‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Remains Top 2020 Disc Debut in the U.K.

Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker maintained its No. 1 ranking as the top-selling weekly DVD/Blu-ray Disc release through April 29 in the United Kingdom, according to new data from the Official Film Chart.

With 235,500 combined unit sales from DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD this week, Rise of Skywalker topped by 5,000 discs the previous 2020 weekly record set by Downton Abbey in February.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Jumanji: The Next Level (2) holds on to the previous week’s position, as Disney’s Frozen II (5), Paramount Home Entertainment’s Sonic The Hedgehog (6), Blue Story (8), Lionsgate U.K.’s Knives Out (9) and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls (10) slip from their previous places.

Three new entries on the week’s Top 10 included Warner Home Video’s Birds of Prey in the third spot.

Other top-selling packaged media releases included Disney’s Spies in Disguise (4) from Fox, and the boxed set release Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (7).

Weekly Jobless Claims: 3.8 Million, Topping 30 Million For the Past Six Weeks

The economic impact from the coronavirus continues to negatively impact employment.

New weekly statistics from the Labor Department reveal more than 3.8 million people filed for unemployment claims for the seven-day period ended April 25. That was down more than 600,000 claims filed during the previous week ended April 18.

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Since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the economy, more than 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits.

The government added 15,000 claims to the previous-week period to 4.44 million. Over the past four weeks, an average of 5 million people weekly have filed for benefits. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 12.4% through April 18.

The job losses underscore the nation’s economy, which declined 4.8% in the first quarter — the biggest drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Q1 Revenue Falls

Universal Pictures’ home entertainment unit April 30 reported first-quarter (ended March 31) revenue of $171 million, down 36% from revenue of $267 million during the previous year period.

The decline reflected the retail success of The Grinch, Halloween and Night School in last year’s first quarter, compared with the relative lower performance from 1917, Downton Abbey and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw in this year’s first quarter.

The revenue did not include Universal’s premium VOD hit Trolls World Tour, which was released on April 10.

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Total studio revenue decreased 22.5% to $1.4 billion, reflecting decreases in theatrical revenue, content licensing, home entertainment and other revenue. Theatrical revenue decreased 28.8%, underscoring difficult comparison to the success of films in the first quarter of 2019, including How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Us and Glass, offset by the performance of films in this year’s first quarter, including 1917, Dolittle and The Invisible Man.

Indeed, The Invisible Man saw its theatrical run cut short by exhibitor shutdowns due to the coronavirus.

Content licensing revenue decreased 15.4%, driven by the timing of when content was made available under licensing agreements, partially offset by the performance of certain 2020 releases that were made available on premium video-on-demand after theater closures due to COVID-19, including Emma and The Hunt.

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Comcast Lost 409,000 Video Subs in Q1

The hits keeps coming for pay-TV regardless of a pandemic.

Comcast Cable April 30 reported it lost 409,000 video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31), which included 22,000 business accounts. That compared with 121,000 subs lost in the previous-year period, including 14,000 business accounts.

The sub losses underscore ongoing shifts how consumers watch television and stream video, including alternative channels such as online TV and subscription video-on-demand.

The cable operator ended the quarter with 19.9 million residential video subs — down 952,000 subs from the same period in 2019. It finished the period with 944,000 business subs, compared with more than 1 million during the previous-year period.

Fortunately, Comcast is the largest Internet Service Provider in the country, underscored by the addition of 477,000 broadband subs in the quarter — up from 375,000 high-speed Internet sub additions last year. Comcast ended the period with 29.1 million broadband subs compared to 27.5 million subs last year.

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Video revenue was consistent with the prior year period, due to an increase in average subscription rates, offset by a decline in the number of residential video subs. Advertising revenue was consistent with the prior year period, primarily reflecting an increase in political ad revenue, offset by reduced advertiser spending due to the coronavirus. Excluding political ad spending, advertising revenue decreased 4.6%.

“While parts of our business have been more impacted by COVID-19 than others, we have continued to innovate,” CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “We are distributing our content in new ways, as evidenced by the recent launch of [streaming video platform] Peacock on Xfinity X1 and Flex.

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Roberts said a strong balance sheet, portfolio of assets, and “world-class” management team would help Comcast to grow and succeed through the virus pandemic.

“This is a moment in time; and when it passes, I am very confident that the decisions we are making now will enable us to emerge from this crisis as a healthy, strong company,” he said.

Regal Owner Joins in Blasting Universal for Window Strategy

Regal theater chain owner Cineworld April 29 added its voice to criticism of Universal over its strategy to break traditional theatrical windows, boosted by the success of the studio’s premium VOD release of Trolls World Tour.

“We make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows as it does not make any economic sense for us,” read the Cineworld release.

In its criticism, Cineworld followed AMC Theatres, which April 28 vowed not to show Universal films because of the studio’s stance. On the heels of Trolls World Tour generating upwards of $100 million from its premium video-on-demand release, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell April 28 told The Wall Street Journal the studio would pursue a simultaneous theatrical/home entertainment release strategy going forward.

“The results for Trolls World Tour exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell said. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Like AMC, Cineworld reasserted its support for a window and scolded Universal.

“Cineworld and Regal’s policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers,” read the press release. “We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world the opportunity to watch movies in the best experience. There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie. Universal unilaterally chose to break our understanding and did so at the height of the COVID-19 crisis when our business is closed, more than 35,000 employees are at home and when we do not yet have a clear date for the reopening of our cinemas. Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency.”

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The press release noted that Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger approached Comcast chairman Brian Roberts on March 19, after the Trolls World Tour PVOD announcement, and told him: “Nice words from your team are worthless if we cannot trust you as a partner. The message that the media has portrayed is: ‘Hollywood breaks the window’ — well, this is not true! All our partners called us in a timely manner and told us that in the current situation they want to shorten the window for movies that were already released as cinemas are closing. Most importantly, they all reassured us that there will be no change to their window policy once the cinema business returned. Unfortunately I missed a similar message in Universal’s announcement… not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window — but Universal was the ONLY studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released.”

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The release went on to say the company “was always open to showing any movie as long as the rules were kept and not changed by one-sided moves.”

“We have full confidence in the industry’s current business model,” the release read. “No one should forget that the theatrical side of this industry generated an all-time record income of $42 billion last year and the movie distributors’ share of this was about $20 billion.”

Well Go Joins Allied Vaughn MOD Service

Well Go USA Entertainment has joined manufacture-on-demand service Allied Vaughn, launching the deal with four Blu-ray releases available now in the Asian action and horror genres.

The Korean actioner Unstoppable stars Don Lee as a legendary gangster enjoying a quiet retirement. When his wife is kidnapped, he must once again become the brutal criminal he left behind.

In the Chinese actioner Line Walker 2, a car crash sparks a war between local police and an international terrorist organization. After Superintendent Yip (Francis Ng) and Inspector Ching (Nick Cheung) arrest a hacker named Yiu involved in the accident, the two police officers are suspected by Superintendent Cheng (Louis Koo) as double agents. Clues lead the three officers to the far foreign soil of Myanmar and Spain, but as the investigation continues the lines between good and evil become blurred.

The Chinese actioner Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch is based on real-life crimes that terrorized Hong Kong in the 1990s. Logan (Tony Leung Ka Fai) is the head of leading a notorious human trafficking gang, abducting the children of the city’s elite. Police forces decide to send in Sky (Louis Koo), an undercover agent whose mission is to save the hostages, all while bringing the gang and their leader to justice in this action-packed thriller.

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The Chinese horror compilation Lucid Dreams presents four stories in which the director recounts four of his own dreams. The explored dreams are Tung, a down on his luck young man who decides to hold a fake wedding in order to pay his debt to a finance company; Fan, a depressed white-collar worker whose boss is trying to steal his girlfriend; Tung Tung, a writer who reunites with her long-lost mother; and Chun, a bus driver inspired by four ‘ghost ladies’ to believe in his musical talent.

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In other news from the MOD service, Allied Vaughn in its newsletter stated, “Despite the operating climate, our internet, food & drug, and catalog based resellers report brisk sales throughout the past month. General merchandise retailers along with specialty outlets have definitely been impacted by stay-at-home orders. But, overall home video sales for AV Entertainment titles remain strong.”

HBO Max to Be Available Across Google Platforms and Devices at Launch

WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD platform HBO Max will be available across Google platforms and devices and on Google Play when it launches May 27, the company announced.

It will be available to U.S. customers across Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices and Chromebooks. HBO Max subscribers will also be able to stream their favorite shows and movies via Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices. At launch, current HBO Now subscribers on Google Play will be able to log in and access the HBO Max app at no additional charge. New HBO Max customers will be able to subscribe directly in the app.

“The availability of HBO Max across Android, Android TV, Chromebook and Google Chromecast devices and on Google Play adds to our growing list of distribution options that will be offered to customers at launch,” said Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution. “We’re pleased to make HBO Max available to the significant base of customers who access content across Google’s platforms and devices.”

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WarnerMedia April 27 announced that HBO Max would be available on Apple devices, including Apple TV, at launch.

The HBO Max service is priced at $14.99 a month.

‘DC’s Stargirl’ Top New, ‘The 100’ Top Returning Show on TV Time Anticipated Series Chart for May

“DC’s Stargirl” was the most anticipated new show, while “The 100” was the top anticipated returning show on the TV Time chart for May.

“DC’s Stargirl,” based on the DC comics character, debuts on DC Universe May 18 and will air the following day on The CW. It follows a high school sophomore who discovers a cosmic staff.

The seventh and final season of dystopian drama and top returning show “The 100” premieres May 20 on The CW.

Taking the silver on the new show chart was TNT’s “Snowpiercer,” premiering May 17. The futuristic drama follows up on the graphic novel and the 2013 film from Bong Joon-ho (Best Picture Oscar winner Parasite). Seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, the series follows the passengers of the Snowpiercer train while exploring class warfare and the politics of survival.

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Upcoming Netflix series took the third and fourth spots on the new show chart. “Hollywood” (No. 3) is a Ryan Murphy drama that follows a group of aspiring actors in post-World War II Los Angeles who try to make it big despite the entertainment industry’s unfair power dynamics. “Space Force” (No. 4), created by Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, is a workplace comedy centering on people tasked with establishing the sixth branch of the U.S. military — The United States Space Force.

Rounding out the new show chart at No. 5 was Amazon Prime’s sci-fi series “Upload,” which follows a young app developer who meets an early death in a future world where humans are able to “upload” themselves into their preferred choice of afterlife.

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Coming in at No. 2 on the returning show chart was Netflix’s black dramedy “Dead to Me,” season two of which premieres May 8. At No. 3 was ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” The series mounts its seventh and final season May 27. The fourth season of “Skam Italia” (No. 4) focuses on Sana, a second-generation Muslim Italian girl, as she faces new challenges, love interests, and the balance between Muslim values ​​and those of Italian society. All 10 episodes will be released May 15 via Netflix Italy and Timvision. Rounding out the top five returning shows was Netflix’s animated series “The Hollow,” season two of which hits screens May 8.

 

Most Anticipated New Shows for May:

  1. “DC’s Stargirl” (DC Universe) — May 18
  2. “Snowpiercer” (TNT) — May 17
  3. “Hollywood” (Netflix) — May 1
  4. “Space Force” (Netflix) — May 29
  5. “Upload” (Amazon Prime) — May 1

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for May:

  1. “The 100” (CW) — May 20
  2. “Dead to Me” (Netflix) — May 8
  3. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (ABC) — May 27
  4. “Skam Italia” (Netflix Italy/Timvision) — May 15
  5. “The Hollow” (Netflix) — May 8

‘World on Fire,’ ‘Ken Burns Presents: East Lake Meadows’ Among Titles Available on Disc and Digital From PBS

PBS Distribution has released eight new programs on disc and digital, including Helen Hunt and Sean Bean in World on Fire, a new addition to the “Frontline” series, as well as a Ken Burns presentation and two new “Nature” programs.

Masterpiece: World on Fire is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. The miniseries traverses the first year of WWII, from ordinary life in England to the beaches of Dunkirk, diving deep into the hearts and minds of those living their lives during this extraordinary time. In the summer of 1939, Harry, a translator at the British Embassy in Warsaw, is falling in love with Polish waitress Kasia. When German tanks roll into Poland and Britain declares war on Germany, Harry and Kasia face terrible choices. With her life in grave danger, can Harry help her — and if he can, how will he ever explain himself to Lois Bennett, the girl he left behind in Manchester? As the Nazi threat spreads across Europe, Kasia must choose between love and fighting for her country, Harry must find his place in the world, and Lois must seize new opportunities the war presents. The conflict overturns everything for Harry’s snobbish mother Robina; for Douglas, Lois’ pacifist father; and for her younger brother Tom, who joins the Navy and finds himself under fire in one of the first major battles of the war. In Berlin, outspoken American journalist Nancy risks her life trying to help her neighbors; while in Paris, Nancy’s nephew, medic Webster refuses to leave the city and the man he loves.

Ken Burns Presents: East Lake Meadows is available on DVD and digital. In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened East Lake Meadows, a public housing community on the edge of the city. Over the next 25 years, many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African American, would call it home. Shoddy construction and a lack of funding left the project and surrounding landscape in disrepair and led to a rapid decline in the quality of life. As public housing in America became increasingly stigmatized, and a crack epidemic overwhelmed East Lake Meadows, the neighborhood became nearly uninhabitable, but residents nonetheless found ways to overcome violence and neglect, raise kids, find work, and create moments of joy. In the mid-1990s, Atlanta bulldozed East Lake Meadows to make way for new mixed-income housing, as government and philanthropic funds poured into the area in an effort to create a thriving community. Through the stories of the former residents, the documentary gives voice to some of the most marginalized people in our society and raises critical questions about how we have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans, and what responsibility we have as a people to ensure decent housing for our most vulnerable citizens.

Earth’s Sacred Wonders is available on DVD and digital. ­The earth’s architectural landscape, throughout history, has largely been sculpted and inspired by faith. Today, more worshippers than ever are flocking to these sacred structures and global landmarks. For some, these places are settings to quietly contemplate, but for others they are sites to find extraordinary acts of worship, dangerous challenges, and remarkable deeds of devotion, rarely seen by outsiders. Earth’s Sacred Wonders takes viewers on a journey, set against stunning backdrops, to discover the lengths that people will go for their faith. Filmed across five continents in 12 different languages, this program showcases how some of the most profound sites of worship are places of powerful spiritual significance and human drama.

Niall Ferguson’s Networld is available on DVD and digital. In this groundbreaking new series hosted by Niall Ferguson and based on his bestselling book The Square and the Tower, Ferguson visits network theorists, social scientists and data analysts to explore the history of social networks. From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell’s 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. Reviewing classic experiments and cutting-edge research, Ferguson demonstrates how human behavior, disruptive technology and profit can energize ideas and communication, ultimately changing the world.

Blood Sugar Rising is available on DVD and digital. Diabetes is hidden epidemic that affects over 100 million people in the United States, costing close to $350 billion each year. It’s now predicted that one in three children born in this century will likely develop the disease. Blood Sugar Rising puts human faces to these statistics, presenting intimate stories of Americans living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and personal voices from the battle against the disease.

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Nature: Wild Florida is available on DVD and digital. Florida is well-known for its beaches, blue water and year-round sun, but it also has a surprising wild side. It is home to pine forests, coral reefs and the Everglades wetland, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Here, manatees swim in crystal-clear rivers, baby alligators practice their hunting skills and miniature deer roam free. But every year, this state faces the full forces of nature: from wildfires to flooding to powerful hurricanes. Now, a growing human population, climate change and abandoned exotic pets, like the Burmese pythons that can eat alligators, are also threatening this wild paradise.

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Nature: The Mighty Weasel is available on DVD and digital. Discover the truth about the infamous weasel family, often portrayed as villains and associated with unsavory behavior. We “badger” people, “ferret” out the enemy and “weasel” out of things. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? To find out, follow the adventures of first-time weasel mom Bandita raising her kits in a unique garden, and meet tiny but mighty orphan weasel Twiz on her journey back to the wild. New, ground-breaking science uncovers the problem-solving abilities of the honey badger, the secrets behind the ferret’s legendary flexibility and the wolverine’s remarkable sense of smell.

Frontline: Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos is available on DVD and digital. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos built a business empire that is unprecedented in the history of American capitalism — delivering endless products, entertainment services and technology innovations to customers with just a click of a button. But what is the cost of Amazon’s convenience? “Frontline” examines Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ ascent to power — and his ability to shape everything from the future of work, to the future of commerce, to the future of technology. From award-winning filmmakers James Jacoby and Anya Bourg (The Facebook Dilemma), the documentary draws on interviews with current top executives and former insiders, as well as regulators and critics, raising tough questions about Bezos and the empire he built. Through these interviews, Jacoby and Bourg’s investigation presents an inside look at who Bezos is, and how he transformed a tiny company run out of a garage into a staple of American consumerism that critics contend is willing to dominate the market at all costs.

Hasbro Takes Q1 Fiscal Hit From eOne Acquisition — Not COVID-19

Hasbro April 29 reported a first-quarter (ended March 31) net loss of $69.6 million, compared with a net income of $76.4 million in the previous-year period. The toymaker, game manufacturer and movie producer attributed the loss to acquisition and costs associated with the $4 billion acquisition of content producer/distributor Entertainment One (eOne) in 2019.

Contributing to the loss was $127.5 million after-tax of acquisition-related expenses and $19.9 million after-tax of purchased intangible amortization associated with the acquisition. Excluding these items, adjusted net income would have been $77.7 million. Total revenue for the quarter was $1.11 billion compared to $1.2 billion pro forma revenues in 2019. Foreign exchange had an $11.7 million negative impact on first quarter 2020 revenue.

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Entertainment revenue declined in the quarter due to planned later delivery timing for eOne content. Beginning late in Q1, production and delivery of television and film projects for Hasbro’s eOne TV and movie business shut down, negatively impacting revenue.

The eOne team continues to develop new projects and work on animation production which can be done remotely,” CEO Brian Goldner said in a statement. “The team now expects to deliver finished episodes and film projects later in the year than planned.”

Indeed, several film release dates have moved to later in 2020, into 2021 and in some instances are going straight to video-on-demand/EST and packaged media, windows impacting the timing and level of anticipated revenue.

“As more people are home, content viewership is high which bodes well for long-term brand engagement,” Goldner said.

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The executive said Hasbro has been proactive during the coronavirus pushing its portfolio of “face-to-face” games to families spending more time at home.

“Point of sale at retail was strong during the first quarter and continues to be up in April,” Goldner said. “We’ve undertaken extensive scenario planning across the business and geographies as we plan for a re-opening of the economies globally.”

CFO Deborah Thomas said closure of the eOne acquisition included drawing down on a $1 billion term loan. The cash position increased to $1.2 billion at the end of the quarter, and is further supported by access to a $1.5 billion revolving credit facility, according to Thomas.

“Toward the end of the quarter, physical store closures and country-wide restrictions became more prevalent and entertainment productions shut down,” Thomas said.

The CFO expects the second quarter to be more challenging with revenue and earnings down versus pro forma 2019. “We are taking prudent steps to lower expenses and preserve capital while positioning to meet the seasonal peak demand periods of the business in the second half of the year, including the holiday season.”

With third-party factories in China representing about 55% of Hasbro’s manufacturing production — and operating at reduced capacity. Thomas expects Chinese factories that are making product across the business, including games, would typically build to peak levels during the summer months—- making up production lost in the first quarter into the second quarter.

“These beliefs assume all production continues to operate in all material respects without further COVID-19 shutdowns,” Thomas said. “While the ultimate impact will vary depending on how long it takes to reopen markets around the world, we are currently seeing healthy demand for our products and content.”

Hasbro said manufacturing and warehouse partners outside of China operated at close to normal levels during much of the first quarter. Beginning in mid-March and through today, these locations are operating at varying levels of productivity depending on local government and safety considerations, with some markets operating at lower than normal production levels and other facilities have been closed for a period of time.

Currently closed facilities include manufacturing in Massachusetts, Texas and Ireland, primarily for games, as well as manufacturing locations in India.