Mike Clark, Veteran Film Critic and ‘MPN’ Columnist, Dies

Film critic and Media Play News contributor Mike Clark died July 31 due to complications from a fall a few days earlier. He had been suffering health issues for some time. He was 73.

His son, Nick, posted on Facebook, “As most of you know he had been struggling with liver disease for several years. Daily activities had become more and more difficult, but he still gave himself completely when spending (sometimes virtual) time with children and grandchildren and other family and friends. He also continued to write and work on his music project right up until the very end. He was with family in his final hours, and he passed very peacefully.”

Mike Clark

Clark, who lived in Virginia, had been contributing reviews of newly issued Blu-ray Discs and DVDs of celebrated theatrical blockbusters — as well as more obscure movies from the golden days of Hollywood and before — since Media Play News was launched in January 2018, as well as its predecessor, Home Media Magazine, from 2010 to 2017.

From 1985 to 2009, Clark was senior film critic and home entertainment columnist for USA Today.

Clark exhibited a passion for film from a young age growing up in Ohio. As a child, he appeared as a 10-year-old film expert on the popular TV quiz show “The $64,000 Question.” He followed that with a job at a CBS affiliate in one of the country’s largest feature film libraries, and later attended New York University’s Graduate School of Cinema.

Clark programmed approximately 150 film series and 5,000 individual titles over eight years as program planner, and eventually director, of the American Film Institute Theater (then located in Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts).

He also spent a year as film critic for the Detroit Free Press. A contributing editor to Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide since 1973, Clark was also an elected member of the National Society of Film Critics.

(L-R): Film critics Leonard Maltin and Mike Clark. (Photo courtesy of Leonard Maltin)

“Mike’s enthusiasm was second to none where movies and pop culture were concerned,” said film critic Leonard Maltin, who published his namesake guide from 1969 to 2014. “He was a valued contributor to my Movie Guide for decades. Even when he landed his job at USA Today I beseeched him to continue writing for the book because his reviews were so funny. I looked forward to his work in Media Play News, which made use of his tremendous savvy as well as his unique sense of humor. I will miss his writing, just as I will miss our friendship.”

In 2017, Maltin wrote an appreciation for Clark’s reviews in a blog post at his website, LeonardMaltin.com, and recalled how he first encountered “Movie Mike,” as Clark was known around the newsroom.

“I met him when he was attending the NYU Graduate School of Cinema,” Maltin wrote. “He and I bonded over our love for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and our unexplainable interest in the little-remembered Keefe Brasselle.”

USA Today’s Mike Snider said he was a colleague of Clark for nearly two decades.

“Movie Mike certainly earned his nickname,” Snider said. “He was a fixture of the USA Today Life section. His film reviews and columns were always incisive and readers were certain to learn something far beyond the particular films being critiqued.”

A huge fan of the New York Yankees and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Clark was “smart, quick and funny, and I was lucky enough to get to see him the last few years as he managed an art-house film theater near my home in northern Virginia,” Snider said. “The film industry has lost one of its great voices.”

Another former USA Today colleague, Jim Cheng, wrote on Facebook, “My heart is broken like the third reel of a grindhouse double feature. The great Movie Mike Clark has left the screening room. Friend, mentor, endless font of information (not just movies), father, grandfather, and of course, Yankee fan. Love to his family. RIP, Movie Mike. In his honor, I hope to spend the weekend watching classic movies.”

Clark is survived by his two sons, Nick (Megan) and Alex; grandsons Benjamin and Oliver; sister Marta (Glenn); ex-wife and close friend Cathy Crary; and many other relatives and friends.

Doc ‘1275 Days’ Available on Disc and Digital From Filmrise and MVD

A special edition of the documentary 1275 Days will come out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Filmrise and MVD Entertainment Group.

The film follows 15-year-old Blake who, after a botched home invasion, finds himself facing a virtual life prison sentence for felony murder. With the unwavering support of his single mother and teenage girlfriend, Blake embarks on a David-and-Goliath uphill battle in Elkhart, Indiana, taking on the system in hopes of a second chance.

Extras include deleted scenes, “Experts on Retroactivity,” a photo gallery and the theatrical trailer.

It was an official selection at the 2019 Heartland International Film Festival and an official selection and 2019 DOC NYC.

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Philo Now Streaming via Google Chromecast

Online TV service Philo July 31 announced that its Android app is now Chromecast-enabled. Users can stream the $20 monthly service on TV by casting from the app. The distribution is part of “Philo Connect,” a new campaign enabling video casting from any Android mobile device to any Chromecast or Chromecast-supported TV.

San Francisco-based Philo plans to add Philo Connect to more devices including iOS, Web, FireTV, and Roku.

“We took the time to build Philo Connect to expand our experience to support synchronized viewing on all media devices, not just Chromecast,” Devon Ray Williams, head of product, Philo TV, said in a statement.

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The announcement comes on the heels of a busy year for Philo, which includes the addition of three new channels (TV One, get TV, INSP); the launch of add-on channels (Epix and Starz); a partnership with the National Urban League; and the donation of $1 million in video ad inventory for Black-owned businesses and social justice initiatives to run spots on Philo free of charge.

Disney+ Executive Agnes Chu Departing for Condé Nast Entertainment

Agnes Chu, SVP of content at Disney+, is leaving the upstart subscription streaming video service in August for Condé Nast Entertainment’s streaming video operations. CNE develops, produces and distributes video content across 17 brands, including Bon Appétit, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired.

In her new role, Chu will lead CNE’s next phase of expansion, a key part of the company’s global growth strategy, which includes the newly launched brand studios for The New Yorker. She will join the company in September and report to Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch.

Agnes Chu

As SVP of content for Disney+, Chu commissioned a portfolio of feature, scripted, unscripted and animated entertainment.

Partnering with The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and National Geographic, among others, Chu launched Disney+ with an original slate recently recognized with 19 Emmy nominations in the service’s inaugural year.

Chu joined Disney in 2008 and has held a variety of roles for the company, including at Walt Disney Imagineering and for Bob Iger as VP, office of the chairman and CEO. She started at Disney-ABC Television Group in digital short form development and production, rising to current and daytime programming at ABC Entertainment.

Earlier in her career, Chu worked in documentary production, with credits on the Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and “The Blues,” a seven-part film series on PBS with directors Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Alex Gibney.

Trans World Entertainment Narrows Q2 Loss Following F.Y.E. Sale

Trans World Entertainment July 31 disclosed it lost $5.4 million in the second quarter (ended May 2) on revenue of $31.5 million. That compared with a loss of $7.8 million and revenue of $35.1 million during the previous-year period.

Notable for the narrowed loss: The Feb. 20 sale of home entertainment retail chain f.y.e. for $10 million to Canadian-based Sunrise Records, which owns music retailer chain HMV in Canada and London. Trans World Entertainment now focuses on eTailz.com, an e-commerce intermediary based in Spokane, Wash.

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Trans World Entertainment said owning f.y.e. resulted in negative cash flows from operations during fiscal 2019 and 2018, and it expects to incur additional net losses in 2020. The company remains uncertain about the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic on eTailz, which conducts much of its business on Amazon.

April 17 etailz received loan proceeds of $2 million as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). The PPP Loan matures April 17, 2022, bearing interest at a fixed rate of 1% per annum, and is payable in monthly installments of $112,975.55 commencing Nov. 10.

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“Given the daily evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak and the response to curb its spread, currently we are not able to estimate the effects of the virus outbreak to our results of operations, financial condition, or liquidity,” the company said in a statement.

Season 4 of ‘Rick and Morty’ on Disc Sept. 22

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Rick and Morty: Season 4 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Sept. 22.

The discs will include all 10 episodes from the latest season of the Adult Swim series about a mad scientist and his grandson who embark on crazy interdimensional adventures.

Extras include the an “Inside the Episode” featurette for every episode, as well as “A Day at ‘Rick and Morty’: Inside Season 4,” “Creating Snake Jazz,” “Directing Rick and Morty,” “Samurai and Shogun,” “Prop Process,” “Character Creation” and  “Animation Challenges.”

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The Blu-ray will include the episodes in full 1080p HD video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1, as well as a digital code for the episodes. The digital code will be valid only in the United States.

Shout! Factory TV Slates Week of ‘Ferocious Fish Flicks’

Shout! Factory TV, indie home entertainment distributor Shout! Factory’s streaming service, in August will stream “a daily double feature of fan-favorite ferocious fish flicks,” according to a July 31 announcement.
The marathon features cult classics such as Barracuda, Demon of Paradise and Creature From the Haunted Sea. It kicks off Sunday, Aug. 9, and continues daily through Saturday, Aug. 15, on the Shout! Factory TV live streaming channel, Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Android apps; and the following digital streaming platforms: Twitch, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity, Xumo, Vizio, Redbox, IMDb TV and STIRR.
The complete schedule:
Aug. 9:
  • Demon of Paradise — Fishing with dynamite in Hawaii drives a lizard-man out of the water to terrorize people.
  • Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Monstroid — When a small Colombian village is viciously attacked by a creature from a nearby lake, a corrupt chemical company sends a specialist (Jim Mitchum) to destroy the beast and cover up their involvement with its creation.
Aug. 10:
  • Devil Fish — When Dr. Stella Dickens concludes the recent string of grisly deaths and demolished boats can’t be the result of any known marine creature, she sets out to capture the beast, a genetically created bioweapon that must be kept secret … at any cost.
  • The Blood Waters of Dr. Z — Seeking revenge against those responsible for stripping him of his tenure and the denial of human research subjects, Dr. Z mutates himself into a hideous half-human-half-fish-like creature!
Aug. 11:
  • Piranha (1995) — A government tank containing genetically engineered piranha is unwittingly emptied into a river that flows past a resort area.
  • Barracuda — A little coastal town is being terrorized by deadly barracudas.
Aug. 12:
  • Killer Fish: Deadly Treasure of Piranha — Jewel thieves attempt to recover treasure from piranha infested waters.
  • Lords of the Deep — America’s first self-contained undersea laboratory is the pride of the nation, and expectations are high for an elaborate undersea mining operation. What wasn’t expected was the inhabitants of an undiscovered world.
Aug. 13:
  • Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Monstroid
  • Creature from the Haunted Sea — A crook decides to bump off members of his inept crew and blame their deaths on a legendary sea creature. What he doesn’t know is that the creature is real.
Aug. 14:
  • Piranhaconda — Two piranha/anaconda hybrid creatures hunt down the scientist who stole their egg and a film crew; making a slasher film in the jungle.
Terror Beneath the Sea — While covering a test of guided torpedoes, two reporters believe they saw what appeared to be a strange-looking swimming creature. They investigate the matter further and discover that there is a race of fish-men living under the sea. The fish-men capture the pair and keep them prisoner in their underwater city.
Aug. 15
Sharktopus v. Pteracuda — An American scientist creates a half-pterodactyl, half-barracuda creature, Pteracuda, which inevitably escapes, leaving the Sharktopus to stop it.
Sharktopus v. Whalewolf — When a mad scientist mixes the genes of a killer whale and a wolf, it creates the Whalewolf, and it’s up to Sharktopus to stop it.
The films featured in Killer Fish Week are also available to watch on demand via Shout! Factory TV. 

Shout! Factory to Reissue, on Blu-ray Disc, 2002 Nicolas Cage Film ‘Adaptation’

The film wShout! Factory has announced the Oct. 20 home release date of Adaptation, a 2002 American comedy-drama starring Nicolas Cage (Face/Off, Valley Girl), Meryl Streep (Little Women, Sophie’s Choice), and Chris Cooper (Little Women, August: Osage County).

ill be available on Blu-ray Disc, and includes special features such as the original featurette, a stills gallery, and a trailer.

Based on the 1998 nonfiction book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, the film is a blend of fictional characters and situations with the lives of reach people.

Directed by Spike Jonze and scripted by Charlie Kaufman, Adaption follows the story of Hollywood screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Cage) as he struggles to adapt Susan Orlean’s (Streep) best-selling book The Orchid Thief. The lives of Kaufman and Orlean’s book become strangely intertwined, as each one’s search for passion collides with one another and his life quickly goes from unamusing and pathetic to bizarre.

WWE Networks Adds First Streaming Video Subs Since 2018

Following months of decline, WWE Network, the pro-wrestling subscription streaming video platform, saw paid subscriptions increase 6% in the second quarter (ended June 30) to finish the period with 1.69 million. It was the first quarterly video sub increase since the fourth quarter of 2018.

Spearheading a return to subscriber growth was the June 1 launch of an ad-supported free version of WWE Network that teased viewers with a portion of WWE’s content library to expand reach and engagement of its direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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Indeed, pro wrestling has proved to be popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with digital video views increasing 10% to a record 9.9 billion views and hours consumed up 15% to a record 374 million hours across digital and social media platforms.

Overall, net income reached $43.8 million, from $10.4 million in the second quarter of 2019, primarily reflecting improved operating performance due to reduced costs associated with live events. Revenue decreased 17% to $223.4 million from $268.9 million in the prior year quarter primarily driven by decreased sales of tickets and merchandise that resulted from the cancellation, postponement and relocation of live events due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“We continue to adapt our business to the changing environment, focusing on the development of new content for global distribution platforms and increasing audience engagement to drive growth and value for our shareholders,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.

In a Switch: Charter Adds 102,000 Spectrum Video Subs in Q2

In a switch, Charter Communications July 31 announced it added 102,000 Spectrum video subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30. That compared with a loss of 150,000 video subs in the previous-year period. Charter ended the period with 15.6 million video subs — down 150,000 subs from 15.8 million subs a year ago.

The video additions counter an industrywide trend that has seen major pay-TV operators such as Comcast and AT&T hemorrhage subs to alternative distribution channels, including over-the-top video.

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CEO Tom Rutledge

In prepared comments, CEO Tom Rutledge gave no reason for the video turnaround, except to heap praise and moral support for the good fortune.

“Our ability to grow our services this year for new and existing customers, is a testament to our operating strategy, the quality of our products and our significant investment in systems and people over the last several years,” Rutledge said in a statement.

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To its credit, Spectrum was one of the first pay-TV operators to offer broadband-only subs online TV access through Spectrum TV Plus, which included a free Roku player.

Like other pay-TV operators, Charter is offsetting video uncertainty with high-speed Internet. With SVOD and AVOD platforms reliant on broadband distribution into consumer homes, Charter added 842,000 Spectrum Internet subs in the quarter — up 281% from 221,000 sub ads in the previous-year period. Charter, like Comcast, now has more broadband subs (26.3 million) than video.

“We continue to perform in a difficult and disruptive environment, and all of us at Charter are proud of our work in serving the communities in which we operate,” Rutledge said.