Data and Analytics Driving MoviePass to be Discussed at Conferences

The data and analytics initiative behind the business model of MoviePass, the movie ticket subscription service headed by former video rental dealer Mitch Lowe,  will be the topic of the first bi-coastal keynote address at the Smart Content Summit West (Feb. 27, Los Angeles) and Smart Content Summit East (March 8, New York).

Lowe, MoviePass’s CEO, and Ted Farnsworth, chairman and CEO of parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc., will both take the stage in Los Angeles with a keynote conversation titled “Innovation Across the Entertainment Industry; the MoviePass Effect.”  This will be followed 10 days later by a solo keynote conversation by Farnsworth at Smart Content Summit East called “Disruption in the Entertainment Industry; Monetizing the MoviePass Effect.”

Helios and Matheson acquired a majority stake in MoviePass last August. MoviePass subsequently announced that it would lower its monthly subscription price to $9.95, for which subscribers are entitled to see up to one movie per day in theaters.  At the time, Farnsworth stated that the service wanted to increase the size of its subscriber base in order to provide viewing data to content creators and advertisers.  Following the subscription price reduction, MoviePass subscribers increased from 400,000 to 1.5 million as of January 2018.

Prior to joining MoviePass, Lowe was President and COO at Redbox. Previously, he was a co-founding senior executive and VP of Business Development and Strategic Alliances at Netflix, a position in which he facilitated many of the early studio negotiations and subscriber acquisition programs. Before that he owned Video Droid, a video rental retailer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

‘Outlander: Season 3’ Coming to Disc, Digital in April

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has set an April 10 release date for “Outlander: Season Three,” which is being released on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and Digital. A limited collector’s edition also will be available.

Based on Voyager, the third of eight books in Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling “Outlander” series about a British World War II nurse who is mysteriously swept back in time to Scotland in 1743, “Outlander: Season Three” finds nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe in a Golden Globe-nominated role) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) attempting to build a life apart from one another. But fate has other plans, as the two find their way back to each other and set sail for new lands.

“Outlander” is a hit Starz series that also stars Tobias Menzies (TV’s “Game of Thrones”), Lotte Verbeek (TV’s “The Borgias”), Sophie Skelton (TV’s “Ren”), and Richard Rankin (TV’s “Thirteen”). The “Outlander” TV series is developed by executive producer Ronald D. Moore (TV’s “Battlestar Galactica”) and is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company, and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television.

“Outlander: Season Three” contains all 13 episodes in a five-disc limited collector’s edition, Blu-ray Disc and DVD sets, along with 27 deleted and extended scenes with introductions by Moore, a gag reel and two featurettes. In “A Traveling Show Takes Sail,” the cast and crew describe what it was like moving the production from Scotland to South Africa and the challenges shooting aboard the Artemis ship; and Verbeek and other cast and crew discuss Geillis Duncan’s return this season in “The Transformation of Geillis Duncan.”

Exclusive content on the Blu-ray Disc and limited collector’s edition versions includes an additional scene with Lord John Grey & Lady Isobel Dunsany from the episode “Of Lost Things,” the original chemistry test between Caitriona and Sam with an introduction by Moore, the “Outlander” podcasts for each episode with commentary from Moore and others, and four additional featurettes. “Claire & Jamie: Together Again” discusses what it was like for Caitriona and Sam to work separately for half of the season and what it was like reuniting their characters after 20 years had passed, while “Jamie’s Revolution” and “Claire: Through Time” have Caitriona and Sam discussing their characters’ journeys this season. “Saying Goodbye to Frank & Jonathan Randall” is a final farewell to Tobias Menzies and both of his integral characters, Frank and Black Jack Randall. In addition, the limited collector’s edition Blu-ray Disc will feature special packaging, including 28 pages of behind-the-scenes photographs.

Paramount Readies Cheech and Chong’s ‘Up in Smoke’ for 40th Anniversary Edition

Paramount Home Media Distribution on Feb. 14 announced the classic “stoner” comedy Up in Smoke will be released in a special 40th anniversary edition on April 10 as a Blu-ray Disc combo pack and DVD.

A Deluxe Collector’s Edition, pairing the Blu-ray Disc with the original soundtrack on CD and vinyl LP in deluxe packaging, will arrive on April 20 from Rhino, featuring a newly recorded “2018 version” of the title song “Up in Smoke.”

Up in Smoke marks the feature film debut of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, the Grammy Award-winning comic team that rose to fame in the 1970s with their films and stand-up routines, based on hippies, free love, marijuana and other aspects of the then-thriving counterculture.

“The greatest thrill is making your first movie and this one has been seen and been influential all over the world for over 40 years,” said Richard “Cheech” Marin in a Paramount news release. “Up in Smoke started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time.”

“Where did the time go? 40 years ago we made low budget movies that grossed over 100 million and are still being watched all over the world! And it also helped legalize an important medicine,” said Tommy Chong.  “I am so proud that a movie bearing a title of a simple song I wrote would be so influential for so many years.”

In Up in Smoke, Cheech and Chong play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to Los Angeles.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The Up in Smoke Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary titled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. The documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack also comes with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

EMA Expands Supply Chain Efforts with Hire of Former Microsoft Exec

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) on Feb. 13 announced that Eric Hanson has been named VP, industry leadership for the home entertainment trade association.

Hanson will manage all of EMA’s industry and supply chain support for both the home video and video game segments, including workgroups, committees, and councils. Hanson, who had been providing project management to the association since January 2017, assumed his new duties earlier this month.

“Over the past year, Eric has done an incredible job in driving industry consensus on digital supply chain best practices and promoting adoption of them,” said Mark Fisher, EMA’s president and CEO. “I’m really excited to bring Eric on-board on a full-time basis, as this allows EMA to invest even more deeply in promoting efficiencies in the digital video supply chain and other important industry initiatives.”

“I appreciate this opportunity, as full-fledged member of the EMA team, to stimulate industry collaboration that addresses operational friction points, help grow the home entertainment industry, enable innovation, and promote incredible consumer experiences,” said Hanson.

Prior to joining EMA, Hanson was involved in in strategic planning, operations, and process engineering work with Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., and Amazon. He was responsible for building and leading the content operation function for Xbox Live Video from its launch in 2006 until 2012 and for build-out and management of the content operations function for Intel’s OnCue service.

Hanson has been active in industry engagement and standards since 2001, when he led the planning process for Microsoft’s media standards engagement. He later oversaw Xbox’s representation in industry and standards groups, including EMA’s digital supply chain initiatives.

EMA also announced additional staff changes:

Carrie Dieterich, SVP, strategic initiatives, will retire in May. Dieterich has 24 years of experience with the trade group, most recently overseeing EMA’s research efforts and events, including the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, Independent Product Market, Digital Media Pipeline, and Digital EMA Salons.

Jennifer Lane Burnell has been promoted to VP, marketing and events. She will assume responsibility for planning, promoting, and managing EMA’s events and continue her current duties in brand and event marketing and creative services.

Steve Apple has been given the new title of VP, industry sales. Apple is responsible for membership growth and maintaining relationships with companies involved in digital delivery of content, as well as soliciting sponsorship of EMA events.

EMA Honors FilmTrack CEO for Charity Work

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) on Feb. 13 announced that Jason Kassin, CEO of FilmTrack, will receive a 2018 EMA Scholarship Foundation Honors Award for his service to the community. The award will be presented at the annual EMA Scholarship Foundation luncheon on May 18 at the Hilton Universal City in Universal City, Calif.

Kassin is being recognized for his work on behalf of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

“Jason Kassin inspires us with his commitment to finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and helping to improve the quality of life of those affected by these conditions,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of EMA. “Jason has accomplished much in his professional life, including building one of the most important rights management ecosystems for the film entertainment industry, but he realizes that success is not living well but rather a life well lived, and that service to the greater community is part of that.”

Kassin and his wife, Sasha, became involved with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2011, a few months after their son Conrad (then 8 years old) was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Their son’s gastroenterologist referred them to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s website. The organization offered valuable information about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and, as importantly, a community.

Since then, Kassin and his family have been active volunteers for the Foundation. Kassin joined the Los Angeles Board in 2016, and Sasha followed in 2017. This past January, Sasha became the President of the Board for the Greater Los Angeles Chapter.

A New York native and lifelong computer engineer,  Kassin is a leading expert in rights and content management solutions for the media & entertainment sector.

Kassin co-founded FilmTrack in the late 1990s after being asked to design contract administration software for some of the oldest and most respected names in international film distribution. As the CEO, he is responsible for orchestrating the strategic development of FilmTrack products and solutions. Since FilmTrack’s inception, Kassin has evolved the company into an extensive ecosystem that encompasses content creation, distribution, rights management, and monetization. The company’s cloud-based platform streamlines the complex intellectual property lifecycle, providing the necessary tools to manage mission-critical data, including contracts, rights, financials, royalties, and related assets.

Prior to FilmTrack, Kassin built his own successful software consulting business while also appearing in films and television programs. In addition, he is a scriptwriter, musician, and comedian. Kassin obtained a degree in Film and Theater from Vassar College.

The EMA Scholarship Foundation affords member companies the opportunity to provide the potential of educational assistance for employees and their spouses and children. Since the EMA Scholarship Foundation was established in 1987, EMA has helped more than 240 students achieve higher education through scholarship grants totaling more than one million dollars.

One scholarship of $4,000 per year for up to four years of undergraduate or graduate education is awarded each year.

To be eligible, students must be high school seniors or current, full-time college undergraduate or graduate students during the academic year in which they apply, and they must be employees or principals of EMA member companies in good standing, or their spouse or child. Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, financial need, and academic potential.

The EMA is the not-for-profit international trade association for the home entertainment industry. EMA-member companies operate approximately 35,000 retail outlets in the United States and 45,000 around the world that sell and/or rent DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, computer and console video games, and digitally distributed versions of these products. Membership comprises the full spectrum of retailers (from single-store specialists to multi-line mass merchants, and both brick and mortar and online stores), distributors, the home video divisions of major and independent motion picture studios, video game publishers, and other related businesses that constitute and support the home entertainment industry. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).

Paramount Preps 40th Anniversary Edition of ‘Grease’

Paramount Home Media Distribution is readying a 40th anniversary edition of the musical Grease for April 24 release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray Disc, DVD and Digital.

Featuring star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease has given the pop-culture world such memorable songs as “Greased Lightnin,” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Beauty School Drop Out” and the title track.

Paramount says it worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore Grease “to its original vibrancy, with the highest quality sound, picture resolution and color.” The original negative was scanned and received extensive clean up and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range (HDR) technology.  In addition, the audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for the film’s original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity.

The Grease 40th anniversary edition 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc combo packs include the fully restored version of the film plus an all-new, in-depth exploration of the little-known origins of what would become a Broadway play and then a feature film.  “Grease: A Chicago Story” features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show. In addition, the discs include the original song the title sequence was animated to and an alternate ending salvaged from the original black-and-white16mm work print discovered by director Randal Kleiser.

Both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Packs also feature more than an hour of previously released bonus material, including a sing-along, vintage interviews with the cast, deleted scenes and more.  Plus, the Blu-ray Combo comes in collectible packaging with 16 pages of images laid out like a high school yearbook.  In addition, a Grease Collection will be available in a Steelbook Locker, which includes the 40th anniversary Blu-ray of Grease, as well as Grease 2 and Grease: Live! on Blu-ray for the first time.

Paramount Appoints New Head of Sales and Distribution

Craig L. White has been appointed EVP of worldwide sales and distribution for Paramount Home Media Entertainment, the studio announced Feb. 9.

In his newly created role, White will report to Bob Buchi, president, worldwide home media distribution. He is charged with overseeing the global sales and distribution of physical and digital transactional products for Paramount Home Media Entertainment while expanding purchase and rental opportunities through enhanced partnerships, technological advancements and new business development.

“Craig is an incredibly talented media and entertainment executive with proven success developing and implementing transformational business strategies,” Buchi said.  “His wide-ranging experience with multinational brands and companies along with his acumen in dealing with rapidly evolving marketplaces will help bolster our continued growth and innovation around the world.”

White said, “I am very excited to join Paramount at a time of great change and opportunity for the industry.  I have long admired the studio’s rich history and extraordinary film catalogue and franchises and am passionate about helping consumers enjoy the best experiences available to them in home media.”

White joins Paramount from Tronc (Tribune Publishing), where he was in charge of spearheading business development as SVP and general manager.  He previously served as VP of sales for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in Australia, where he drove growth year over year during his tenure and built the Australia business into the single highest performing catalog business at Fox.

White also held senior executive positions at Great Southern Wine Asia Pacific and Access Digital Entertainment/Élan Media Partners in Australia. He began his career in sales and marketing at Cadbury Schweppes and also held management positions at HJ Heinz and Foster’s Brewing International.  White earned an MBA from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

GameStop Gets New CEO

GameStop has a new CEO: Michael K. Mauler, a 16-year veteran of the company.

He replaces J. Paul Raines, who stepped down due to health issues.

Mauler, 56, previously served as EVP and president of International, which consists of nearly 2,000 retail stores operating under the GameStop, EB Games, Micromania and Zing Pop Culture brands. Mauler has led the International division’s business and diversification initiatives since January of 2010. His achievements include launching the company’s global Collectibles business in 2014.

Prior to heading the International business, Mauler served as the company’s SVP of Supply Chain and International Support, and before the merger between GameStop and EB Games, served as Vice President of Logistics for Electronics Boutique.

Dan DeMatteo, executive chairman of GameStop, said in a news release, “On behalf of GameStop’s Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce Mike Mauler as our new CEO. Mike has been part of the GameStop senior leadership team for many years, where he has played an integral role in creating and driving the blueprint of our diversification strategy, successfully managing our international operations, and growing our core business segments. We are fortunate to have such an accomplished leader, who has a thorough understanding of our operations, business strategy and our stakeholders, and is committed to strengthening our results and driving our Company forward.”

Before joining GameStop, Mauler held various senior management positions for Baxter Healthcare, Dade Behring and Fisher Scientific, where he led operations for 22 countries.

Raines in November 2017 took a medical leave from GameStop when he had “a medical reoccurrence” of a brain tumor, according to the Dallas News. The newspaper said Raines has resigned from the Grapevine, Texas-based video game retailer’s board.

Disney’s Liz West Gets High-Level Marketing Communications Post at Paramount

Liz West is the new EVP of marketing communications for international theatrical marketing and worldwide home entertainment at Paramount Pictures.

West is a veteran entertainment executive who most recently served as VP of global publicity at the Walt Disney Co.

In her new role at Paramount, she reports to Mary Daily, who joined the studio last September as president of international theatrical marketing and worldwide home media entertainment. Daily previously spent nine years at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, most recently serving as president and chief marketing officer, worldwide marketing.

In a news release, Paramount says West fills a newly created role in which she will work closely with senior executive teams to drive key worldwide marketing initiatives, including digital and publicity campaigns for international territories.

“As our slate expands and our business grows we are looking to make sure we have a strategic, lifecycle approach to our movies and integrated consumer-facing communications across these areas,” Daily said. “Liz, who is a known strategist with the invaluable combination of both international theatrical and home entertainment experience, is the perfect executive to help lead these efforts.”

West starts at Paramount on Feb. 26.

Her tenure at Disney began in 2006, after eight years at Fox. While at Disney, West won acclaim for leading campaigns for such blockbusters as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and  key Disney catalog re-releases, including the successful 3-D re-release in theaters of The Lion King.

West and Daily have worked together before, at Fox, where Daily was VP of Europe from 1995 to 2000. Daily later worked as president, international marketing at Universal Pictures and general manager, programme enterprises at MTV Networks International before returning to Fox in February 2008 as EVP, North America.

Keith Le Goy to Take Over Home Entertainment at Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has a new leader, Keith Le Goy.

Le Goy, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, has been put in charge of the home entertainment unit, replacing Man Jit Singh, who is out after four years as the business unit’s president.

Singh is one of three president-level executives to leave Sony as part of a restructuring aimed at streamlining the studio’s management.

Also out are Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks for Sony Pictures Television, and Sheraton Kalouria, chief marketing officer for Sony Pictures Television.

Sony Pictures TV chairman Mike Hopkins (former head of Hulu) has taken charge of the international channels group.

Le Goy will report to both Hopkins and Sony Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman.

In an internal memo, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra wrote, “I am pleased to announce that Keith Le Goy, our president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, will be expanding his oversight to also include Home Entertainment.  Keith has been with SPE for over 18 years and has expertly managed distribution of Sony Pictures’ film, television and other content to all media platforms — from broadcast, satellite, and cable, to digital and electronic delivery, including video-on-demand, subscription-video-on-demand, electronic sell-through, and mobile.

“The expansion of Keith’s oversight is not only recognition of his leadership strength and success in this space, but also of the changing landscape of the home entertainment sector, which continues to shift from physical to digital, and increasingly to markets around the world.  Keith’s global experience is unmatched in our industry and he is the perfect fit to reorient our home entertainment business to align with the realities of today’s marketplace.  Keith will now have a dual report. He will continue to report to Mike Hopkins, our new SPT Chairman, for SPT distribution, and to Tom Rothman, chairman of our motion picture group, on MPG home entertainment business.

“With this move, Man Jit Singh will be stepping down as president of SPE Home Entertainment.  I want to thank Man Jit for guiding our home entertainment business through years of unprecedented change, and in helping to build our robust networks business in India, where he once served as CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India.  His efforts in India have contributed immeasurably to SPE’s current strength in that fast-growing market.”

In the memo, Vinciquerra wrote that the changes “represent a significant restructuring of some traditional business models and processes that have been in place at the studio for years.  Our decision to rethink the way we operate these units was driven by our goals to streamline SPE’s business operations, making them nimbler and better aligned with a rapidly-evolving industry.”

A few days earlier, Sony Pictures Entertainment parent Sony Corporation announced the April 1 departure of CEO Kazuo Hirai, who is being replaced by Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida.

Singh was hired by Sony Pictures Entertainment in January 2014 as a replacement for longtime home entertainment chief David Bishop.

Singh previously was CEO of Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd., the operating company that manages Sony Pictures Television’s TV networks in India.

Bishop had led Sony Pictures Home Entertainment since 2006.

At the time, Singh said in a statement, “As the ways in which consumers experience our content continue to change and multiply, our organization and its strategy for delivering content must evolve to meet the demands of the market. I look forward to building on the foundation of innovation and operational discipline at [Sony Pictures Home Entertainment] to position this business for future growth.”

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Feb. 2 reported third-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) revenue of $331 million, which was up $3 million from revenue of $328 million during the previous-year period. Through nine months of the fiscal year, revenue topped $692 million compared to $764 million during the previous-year period.