1950s Classic ‘The Brain From Planet Arous’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD June 21

Cinedigm’s The Film Detective, the classic film restoration and streaming company, will release the 1950s sci-fi classic The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD June 21. 

A great example of cut-rate, sci-fi from the 1950s, this independently produced feature stars ‘B’-movie favorite John Agar (The Mole People, Revenge of the Creature) and Joyce Meadows (The Christine Jorgensen Story, The Girl in Lovers Lane) and was directed by Nathan Juran, a master of the genre who helmed such classics as The Deadly Mantis (1957), Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958).

In the film, when Gor, an evil brain from planet Arous, inhabits the body of scientist Steve March (Agar), his intention is nothing less than world domination. Lucky for Earth, another intergalactic brain, Val, offers to assist March’s wife Sally (Meadows) in stopping the madness.

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The special edition Blu-ray and DVD release features a 4K transfer, including two versions of the film, presented in its original 1.85 theatrically released format and in 1.33:1 full frame format. Included in the bonus features is exclusive commentary with The Brain from Planet Arous star Meadows.

“The Film Detective’s magnificent restoration of The Brain from Planet Arous reminds me of when I saw the movie on the big screen back in 1957,” said Meadows in a statement. “An amazing achievement, and I’m so pleased this picture is getting the respect it deserves.”

Other bonus features include a full-color booklet with an original essay by author/historian Tom Weaver; a full commentary track by historians Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Larry Blamire and Meadows; “The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran” and “The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran,” both original Ballyhoo Motion Pictures productions; and a new introduction by Meadows.

Season 15 of ‘Ancient Aliens’ Headed to DVD July 19

Season 15 of the History Channel series “Ancient Aliens”  arrives on DVD July 19 from Lionsgate.

Featuring narrator Robert Clotworthy and producer Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, this season examines formerly secret government reports about unexplained events around the country and the world, along with ancient relics believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. From prehistoric stone monoliths and sacred temples to dragon gods and time travelers, the season explores ancient technology and timeless relics that span the globe and the galaxy. As the government shifts from denial of the existence of extraterrestrials’ presence on Earth to releasing their extensive — formerly secret — reports on unexplained phenomena, it explores the growing belief that aliens may not be visitors from other planets, but perhaps creatures from our own future.

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AVOD Service Crackle Plus Announces June Lineup

Crackle Plus, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company and operator of advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) streaming services, announced content planned for June.

New Crackle AVOD Exclusives in June include:

  • “A Life In 10 Pictures #1 – Freddy Mercury,” in which Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, one of the most iconic bands in rock and roll history, reveals his life in ten pictures, from iconic shots to private snaps;
  • “In the Vault – Season One,” in which freshman Liv Steele (Claudia Lee) arrives at Woodlawn College excited for a fresh start, but will her past catch up with her?; and
  • “Hollywood Bulldogs: The Rise and Falls of the Great British Stuntman,” which tells the story of the small community of British stunt performers who went on to dominate Hollywood in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

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In addition to access to four seasons of “Sherlock,” Crackle Plus is offering new series from the BBC library every month. This month’s lineup includes:

  • “Ivanhoe,” a miniseries in which young Saxon knight returns to England from fighting in the Crusades to find he had been disinherited by his father, his childhood sweetheart has been betrothed to another man and the country is in the midst of an uprising;
  • “Jane Eyre,” a TV series about a young governess who falls in love with her brooding and complex master; and
  • Byron, a feature film about the famous poet starring Jonny Lee Miller.

 

New channels coming to Crackle in June include:

  • Celebrating Pride, including Wedding Wars (John Stamos, Eric Dane), Breakfast on Pluto (Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson), the Crackle original reality series “Men of West Hollywood” (Justin Jedlica, Brennen Taylor) and Two Mothers for Zachary (Valerie Bertinelli, Vanessa Redgrave);
  • Prehistoric Beasts, featuring “Dinotopia” (Katie Carr, Wentworth Miller), The Lost World (Bob Hoskins, Peter Falk), Behemoth (Ed Quinn, Pascale Hutton) and Godzilla vs Destoroyah (Megumi Odaka, Yōko Ishino);
  • Ways of the West, featuring Western titles like “Bonanza” (Michael Landon, Dan Blocker), The Shadow Riders (Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck), “The Outcasts” (Otis Young, Don Murray) and The Man from Laramie (James Stewart, Cathy O’Donnell);
  • Crimes and Capers, featuring Law Abiding Citizen (Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx), Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini), American Animals (Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan) and Midnight Express (Brad Davis, John Hurt); and
  • The Sixties, featuring “The Flying Nun” (Sally Field, Alejandro Rey), To Sir, with Love (Sidney Poitier, Lulu), Under the Yum-Yum Tree (Jack Lemmon, Carol Lynley) and Bye Bye Birdie (Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret).

 

New to Crackle Spotlight in June are Harry Styles: Live in Manchester, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Peggy Sue Got Married, Edge of Tomorrow, Scream 4, the Canadian sketch comedy series “The Kids in the Hall,” the TV series “Hardcastle and McCormick,” Hannibal Rising, Judy (Renee Zellweger), Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Man from Laramie and Behind the Moment.

The Crackle Plus streaming services are currently distributed through 70 touch points in the United States on platforms including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com, with previously announced plans to expand to over 90 touch points.

Documentary About Russian Opposition Leader ‘Navalny’ Streaming on HBO Max

The CNN Films and HBO Max co-produced documentary thriller Navalny, about anti-corruption Russian government opposition leader Alexei Navalny, is available to stream on HBO Max.

The film, directed by filmmaker Daniel Roher, follows Navalny after he survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent. 

In August 2020, a plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow made an emergency landing. One of its passengers, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was deathly ill. He was taken to a local Siberian hospital and evacuated to Berlin, where the German government eventually determined he had been poisoned with Novichok, a lethal nerve agent implicated in attacks on other opponents of the Russian government. Navalny and his team learned about the attempt on his life from the data investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat, which along with other international news organizations, including CNN, uncovered crucial details about the plot and its potential links to the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin denied any involvement in the attack and accused news organizations that reported on the investigation of “information warfare,” facilitated by foreign special services.  Despite the risks to his personal safety, Navalny willingly returned to Russia on Jan. 17, 2021, and was arrested moments after landing in Moscow.

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In Navalny, shot as the story unfolded, filmmaker Roher reveals a courageous and controversial would-be president at the precipice of sacrificing everything in order to bring reform to his homeland. It is Roher’s hope that the film will spark “global outrage and outcry” over Navalny’s imprisonment, according to an HBO Max press release.

The film won both the Documentary Audience Award and the Festival Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Ad-Supported Streaming Space Getting More Challenging, Panelists Say at XFronts Event

Acquiring an audience, finding carriage on connected TVs and devices and curating in-demand content are all getting more challenging in the ad-supported streaming space, panelists said May 25 at the XFronts event in Los Angeles hosted by OTT.X.

Getting carriage for FAST channels has become highly competitive, like finding a spot on a cable service, said Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer for Cinedigm, during the panel “How Does Anyone Make Money in this Business?”

“If you can’t get carriage, you won’t make any money,” he said. He also noted that the FAST channel business has become “more of a gladiator pit than cable ever was” in part because it doesn’t include the cushion of carriage fees.

Attracting eyeballs is more difficult as streaming services have proliferated, Opeka said. “To get [consumers] to download [your app] to the TV, you’re competing with all the big services that have driven up the marketing costs,” he said, noting it used to be “relatively cost effective to do a campaign with Roku or others.”

“If you’re competing with Netflix, Paramount, HBO Max, the cost per acquisition has skyrocketed,” he said.

Jonathan Skogmo, chief innovation officer at Trusted Media Brands, agreed that Roku has jacked up its pricing. “They want you to spend a quarter million dollars a quarter to get customers,” he said.

Panelists said original, exclusive, and in-demand, quality content is key as the competition increases.

“The table stakes are much higher now,” Opeka said. “We’re regularly involved in bidding wars for shows that can be an anchor of a FAST channel. … We’ve got a great one in Bob Ross.”

Skogmo added ad-supported streamers need “really unique programming, something that’s not already out.”

Finding content with ready appeal is also a key strategy.

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“We don’t have the major, major new releases to draw audience attention,” said Jesse Baritz, VP of content acquisition and development at Multicom Entertainment Group, so he said his company focuses on quality, star power and timely content.

“It’s making sure that it is 4K restored, star driven, hitting at the right time with the right audiences,” he said, adding that “when Natasha Lyonne was on ‘SNL’ this week, we made sure we had a movie that stars her.”

Ben Lister, senior director of content at Sinclair Broadcast Group, pointed out that the big subscription streaming guns such as Netflix are moving into the space, creating another challenge.

“As the SVODs start turning on advertising, I’m not sure how the consumer is going to respond,” he said, advising those that want to compete to “be prepared to make new content.”

Something as elemental as metadata can also help audiences find your content. Have “as much of that as you can” to help with discovery, Lister said.

“If you ask Siri or Alexa to show you the content, it comes up,” he said.

Another way to stand out from the crowd is to have a clear brand.

“You need a brand,” Opeka said. “If you don’t have a brand, align with somebody who does.”

Psychodrama ‘Losing Addison’ Due on Digital June 28 From Mill Creek

Mutiny Pictures’ psychodrama Losing Addison will be released on digital June 28 from Mill Creek Entertainment, a division of Alliance Entertainment.

Adapted from the novella published in 2011 by author Marty Beaudet, the thriller follows Les McCubbin, who spent his whole life in his twin brother Addison’s shadow. When Addison severs their psychic connection, Les doesn’t just lose his brother — he begins to lose himself. 

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The Oregon Independent Film Festival 2021 Winner stars Sherilyn Fenn (“Shameless,” “Twin Peaks”), Ted Rooney (Legally Blonde, Gone), Jana Lee Hamblin (“The West Wing,” “Z Nation”) and Reine Swart (Triggered, The Hex), and is directed by Martin Bannon Beaudet.

 

Comedy ‘Family Camp’ Arrives on DVD, Digital and VOD June 28

The family comedy Family Camp arrives on DVD, digital and VOD June 28 from Lionsgate.

The film follows two families competing for the coveted camp trophy while the dads try to keep their families and marriages together. In the film, when Grace Ackerman signs her family up for a rustic summer Family Camp, a comedy of errors ensues as these polar-opposite families must share a yurt and compete for the camp’s coveted games trophy. It’s not until the two dads end up lost in the woods that their faith and family bonds are truly tested.

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Special features on DVD include the trailer, “Heart of Family Camp,” “Who Are the Skit Guys?,” deleted scenes, deleted scenes with director commentary, “Rhett Walker Goes Behind the Scenes” and “Eddie’s Yurt Tour.”

OTT.X XFronts Event Spotlights FAST, AVOD Services

Ad-supported streaming services took center stage on the first day of the inaugural OTT.X XFronts event, taking place May 24-25 in Los Angeles.

The event is an exchange consisting of pitches and presentations by prominent and up-and-coming AVOD and FAST (free ad-supported streaming) platforms, networks and channels to an audience of brands, advertisers and ad agencies.

OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher said XFronts tallied nearly 400 registrants.

In welcoming the crowd, Erick Opeka, Cinedigm chief strategy offer and one of the creators of the event, said XFronts was designed to help “build the next generation of great streaming companies.”

“For years, the [ad-supported streaming] business was tiny, incremental and frankly a rounding error,” he said. But now with Netflix and other major streamers looking at ad-supported tiers, he noted, “The rest of the industry is catching up.”

Prior to a panel titled “Is FAST Programming Moving in the Direction of Cable TV?” TelevisaUnivision’s Richard Hull said that linear streaming was indeed encroaching on traditional TV turf.

“You’re finally seeing a transition of all the linear dollars on broadcast and cable TV starting to move over to these free ad-supported platforms,” he said.

Panelists agreed that FAST services were the new frontier in the linear TV business that cable and broadcast built.

“We actually consider ourselves as being in the cable TV business,” said Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, which features numerous channels and is soon launching the Women’s Sports Network. “All of our team come out of the cable business.”

“But there’s the data to back it up on who’s watching when,” he added.

“That’s something that cable’s never been able to do, [serve up ads] customized for the user,” added panelist Anthony Layser, of Xumo.

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Adam Bergman, VP of national ad sales for Vizio, which offers FAST services on its connected TV screens including its own WatchFree+, noted Vizio is a service just like cable “without the strings” and also pointed out streamers’ added power of data in serving advertisers.

“That’s my screen and my remote in your hand,” he said of the Vizio service. “I know more than anyone about what happens on my screen.”

Xumo’s Layser said the ad-supported business started to really take off in 2019. “The content doors started opening,” he said, noting that services such as Tubi, Pluto TV and Roku paved the way. “Since that time it’s very different in terms of the premium nature of the content,” he said, adding “more and more studio catalog is available.” Original programming in the space has also started to pop up, he said. Tubi has started to ad originals, he noted with a nod to fellow panelist Sam Harowitz, VP of content acquisition and partnerships at the streamer.

“Our overarching strategy is to superserve passionate communities,” Harowitz said, noting that Tubi has a library of 40,000 titles. In measuring Tubi’s success, he looks at “the total view time that a customer is spending on our service.” Tubi is also built around machine learning, which helps to serve up better content to consumers the more they watch, he said, driving engagement.

While distribution is cheap in the marketplace, FAST Studios’ McLean said, “At the end of the day, you still have to have scale.”

As streamers jockey for distribution partners, carriage conflicts like those frequently experienced in the cable marketplace could become more common, said Vizio’s Bergman, pointing to the dustup between Roku and HBO Max.

“One will look to have the upper hand when maybe they shouldn’t,” he said, pointing out that carriers might say, “I am fine without your content if those are the terms.”

The first day of the conference also included company presentations with details about lineups, content promotion and other plans for the coming year. Presenting companies included FAST Studios, which highlighted the launch of the Women’s Sports Network with an ESPN and surf star; Cinedigm, which outlined its genre-based channels and a partnership with Roundtable Entertainment; Future Today, which highlighted its kids and family content; Plex, which spotlighted its new content discovery product; and AfroLandTV, which highlighted its African content and a move into original programming starting with an African food show.

‘Chip ’n Dale,’ ‘The Circle’ Top Weekly Whip Media Streaming Charts

The Disney+ original movie Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers led the Whip Media chart of top streaming movies, while Netflix’s “The Circle” topped the chart of streaming originals among U.S. consumers the week ended May 22.

Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which started streaming on Disney+ May 20, is a live-action and animated comedy featuring the voices of John Mulaney and Andy Samberg as the famous chipmunks.

Rising from No. 2 to the top spot on the streaming originals chart, Netflix’s reality competition series “The Circle” features contestants who compete in challenges to earn a cash prize as top influencer. Season four started streaming May 4 in weekly episodes.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 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 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.

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Remaining at No. 2 on the streaming movies chart was Netflix’s Senior Year, which debuted May 13. The comedy stars Rebel Wilson as a cheerleader who lands in a 20-year coma after a stunt gone wrong. Awakened at 37, she’s ready to live out her high school dream of becoming prom queen.

Landing at No. 3 on the streaming movies chart was The Lost City, an action-adventure starring Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock that hit Paramount+ May 10. It follows a reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model who gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure.

Coming in at No. 2 on the streaming originals chart was Netflix’s “Love, Death & Robots,” an adult animated anthology series. A third set of episodes started streaming May 20.

Dropping from the top spot to No. 3 on the streaming originals chart was Netflix’s “Ozark,” a crime drama that follows the exploits of a money laundering couple. Part two of season four started streaming April 29.

 

Top Streaming Originals Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended May 22:

  1. “The Circle” (U.S.) — Netflix
  2. “Love, Death & Robots” — Netflix (Season Premiere)
  3. “Ozark” — Netflix
  4. “The Flight Attendant” — HBO Max
  5. “Halo” — Paramount+
  6. “The Lincoln Lawyer” — Netflix
  7. “Grace and Frankie” — Netflix
  8. “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” — Paramount+
  9. “Made for Love” — HBO Max
  10. “Candy” — Hulu

 

Top Streaming Movies Among U.S. Consumers May 20 – 22:

  1. Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers — Disney+
  2. Senior Year — Netflix
  3. The Lost City — Paramount+
  4. A Perfect Pairing — Netflix
  5. The Batman — HBO Max
  6. Our Father — Netflix
  7. Firestarter — Peacock
  8. Ghostbusters: Afterlife — Starz
  9. Top Gun — Netflix/Paramount+
  10. The Valet — Hulu