Apple TV, in addition to the pending rollout of Apple TV+ app and separate subscription streaming video service.

“Our March quarter [services] results show the continued strength of our installed base of over 1.4 billion active devices,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

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Cook eyes Apple’s install base as the genesis for the future success of AppleTV+ and related Apple business ventures such as Apple News, Apple Pay (including branded credit card), Apple Arcade (gaming) and Apple Music.

Indeed, Apple said sales of its legacy iPhone declined nearly 18% to $31 billion from $37.5 billion during the previous-year period. The attributed the decline to 21.5% drop in unit sales in China – a slight improvement from 26.7% unit drop in the prior-year quarter.

Mac revenue dipped 4% to $5.5 billion, while iPad sales revenue increased 21.5% to $4.8 billion.

Net revenue fell about 5% to $58 billion from $61.1 billion. Net income fell almost 17% to $11.5 billion from $13.8 billion.

Fritz Friedman: Reflecting on the ‘Glorious Image’ of John Singleton

I am deeply shocked and saddened by the untimely death of my friend, the legendary director John Singleton, whom I have known since 1991 when his iconic film, Boyz n the Hood, was released.

Just a couple of weeks ago he had asked me to go to the Sony Lot to help him pick several photos from Boyz to be used at The Academy Award’s 90th Anniversary show next year. This was to have been followed by lunch (my treat, he said!).

I was privileged to have overseen the worldwide home entertainment publicity for this groundbreaking film (and for several of his subsequent films distributed by Columbia Pictures).

John was always appreciative. Over the years we developed a unique bond – he always called me “Fritzy” – laughing, talking about film and the importance of diversity and just having silly fun. He was smart as a whip, well-read and well-versed in literature and film history.

John was also exceedingly generous with his time and so very patient with my countless asks like speaking at my public relations class at The Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, or making a special appearance at various diversity events.

If his schedule permitted it, he was there.

From my perspective, John never took for granted the blessings bestowed on him, and his unique cinematic vision and deep sense of humanity were profoundly intermingled in his art.

It was my honor to have arranged for John to receive his well-deserved star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. This photo captures that happy day when he received his Star. And now when I think of John, this glorious image is what will appear in my heart.

Requiescat in pace.

Fritz Friedman is the former SVP of worldwide marketing at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Redbox Widens Disc Rental Market Share

It may be a streaming video ecosystem, but consumers still spent about $400 million renting DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies in the first quarter, ended March 31, according new data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Most of that spending came at 41,000 Redbox kiosks, which accounted for 61% ($244 million) of spending, up about 1.3% from the previous-year period.

Privately-held Redbox does not disclose fiscal data, but when it was last publicly traded in 2016, the chain generated about $2 billion in annual revenue.

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The company continues to co-promote transactional VOD service Redbox On Demand despite the fact the kiosk remains the most cost-effective way to rent new-release movies without a subscription.

“A five-minute drive is not going to be that much gas or time,” CEO Galen Smith told The Chicago Tribune. “In 11 minutes, you’ve got that movie at your house.”

Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc rental service generated about 20% market spending, or $80.6 million, down 1.1% from $98.7 million in spending last year.

The decline was due in part to the service losing 573,000 disc subscribers to end the period with 2.6 million subs. The loss was not surprising considering Netflix’s singular focus remains streaming video.

Brick and mortar disc rental revenue — spearheaded by Family Video — backstopped packaged-media rental with about $73 million (18.3%) in spending, which was down from revenue of $99.75 million (18.8%) during the previous-year period.

Like Redbox, privately-held Family Video does not reveal financial data. Forbes in 2017 estimated the Glenview, Ill.-based chain generated about $405 million in annual revenue.

Obamas’ Production Company Announces Initial Slate for Netflix

Higher Ground Productions, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company in partnership with Netflix, announced its initial slate of upcoming projects, encompassing fiction and non-fiction productions; scripted, unscripted and documentary series; and full-length features and documentaries.

Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis are co-heads of the company.

The documentary American Factory, from Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, will be the first release on the slate. Acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary, the Participant Media film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.

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“Bloom” is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-World War II New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress.

Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in history.

The company is adapting a scripted anthology series from The New York Times’ ongoing obituary column “Overlooked,” telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper.

“Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents” will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (“Drunk History”) and Erika Thormahlen. The show travel around the globe to tell the story of our food.

From Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, the non-fiction series “Fifth Risk” will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.

Crip Camp is a feature-length documentary film in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives and America forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham.

The Obamas launched Higher Ground last spring.

“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said in a statement. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”

“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle Obama said in a statement. “We think there’s something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”

“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”

DEG: Q1 2019 Consumer Spending on Home Entertainment Up 6.4%

Fueled by digital — subscription streaming as well as transactional  — home entertainment spending in the first quarter of 2019 rose 6.4% from the first quarter of the previous year, to $6.04 billion, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Subscription streaming, led by Netflix, rose 21% in the quarter to an estimated $3.6 billion, DEG said, citing IHS Markit estimates.

The increase shows that with the reliance by streamers on original and TV content, the at-home sector is becoming increasingly impervious to the whims of the box office.

The theatrical value of films that came to the home market in the first quarter, according to DEG, was down nearly 20%.

Take streaming out of the equation and consumer spending on home entertainment was down 9.3%.

Consumer spending on digital transactional video, both purchase (electronic sellthrough, or EST) and limited-time viewing, came in at nearly $1.23 billion, up 4.6% from just under $1.18 billion in the first quarter of 2018.

EST sales rose 6.7% to $665.5 million, up from $623.7 million, while limited-time VOD, the digital equivalent of rental, generated an estimated $564.1 million in consumer spending, up 2.3% from $551.6 million.

Disc sales continued to decline, falling below the $1 billion mark in the first quarter of 2019 to an estimated $822.25 million, a drop of 23% from $1.06 billion in the first quarter of 2018 — pretty much in line with the decline in the collective box office earnings of movies that were released to the home market in the same time frame, to $2.89 billion from $3.59 billion in the year-ago quarter.

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The disc rental market fared better, with consumers spending just under $400 million to rent DVDs and Blu-ray Discs from Redbox kiosks, freestanding video rental stores and Netflix’s disc-by-mail rental option. That’s down 14.6% from the prior year’s first quarter.

Citing CTA numbers, DEG noted “there is continued significant growth among 4K Ultra HD hardware products,” with Ultra HD TVs now in about 53.4 million households, an increase of 55% from a year ago. The number of households with at least one 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback machine rose 63% to 14 million.

The top-selling disc release of the first quarter, according to NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service, was 20th Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

The top 10 DVD and Blu-ray Disc sellers of 2019, through March 31:

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody (Fox)
  2. Aquaman (Warner)
  3. Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney)
  4. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Warner)
  5. A Star Is Born (2018) (Warner)
  6. The Grinch (Universal)
  7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)
  8. Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)
  9. Halloween (2018) (Universal)
  10. Creed II (Warner)

Source: NPD Group

Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Emerging on Digital June 4, Disc June 18 From Universal

Academy Award winner Jordan Peele’s followup to Get OutUs —is coming to digital (including Movies Anywhere) June 4 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD June 18 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film, which earned $172.9 million at the box office, stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther, 12 Years a Slave), Winston Duke (Black Panther), Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Mad Men”) and Tim Heidecker (The Comedy, “Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories”).

Set along the North California coastline, the story follows Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) who reluctantly returns to her beachside childhood home with her family and finds that she is haunted by unresolved trauma from her past along with a string of eerie coincidences. As darkness falls after a tense day at the beach, the Wilsons discover four figures standing in their driveway. They soon realize this is only the beginning of their troubles as they find that the four figures are terrifying and uncanny opponents: doppelgängers of themselves.

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Special features include:

  • “The Duality of Us,” in which Peele goes in-depth on some of the key themes and imagery in the film, including Doppelgängers, Hands Across America, The Nutcracker dance scene, rabbits and the infamous 11:11 coincidence;
  • “The Monsters Within Us,” which examines how cast members were able to find their characters, whether they were playing one of the Wilsons or their sinister doppelgängers;
  • “Tethered Together: Making Us Twice,” about the difficulties of making a movie where all the main cast members play dual roles;
  • “Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peele’s Brand of Horror,” in which cast and filmmakers highlight what makes Peele so unique, as well as the filmmaker’s own thoughts on his inspirations and the relationship between horror and comedy;
  • “Becoming Red,” a closer look at Nyong’o’s performance as “Red”;
  • deleted scenes;
  • “We’re All Dying,” funny outtakes from the conversation between Duke and Heidecker on the beach;
  • “As Above, So Below: Grand Pas de Deux,” an extended version of the dance sequence from the film.

 

Special features exclusive to 4K UHD, Blu-ray and digital include scene explorations, about the making of three iconic scenes from the film, the Tyler house massacre, Jason’s abduction and Adelaide’s underground flashback.

Netflix Inks Streaming Deal with Thai Boys Soccer Team Rescued from Underwater Cave

Netflix has signed a deal with the Thailand “Wild Boars” boys soccer team and their coach for a future miniseries about their rescue from an underground cave.

Netflix and SK Global Entertainment inked a deal with 13 Thamluang, an LLC established by the boys (ages 11 to 16) and their 25-year-old coach following their 17-day ordeal being trapped underground in a cave filled with rain water.

The exasperating rescue effort garnered global attention as the ordeal went on and a Thai Navy Seal diver drowned.

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The series will be directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Nattawut Poonpiriya.

“The story combines so many unique local and universal themes which connected people from all walks of life, from all around the world,” Erika North, director of international originals at Netflix, told Reuters.

The miniseries follows Netflix’s strategy focusing on localized content with global appeal. Recent hits include Germany’s “Dark” and India’s “Sacred Games.”

“Thailand is a very important market for Netflix and we are looking forward to bringing this inspiring local, but globally resonant story … to life,” North said.

To date, two books and one feature-film have been completed on the saga.

“We look forward to working with all involved parties to ensure our story is told accurately,” said assistant coach Ekkapol “Ake” Chantapong.

‘Cobra Kai’ Takes Over No. 1 on Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

The premiere of the second season of “Cobra Kai” helped push the show back into the top spot on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals chart for the week ended April 27.

All 10 episodes of the season bowed April 24 on YouTube Premium, leading to the show registering 41.2 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was up 40% from the previous week, when it was No. 6 on the chart. The series is a sequel to 1984’s The Karate Kid, following the adult lives of the film’s teenage characters as they introduce a new generation to martial arts.

The previous week’s top title, Hulu’s true-crime drama “The Act,” dropped to No. 2 with 39.3 million expressions, down 9.5%.

The CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery” held onto the No. 3 spot with 36.4 million expressions, up 9.6%.

Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” slipped to No. 4 for the week with a 15% decline in expressions to 36.1 million.

Rounding out the top five was DC Universe’s “Titans,” down one spot from the previous week with 31 million expressions, a 1.8% drop.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

By comparison, the biggest TV show of any kind for the week was HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” currently in its final season, which drew 482 million expressions.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Report: Streaming Video Consumption Up 72%

More people globally are streaming video for their entertainment. New data from Conviva found year-over-year viewership grew 72% and the rate of consumption growth increased by 49% in the first quarter (ended March 31) compared to the previous-year period.

The streaming TV analytics company monitors a trillion real-time transactions per day via 3 billion applications streaming on devices in 180 countries.

In United States, online TV services continue to grow in popularity. Services such as DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV saw viewership grow 108% year-over-year as compared to 60% growth for other services, i.e. Netflix.

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Indeed, Hulu, which is co-owned by Disney and Comcast, ended 2018 with 25 million subscribers — about half of Netflix’s domestic tally.

The report found that 64% of mobile video streaming is on-demand content versus live video (36%). On PCs, on-demand content represented 57% of streaming vs. 43% live video. VOD consumption increased to 62% on connected TVs compared to 38% live video.

Failure rates of streaming TV ads continue to pose risks and opportunity. Up to 47% of ads are failing, a significant percentage when even a 1% failure rate carries a high cost and impact on engagement, according to Conviva.

Indeed, the report found that just a five-second ad delay resulted in 13.6% of viewers moving on to another video.

The battle for the TV screen is not over. Amazon Fire TV captured 18.6% share, up significantly from 11.4% share in Q1 2018, while Roku maintained its long-standing lead of 42.4% share.

Live sports streaming remains hot.

The College Football National Championship had the highest peak concurrent viewership, 37.6% higher than the Q1‘18 peak event. Super Bowl LIII and March Madness streaming viewership grew significantly, up 157% and 67%, respectively, from Q1 2018.

Other top streamed content in Q1 included the Golden Globes, Oscars, Michael Cohen’s Congressional hearings and release of the Mueller report.

Meanwhile, buffering issues improved 34% year-over-year, with 35% fewer video start failures and 17% increased picture quality.

“There’s no surprise that the streaming TV market is expanding significantly,” Bill Demas, CEO of Conviva, said in a statement. “Maintaining a high-quality viewer experience tightly across content and advertising is increasingly important as streaming providers look to increase viewer engagement and monetization. The battle for streaming market share is a fast-growing pie and services must deliver an experience comparable to linear TV to fulfill viewer expectations.”