Disney’s rush to re-open shuttered theme parks in Florida has run into the reality that is social distancing.
With all of the media giant’s domestic theme parks shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney had been taking reservations 180 days out for dining, behind-the-scenes tours and other events for a phased re-opening of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., on July 11.
With consumer demand escalating, Disney realized it could no longer accept reservations and still meet its own and CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines.
“As a result of the limited capacity, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all existing dining reservations and experience bookings, including Disney dining plans included in packages, through the end of the year,” Disney wrote on the DisneyWorld.com website.
Disney said it was switching from a 180-day booking window to 60-day to give consumers better control of planning for their visit. In addition, the park’s popular “FastPass” feature giving holders easier access to rides and attractions has been suspended.
“Our focus remains on the health and well being of the entire Disney community — including ‘cast members’ who are caring for and securing our parks and resorts during the closure,” Disney said.
The big subscription streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ aren’t the only ones that are benefiting from stay-at-home mandates instituted by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the smaller players in the SVOD space, such as San Diego’s VET Tv, also are seeing spikes in viewership. The 3-year-old service, aimed at the military with original series known for their dark, irreverent humor, has seen its subscription base — which as of November 2019 stood at about 43,000 monthly subscribers — grow by roughly 25% since the pandemic started. And with the exception of only a couple of weeks, the company’s numbers have grown steadily week-over-week.
That growth, however, has not come without a cost.
“We’ve been carefully monitoring and following the rules and recommendations that have been put forth by the governor of California and the CDC,” said VET Tv president John Acevedo. “They have forced us to halt our normal production schedules and kept us from creating most of our new content, but thankfully, we have a fantastic creative team, and despite these challenges, our writers and production staff have done a great job of keeping a well-stocked library so we can continue to deliver new content to our viewers every week.”
VET Tv founder and CEO Donny O’Malley has taken to the airwaves recently to talk about COVID-19 and its impact on members of the military, particularly veterans, for whom the stay-at-home and social isolation mandates can have a crippling and sometimes deadly effect.
“In the veteran community, social isolation leads to poor mental health, which can lead to suicide,” O’Malley said. “Now we’re being told that we need to stay at home, isolate and shelter in place, which is dangerous, so we, as a community have to combat social isolation. Everything we do at VET Tv is geared toward reducing social isolation. First, we get them to laugh at their military experience and then we encourage them to re-connect with people they served with. And beyond that, we also connect them to nonprofits and organizations that can help improve their quality of life.
“These connections to people and organizations build community, and the end result is better mental health and less suicide. But it all starts with laughter and the shot of dopamine associated with that laughter.”
That’s why VET Tv has continued to churn out content for its viewers despite the filming and production challenges that the pandemic has presented.
“Even though we’ve had to halt our normal production schedule, we still feel that it is our duty to do whatever we need to do to give our veterans and active-duty servicemen and women an escape from the depressing feelings that come from social isolation, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a week,” O’Malley said. “And if we can do that and improve mental health thru comedy, we know that we can bring the suicide numbers down as well.”
VET Tv’s team has become increasingly creative with content and production. Of late, that has even meant incorporating user-submitted pieces and green-screen sketches into its offerings.
VET Tv promises its subscribers one new show a week and it has a strong lineup of shows in the queue, including its first-ever foray into non-scripted television with a documentary series titled “Veterans Laughing Together,” and a sequel to “A Grunt’s Life,” VET Tv’s hit series that was re-released as a full-length feature film in 2019.
So far, VET Tv has released a total of 17 original series and a feature film. Monthly subscriptions are $5.
Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 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 May 23.
The film, based on the SEGA video game, earned $146 million at the domestic box office before theaters shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
No. 2 on both charts was another new-to-disc title, Disney’s Onward. The latest Pixar animated film earned $61.6 million in a two-week theatrical run cut short by the pandemic. Disney made the film available for sale digitally March 20 and put it on the Disney+ streaming service April 3. It still sold 65% as many disc copies as Sonic despite an under-the-radar Disney release by Disney.
The previous week’s top seller, Warner’s Birds of Prey, dropped to No. 3 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 4 on the Blu-ray Disc chart.
The newly released direct-to-video animated superhero movie Justice League Dark: Apokolips War debuted at No. 4 on the overall chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart.
No. 5 on both charts was Disney-owned Fox’s The Call of the Wild, down three spots from the previous week.
Other newcomers in the top 20 included Warner’s The Way Back at No. 10 overall (No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart); Universal’s Emma. at No. 14 (No. 17 Blu-ray); and the anime movie Promare from Shout! Factory at No. 15 (No. 8 Blu-ray).
Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 62% of first-week Sonic sales, compared with 68% for Onward, 45% for The Way Back, 41% for Emma. and 93% for Promare. Apokolips War was available only in Blu-ray formats, either a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack or a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack.
The 4K edition accounted for 11% of total Apokolips War unit sales, compared with 14% for Sonic and 8% for Onward.
Ted Hope, co-head of movies at Amazon Studios, is reportedly transitioning back into content production after five years with the e-commerce giant. Hope, who began as head of Amazon Original Movies, leaves his position June 2 and will begin a first-look production deal with Amazon Studios, studio boss Jennifer Salke disclosed in a memo to staff.
“Ted approached me earlier this year and expressed his feelings about taking on a new challenge,” Salke wrote. “Over the course of several months and many conversations I came to realize Ted is a producer through and through and that now is the right time for both him and the studio to make a change.”
During his tenure, Hope was responsible for spearheading Amazon’s forays into feature films, including The Big Sick and Oscar winner Manchester By the Sea, among others. He was instrumental in Amazon greenlighting Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, and Cafe Society and Wonder Wheel from Woody Allen.
More recent theatrical forays included Late Night, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Honey Boy, The Aeronauts and Troop Zero.
Amazon Studios’ other co-heads, Julia Rapaport and Matt Newman, will assume control of movie production, with senior executive Scott Foundas and Christian Davin, head of marketing, continuing in their positions — and all reporting to Salke.
Allied Vaughn also announced a few upcoming releases.
Due May 28:
Finder’s Keepers (DVD) — A thriller about five best friends who travel the country in search of the coolest and oldest buildings with the best history.
Due June 2:
Extra Ordinary (DVD and Blu-ray) — Rose, a mostly sweet and lonely small-town driving instructor, must use her supernatural talents to save the daughter of Martin (also mostly sweet and lonely) from a washed-up rock star who is using her in a Satanic pact to reignite his fame.
Extreme Rescues (DVD) — a National Geographic documentary.
Work In Progress: Season 1 — From Showtime, a 45-year-old deals with misfortune and despair that unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship.
Due June 8:
The Break-Up Artist — A girl with a knack for easing the pain of break-ups moves into the matchmaking business in this romantic comedy starring Amanda Crew.
Due June 9:
Born in Evin (DVD and Blu-ray) — Filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree does on a quest to find out the violent circumstances surrounding her birth inside one of the most notorious political prisons in the world in Iran.
Digital studio Giant Interactive is celebrating its 15th birthday with an ambitious diversification agenda into digital delivery, digital distribution and post-production.
Launched in May 2005 by Jeff Stabenau and David Anthony as a DVD authoring company, Giant Interactive quickly evolved into a digital services company focused on technology and emerging formats to fuel consumer content consumption and distribution.
Giant Interactive has grown into a major player in the entertainment technology market, from its managed and custom-created OTT platforms and apps, to video processing and content aggregation, and to its digital platform delivery services and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc authoring.
The company also has a longstanding relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), initially creating DVD screeners of Oscar contenders and then building a digital screening site.
Today, with offices in New York City and Los Angeles and a total staff of 75, Giant Interactive is celebrating not only its birthday but also the expansion of its digital studio in Los Angeles that allows for increased quality control, file preparation and transcoding services that are crucial to streaming services. Giant has announced new strategic hires of seasoned media executives, including former Deluxe executives Greg Lea, now Giant’s VP of strategic partnerships, and Paula Kahlenberg, senior account director.
Giant has also forged several new business partnerships with companies such as Roku, for which Giant serves as an aggregator for the Roku Channel and content manager for Roku app channels, and the Whip Media Group, for whom Giant manages content delivery and fulfillment for Whip business partners.
Giant intends to build more sophisticated digital streaming capabilities to further its relationship with such high-profile customers as ViacomCBS, Paramount Pictures and Acorn TV.
“Fifteen years ago, Giant Interactive was founded with the goal of helping content creators propel entertainment content around the world regardless of the technology or platform,” Stabenau says. “Our recipe for success is living and breathing our connection to our customers with their evolving needs and delivering the highest quality services and the most innovative technology.”
Giant maintains close technical relationships delivering digital content to FandangoNow, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox on Demand, Tubi TV, iTunes and other leading digital platforms across TVOD, SVOD and AVOD.
The company also has developed distribution services including sales, marketing and promotion to support Giant’s customers as the independent film marketplace has matured. Giant Pictures, an independent film distribution division, was launched in 2017 and today has deals with more than 35 of the higher-end OTT platforms including Apple TV+, Netflix, Roku, Peacock, Prime Video/IMDb TV, Pluto TV, Tubi and Kanopy. In some cases, Giant is also acting as a preferred aggregator for the AVOD platforms. Giant Pictures clients include UTA, Endeavor, CAA, Participant Media, Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance Institute, Vulcan Productions, The Redford Institute and Impact Partners.
“With the rapid growth of digital media consumption continuing to rise, our supply chain products and our customers’ evolving needs, we realized a natural opportunity to expand our business,” Stabenau said. “We developed Giant Pictures in this time of digital growth to serve our customers and remain on the forefront of product innovation and digital distribution of content on a global scale.”
Paramount Home Entertainment July 21 will re-release the comedy Airplane! on Blu-ray as part of its Paramount Presents line to celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary. A limited-edition Steelbook Blu-ray also will be available.
Robert Hays stars as an ex-ﬁghter pilot forced to take over the controls of an airliner when the ﬂight crew succumbs to food poisoning. The all-star cast also includes Julie Hagerty, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The film spoofs airplane disaster flicks, religious zealots, television commercials and anything else the filmmakers want to take aim at.
The new Blu-ray will include the film newly remastered from a 4K transfer supervised by writers/directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. Extras include a new “Filmmaker Focus” featurette on the directors, a new Q&A with the directors recorded at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood in January 2020, an isolated music score by Elmer Bernstein, and previously released audio commentary with the directors and producer Jon Davison.
Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to jump 44.2% in 2020 versus 2019, according to a report from eMarketer, which revised growth up from its January 2020 estimate of 27%.
The leap follows 36.8% growth in 2019 over 2018 and puts Walmart at No. 2 on eMarketer’s top 10 e-commerce companies list, far behind Amazon, but well ahead of eBay, which is expected to grow just 3% in 2020.
“Thanks to Walmart’s prior investments in online grocery delivery and pickup services, the retailer appears to be in a strong position as consumers have increasingly turned to e-commerce amid the pandemic,” according the eMarketer’s Cindy Lui.
eMarketer forecasts that the big-box retailer will grow its share of total U.S. retail e-commerce sales to 5.8% this year, up from 4.7% in 2019.
Shows about teen angst took the top spots on the TV Time anticipated series chart for June.
Hulu’s “Love, Victor” was the most anticipated new show, while Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” was the top anticipated returning show for the month.
TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.
Inspired by the 2018 film Love, Simon, the romantic dramedy “Love, Victor” shares Victor’s challenges and self-discovery as he adjusts to a new high school and struggles with his sexual orientation. Taking the silver on the new show chart was HBO’s “Perry Mason,” about a down-and-out criminal defense lawyer in 1930s Los Angeles. Coming in third was the Italian fantasy thriller “Curon,” followed in fourth by Amazon Prime’s “Alex Rider,” about a reluctant London teenager who is recruited by the British MI6 to infiltrate a remote boarding school for the ultra-rich. Rounding out the anticipated new show chart at No. 5 was HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” a new series from “Chewing Gum” creator Michaela Coel.
The fourth and final season of “13 Reasons Why” hits Netflix June 5. In the top anticipated returning show, the senior class at Liberty High School is preparing for graduation, but before they can say goodbye, they’ll have to keep a dangerous secret buried. Netflix also swept the rest of the returning shows chart. The German drama “Dark,” at No. 2, debuts its third season June 27. The supernatural horror series “The Order,” at No. 3, launches season two June 18. Creator Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician,” at No. 4, bows season two June 19. Finally, season four of the animated series “F Is for Family,” at No. 5, debuts June 12.
Paramount Home Entertainment will release Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season Two on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 4.
The show stars John Krasinski as the CIA analyst from the series of novels by Tom Clancy. In the second season, Jack investigates potentially illegal arms shipments in Venezuela. As Jack threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.
The cast also includes Wendell Pierce, Michael Kelly, Tom Wlaschiha, Noomi Rapace, Jordi Molla and Cristina Umaña.