Best Buy Wins Social Impact Award for PopSockets Partnership

Best Buy, one of the biggest brick-and-mortar retailers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, has been awarded a silver Halo Award by Engage for Good, an organization focused on helping companies pursuing socially responsible agendas. The Halo Awards are North America’s highest honor for corporate social impact initiatives that successfully engage consumers and/or employees. 

Best Buy was recognized in the category of Best JEDI Initiative (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) for its partnership with PopSockets, which launched during Black History Month last year. The partnership matched four teens from Best Buy Teen Tech Center programs with mentors from PopSockets.  

Teen Tech Centers are after-school spaces where teens have access to cutting-edge technology, including tools for film, digital media, audio engineering and music production. Alongside their mentors, the teens created PopGrips, small, round attachments that connect to the backs of phones and tablets to help users hold and prop up their devices.  

The teens were commissioned and compensated through PopSockets’ process for freelance designers, giving teens a chance to follow along on the journey from ideation to seeing their creations sold in-store and online at Best Buy and online at Popsockets.com. A portion of each sale of the PopGrips is donated to the Best Buy Foundation and reinvested into the Best Buy Teen Tech Center program. 

The program has expanded over the last year, doubling its reach during LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and Latinx Heritage Month. Later this summer, Best Buy and PopSockets plan to unveil another batch of teen-designed PopGrips. 

Home Video Veteran Chris Roberts Lands at Software Firm

Home video veteran Chris Roberts has been hired by custom software development and Web design firm Buildable Works as senior business development officer.

Roberts is charged with growing the McMinnville, Oregon-based business in new industries, including entertainment and media.  

Prior to joining Buildable, Roberts was VP of business development at Whip Media Group and VP of sales at Resonance AI. He previously spent two years as SVP of sales at OnDemand Everywhere at Comscore, where he helped launch two services: Digital Download Essentials and Digital Download Industry Service, the first industry-view for the iVOD and EST channels for movie studios and television networks.  

Roberts came to Comscore through its acquisition of Rentrak Corp., which was completed in February 2016. Over the course of a 27-year run at Rentrak, Roberts played a key role in the company’s transformation from a VHS videocassette distributor — and originator of the pay-per-transaction revenue-sharing model — into a global media measurement and research company serving the entertainment industry. 

“Chris’ extensive experience in business development and sales will be an asset to Buildable and we are excited about the opportunities Chris can bring to the company,” said Max de Lavenne, Buildable Works founder and CEO.   

Roberts, a father of four daughters, is also a published recording artist and a film composer/producer. He has also been on the board of directors of Our Family in Africa, a nonprofit agency that helps orphans throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Breakout

BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Action;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Charles Bronson, Robert Duvall, Jill Ireland, Randy Quaid, John Huston, Sheree North, Emilio Fernán.

A year after Death Wish made him the king of the vigilantes, Charles Bronson stars as Nick Colton, a private bush pilot hired by a woman (Jill Ireland) to free her husband (Robert Duvall) from a Mexican prison.  Bronson and his crew, Hawk (Randy Quaid) and Myrna (Sheree North), perform said task with the quasi-comic aplomb typical of action films from the polyester decade. Breakout is certainly not Bronson at his best, but it’s a popcorn pleaser, one of those Friday-night-at-the-drive-in movies that probably worked best when viewed by a car full of teenagers sipping Coke and doing whatever.

And for fans of 1970s kitsch, like me, buying this movie is a no-brainer. Is it really something I’m going to watch once, twice, then again a few years later? The answer is an emphatic yes.

The film has been cleaned up nicely for its high-definition debut, arriving on Blu-ray Disc exactly 20 years after it was issued on DVD by what was then Columbia TriStar Home Video. (A 2019 Blu-ray, from Powerhouse Films, was only available in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia/New Zealand). 

Released under Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics banner, Breakout comes with an audio commentary by film historian Paul Talbot, author of two books on Bronson: Bronson’s Loose: The Making of the ‘Death Wish’ Films and Bronson’s Loose Again! On the Set with Charles Bronson. The Blu-ray Disc also comes with assorted trailers, TV spots and radio spots.

Kino Lorber Sets May 17 Disc Date for Revenge Thriller ‘Violent City’

Kino Lorber on May 17 will release the 1970 revenge thriller Violent City, starring Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Jill Ireland.

The film, which predates his iconic “Death Wish” franchise, finds Bronson playing a former hitman framed by his ex-boss and left for dead. He tracks the shooter and his beautiful mistress (Ireland) to New Orleans. But when he takes both revenge and the woman, he finds himself blackmailed by a powerful crime boss (Savalas) who wants the fiercely independent gunman to join his organization. He refuses, and finds himself the target of another hit. 

Violent City is an Italian-French co-production filmed in New Orleans, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Cinecittà Studios in Rome.

The DVD carries a suggested list price of $14.95, while the Blu-ray Disc retails for $29.95.

Directed by Sergio Sollima, the film also stars Umberto Orsini, Michel Constantine and Ray Saunders.

The two-disc set includes both the original Violent City — in a 2K restoration in English and Italian with optional English subtitles — and the 1973 U.S. cut, The Family.

Special features include an audio commentary by film historian Paul Talbot, the author of the Bronson’s Loose books; an interview with Sollima; and various trailers and TV spots. 

Cannes Jury Prize Winner ‘Ahed’s Knee’ Headed to DVD, Blu-ray Disc

Kino Lorber on June 14 will release acclaimed Israeli film Ahed’s Knee, a Jury Prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival, on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

The drama, directed by Nadav Lapid, stars Avshalom Pollak and Nur Fibak and is being released on disc in Hebrew with English subtitles. 

The film centers on a celebrated Israeli filmmaker, named Y, who arrives in a remote desert village to present one of his films at a local library. Struggling to cope with the recent news of his mother’s terminal illness, he flies into a rage when the host of the screening, a government employee, asks him to sign a form placing restrictions on what he can say at the film’s Q&A. Told over the course of one day, the film depicts Y as he battles against the loss of freedom in his country and the fear of losing his mother.

Director Lapid wrote Ahed’s Knee soon after the death of his own mother, who worked as an editor on many of his works. According to Kino Lorber, “It offers a sharp critique of the censorship, hypocrisy, and violence instigated by Israel and repressive governments everywhere. The fact that it was produced, largely funded, and highly acclaimed in its home country highlights the complexities of a national cinema that refuses to be muzzled, born of the divisions of society itself.”

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc, which carry suggested retail prices of $19.95 and $29.95, both come with a conversation with Lapid, courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center.

Documentary on Jazz Great Who Pioneered Solos Alongside Louis Armstrong Due on DVD June 7

Kino Lorber has set a June 7 DVD-only release date of Bix: Ain’t None of Them Play Like Him Yet, a 1981 documentary on Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke, considered to be the greatest jazz cornet player ever.

Bix, along with Louis Armstrong, pioneered the playing of jazz solos. He was born in 1903 in Davenport, Iowa, into an upper middle-class family. After a bout with alcoholism, Bix died in Sunnyside, Queens on Aug. 6, 1931. The cause of death was lobar pneumonia. He was 28.

The 1981 documentary uses archival photographs and rare footage (including the three sole momentary fragments capturing Bix on film) as well as interviews with friends and colleagues, including jazz greats Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Cheatham, and Artie Shaw.

The film, from Oscar winner Brigitte Berman, won the Bronze Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival. It paints a vivid portrait of a vanished era and brings to life the only cornetist Armstrong regarded as an equal (the quotation in the film’s title was once spoken by Armstrong). The film has been restored by Oren Edenson with a fully remastered soundtrack by Daniel Pellerin. 

 

San Diego Comic-Con Threatened With Loss of Nonprofit Status Over IRS Flap

The organization behind the annual San Diego Comic-Con International could lose its tax-exempt status in the state of California over a delay in filing paperwork with the IRS.

According to its mission statement, San Diego Comic Convention, aka Comic-Con International, “is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation organized for charitable purposes and dedicated to creating the general public’s awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, including participation in and support of public presentations, conventions, exhibits, museums and other public outreach activities which celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

In an April 8 letter to SDCC, California Attorney General Rob Bonta indicated the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts had not received a copy of SDCC’s Form 990 filing, which the Internal Revenue Service uses to gather information on tax-exempt organizations. Bonta’s letter gave SDCC a May 15 deadline to provide the state with a copy of the form or an approved IRS extension. Failure to submit the paperwork within 60 days of the date of the letter would result in the California Franchise Tax Board would being notified to treat SDCC as a taxable corporation.

Delinquent organizations may not engage in any activity for which registration is required, including solicitation or disbursing of charitable assets. Such a restriction would hamper SDCC’s ability to conduct its annual July San Diego Comic-Con event, which at its pre-pandemic peak drew 130,000 registered attendees. SDCC in the spring also stages the annual WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., drawing about 60,000 guests.

According to Bonta’s letter, late fees will be imposed by the Registry of Charitable Trusts for each month or partial month for which the reports are delinquent. Directors, trustees, officers and return preparers responsible for failure to timely file these reports are also personally liable for payment of all late fees, which cannot be paid with charitable assets.

According to the Times of San Diego, SDCC this past Nov. 18 filed its annual registration renewal fee report, claiming it lost more than $8 million in 2020 when it was forced to cancel both WonderCon and Comic-Con due to the pandemic ($3.97 million gross revenue vs. $11.98 million in gross expenses). It reported total assets of $42.4 million.

SDCC also canceled WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con in 2021, and didn’t return to staging live events until a smaller convention in San Diego during Thanksgiving Weekend in 2021. WonderCon returned to the Anaheim Convention Center in early April 2022. Its next summer convention is slated for a return to the San Diego Convention Center July 21-24.

The comic-con.org website solicits donations and sells membership packages for the new Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

SDCC may try to make up its pandemic losses through franchising. April 4 global brand management firm IMG announced it had been retained as SDCC’s first-ever licensing agency.

“Over 50 years ago, the Comic-Con founders simply wanted to draw attention and recognition to the comics and other art forms they loved,” Bruno Maglione, president of licensing at IMG, said in a statement. “In doing so, they discovered a shared interest in this and related Sci-Fi, fantasy, and genre content wider than they could have possibly imagined. Today, that comic culture is mainstream entertainment culture thanks in large part to Comic-Con’s championing of this art form and its brilliant creators, and Comic-Con is the leading curator brand and guide in this space, allowing it to secure consumer attention and deliver consumer value in more ways.”

IMG will be working with SDCC to identify partners who can develop products, retail destinations, and experiences for the millions of fans not able to partake in the annual Comic-Con convention experience. Brand licensing is allowed under IRS nonprofit regulations.

“We began talking to IMG around six months ago and in the course of those discussions, it hit home to us that we could use our expertise to serve the ever-growing fan community in more ways, places and times than ever before,” David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer for SDCC, said in a statement. “In 2021, we embarked on the new Comic-Con Museum and now, with IMG’s expertise working with specialist partners to deliver authentic brand experiences, we can pursue an exciting new phase for the Comic-Con brand.”

Writing for BleedingCool.com, observer Rich Johnston noted the licensing deal could be the first step in SDCC expanding its shows beyond California, emulating the for-profit ReedPOP company, which produces several events globally, including trademark comic conventions in New York and Chicago, Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and Disney’s Star Wars Celebrations (the next of which is slated for May 26-29 in Anaheim).

Another for-profit convention organizer, Wizard World, recently sold its slate of events to the nonprofit Fan Expo.

 

Kino Lorber to Issue 1971’s ‘Sacco & Vanzetti’ on DVD, Blu-ray Disc May 3

Kino Lorber on May 3 will release the 1971 Italian crime drama Sacco & Vanzetti, from director Giuliano Montaldo, on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Issued under the indie film distributor’s Studio Classics label, the Sacco & Vanzetti DVD carries a suggested retail price of $19.95, while the Blu-ray Disc retails for $29.95.

The film stars Gian Maria Volontè, Riccardo Cucciolla, Milo O’Shea, Cyril Cusack and William Prince.

The new DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases include both the English and the Italian audio tracks as well as optional English subtitles.

Cucciolla and Volontè are Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. In 1920 Boston, the two — known for their anarchist beliefs — stand accused of robbery and murder. Their political leanings are used as evidence against them, but defense attorney Fred Moore (O’Shea) is convinced of their innocence. As anti-immigrant and anti-radical sentiments run high, one of the most polarizing trials in U.S. history unfolds.

The musical score was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) featuring folk music legend Joan Baez. 

Bonus features include a new audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox and the original theatrical trailer. 

Shout! Factory, GKIDS in June to Release Three Makoto Shinkai Anime Classics on Blu-ray Disc

GKIDS, with distribution by Shout! Factory, on June 7 will release new Blu-ray Disc editions of three early masterworks by acclaimed anime director Makoto Shinkai.

The three films, The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011), come loaded with bonus features including audio commentaries, interviews with Shinkai, storyboards, trailers and more. The 5 Centimeters Per Second Blu-ray Disc will include Shinkai’s lauded short films Voices of a Distant Star and She and Her Cat. Fans can preorder their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com or GKIDS.com.

Shinkai’s feature film debut, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, is the haunting story of friendship and loss set in an alternate post-war Japan. Three teenagers become obsessed with a mysterious tower across the Union border, which reaches far into the sky. Hiroki and Takuya work on a makeshift airplane, which they promise their friend Sayuri they will use to visit the tower together someday, but she disappears before it is completed. Several years later, the tower suddenly activates, starting a phenomenon that threatens the world. And the young men now discover their long-lost friend Sayuri may hold the key to it all. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is the winner of Best Animated Film at Mainichi Film Award, Silver Prize at Fantasia Film Festival, and Award for Expression Technique at the Tokyo International Anime Fair.

Told in three vignettes, 5 Centimeters Per Second: A Chain Of Short Stories About Their Distance explores the joys and heartache of falling in love. Takaki yearns to spill his heart out for childhood crush Akari, but both their families move away before any feelings can fully blossom. They stay in touch, but eventually drift apart with school and new friends to distract them. As the seasons pass, Takaki navigates his relationships while haunted by all the things he left unsaid with Akari, his first love. Also included is Voices of a Distant Star, the debut film from Makoto Shinkai, available for the first time on Blu-ray in North America. 5 Centimeters Per Second was winner of Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is an epic fantasy adventure in a world of ancient gods. Asuna is an introvert who prefers spending her time listening to a radio left by her deceased father. One day, she hears an odd song that resonates in her heart unlike anything else. It leads to a chance encounter with a mysterious boy, who transports Asuna to Agartha, a land of legend where the dead can be brought back to life. Compelled by the song and the boy, Asuna journeys through the mythical lands, but hostile warriors and ghastly creatures will stop at nothing to prevent Asuna from uncovering the secrets of their world. Children Who Chase Lost Voices was nominated for Best Feature at Annecy and winner of Best Art Direction at the Tokyo Anime Award.

Q&A With Whip’s Carol Hanley: The Need for Data in the New Era of Streaming and Content Licensing

Carol Hanley is president of Whip Media, a leading enterprise software platform and data provider to some of the world’s largest entertainment organizations. Hanley joined the company in 2017 as chief revenue officer to lead the company’s business strategy, revenue, sales and marketing. She also oversaw the development of new measurement solutions that combine audience consumption data with financial information to enable smarter TV and film buying and selling decisions in a rapidly evolving entertainment ecosystem. Under her leadership, Whip Media acquired Mediamorph, with a platform that powered more than two-thirds of all global digital transactional revenue for the film and television industries, and the TV & movie metadata platform TVDB. She also scaled Whip Media’s global sales team and expanded customer relationships with global content providers, broadcasters and operators. Prior to joining Whip Media, Hanley served as CRO of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group. Before her term at Deluxe, Hanley spent 13 years as the EVP and chief revenue and marketing officer at Nielsen Audio. She also served as SVP and CRO of Arbitron, before Nielsen acquired it, and as a managing partner at Morrison and Abraham.

Ahead of MIPTV next week, Whip Media has launched a global licensing and research platform for film and TV content called the Whip Media Exchange. The Exchange predicts demand across hundreds of thousands of film and TV titles to help customers identify those most likely to work for a specific audience.

Media Play News asked Hanley about how Whip Media is helping its customers tackle this new era of streaming and content licensing, along with what’s ahead for the industry as a whole.

MPN: Tell me about Whip Media. What needs in the entertainment business do you fulfill?

Hanley: Whip Media is a global enterprise software platform and data provider to leading entertainment companies. We provide solutions across licensing, content planning and financial operations to help our customers drive revenue, growth and solve for the challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also play a central role in the content distribution ecosystem, as we manage more than 2 trillion global VOD and EST transactions annually and 20 million avails for major content providers and distributors globally. Our roster of clients consists of more than 50 of the biggest media and entertainment companies, including all major Hollywood studios, top broadcasters, and the largest global MVPD operators in the world.

MPN: Whip Media recently launched a new solution for streaming services to manage performance tracking and revenue for their subscription apps. Tell us about the significance of this.

Hanley: The rapid growth of mainstream and niche subscription streaming apps, whether bundled in a mobile plan, cable TV offering, or available on app stores, has generated billions in revenue and created massive numbers of reports in different formats for the studios and distributors that manage them. Oftentimes teams are manually processing deferred revenue from annual subscriptions or redemptions of vouchers, which is a time-consuming and error-prone process. Whip Media’s solution for subscription streaming apps not only consolidates and centralizes performance data across global platforms, but also automates accounting processes to manage revenue. Whip Media currently manages performance tracking and revenue management for more than 60% of VOD and EST transactions annually for the largest film studios and distributors across 1,100-plus global platforms, so this is a natural extension of our business.

MPN: One of the most visible aspects of Whip Media is your weekly chart tracking the popularity of movies and shows on the various streaming platforms. It’s a crowded field — so why is your data better than the others?

Hanley: Our TV and movie data is successful because it’s different and not available from other sources. It’s global, first-party viewer engagement and audience demand data across all platforms and devices. This is a key differentiating factor. Our data provides a deeper understanding of viewer sentiment and behaviors, as well as the competitive landscape — which complements the viewing data that our customers already have internally. Further, our panel is continuously capturing viewing intent, engagement and affinity data for content across 1,900 platforms in 130-plus countries. This data helps drive marketing, licensing, programming and development decisions for our customers. 

MPN: Whip Media’s data-driven approach to content licensing allows for content predictions — a “demand score.” With streamers increasingly looking to international markets, why is this important?

Hanley: As streaming services are expanding globally and the demand for content increases, companies are struggling to keep up with all of this change and to identify the right licensing opportunities at scale. The Whip Media Exchange, which just launched commercially, is a game-changer when it comes to global content licensing. The backbone of the Demand Score and the Exchange overall is Whip Media’s consumer sentiment and engagement data from 21 million TV and movie fans around the world. This data-driven foundation provides a unique score for each film and TV title on the Exchange — allowing customers to predict how content will perform in a particular territory and on a particular platform.

This is vital. Content buyers and sellers using The Exchange now have the ability to compare the predicted performance of a movie or TV series against hundreds of thousands of new and library titles worldwide. That applies to content rights both listed and not listed on the Exchange. This is a critical new content planning tool that allows Exchange customers to both research and make better-informed content choices for their platforms. How does it do this? By offering key insights on important audience characteristics, including the age and gender of viewers, as well as similar titles that may appeal to their audience. This proprietary and market-leading data helps make it quicker and easier for customers to evaluate what content to buy or sell, and where. A number of major entertainment companies have already seen this, too: Whip Media Exchange customers include Lionsgate, Pluto TV, Globo,  TelevisaUnivision’s ViX, AMC Networks International Latin America, Vodafone Hungry, Tastemade and Keshet International, among many others. 

MPN: You’re in a great position to take a step back and observe industry trends. Give us your prognosis for the streaming market, including the competitive landscape, streaming fatigue and the rise of AVOD.

Hanley: International markets will continue to be the big battleground in the streaming wars. The largest streaming platforms are expanding, and therefore competing for subscribers. Established players that already have large subscription bases will have to look to territories whose economies may need lower price points to acquire subscribers. Also, more consolidation will happen. 

In the U.S., according to our data, consumers subscribe to an average of 4.7 services and plan to add only one more. A large majority (70%) feel that there are too many subscription services on the market and most of them (85%) say it’s getting too expensive to have this many subscriptions. As a result, we are seeing growth for AVOD and FAST services, like Pluto TV.