Suspense Thriller ‘The Ledge’ Due Digitally Feb. 18 From Saban and Paramount

Saban Films and Paramount Pictures will release the high-climbing suspense thriller The Ledge in theaters, on demand and for digital purchase Feb. 18.

Directed by Howard J. Ford (The Dead, Adventure Boyz), the film stars Brittany Ashworth (Hostile, Accident Man), Ben Lamb (Now You See Me 2), Louis Boyer (Outside the Wire), Nathan Welsh (Trust Me), Anaïs Parello (Parlement) and David Wayman (13 Seconds in Kent State).

In the film, a climber trapped on the face of a mountain fights off four killers standing on an overhanging ledge 20 feet above her.

After Kelly (Ashworth) captures the murder of her best friend on camera, she becomes the next target of a tight-knit group of friends who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence and anyone in their way. Desperate for her safety, she begins a treacherous climb up a mountain cliff and her survival instincts are put to the test when she becomes trapped with the killers.

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Roku’s Scott Rosenberg to Step Down as SVP/GM of Platform Business

Roku Jan. 7 announced that Scott Rosenberg, SVP and GM of the tech company’s platform business, plans to step down sometime in the spring. No reason was cited for his pending departure.

During his nine-year career, Rosenberg has helped Roku evolve its branded platform into an industry-leading gateway to the internet for third-party apps. At the same time, The Roku Channel has morphed from a small ad-supported VOD platform to a free ad-supported streaming TV service featuring original content.

Scott Rosenberg

Rosenberg joined Roku in 2012 as VP of advertising and business development. In 2017, he was named SVP and GM of Roku’s platform business, overseeing both advertising and content and services. Rosenberg played an important role in the company’s IPO, and leading and growing the successful platform business. Rosenberg will continue to lead his teams until his departure.

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“While Scott remains deeply invested in the company’s success, he’s ready for his next professional challenge and believes this is the right timeframe for him to make a change. I respect and fully support his decision,” Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Scott to ensure a smooth transition, while maintaining our relentless focus on building the best TV streaming platform.”

“Working at Roku these last nine years has been the most rewarding time of my career, without a close second,” Rosenberg said. “Deciding to leave was difficult but made possible by my belief in the incredible bench strength of the platform team and the company as a whole.”

CES 2022 in Pictures

A scaled-down CES closed Jan. 7, a day earlier than usual, as an added safety measure as COVID-19 cases once again surge worldwide. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) defied calls to cancel the show and implemented strict safety measures, including requiring all attendees to be vaccinated and wear masks at all indoor functions, including the show floor. Despite a rash of high-profile cancellations Christmas week, including Amazon, Meta (Facebook) and Google, the show wound up with more than 2,300 exhibitors, more than expected — and while the final attendee count is not yet in, traffic was fairly heavy throughout the show’s run, which began Jan. 5, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Apple TV+ Orders Limited Series ‘Manhunt’

Apple TV+ has ordered the limited series “Manhunt,” created by Emmy, Golden Globe, PGA and WGA-nominated writer-producer Monica Beletsky (“Fargo,” “Leftovers,” “Friday Night Lights”), who is also the showrunner and an executive producer.

“Manhunt” is created by writer-producer Monica Beletsky (left) and stars Tobias Menzies.

“Manhunt” is a true crime series based on the events of the Lincoln assassination, aftermath and best-selling book by James Swanson. The limited series is set to star 2021 Emmy Award winner Tobias Menzies (“The Crown,” “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander”) as Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s war secretary and friend, who was driven nearly to madness by the need to catch John Wilkes Booth and to carry out Lincoln’s legacy. 

Part historical fiction, part conspiracy thriller, “Manhunt” will take audiences into the aftermath of the first American presidential assassination and the fight to preserve and protect the ideals that were the foundation of Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans — issues that reverberate into the present day. The series features black historical figures whose lives intertwined with the escape, manhunt and subsequent high-crimes investigation, including Mary Simms, a former slave of the doctor who treated Booth’s injury and gave him safe harbor after his crime.

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“Manhunt” marks the first series order to hail from Monica Beletsky’s overall deal with Apple TV+, which was recently renewed.

The series will be produced for Apple TV+ by Apple Studios, and co-produced by Lionsgate, in association with POV Entertainment, Walden Media and 3 Arts Entertainment. Layne Eskridge executive produces along with James Swanson, author of best-selling and Edgar Award-winning book “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.” Michael Rotenberg and Richard Abate executive produce on behalf of 3 Arts, and Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov executive produce for Walden Media.

Untitled Anna Nicole Smith Doc Headed to Netflix

An untitled documentary about Anna Nicole Smith is heading to Netflix. 

Directed by Ursula Macfarlane (The Lost Sons, Untouchable), the feature-length documentary will include never before seen footage of the iconic Playboy and Guess jeans model, who blazed a trail through the 90s before her tragic death at the age of 39.

Bringing Smith’s own voice to the foreground, the film will include never before seen, exclusive footage from an unreleased documentary of a young Anna Nicole on the verge of global stardom, offering a unique glimpse into her life out of the spotlight and her dreams as a young mother. Bringing surprising revelations to the story of an icon, the film will include testimony from those who knew Smith best when the cameras weren’t rolling — many of whom have never shared their full story until now.

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“I approached Anna Nicole’s story as an epic mystery tale,” Macfarlane said in a statement. “How did someone with so much charisma and jaw-dropping beauty, with the world at her feet, fall so far, so quickly? Now feels like the right time to re-examine the life of yet another beautiful young woman whose life has been picked over and ultimately destroyed by our culture. I am thrilled to work with Netflix and Propagate to make a moving, unflinching and sensitive portrayal of one of the most misunderstood women of our time.”

NPD: 2021 U.S. Consumer Technology Revenue Up 9%, Following Double-Digit Growth in 2020

Last year (2021) was a record-setting year for the U.S. consumer technology industry with sales reaching nearly $127 billion dollars, up 9% from 2020’s double-digit increase, according to new data from The NPD Group.

That momentum is expected to cool from 2022 through 2024. While total sales will remain above pre-pandemic levels, NPD’s most recent Future of Tech forecast reveals year-over-year U.S. CE industry revenue is expected to decline 5% in 2022, 4% in 2023, and 1% in 2024.

“In the near-term we are anticipating slowing demand from the extraordinary rates we have been seeing over the last two years,” Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for NPD, said in a statement.

A trend that began pre-pandemic but will carry into the new year is rising average selling prices (ASPs). This year will see the fifth consecutive year of industry level ASP increases, with overall unit pricing expected to top $72, up $16 from 2018.

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Last year ASP increases were in part the result of growing shipping costs and component shortages, but much of that was not felt until the second half of the year. Going forward NPD expects to see selling prices remain stable at this new, higher level due to the combination of strong demand for premium solutions and softening consumer needs for lower-value device categories.

“With such high levels of purchasing in 2020 and 2021 driven, in many cases, by pandemic lifestyle changes, we are seeing a larger, and younger, installed base for a number of devices,” Baker said. “This will inevitably slow consumer needs in the immediate future for technology updates and upgrades.”

Despite the anticipated declines, NPD’s forecast indicates smart homes will be an area of growth for the industry. In 2022, the category is expected to see unit growth of 6%, accompanied by 2% revenue gains, bringing total sales to over $4.1 billion. This will result from gains in security focused segments, including security cameras (up 2%), smart doorbells (up 13%) and smart locks (up 8%).

“Sales of smart-home devices had a strong 2021 holiday season, and we are forecasting unit and dollar sales to continue growing through 2024,” added Ben Arnold, executive director and technology industry analyst for NPD. “Consumers are also focused on entertainment, which will result in sales growth for standalone VR headsets and big-screen TVs (65-inches and above) through the forecast period. While VR offers a unique entertainment experience, growth in big screen TVs will continue from pre-pandemic trends towards larger screen sizes.”

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Eyes Fourth Weekend Box Office Win

Sony Pictures’ enduring theatrical blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home is poised to win its fourth-straight North American weekend box office through Jan. 9. The venerable Sony/Marvel Studios franchise film has generated almost $1.4 billion in revenue since its Dec. 17 debut.

Co-starring Tom Holland and Zendaya, No Way Home currently ranks as the top-grossing movie just seven days into 2022, a distinction carried over from 2021.

With an estimated three-day weekend revenue around $27 million, No Way Home could continue its climb up the record books. Entering the weekend, the comic book actioner surpassed Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($620.2 million) and Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers ($623.4 million) to rank eighth on the all-time North American revenue chart.

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The movie has a realistic shot at passing Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World ($652.4 million) and Paramount Pictures’ Titanic’s ($659.4 million) if ticket sales, which include Imax screens, continue to resonate.

Lone theatrical runners-up include Universal’s animated musical Sing 2, which is reportedly projected to generate $12 million in revenue ($109 million) since its Dec. 24 debut. The studio’s new release, international actioner The 355, co-starring Diane Kruger, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Penélope Cruz and Luptia Nyong’o, is projected to generate $3 million in opening weekend sales.

Returning box office releases this weekend include 20th Century Studios’ The King’s Man with projected $2.9 million in ticket sales; Lionsgate’s American Underdog ($2.2 million); Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Matrix Resurrections ($2 million); 20th Century Studios’ West Side Story ($1.6 million); and United Artists Releasing’s Licorice Pizza with $1 million in projected revenue.

Season 1 of Wrestling Drama ‘Heels’ Due on DVD Feb. 15

Lionsgate will release the pro-wrestling drama Heels: The Complete First Season on DVD Feb. 15.

Set in a close-knit Georgia community, the Starz series follows a struggling small-town family owned wrestling promotion, the Duffy Wrestling League, as two brothers and rivals, Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) and Ace Space (Alexander Ludwig), war over their late father’s legacy. In the ring, someone must play the good guy, the face (Ace), and someone must play their nemesis, the heel (Jack). But in the real world, those characters can be hard to live up to — or hard to leave behind.

The cast also includes Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund and Allen Maldonado.

The first season consists of eight episodes.

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Season 2 of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ Streaming Jan. 9 on PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel

Season two of “All Creatures Great and Small” will be available to stream on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel on Jan. 9.

Subscribers can binge season one now on the  PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel.

With an ensemble cast headed by Nicholas Ralph (“The Most Reluctant Convert”) as James Herriot, the series also stars Academy Award-winner Rachel Shenton (“The Silent Child”) as Helen Alderson, Samuel West as James’s charismatic but eccentric boss, Callum Woodhouse as Siegfried’s womanizing and carefree younger brother, Anna Madeley as Mrs. Hall and newly added cast member Olivier Award-winning actress Patricia Hodge (“A Very English Scandal”) as Mrs. Pumphrey.

The climax of season one saw Helen call off her impending wedding to wealthy landowner Hugh (Matthew Lewis, “Harry Potter”), after having developed a close friendship with James. After working hard to become accepted by the local farmers and prove himself indispensable, James became a senior vet in the Skeldale House veterinary practice. Following years of half-hearted effort, Tristan believed he had finally passed his veterinary exams. Siegfried, however, learned that Tristan failed once again, but didn’t have the heart to tell him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hall was heartbroken when she was unable to reconnect with her estranged son.

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As season two opens, James returns from Glasgow where he has been visiting his parents for Easter. While there, he is offered a job at a modern local veterinary practice and must decide between staying home in Glasgow with his elderly parents or returning to his new life in Yorkshire.

Nielsen: Netflix’s ‘Lost in Space’ Maintains Weekly Streaming Dominance

The third season of the Netflix original series reboot “Lost in Space” maintained its hold atop Nielsen’s weekly chart of top-streamed content in U.S. homes. The title was the only program to top 1 billion minutes (streamed across 28 episodes) in a week that saw muted interest in streaming after the Thanksgiving weekend.

“We were kind of in that fallow period between the heights of the Thanksgiving weekend media consumption and when we go to the Christmas holidays,” Brian Fuhrer, SVP of content at Nielsen, said on the podcast.

Fuhrer said the week was undermined in part by a lack of new content injected into the streaming ecosystem. The Top 3 podium was completed by Disney+ original series “Hawkeye” and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Wheel of Time,” both of which maintained their 500+ million weeks after each added additional episodes.

Netflix’s “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” added a new season, which helped draw slightly older children than the streamer’s licensed “Cocomelon,” which is successfully targeting children, with 835 million minutes across 15 episodes.

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“[‘Jurassic World’] is new content that trying to be introduced and keep that momentum going among younger audiences,” Fuhrer said.

The week also saw 60% of the week’s top-streamed movies with a Christmas theme as the winter holidays approached.

“Disney actually bookended the movies chart with catalog titles Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” Fuhrer said.

Source: Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings (Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix and Apple TV+), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television.