Genius Brands Acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media

Genius Brands International is acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media for approximately $53 million in cash and stock, according to the companies.

WOW! Unlimited Media, based in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles, is an animation production company producing for the top broadcasters and IP holders including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sony, Hulu, Dreamworks, Moonbug, Peacock and Mattel. The acquisition includes two studios, Frederator Studios (produced “Adventure Time,” “FairlyOdd Parents,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Castlevania”) and Mainframe Studios (produced “Madagascar — a Little Wild,” “Barbie Dreamhouse”).

Michael Hirsh, CEO of WOW! will join the board of directors of Genius Brands and continue his responsibilities for Mainframe, Frederator Studios, networks and platforms.

Andy Heyward

“The acquisition of WOW! substantially accelerates the financial growth of Genius Brands, delivering on our promise to shareholders to execute meaningful and accretive acquisitions, as we seek to rapidly consolidate the marketplace and become the foremost producer, broadcaster, and consumer product licensor of high-quality children’s entertainment in the world,” said Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, in a statement. “I have known and worked with WOW! Chairman and CEO Michael Hirsh throughout my career, and there is nobody more talented, accomplished or well regarded. His track record of many hits includes the first ‘Star Wars’ animated programs, ‘Magic School Bus,’ ‘Care Bears, Babar,’ ‘Johnny Test,’ and ‘Beetlejuice,’ among others.

“In addition to the animation productions of WOW! today and the exciting new brand brought to the table for Genius Brands, WOW! has a massive social media footprint across YouTube, TikTok, Giphy, etc., expanding the Genius Brands kids’ audience demo into the lucrative teens and young adult marketplaces.  The company has over 1 billion views per month on its Frederator YouTube Network, with over 2,500 advertiser supported channels, making it the number one talent driven animation YouTube Network.”

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WOW!’s Canadian production facilities enable a number of profitable synergies for the company via access to various federal and provincial tax credits, which will allow Genius Brands to transfer its current animation production at great savings from China, according to Genius Brands.

“In addition to WOW!’s 3rd party service production, we will now place many of the exciting upcoming WOW! owned content on Kartoon Channel! and activate it through our consumer products and global distribution sales network, further advancing revenues and earnings,” said Heyward in a statement.

“I’m excited to work with Andy and the Genius Brands team,” said Hirsh in a statement. “This is a powerful partnership that brings immediate and significant value for shareholders.  We bring production capacity, new IP, and a robust and profitable YouTube Network with over a billion views per month. Genius Brands, with Kartoon Channel!, has a fully distributed footprint where our content can thrive and also help Kartoon Channel! itself expand. Genius Brands’ world class consumer product licensing team led by Kerry Phelan, will enable us to monetize all of these great characters and brands.  This transaction represents the culmination of our extensive strategic review process. We feel that this is a very attractive opportunity for our shareholders with significant potential upside in the months and years ahead.”

The transfer of animation production to Canada is expected to benefit Genius Brands through Canadian Content incentives as well as Production Service Tax Credits, according to a press release.

‘Hard Luck Love Song’ Headed to PVOD Nov. 9, Digital and On Demand Dec. 21

The noir crime thriller Hard Luck Love Song arrives on premium VOD Nov. 9 and on digital and on demand Dec. 21 from Lionsgate.

Based on the song “Just Like Old Times” by singer-songwriter Todd Snider, the film stars Michael Dorman (“For All Mankind,” “Patriot,” The Invisible Man), Sophia Bush (John Tucker Must Die, “One Tree Hill,” “Love, Victor”), Dermot Mulroney (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Arrested Development,” My Best Friend’s Wedding), Primetime Emmy Award nominee RZA (2020, Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music, TV’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga”), Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts (1985, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Runaway Train), and Melora Walters (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Dead Poets Society).

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The film follows Jesse (Dorman), a charismatic but down on his luck troubadour hustling pool in dive bars, living out of cheap motels and making bad decisions. Jesse finds himself at an existential crossroads during a chance encounter with Carla (Bush), an old flame, as their complicated past and current troubles threaten to destroy their blissful reunion.

‘Dune’ Top Streaming Movie, ‘You’ Again Top Streaming Original on Weekly Whip Media Charts

Dune, streaming on HBO Max, led the Whip Media chart of top streaming movies while Netflix’s “You” the chart of top streaming originals among U.S. consumers for the week ended Oct. 24.

Dune, Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures’ adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel, debuted on HBO Max Oct. 21, a day ahead of its North American theatrical release. The film stars Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya.

Season three of the psychological thriller series “You,” which started streaming Oct. 15, features the continuation of Joe Goldberg’s fraught relationship with Love, who is pregnant with his child in a new suburban home. The series also led the streaming originals chart in the previous week.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 18 million global users. The streaming originals chart rankings are determined by streaming original TV series with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app. The movie rankings are determined by theatrical or streaming movies with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app.

At No. 2 on the streaming movies chart was Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills, the latest entrant in the long-running horror series, available for streaming to Peacock Premium SVOD subscribers as well as in theaters. The sequel to the 2018 reboot from Blumhouse has Jamie Lee Curtis again reprising her role as Laurie Strode intent on ending the murderous reign of Michael Myers.

Landing at No. 3 on the streaming movies chart was Night Teeth, a vampire thriller that bowed on Netflix Oct. 20.

Meanwhile, repeating at No. 2 on the streaming originals chart was “Squid Game,” Netflix’s South Korean hit series that follows a group of desperate and cash-strapped people competing in a blood-thirsty survival game. It started streaming Sept. 17.

Repeating at No. 3 on the streaming originals chart was Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. The finale debuted Oct. 19.

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Top Streaming Originals Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended Oct. 24:

  1. “You” — Netflix
  2. “Squid Game” — Netflix
  3. “Only Murders in the Building” — Hulu
  4. “Locke & Key” — Netflix (season premiere)
  5. “Titans” (2018) — HBO Max
  6. “The Morning Show” — Apple TV+
  7. “Ted Lasso” — Apple TV+
  8. “Young Justice” — HBO Max
  9. “Another Life” (2019) — Netflix
  10. “Doom Patrol” — HBO Max

 

Top Streaming Movies Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended Oct. 24:

  1. Dune — HBO Max
  2. Halloween Kills — Peacock
  3. Night Teeth — Netflix
  4. Black Widow — Disney+
  5. The Guilty — Netflix
  6. Dave Chappelle: The Closer — Netflix
  7. Scream — AMC+
  8. Halloween (1978) — AMC+
  9. The Many Saints of Newark — HBO Max
  10. Cruella — Disney+

‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ Arriving in Blu-ray Steelbook Nov. 23

The Thanksgiving comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, written and directed by  John Hughes, will arrive Nov. 23 in a limited-edition Blu-ray Steelbook from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, the 1987 classic follows a businessman (Martin) who is struggling to get home for Thanksgiving, but burdened by one travel mishap after another, as well as the company of an annoying traveling salesman (Candy). The film also features appearances by Michael McKean, Edie McClurg and Kevin Bacon.

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The release includes more than an hour of legacy bonus content, including an in-depth retrospective on John Hughes’ career that includes interviews with those who worked with him and explores his indelible impact as a writer and filmmaker. Additional previously released features include “Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains And Automobiles,” “John Hughes for Adults,” a tribute to John Candy, and a deleted scene.

Holiday Film ‘Piney: The Lonesome Pine’ Due on Digital and DVD Nov. 2

The holiday film Piney: The Lonesome Pine will be available on digital and DVD Nov. 2 from NCircle Entertainment and Mill Creek Entertainment.

The animated film follows a 5-year-old Welsh girl named Georgie who gets to grow her very own pine tree, Piney, on her Grandpa Sid’s Christmas tree farm. Four years later, the day finally arrives for Piney to become what he was planted to be. He’s ready to be dressed up in baubles and bows and have bright shining lights from his head to his toes. Excited to take Piney into her home, Georgie discovers that Piney has accidentally been removed from the farm with a shipment of other trees. Georgie’s best friend, Jackster the dog, leads Piney on a journey across the countryside to try to get back home before Christmas Eve, while Georgie and Grandpa Sid frantically search for them.

Piney features the voices of Sir Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, The Two Popes, The Wife) who received a 2021 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program, Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End, Hot Fuzz), Jason Anthony (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, “Star Trek: Discovery”), Lesley Nicol (“Downton Abbey,” “East Is East”), and Parminder Nagra (“The Blacklist,” “ER,” Bend it Like Beckham).

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The DVD comes with bonus features including the trailer, “The Making of Piney: The Lonesome Pine,” “Behind-the-Scenes at Abbey Road Studios,” and a behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and crew.

FilmRise Licenses Children’s Programming, Including ‘Barney’

FilmRise, the New York-based film and TV studio and streaming network, has licensed a selection of children’s programs, including “Barney and Friends,” “Angelina Ballerina” and “Camp Lakebottom,” from 9 Story Distribution International for placement on its North American, AVOD-based FilmRise Streaming Network.

The deal includes non-exclusive licenses to Seasons 10-14 of “Barney and Friends,” the first four seasons of “Angelina Ballerina,” and the first three seasons of “Camp Lakebottom.”

“These popular children’s programs fit perfectly into our strategy of increasing our market share within the children’s/family space,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher in a statement. “Audiences have an enduring appetite for these established, recognizable family-friendly TV series for kids, and we are pleased to offer them to new generations of children with no fee to their parents.”

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“Barney & Friends” is  targeted at children ages 2–7. It features the title character Barney, a purple anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus rex who conveys educational messages through songs and small dance routines with a friendly, silly and optimistic attitude.

“Angelina Ballerina” is a British animated children’s television series, based on the Angelina Ballerina series of children’s books. The program is about Angelina Mouseling, a fictional young mouse who is training to become a ballerina. Dame Judi Dench performs the voice of Miss Lilly, her ballet teacher.

“Camp Lakebottom” follows 12-year old boy named McGee. When McGee sets out for summer camp, but ends up on the wrong bus, he meets Squirt and Gretchen, and they end up at Camp Lakebottom. The forgotten, weird place has a lot of adventures in store for the three friends and their enemy Buttsquat.

‘Juice’ Debuting on 4K Ultra HD Jan. 11 for Its 30th

The 1992 film Juice, starring Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, will be released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time on Jan. 11 from Paramount Home Entertainment, marking its 30th anniversary.

The gritty film, which continues to be celebrated for its realistic portrayal of Harlem life and the early New York hip hop scene, follows Q, Raheem, Bishop and Steel, who spend their days hanging out and looking for a way to get the power and respect they call Juice. Q hopes to earn respect by becoming a scratch ‘n’ mix DJ.  Bishop has a deadlier plan — take it through an armed robbery with his crew.

Juice is the feature directorial debut of cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson, whose collaborations with Spike Lee include Do the Right Thing and Malcom X. It features a soundtrack that includes Eric B. & Rakim, Naughty by Nature, Big Daddy Kane and Salt N’ Pepa.

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The disc includes access to a digital copy of the film and legacy bonus content, including interviews with Dickerson, producer David Heyman (“Harry Potter” franchise), Epps, and fellow actors Khalil Kain and Jermaine Hopkins.  The cast and crew look back on making the film, share stories of working with Shakur, and reveal the influence that Juice had on them both personally and professionally. The featurettes also include footage of the cast on set and vintage interviews with Shakur, Queen Latifah, Cindy Herron of En Vogue, the Shocklee brothers, Eric B, EPMD, Cypress Hill and more. Other extras include the original ending and commentary by the director.

‘Beavis and Butt-head Do America’ Heading to Blu-ray Dec. 7

For its 25th anniversary, Beavis and Butt-head Do America arrives on Blu-ray for the first time ever Dec. 7 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Based on the animated series, the film follows the brainless pair as they set off on a nacho-fueled road trip to find their stolen TV and score with some hot chicks. Along the way, the metal-head morons become entangled with one nefarious character after another, eventually ending up stranded in the desert and hallucinating in a mind-altering sequence based on and including artwork by musician and artist Rob Zombie.

Creator Mike Judge unleashed Beavis and Butt-Head on the big screen on Dec. 20, 1996.  The film earned more than $60 million.

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The Blu-ray includes access to a digital copy of the film, as well as the following legacy bonus content: commentary by Mike Judge and Yvette Kaplan; “The Big Picture,” a retrospective making-of segment that features the journey to the big screen including story, voice casting and more, including a look at the hallucination scene — drastically different from the animation in the rest of the film — and an extended version of the scene; “We’re Gonna Score!  Scoring Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” in which composer John Frizzell and Mike Judge detail the use of music in the film; “The Smackdown,” a montage of all the characters in the movie getting slapped or fighting; MTV News “Celebrity Shorts” with Jennifer Tilly, Snoop Dogg and more; trailers; and TV Spots.

Apple TV+ to Bow First Korean-Language Series ‘Dr. Brain’

“Dr. Brain,” a new six-episode Korean-language Apple Original series will premiere globally on Nov. 4 (Nov. 3 in the United States) on Apple TV+.

Based on the popular Korean webtoon of the same name by Hongjacga, “Dr. Brain” marks the first Korean-language series to debut on Apple TV+.

The sci-fi drama series, written, directed and executive produced by Kim Jee-woon, will premiere with the first episode, followed by one new episode weekly through Dec. 10, 2021.

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The series follows a brilliant brain scientist Sewon (Lee Sun-kyun, Parasite) who suffers a horrific personal tragedy when his family falls victim to a mysterious accident. Desperate to uncover what happened, he goes to extraordinary lengths to solve the tragic mystery by conducting “brain syncs” with the dead to access their memories for clues.

The series also stars Lee You-young, Park Hee-soon, Seo Ji-hye and Lee Jae-won.

‘Free Guy’ Scores a Fourth Win on Vudu Chart

Free Guy, from Disney-owned 20th Century Studios, for the fourth consecutive week led the chart of the 10 most popular movies on Fandango’s transactional VOD service Vudu the week ended Oct. 24.

The film, which is available for digital purchase and rental, stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game and decides to become the hero of his own story.

Taking the No. 2 spot on the chart for the second consecutive week was MGM’s animated sequel The Addams Family 2, which debuted for premium digital rental Oct. 1. In the film featuring the voices of Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac, Morticia and Gomez are distraught that their children are growing up.

The bronze went to the young adult romantic drama After We fell, which debuted for premium digital rental and purchase.

Dropping from No. 3 to No. 4 on the chart was Universal’s Old, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest mystery. The film about beachgoers who age prematurely is available for digital purchase and rental.

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The fifth spot went to Injustice, Warner’s latest direct-to-video animated film based on DC Comics characters. It became available for digital purchase Oct. 19.

Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Oct. 24, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. Free Guy
  2. The Addams Family 2
  3. After We Fell
  4. Old
  5. Injustice
  6. Jungle Cruise
  7. The Forever Purge
  8. Old Henry
  9. Respect
  10. Copshop