‘Mulan’ to Stream for Free on Disney+ in December?

With Disney’s inaugural premium VOD launch of the live-action remake Mulan set for Sept. 4, the movie reportedly could be available for free to Disney+ subscribers three months later on Dec. 4.

The later release date was observed on a screen shot for the movie’s $29.99 Premium Access purchase price in the United States on the Disney+ app and first reported by ScreenRant. The December date has subsequently been removed from the purchase link. Scuttlebutt has long suggested Mulan would not be available for free (with a Disney+ subscription) until 2021.

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Disney earlier in August announced the controversial decision to forgo a theatrical debut for Mulan after repeated exhibitor re-opening delays prevented the $200 million budget movie from releasing. The title was initially slated to debut in theaters on March 27, then pushed back to July and again to this month before being removed from the release schedule. The movie will still have a theatrical presence in markets without Disney+ access.

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While studios such as Universal Pictures have embraced PVOD and transactional VOD in response to the pandemic, Disney has steadfastly supported the 90-day theatrical window  underscored by the studio’s global box dominance in recent years through Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and Pixar Animation titles.

AMC Entertainment Selling Baltic Theaters

Cash-strapped AMC Entertainment Aug. 31 announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to sell nine theatre locations (67 screens) in the Baltic region (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) for €65 million ($77 million).

The agreement calls for AMC to receive approximately half of the sale proceeds on signing and the balance upon closing in each country after antitrust resolution in the coming months.

The world’s largest exhibitor with about 1,000 screens is slowly trying to return to normal operations after shuttering all theaters in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“This transaction marks yet [more] decisive action taken, on the heels of our capital raising in April and debt restructuring and capital raising in July, to bolster our liquidity and strengthen our balance sheet…that underscores the inherent value of our theatre portfolio and resilience of our business,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Aron said he remains “encouraged” by attendance levels at re-opened screens in Europe and in the U.S., where almost 300 theaters are currently open for business.

Indeed, Warner Bros.’ much-hyped Christopher Nolan movie Tenet generated $53 million in ticket sales Aug. 26-30 across 41 theatrical markets outside the U.S. and China. The film opens in the world’s largest two markets next weekend.

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“Growing consumer confidence in our cleaning and safety protocols continues to generate increased attendance and food and beverage spend, and we look forward to offering a full slate of new and entertaining film product to further drive attendance over the remainder of 2020,” Aron said.

Media analyst Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said the sale could help AMC reduce its long-term debt load to $4.8 billion, compared with $5.1 billion in the most-recent fiscal quarter.

With its recent debt restructuring, AMC has significantly improved its debt position, while also reducing its cash outlay by [upwards of] $180 million in the next six to eight quarters,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Collectively, these moves have effectively positioned the company to survive through extended closures in its domestic markets.”

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/8/20;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, some bloody images, suggestive material, language, smoking and brief partial nudity.
Voices of Darren Criss, Alexandra Daddario, Zachary Quinto, Ike Amadi, Ryan Hurst, Brett Dalton, Neil Flynn, Bellamy Young, Eugene Byrd.

The latest DC Comics animated movie takes a look at young Clark Kent’s early days as Superman as a fresh-faced potential journalist newly arrived in Metropolis.

This version of Clark, while aware of his powers, has no clue about his Kryptonian origins. He begins attracting the attention of the press through a series of heroic deeds, though he has yet to be branded Superman or even don his iconic costume (though his reasons for needing the costume provide one of the film’s biggest laughs)..

However, his exploits also get noticed by the notorious intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo, who comes to Earth looking for a fight. Though Clark finds an ally in the mysterious Martian Manhunter, his battle with Lobo ends up unleashing a deadly creature known as Parasite, who grows stronger by absorbing energy and draining the life force of his victims.

To stop Parasite’s rampage, Clark (voiced by Darren Criss) must enlist the help of Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto), a man destined to one day become his sworn enemy. But this story occurs before all those pieces fall into place.

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The movie also gives some attention to the young Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario), a recent graduate looking to establish herself as the top reporter at the Daily Planet, where Clark has been working as an intern bringing everyone their coffee.

The film does a nice job of establishing Clark’s eagerness to fit in. He knows he’s an alien, but isn’t sure from where or who else knows, so he knows his heroic excursions come with an element of risk. In fact, one of the big motifs of the film is finding the humanity in beings who otherwise aren’t human, particularly as Superman tries to re-connect with the man Parasite used to be.

Man of Tomorrow, the 40th entry in the DC Universe series of animated superhero movies, is a standalone film, not connected to the brand’s recent string of interconnected movies, though it could very well prove a good jumping off point for a new continuity.

The animation is crisp and lively, and the colors pop in high-definition. The filmmakers have crafted some exciting action sequences, including the initial all-out brawl between young Clark Kent and Lobo. The third-act battle against Parasite takes on much of the flavor of a typical “Godzilla” movie, but for the most part this is a pretty entertaining Superman adventure. Fans of Lobo should get a kick out of finally seeing him in action in one of these DC movies.

The Blu-ray includes two Lobo-centric episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series,” plus a 10-minute featurette on the history and popularity of Lobo.

There’s also a nine-minute featurette about the legacy of the Martian Manhunter.

Rounding out the extras are a trailer, featurettes for earlier DC animated movies, and a 12-minute preview of the next animated DC movie, a kung-fu-style Batman adventure set in the 1970s.

Irresistible

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/1/20;
Universal;
Comedy;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language including sexual references.
Stars Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, Will Sasso.

Comedian Jon Stewart returns to familiar ground from his “Daily Show” days with a biting political satire that takes aim at electioneering in America.

Stewart also reunites with his old “Daily Show” cohort Steve Carell, who plays Gary, a Democrat political operative on the outs following the 2016 presidential election. In an attempt to get back into the party’s good graces, he takes on the challenge of convincing a farmer and former Marine colonel named Jack (Chris Cooper) to run for mayor as a Democrat in a traditional Midwestern town, hoping a win will serve as a template for bringing a progressive message to other red states.

His involvement, however, attracts the attention of his opposite number from the Republican Party, Faith (Rose Byrne), who swoops into town to make sure the incumbent mayor keeps his seat.

The race quickly descends into a microcosm of a national campaign, with major party donors throwing big bucks at the candidates, allowing Stewart to throw shade at nearly all the tropes of an American election he made fun of for years on Comedy Central, from endless fundraising to disingenuous pandering to media manipulation. In keeping his crosshairs on the election process, Stewart veers away from partisanship for the most part, though he does overplay his own biases in a few of the jokes.

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Meanwhile, Carell has his eyes on Jack’s daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), a fresh-faced farmgirl eager to help her father’s campaign. However, Stewart has more up his sleeve than just a simple underdog story, and there’s more to this sleepy downtrodden town than it would seem. The story delivers some nice twists and turns that, while clever, may limit the film’s rewatchability.

The Blu-ray offers a slew of deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about five minutes each.

‘Umbrella Academy’ Tops Parrot’s Digital Originals Chart for Fourth Week

Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” remained No. 1 on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Aug. 29. In its fourth consecutive week as the top digital original, however, the series had a 20.1% drop in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity. The series had 79.4 times the demand of the average series.

Netflix’s “Lucifer,” based on a character from DC Comics’ “The Sandman,” rose two spots to No. 2, with expressions rising 53.1% to give the show 63.7 times average demand.

Dropping a spot to No. 3 was Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which had 57.2 times the demand of the average series, while the show dropped 5% in demand expressions.

The Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” dropped to No. 4. It had 46.2 times the demand of the average show, with expressions down 1.2%.

DC Universe’s “Titans” remained at No. 5 after a 10% rise in expressions, giving it 41.4 times average demand.

Among the series returning to the top 10, DC Universe’s “Harley Quinn” jumped five spots to No. 7. Expressions were up 20.8% after the show was featured at the DC Fandome virtual event Aug. 22. Both seasons have been available on the new HBO Max streaming service since the beginning of August and will be released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive.

The biggest jump was “Cobra Kai,” the “Karate Kid” spinoff that was a YouTube Premium original series for its first two seasons but has moved to Netflix. Starting Aug. 28 both seasons became available on Netflix as fans await the third season in 2021. A 109.4% rise in expressions pushed the show from No. 33 the previous week to No. 9.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 1 overall TV series was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 105.7 times average demand. “Umbrella Academy” was No. 3 on the overall TV list.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.

Warner’s ‘Tenet’ Generates $53 Million International Weekend Box Office

Hollywood got its first sense of normalcy at the box office after Warner Bros.’ espionage thriller Tenet, from director Christopher Nolan, generated more than $53 million Aug. 26 to 30 at the international box office. The film opens in the U.S. and China next weekend.

The much-hyped (and delayed) movie has been pegged by exhibitors and studios as a key barometer whether consumers return to the movies in the COVID-19 era. Tenet is the strongest international opening weekend (in 41 markets, including Canada) for a Nolan movie, which includes The Dark Knight.

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Tenet, which stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, among others, opened biggest in the United Kingdom with $7.1 million in ticket sales, followed by France ($6.7 million), Korea ($5.1 million) and Germany ($4.2 million).

With Nolan a fan of 70mm films (and 4K UHD Blu-ray), Tenet performed well at Imax screens, generating more than $5 million in revenue.

“People have been very anxious to get back to the movies,” Megan Colligan, president of Imax Entertainment, told Variety. “These results speak to that.”

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Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said the return to box office normalcy is a marathon, not a sprint. Some Wall Street analysts contend consumers won’t feel comfortable returning to the box office without a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Regardless, Emmerich believes Tenet has a long theatrical run ahead.

“We are off to a fantastic start internationally and couldn’t be more pleased,” he said in a statement. “Christopher Nolan has once again delivered an event-worthy motion picture that demands to be seen on the big screen.”

Horror Film ‘Skin Walker’ Available on DVD From MVD

The horror film Skin Walker is out on DVD from Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

In the film, Regine is a fragile young woman trying to build a new life — safer and happier than the one she had as a child. Escaping her trauma is not so easy however, and when her grandmother is brutally murdered, Regine must return to the village she once left and revisit the gruesome horrors of her past to protect herself and her family. The film stars Udo Kier (Dragged Across Concrete, Blade), Jefferson Hall (Halloween (2018), Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Amber Anderson (Emma (2020), Your Highness) and Sophie Mousel (Blood Craft).

The film was an official selection at the 2019 Cairo International Film Festival and 2020 Luxembourg City Film Festival.

Extras include a slide show and bonus trailers.

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‘New Mutants’ Earns Global Weekend Box Office Gross of $10M as Theaters Gradually Reopen

The Walt Disney Co. resumed releasing box office data Aug. 30, reporting that 20th Century’s The New Mutants, the 13th and final installment in what had been Fox’s superhero “X-Men” franchise, earned an estimated worldwide gross of just under $10 million its opening weekend.

Disney noted that currently only around 62% of domestic screens are open, while the film’s international debut was limited to 10 “material” markets, including France and Spain.

The film’s domestic gross is estimated at $7 million, while overseas The New Mutants earned $2.9 million.

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AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, began its domestic reopening process on Aug. 20, with 100 theaters. An additional 170 theaters were reopened Aug. 27, in time for the release of The New Mutants. Kansas-based AMC now has nearly 300 of its more than 600 U.S. theaters back in business, albeit at reduced capacities. A third wave is slated to reopen in time for the Sept. 3 theatrical debut of Warner Bros. Tenet. The remainder of AMC’s U.S. theaters will open only after authorized to do so by state and local officials.

AMC has more than 1,000 theaters in 15 countries, with a total of more than 11,000 screens.

No. 2 movie theater chain Regal Cinemas also began opening theaters Aug. 21. Regal has more than 800 theaters around the world, including 550 in the United States, and a total screen count of more than 7,000.

Disney says movie theaters in California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, and New Mexico remain closed, with Arizona a mixed bag.

“Next weekend sees the bulk of international openings when 20 material markets open up, including Italy, the UK, Russia, Australia and Mexico,” according to the Disney news release.  “Importantly The New Mutants launch helped markets concerned by supplying fresh, new product for them to screen and therefore encourage consumers to return to movie theaters.

Shout! Sets Home Date for Epic Actioner ‘The Rising Hawk’

Independent film distributor Shout! Studios has set an Oct. 2 home release date for the epic action movie The Rising Hawk.

The film, directed by John Wynn, will be available on VOD platforms and through digital retailers.

The Rising Hawk boasts an international cast that includes Robert Patrick (Terminator 2), Tommy Flanagan (“Sons of Anarchy”), Poppy Drayton (“The Shannara Chronicles”), Alex MacNicoll (“The Society,” which has just been canceled by Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Alison Doody (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Tsegmid Tserenbold (“Marco Polo”), Rocky Myers (“Animal Kingdom”), and Oliver Trevena (“The Reckoning” miniseries).

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The film is a collaboration between American and Ukrainian filmmakers. It was nominated for seven 2020 Ukrainian Academy Film Awards, winning three. An international team of filmmakers and actors were brought together from all over the world, including Ukraine, United States, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany, to film the movie.

The Rising Hawk takes place in a 13th Century Mongolian Empire following Zakhar Berkut (Robert Patrick) and his wife Rada (Alison Doody) as they lead a group of highlanders in the Carpathian Mountains. Unfortunately, their tranquil existence is soon threatened by Burunda Khan (Tsegmid Tserenbold), a powerful Mongolian general who leads his massive armies west in search of new lands to conquer.

 

‘Black Panther’ Star Chadwick Boseman Dead at 43

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who generated acclaim for his portrayal of strong black characters and the lead in Disney/Marvel Studios’ groundbreaking Black Panther, died Aug. 28 at age 43 after a lengthy battle against colon cancer.

Boseman died at his home surrounded by his wife and family, according to a statement by his publicist Nicki Fioravante on social media. The actor had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, which had worsened to stage IV.

“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” the statement read. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”

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Boseman is most well-known for playing King T’Challa in Marvel Studios’ 2018 superhero movie Black Panther, which went on to win three Oscars and generate more than $1.347 billion at the global box office. The movie was the top-grossing release of the year, besting Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Boseman originated the role in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and reprised it in Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the latter becoming the highest-grossing box office film of all time (unadjusted for inflation).

His performance in Black Panther earned an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, and a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the ensemble for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. He also won MTV Movie Awards for Best Performance in a Movie and Best Hero.

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Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in ’42.’

Boseman first came to mainstream attention playing Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42, which depicted the civil rights icon’s breaking of the Major League Baseball color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Coincidentally, the MLB had been celebrating Aug. 28 as Jackie Robinson Day, marking the day in 1945 Dodgers GM Branch Rickey told Robinson he was being prepped for integrating the league (baseball’s usual Jackie Robinson Day to mark his MLB debut on April 15 was wiped out this year when the league delayed starting its season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic).

Aug. 28 is also the birthday of Black Panther co-creator Jack Kirby.