AMC Says ‘A-List’ Ticket Subscription Service Turns First Profit

AMC Theatres Feb. 27 disclosed that its Stubs A-List movie ticket subscription service was profitable for the first time in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019.

The service, launched in June 2018 as a competitor to now-shuttered MoviePass, charges subs $19.95 a month (or $21.95, or $23.95 a month in various regions of the country) enabling subs access to three theatrical screenings per week. The service ended 2019 with more than 900,000 monthly subs.

The world’s largest exhibitor attributed the subscription service’s profitability to a 10% membership price increase in 10 states and a 20% price increase in five states implemented a year ago.

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With the average A-List sub frequenting screenings 2.4 times monthly, the chain said that by factoring in a sub’s full-price bring-along guest, food and beverage spending, it contends the program was profitable in the fourth quarter and year’s end, compared to if the program had not existed.

“A-List membership levels and contributions continue to exceed our expectations,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

AMC ended 2019 owning, operating, or having interest in 636 theaters in the U.S. and 368 theaters internationally.

“We are very pleased to have delivered another quarter of strong results to finish 2019,” Aron said. “Despite the U.S. industry box office declining 1.6% in Q4, AMC grew revenue 2.4%.”

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At the same time, AMC ballooned it fiscal loss after posting a profit in the previous-year quarter and fiscal year.

Indeed, AMC posted a net loss of $13.5 million in the quarter, compared to income of $170.6 million in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, AMC posted a loss of $149 million compared to a profit of $110 million in 2018. AMC attributed much of the loss to impairment charges.

Regardless, U.S. attendance in the quarter dropped 4.4% to 62.3 million from 65.2 million. For the year, attendance declined 2.1% to 250 million from nearly 256 million in 2018. Noteworthy considering the attendance declines pre-dated current concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, which could wreak havoc for public venues such as movie theaters.

 

Disney+ Revives ‘The Proud Family’ Animated Series

SVOD service Disney+ has ordered the revival of the animated series “The Proud Family” which premiered 18 years ago on the Disney Channel.

The series “is still beloved for its characters, stories and multilayered humor and for its messages about inclusion and cultural diversity in a smart, modern way,” according to a Disney press release.

The new animated family sitcom “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” is currently in production at Disney Television Animation with creator/executive producer Bruce W. Smith and executive producer Ralph Farquhar, who led the original series, at the helm, reuniting them with Calvin Brown Jr. who is co-executive producer and story editor.

All previous seasons of “The Proud Family” are currently available on Disney+.

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“In our minds, the show never really went away, as we still had tons of stories left to tell,” Smith and Farquhar said in a joint statement. “It’s the perfect time to bring back this show, and we can’t wait to take fans, old and new alike, on this journey with us.”

Picking up the story of its central character Penny Proud, the new series will also include her family: parents Oscar and Trudy, twin siblings BeBe and CeCe, and her grandmother Suga Mama (and Puff!). Also returning are Penny’s crew Dijonay Jones, LaCienega Boulevardez and Zoey Howzer, among others.

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Reprising their voice roles are Kyla Pratt as Penny Proud, Tommy Davidson as Oscar Proud, Paula Jai Parker as Trudy Proud, Jo Marie Payton as Suga Mama, Karen Malina White as Dijonay Jones, Soleil Moon Frye as Zoey Howzer and Alisa Reyes as LaCienega Boulevardez. Cedric the Entertainer will also return as Uncle Bobby Proud.

“The show’s humor and relatable stories are as relevant with audiences today as ever,” Agnes Chu, SVP of content at Disney+, said in a statement. “Our audiences have loved rediscovering their favorite episodes of ‘The Proud Family,’ and we’re excited Bruce, Ralph, Calvin, and the returning cast are creating new stories for their new home on Disney+.”

“The genius of the original ‘Proud Family’ series was that, under the guise of a family comedy, it provided a brilliant social commentary on our life and times,” Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, said in a statement. “With this new series, Bruce and Ralph will once again challenge everyone to think differently about the world we share.”

 

Discovery Hires Hulu’s Lisa Holme as it Ramps Up OTT Distribution

Discovery has hired away Lisa Holme, VP of content acquisition at Hulu, to spearhead the media giant’s digital content strategy going forward.

Holme’s hire was announced during Discovery’s Feb. 27 fiscal call by Peter Faricy, CEO of global direct-to-consumer, overseeing the worldwide digital and direct-to-consumer businesses for Discovery.

A formal announcement will be made later today.

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Lisa Holme

For the past nine years, Holme, according to her LinkedIn page, has spearheaded Hulu’s content licensing activities, including evaluating content, financial analysis and forecasting, negotiating agreements, and operationalizing deals internally.

More importantly for Discovery, Holme helped define content strategy for Hulu (including collaboration with original content) based on subscriber segmentation, competitive landscape, and a “deep understanding of user engagement and retention strategy.”

Discovery is rapidly deploying OTT video ventures overseas, including PGA Tour Live, Dplay in 10 markets, TVN Player in Poland, and Joyn in Germany.

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Discovery CEO David Zaslav, speaking on the fiscal call, said the company would soon launch a streaming service that includes content from all of the company’s brands, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Food Network and HGTV.

 

Discovery Touts Overseas HGTV, Food Network Launches for Driving Revenue Increase

Media giant Discovery Feb. 27 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2019) revenue increased 2% to $2.8 billion, with U.S. advertising and distribution revenue up 1% and 5%, respectively. International advertising and distribution revenue increased 5% and 10%, respectively.

Discovery’s portfolio of premium brands includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, home of the Olympic Games TV broadcast across Europe.

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Specifically, Discovery attributed revenue gains in part to the globalization of domestic media brands HGTV and Food Network. In 2019, HGTV and Food Network launched in more than 30 new countries and territories combined.

Total share of viewing in 2019 for Discovery’s top 10 international markets increased 2%, on average. The company continued to establish foothold across existing and new direct-to-consumer platforms in Europe, including Dplay in 10 markets, TVN Player in Poland, and Joyn in Germany.

Discovery said it was the most-watched pay-TV portfolio in the U.S. among women 25-54 and 18+ for both primetime and total day in 2019. TLC delivered its best year ever globally, improving both international share and viewership by 8%, and in the U.S., TLC was the fastest growing ad-supported cable network among women 25-54 and 18-49, with its best primetime performance in 16 years.

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“2019 was a year of promises made and promises delivered,” CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. “Our differentiated local content strategy and global scale, coupled with our unique free cash flow conversion profile, provide distinct financial flexibility that allows us to adapt to changing media consumption habits.”

 

Best Buy CFO: Coronavirus ‘Very Fluid Situation’ Impacting First Half-Year Results

Best Buy Feb. 27 said it expects interruptions from the global coronavirus outbreak to impact first half-year store results.

Like many retailers, Best Buy generates much of its product inventory from China, which, as the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus, has seen many manufacturing facilities shuttered over worker safety concerns.

“This is a very fluid situation, which makes it difficult to determine exact financial impacts from disruptions in supply chain,” CFO Matt Bilunas said in a statement.

The CFO said the retailer views the situation as a relatively short-term disruption that would not impact Best Buy’s long-term strategy and initiatives.

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“Our guidance ranges for both Q1 and the full-year 2021 [upwards of 2%] reflect our best estimates of the impacts at this time,” Bilunas said.

Separately, the nation’s largest CE retailer disclosed that fourth-quarter (ended Feb. 1) same-store entertainment sales in the United States fell nearly 22% to $1.1 billion compared to a 2.7% increase to $1.3 billion in the previous-year period.

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The entertainment segment includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software.

The nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer said entertainment represented 8% of $13.8 billion domestic revenue, down from 10% of $13.5 billion in Q4 of 2019.

Internationally, same-store entertainment sales dropped nearly 17% to $94 million from a 2.7% drop to $117 million during the previous-year period. Entertainment represented 7% of international revenue compared to 9% in 2019.

Overall, domestic revenue increased 2.6% versus last year. The increase was driven by comparable sales growth of 3.4%, partially offset by the loss of revenue from store closures in the past year.

The largest comparable sales growth drivers were headphones, computing, appliances, mobile phones and tablets. These drivers were partially offset by declines in the gaming category.

Domestic online revenue of $3.52 billion increased 18.7% on a comparable basis due to higher average order values, increased traffic and higher conversion rates. As a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased to 25.4% versus 21.9% last year.

‘Playmobil’ Movie Available on Home Video March 3

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and STX Entertainment will release the animated Playmobil: The Movie on DVD and digitally March 3.

Based on the “Playmobil” toy line of figurines with themed playsets, the film features secret agent Rex Dasher (voiced by Daniel Radcliffe) teaming with smooth-talking food truck driver Del (Jim Gaffigan) and the savvy Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) to rescue the citizens of different lands who vanish into thin air as a result of the actions of a top-secret organization.

The film grossed $1.1 million at the domestic box office.

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CEO: Apple TV+ Looking for Original Content, Not Re-Runs

Apple’s foray into subscription streaming video via Apple TV+ is all about original programming — not expensive re-runs. That’s according to CEO Tim Cook in response to a question during the Feb. 26 shareholder meeting about why the tech giant hasn’t gone after well-known catalog fare such as “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory” or “The Office,” among others.

“We love ‘Friends.’ Who doesn’t love ‘Friends’? It’s not what Apple TV+ is about, it’s about original programming,” Cook said. “It doesn’t feel right for Apple to go out and take a rerun. It doesn’t feel like Apple.”

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia Entertainment reportedly paid $85 million per year for five years ($425 million) securing the exclusive streaming rights for “Friends” away from Netflix.

NBCUniversal paid more than $500 million for streaming rights to “The Office,” while Netflix paid about the same for “Seinfeld.”

Apple TV+ launched Nov. 1, 2019 with 24 original series, including Golden Globes winner “The Morning Show” for Jennifer Aniston. Other series include “Home Before Dark,” “Amazing Stories,” “Truth Be Told,” “Trying,” “See,” and “Dickenson,” starring Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee).

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“We’re going to be focused on original programming,” Cook said, adding that Apple TV+ is off to a “rousing start” without elaborating additional details, including subscriber numbers.

Apple giving away a free year of the service with any purchase of an Apple hardware product.

HBO Max Inks Deal With Children’s Author Mo Willems

HBO Max has inked an exclusive, multiyear deal with children’s author Mo Willems, an Emmy-Award winning writer, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator.

Willems is HBO Max’s very first artist in residence, according to the SVOD service, launching at $14.99 a month in May.

As part of the two-year deal, HBO Max has acquired streaming rights to Willems’ first live-action special Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! from Greg Silverman’s media company StampedeVentures, which will produce all additional content under the deal. HBO Max has committed to additional live-action “Storytime” specials, as well as multiple animated specials based on Willems’ children’s books. The first animated special will be based on the New York Times bestseller Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

“Mo is a special talent with a profound ability to connect with children and families alike,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president of TNT, TBS and truTV, said in a statement. “We are so happy Mo and Stampede Ventures chose to partner with us at HBO Max.”

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“We are so lucky to be able to work with the multi-talented Mo Willems, whose work is authentic, inspiring and truly impactful,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of original non-fiction and kids programming at HBO Max, said in a statement.

“HBO Max is the perfect home for me to work on fun and experimental ways to bring my book characters and theater work to the screen because we share the goal of creating exciting shows and series that bring families together,” Willems said in a statement. “My focus is making stuff that amuses, entertains and sparks creative play after the screen is powered down. Having the creative teams of HBO Max and Stampede Ventures with me means that we’ll get to create meaningful work and have fun doing it. We’re so excited we even created a new logo for the occasion. Banana!”

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Previously announced and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime!, shot over the summer at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is a live-action family comedy special featuring Willems and the “Story Time All-Stars,” a group of celebrities, comedians and actors, performing live readings and sketch comedy inspired by Willems’ work, as well as musical guests. Celebrity guests include Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community’) and Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”).

 

‘Looking for Alaska’ Traveling to DVD April 21 From Paramount

The limited series Looking for Alaska will debut on DVD April 21 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Based on author John Green’s (The Fault in Our Stars) award-winning first novel of the same name, the series, which debuted on Hulu in October 2019, is a story of friendship, love and loss.

Looking for Alaska follows Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer) who is searching for a deeper perspective on life and decides to enroll at the boarding school Culver Creek Academy. He finds a loyal group of friends and falls in love with Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth). After an unexpected tragedy, the close group of friends tries to cope with everything they’ve been through and find some answers along the way.

The three-disc DVD set includes all eight episodes, plus more than 40 minutes of bonus content, including 18 never-before-seen deleted scenes and two featurettes that incorporate an exclusive interview with John Green.

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The novel, released in 2005, is a New York Times best seller, a USA Today best seller, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist and one of TIME Magazine‘s 100 Best Young Adult Novels of All Time. Green was awarded the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award for Looking for Alaska, which was also named as one of America’s Best Loved Novels in a national survey conducted by PBS’ The Great American Read initiative.

 

AMC Networks Inks Content Deal With NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service

AMC Networks continues to expand distribution beyond the pay-TV ecosystem. The home to “The Walking Dead,” and “Better Call Saul,” among others, signed a deal for reality-TV programming with Comcast’s pending Peacock streaming video platform.

Under the agreement, Peacock — which launches to Xfinity subs on April 15, nationwide in July — gets series such as “Cold Case Files,” “First 48,” “Storage Wars,” “American Pickers,” “Ancient Aliens,” “Curse of Oak Island,” and “Pawn Stars” in addition to History’s scripted drama “Project Blue Book.”

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“In addition to the strong portfolio of NBCUniversal programming available on Peacock, we continue to aggregate content from other networks and studios, like A&E and HISTORY, that maximizes the breadth and depth of choice for our customers,” Frances Manfredi, president, content acquisition and strategy, Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said in a statement.

Peacock will launch with an ad-supported option, in addition to a Premium channel free to Comcast and Cox Communications subscriber. The latter will cost $4.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without to other third-party pay-TV subs.

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“We strongly believe in the power of the A+E Networks’ library of content, and that it will prove to strengthen Peacock’s offerings,” said Steve MacDonald, president, global content licensing and international, A+E Networks.

When it launches, Peacock will have live sports (i.e. 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics) and news from NBC News and Sky News in the United Kingdom, in addition to scripted and non-scripted programming.

The service will also have access to Premier League soccer in the United Kingdom, and Ryder Cup golf.

AMC Networks earlier this week signed a distribution deal with Dish Network and the Sling TV subsidiary.