FandangoNow Offers Leap Day Sales

FandangoNow, Fandango’s transactional video on demand service, celebrated Leap Day, Feb. 29, with a 29% off sale on individual movies and TV seasons on the service.

The sale included new-to-purchase movies such as Bombshell and Uncut Gems, and new-to-rent movies such as Frozen II, Knives Out, Queen & Slim, Jojo Rabbit and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Separately, FandangoNow offered “Leap Day Movie Bundles,” with each collection available to own for $29 each. Bundles include a 10-movie “Star Trek” collection, the five-film “Jurassic Park” franchise, 11 Marilyn Monroe movies, six Quentin Tarantino movies, eight Stephen King adaptations and seven Stanley Kubrick movies.

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The Leap Day deals were available for one day only, Feb. 29, from 12:01 a.m. PT to 11:59 p.m. PT.

 

Dramas ‘Passion of Darkly Noon’ and Altman’s ‘Kansas City’ Due on Blu-ray From MVD and Arrow in March

Two dramas, The Passion of Darkly Noon and Kansas City, are arriving on Blu-ray in March from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Kansas City (1996), directed by Robert Altman and streeting March 3 from Arrow Academy, is a star-studded gangster flick set in 1930s Kansas City. Blondie O’Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club. Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen’s clutches. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and featuring a soundtrack performed live by some of the best players in contemporary jazz, this Altman classic is making its Blu-ray debut. Special features include audio commentary by Altman; a newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew; a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus a short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier; two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew; electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage; four theatrical trailers; TV spots; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman.

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The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995), due March 24, is a drama set in America from British director Philip Ridley. Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) is the sole survivor of a military-style attack on an isolated religious community. Stumbling through a forest, he is rescued by Callie (Ashley Judd). Darkly finds himself feeling strange new desires for Callie as she nurses him back to health only to watch her jump into the arms of her returning mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen). Lost in the woods with only his fundamentalist upbringing to make sense of his unrequited passions, Darkly soon descends into an explosive and lethal rage. Special features include new audio commentary by writer/director Ridley; an isolated score track in lossless stereo, including never-before-heard extended and unused cues, and the two songs from the film; “Sharp Cuts,” a newly filmed interview with editor Leslie Healey; “Forest Songs,” a newly filmed interview with composer Nick Bicat; “Dreaming Darkly,” an archive featurette from 2015 featuring interviews with Ridley, Bicat and Mortensen; previously unreleased demos of the music score, written and performed by Bicat before filming started; the theatrical trailer; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring a new Ridley career retrospective written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.

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Cohen Media Group Sets March 24 Home Release Date for ‘Shooting the Mafia’ Doc

Independent distribution and production company Cohen Media Group has set a March 24 home release date for Shooting the Mafia, a documentary by award-winning director Kim Longinotto.

The documentary will be available on both Blu-ray Disc and DVD at suggested retail prices of $34.98 and $22.98, respectively. It also will be available on digital platforms.

Shooting the Mafia details the story of Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia, who began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first dared to point her camera at a slain victim. A woman whose passions led her to abandon traditional family life and become a photojournalist in the 1970s — she the first female photographer to be employed by a daily Italian newspaper — Battaglia found herself on the front lines during one of the bloodiest chapters in Italy’s recent history as she continues to document the life and crimes of the Mafia.

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She fearlessly captured everyday Sicilian life — from weddings and funerals to the grisly murders of ordinary citizens — to tell the story of how the community she loved in her native Palermo was forced into silence by the Cosa Nostra.

Nominated for best documentary at nine international film festivals, Shooting the Mafia won awards at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna, Italy, and the Batumi International ArtHouse Film Festival in Georgia.

Both the Blu-ray Disc and DVD versions of Shooting the Mafia include the featurette “Conversation with Director Kim Longinotto.”

BritBox Now Available on Amazon Fire TV

After numerous delays, British-centric subscription streaming service BritBox U.K. is now available on Amazon Fire TV.

The service, launched in the United States by the BBC and ITV in 2017 in response to AMC Networks’ Acorn TV and Netflix, has more than 650,000 subscribers in North America. It bowed in the U.K. last November.

BritBox is also available on Apple TV, Roku (in the U.S.), Google Chromecast, and Smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, JVC, Hitachi and Roku, among others.

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Analyst: Pay-TV to Lose $50 Billion in Revenue by 2025 — Despite Accelerated Broadband Growth

With the pay-TV industry seeing greater numbers of subscribers exiting toward alternatives such as over-the-top video, new data from Digital TV Research suggests domestic operators will see revenue fall by $50 billion to $62 billion in 2025.

The report says pay-TV revenue in North America, which peaked in 2015 at $112 billion, will see declines across all distribution channels, including cable (down $22 billion, including $3 billion from analog and $19 billion from digital). Satellite distribution will fall by $21 billion and online TV (Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, Hulu with Live TV, etc.) will drop by $7 billion.

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“The loss of 42 million pay-TV subscribers between 2010 and 2025 is mostly responsible for this decline,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “Operators now put more emphasis on broadband connections than on traditional pay TV channels.”

Indeed, Comcast added 442,000 broadband subscribers in the most-recent quarter, AT&T added 191,000 subs, Charter Communications (Spectrum) added 339,000 subs, and Verizon added 35,000 Fios Internet customers.

“Subscribers are turning against high traditional pay-TV fees by seeking cheaper alternatives,” Murray said. “OTT allows viewers to see what they want when they want — they are not tied to the channels’ schedules. The value of the linear schedule for recorded programming is rapidly diminishing.”

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UPHE’s Eddie Cunningham to be Honored With Third Annual ‘Fast Forward’ Award

Media Play News on Feb. 28 announced that Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), will receive the third annual Media Play Fast Forward Award, which honors people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

Cunningham is being honored for his innovative and aggressive promotion of packaged media since he assumed his present position in 2014. Under Cunningham’s leadership, UPHE has scored a steady string of best-selling Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, spanning such global blockbuster franchises as “Jurassic World” and “Fast and Furious” as well as the breakout film sensations Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Us and Downton Abbey.

In an effort to further innovate for the industry, UPHE last June unveiled a completely reimagined bonus content menu for its physical disc offerings that is more easily accessible and navigable — a move the studio introduced to provide viewers with a more visceral and engaging experience for Blu-ray Disc and DVD bonus content, which Cunningham and his team believe is a key selling point for its physical product offerings.

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And when Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures in January 2020 announced plans to merge their domestic disc distribution businesses, Cunningham was chosen to lead the joint venture that pending regulatory approval will begin operation in early 2021.

Last year, the Media Play Fast Forward Award went to digital retailers Cameron Douglas of FandangoNow, Galen Smith of Redbox On Demand, Google Play Movies & TV’s Jonathan Zepp and the team at Apple iTunes.

The previous year, the inaugural Media Play Fast Forward Award was shared by Fox Innovation Lab and Movies Anywhere.

The Media Play Fast Forward awards are an outgrowth of the Home Entertainment Visionary Awards, which were launched in 2002 by the now-defunct Home Media Magazine. Comcast’s Brian Roberts was the 2017 honoree. Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, was the first Visionary Award winner, back in 2002. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter, and Walmart’s Louis Greth and Chris Nagelson.

Cunningham will be profiled in the March issue of Media Play News.

Tokyo Disneyland Closing Until Mid-March Due to Coronavirus

On the heels of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announcing the closure of all schools in the country until April due to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Disney said it would be closing Tokyo Disneyland through mid-March.

“We plan to reopen on March 16, but we will make an announcement after keeping close contact with relevant institutions,” park operator Oriental Land Co. Ltd. announced on its website.

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Japan has more than 800 reported COVID-19 infections.

New Disney CEO Bob Chapek most-recently headed the company’s theme park division — Disney’s largest business segment — which has already shuttered amusement parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, where the vast majority have cases have been reported. Disney has warned the closures will have impact on second-quarter fiscal results ending March 31.

Universal Studios Japan is also closing operations during the same time period.

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Industry Veteran Herb Dorfman, Former Head of Orion Home Video, Dies at 77

Herb Dorfman, the former president of home entertainment at Orion Pictures, died Feb. 25 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

He was 77.

He is survived by his daughter, Alexandra Nickson (Nick Nickson), his grandchildren, Casey and Avery Nickson, his son, Eryq Dorfman, and his sister, Gail Greene (Marvin Greene).

Herb Dorfman

Nickson, SVP of TV Music at Dreamworks, says what she remembers best of her late father is “his passion and dedication to his profession, and how proud he was of me and my own personal success in music.”

Dorfman ran home entertainment at Orion Pictures from October 1987 until December 1996, on the eve of the studio’s sale to MGM. Considered a leading “mini major,” Orion during Dorfman’s tenure maintained a steady presence near the top of the home video charts at a time when success was measured by how many cassettes studios sold to video rental dealers, at up to $100 per cassette.

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Home video success during the Dorfman years came through such theatrical blockbusters as Mississippi Burning (1988), Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the two latter films winning Best Picture Oscars.

Orion also had its share of theatrical flops, with films like the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire and the dark comedy She-Devil, with Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr, although they invariably wound up doing good business in rental stores as well.

Dorfman was considered a savvy and strategic marketer. Variety reported in December 1993, “Orion Home Video announced an unprecedented all-out promotional campaign for the video [release] of the beleaguered, lawsuit-prone Boxing Helena.”

Dorfman told the trade publication that the company “would embark on a megamarketing drive that would include mailing 16,000 screeners of the [film to video distributors] around the country. Helmer and scripter Jennifer Chambers Lynch and star Julian Sands also have agreed to do a promotional tour for vid distribs and dealers for the Feb. 23 homevid release — another unprecedented move for a vidcassette.”

Dorfman told Variety, “We want VCR users around the country to be able to understand more about the intricacies and the love affair you can have with a film of this caliber.”

The film, about a doctor who surgically removes the limbs of a voluptuous woman, earned only $2 million during its domestic theatrical run.

In April 1995, Supermarket News reported, “Jessica Lange’s Academy Award-winning performance in Blue Sky has greatly increased interest in the videotape, according to Orion Pictures. The PG-13 rated movie earned under $3 million at the box office, but nearly $9 million in video orders….” Dorfman told Supermarket News, “This is unprecedented at Orion.”

After Orion’s sale to MGM, Dorfman remained in the business, serving as president and CEO of his own firm, Steeplechase Entertainment Corp., from January 1997 to July 2009, and then serving as general manager of Porchlight Home Entertainment from August 2009 to January 2012.

Herbert Neil Dorfman was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 5, 1942. He spent his youth on the boardwalk in Coney Island, selling hotdogs and hanging out with friends at Steeplechase Park.

He later studied business administration at Brooklyn College, graduating in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

He began his career in record distribution sales, a job that took him all over the East Coast. He later served as SVP at budget record label Pickwick Distribution Companies from September 1980 to November 1984 and VP of sales and marketing at The Moss Music Group Inc. from January 1985 to September 1987.

His job with Orion brought him to Los Angeles, where he lived at the time of his death.

A memorial will be led by Rabbi Jay Seigal of Temple Beth Shalom at the Nickson residence in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Sunday, March 29, at 1 p.m.

Please email his daughter, Alexandra Nickson, at alexandranickson16@gmail.com for location details and other information.

 

AMC Theatres Closes Select Screens in Italy; Looking to Partner With SVOD Services

As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, AMC Theatres had shuttered 22 theaters for a week in Northern Italy starting three days ago. The company, which operates 47 theaters in the country, said the fiscal impact on the week-long closings range from $500,000 to $1 million per theater.

The Italian government has confirmed that more than 600 nationals have been infected with COVID-19 thus far.

Speaking on the Feb. 27 fiscal call, CEO Adam Aron said world’s largest theatrical chain thus far has not been impacted significantly by the virus, which has killed about 2,600 people and infected more than 87,000 — largely in China.

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“There is an increasing view in Milan that there may be an overreaction [about the virus spread] in and around [the city],” Aron said. “AMC Entertainment does not have movie theaters in China nor in South Korea nor anywhere in Asia. AMC does not have movie theaters in Iran.”

In addition to China being the epicenter for the virus, South Korea and Iran have a reported combined 2,200 cases. Japan has more 800 reported cases.

At the same time, Aron said he is fully aware that should the virus become an issue in the United States and Europe, the impact on AMC would be significant.

“It goes without saying that we are vigilantly monitoring reports and advice from governmental authorities in the United States and throughout Europe as well as from medical experts,” he said.

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As an exhibitor, Aron said AMC has a responsibility to its workers and consumers to provide a safe environment to watch movies.

“We will be a responsible player here … looking broadly at our circuit of 1,000 theaters across 15 countries,” he said. “So far so good.”

Separately, Aron said the company’s Stubs A-List ticket subscription service has between 900,000 and 1 million paid members, representing from 15% and 20% of the chain’s total U.S. admissions. Overall A-List contributed more than $20 million of incremental operating income to AMC in 2019.

“It’s increased loyalty to AMC. It’s benefited our theaters, our studios and our premium format partners,” Aron said.

While dismissing burgeoning over-the-top video consumption by consumers, Aron said AMC is looking to work with studio-backed streaming services such as HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu and Peacock to use theatres as marketing vehicle for streaming.

Aron said the company had just hired a former 20th Century Fox executive as new SVP of strategy based in Los Angeles and tasked with forging partnerships with streaming services to create value for the benefit of all parties, “but especially to create value for us here at AMC.” The new executive will be announced on March 2.

Aron said that rather than looking at theaters as competitors, he contends SVOD players should utilize theatrical exhibition to create “tremendous value” for their content and for their shareholders.

“Studies have indicated a clear and strong positive correlation between those who stream movies and those who also like to go to theaters to enjoy movie watching in person on a big screen with powerful sound and the smell of buttered popcorn,” Aron said.

 

‘Midway’ Wins Battle for Disc Sales

Lionsgate’s Midway 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 Feb. 22, one of four new releases to make the top 10.

Midway, which depicts the United States’ efforts in World War II against Japan from the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941 through the Battle of Midway in June 1942, grossed $56.8 million at the domestic box office.

Another newcomer, Sony Pictures’ A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, landed at No. 2 on both charts, selling about half as many copies as Midway. A docudrama about a reporter interviewing children’s television icon Mr. Rogers, the film earned $61.6 million at U.S. theaters.

The previous week’s top seller, 20th Century Fox’s racing drama Ford v Ferrari, slid to No. 3 on both charts.

The newly released 21 Bridges, from Universal Pictures, debuted at No. 4 on the overall sales chart and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart. The action-thriller, which stars Chadwick Boseman as a New York detective hunting a pair of cop killers, was produced by the Russo brothers of “Avengers” fame and  earned $28.5 million at the domestic box office.

Warner’s Joker, in its seventh week on shelves, was No. 5 on the overall sales chart and No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart.

The fourth newcomer in the top 10, Fox’s Jojo Rabbit, debuted at No. 6 overall and No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, who won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, the dark comedy tells the story of a boy growing up in Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. It earned $32.8 million at the American box office.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 62% of first-week unit sales of Midway, with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comprising 17% of its total sales. Beautiful Day‘s total was 54% Blu-ray (8% UHD), while 21 Bridges had 52% of its total from Blu-ray, and Jojo Rabbit had 78% (18% UHD).

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Feb. 23, Midway took the top spot while 21 Bridges landed at No. 2.

Ford v Ferrari dropped to No. 3, with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood at No. 4, and Paramount’s Playing With Fire dropping three spots to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 2-22-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 2-23-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 2-22-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 2-22-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 2-22-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 2-24-20