‘Buddy Games,’ ‘Iron Mask’ Top Slate of Thanksgiving Week Disc and Digital Releases

The Paramount Pictures comedy Buddy Games, the Arnold Schwarzenegger fantasy adventure Iron Mask, and the fifth season of popular TV series “Better Call Saul” top the slate of new disc and digital releases available for home viewers beginning Nov. 24.

Also newly available to buy or rent: the Martin Scorsese mob film The Irishman and Paramount’s Fatman, a black comedy starring Mel Gibson.

Buddy Games is being released through digital retailers and on DVD.  The film follows six lifelong friends who have a five-year falling out. Bob (Josh Duhamel), aka “The Bobfather,” reunites his pals for the Buddy Games, a competition of absurd physical and mental challenges with the chance to win a $150,000 pot. The determined dudes fight, claw and party for the big bucks in this bro-fest featuring Dax Shepard (CHiPs), Olivia Munn (Office Christmas Party) and Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”).

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Lionsgate is bringing Iron Mask to Blu-ray Disc and DVD four days after the film was released through digital retailers. Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan face off against each other in battle. In order to save his homeland from certain doom, a kung fu master (Chan) must escape from the maniacal James Hook (Schwarzenegger) to send his daughter a secret talisman that will allow her to control a massive and mythical dragon. The globe-trotting tale — ranging from the impenetrable Tower of London to the fabled Silk Road and China’s Great Wall — also stars Rutger Hauer in one of the screen icon’s final performances.

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“Better Call Saul” is the critically hailed prequel to “Breaking Bad.” In season 5, which Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing Nov. 24 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) begins practicing law under the name Saul Goodman. Extras on the Blu-ray and DVD include cast and crew commentaries on all 10 episodes, a gag reel, Mesa Verde Bank and Trust TV spots, Kim’s ethics training videos, and a “Crystal Balls” featurette. The Blu-ray also offers deleted scenes and assorted featurettes.

The Irishman, which earned a slew of Oscar nominations after debuting on Netflix in 2019, is being issued as a two-disc Blu-ray Disc and DVD set by Criterion. The film stars two well-known alumni of previous Scorsese gangster films, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, as well as Al Pacino, who left his mark on the genre with his portrayal of Michael Corleone in the three “Godfather” movies. De Niro stars as Sheeran, the “Irishman” of the title, a truck driver who gets drawn into the mafia as an enforcer. He eventually becomes a trusted ally of Teamster president Hoffa (Pacino), a friendship that comes to a head when Hoffa’s actions run afoul of the mafia’s leadership.

Fatman stars Gibson as a frustrated Santa Claus who is targeted by a rich kid who received a lump of coal for his selfishness. The kid hires an assassin to kill Santa.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

TVOD Service ROW8 Seeks to Involve Movie Theaters Through ‘Geo-Locator’ Feature

It may not be possible to build a better mousetrap, but the folks at ROW8 insist they’ve built a better digital movie distribution system.

It’s tailored to current market conditions, with movies increasingly being released to theaters and, with little or no delay, to home viewers through premium video-on-demand (PVOD) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Calkins, CEO of the upstart transactional video-on-demand service, says ROW8’s proprietary technology platform was built with PVOD in mind, “so it has already implemented the studio-required higher level of security.

And now that PVOD, due to the pandemic and consequent shuttering of movie theaters, has evolved from Hollywood dream into a necessary reality, the ROW8 platform’s ace in the hole is a unique “geo-locator” that allows movie theaters to participate.  It works like this: In areas where a new movie is playing theatrically, digital sales or rentals can be blacked out, but in areas where theaters are dark or a movie is either not showing or has concluded its run, consumers will be able to buy or rent the film digitally through the ROW8 platform. Exhibitors and distributors can negotiate market-specific trade arrangements, based on exhibitor marketing support and the degree to which the home availability potentially is near a playing location.

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“We know how close a customer is to their local theater, and we can choose what movies they can see at home, based on what is playing in that theater in real time,” says George Christoph, who founded ROW8 four years ago. “We can geo-fence the local trade area for certain movies, or share the in-home revenue with the nearest theater – it all depends on the terms of the partnership agreement struck by the distributing studio with the local exhibitor.

“Our technology is already patented and we believe that this business model is particularly valuable for smaller to mid-size films, as those have struggled to find a path to theaters over the last few years, and even more so now, during the pandemic.”

Based in Los Angeles, ROW8 is run by Christoph and Calkins, an entertainment industry veteran who has held key digital distribution posts at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. The company launched two years ago with exclusive U.S. digital distribution rights to foreign and independent films, but last year veered toward the mainstream through the signing of licensing deals with four major studios: Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.  Disney/Fox licenses were added earlier this year.

ROW8’s core service is digital movie sales and rentals, much like FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Google Play and Microsoft Movies & TV. But with windows on shaky ground due to the shuttering of movie theaters during the pandemic, Calkins says, he sees an opportunity to do things a little differently.

“As in many business areas, we continue to see the unfortunate pandemic as an accelerant for digital behaviors,” Calkins says. “Certainly, there is more of a spotlight on digital consumption, and an acceleration of consumer shift to OTT services.  But even more interestingly, we think the market challenges are really forcing the discussion between studios and theaters about how to best create value for films through integrating windowed theatrical releasing, and eliminating any “black periods” for consumer availability, which we think is a relevant question at a local level, not just a national one.

“The inefficiency of having films largely out of theaters in 30 days but, somewhat arbitrarily, not allowed in homes for 90 days, has really come under scrutiny. And having theaters closed has put everything on the table.”

This “inefficiency,” he adds, “is only magnified when we look at the smaller films.”

“There really are two different flavors,” Calkins says. “One is blacking out availability of a wide theatrical release, by market, if it’s in theaters there, or if theaters are open. But the other is for smaller films that aren’t getting a wide theatrical release. We can protect their theatrical platform release, but still open up availability, digitally, in other parts of the country they might not otherwise get to. Take a small, art-house film – there might be no art-house theaters in Montana, so the film will be available digitally there on day one. But in a market like Los Angeles or New York, the film will be blacked out until much later in its run.”

Post-pandemic, Calkins says he expects PVOD to continue to be a viable business model – and the digital distribution of movies, both during and after their theatrical runs, will continue to be a growth business.

“People will still go to theaters on date nights or to see a hot new event movie on the giant screen,” Calkins says. “The theatrical market might shrink a bit in terms of overall size – admissions, after all, have been trending downward for the last 20 years – but there is no reason to believe that all of a sudden everyone will want to stay in their living rooms 24/7 indefinitely, particularly once we have a vaccine. Talent, too, will still want to see their work on the big screen, and having that distribution capability as a major studio will be a key point of differentiation over the large streaming services.

“The only question, then, is how do theatrical windows again create the best economics for films – not just for tentpoles but even more so for the smaller ones that drive frequency and product breadth? That’s where a more dynamic approach to making films available to home audiences could be a key capability for both distributors and exhibitors.”

‘New Mutants’, ‘Dreamland’, ‘Unhinged’ Top Slate of New Disc, Digital Releases Available Nov. 17

The New Mutants, the 13th and final installment in the popular “X-Men” film series, and Dreamland top the slate of new disc and digital releases available for home viewers beginning Nov. 17.

Also newly available to buy or rent: the Lionsgate thriller Unhinged; Sony Pictures’ The Broken Hearts Gallery; and the third season of the HBO sci-fi series “Westworld,” from Warner Bros.

The New Mutants, from Disney Media Distribution, is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, as well as through digital retailers. The film was released theatrically in August despite many theaters still being closed. It earned  a domestic box office gross of just over $21 million.

The New Mutants focuses on five young people with special powers who are forced to undergo treatment at a secret institution — allegedly to cure them of the dangers of their powers. But it’s soon clear that their containment is part of a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.

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Dreamland is available through digital retailers only, either to buy or to rent. The movie is one of three feature films from Romulus Entertainment to which Paramount Pictures has secured home entertainment and television licensing rights to three feature films from Romulus Entertainment. All three films are being released in select U.S. theaters by Vertical Entertainment in tandem with their release on home entertainment platforms.

Dreamland stars Margot Robbie as an outlaw bank robber during the Great Depression who becomes involved with a young man. She must choose between collecting the bounty on her head or following her heart. Aside from Robbie, the film stars Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel, and Garrett Hedlund. It was directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and written by Nicolaas Zwart.

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The Russell Crow thriller Unhinged arrives on Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, digital and on demand. Oscar-winner Crowe stars alongside Caren Pistorius, Jimmi Simpson and Gabriel Bateman. The psychological thriller explores road rage. Rachel (Pistorius) is running late to work when she has an altercation at a traffic light with a stranger (Crowe) whose life has left him feeling powerless and invisible. Soon, Rachel finds herself, and everyone she loves, the target of a man who decides to make one last mark upon the world by teaching her a series of deadly lessons.

The Broken Hearts Gallery, a romantic comedy executive produced by Selena Gomez, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Nov. 17, a week after it became available through digital retailers. Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, the film follows a young art gallery assistant in New York City who after breaking up with her latest boyfriend creates a pop-up exhibit of mementos from prior relationships. The cast includes  Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo and Bernadette Peters. The film was theatrically released in the United States on Sept. 11, 2020, and earned just over $4 million. Bonus features on the home releases include a gag reel and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.

Season 3 of “Westworld” is coming out in Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions. The season takes place in the wake of Season 2’s massacre in the Westworld theme park, as hosts Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton), Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) have left the park and explore the real world to discover who they will become in the wake of their liberation.

The Blu-ray editions include a digital copy of the episodes. The 4K Ultra HD discs of Westworld: Season Three feature Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos soundtracks. The discs will include more than two hours of bonus featurettes.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

When the Good Ones Go

“It’s Hufjay.”

Back in the heyday of packaged media, when DVDs were selling like crazy and people still made phone calls, many a weekday morning began promptly at 9 a.m. with a call from veteran Warner Bros. Home Entertainment publicity executive Melissa Hufjay.

To be sure, I received many phone calls from studio publicists as well as account executives with agencies such as what is now Bender Helper Impact, but the earliest pitches invariably came from Melissa. At the time, Warner was so big in DVD that there were three divisions: new releases, theatrical catalog and TV/franchise. Melissa handled PR for the latter category, and with TV DVD booming and the made-for market on fire, there was always something to write about. Melissa was one of those publicists who made our job easier: She saw things through our eyes, and her pitches were spot-on and almost always successful.

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And who could resist a call from someone as personable, as likeable, as “Hufjay,” as we all called her.

Sadly, Melissa’s tenure at Warner Bros. has come to an end, after nearly 18 years, and once again I mourn the loss of another veteran home entertainment executive who excelled at her job — and whose passion for what she did spilled over and made us journalists in the trade press want to write about whatever she wanted us to.

At the time, I was not only editor of Home Media Magazine, but also a regular contributor to USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter. I wrote as many as half a dozen stories on home entertainment each week, and I welcomed those calls from Hufjay because I knew she would always have something to say that would result in a pretty damn good story.

Her departure underscores one of the sad realities in the home entertainment business as the shift away from transactional and toward streaming intensifies: Restructurings are engineered around numbers, not skill sets or talent, and quite often it’s the brightest and the best who go.

“They’re letting all the chiefs go because that’s where the cash is, but you end up losing some of your best leaders and a lot of institutional knowledge,” says one observer. “And that’s a scary prospect.”

It’s always sad when the good ones go. In Hufjay’s case, it’s personal.

4K Ultra HD Release Sends ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Set Soaring Up ‘Watched at Home’ Chart

After We Collided, a romantic drama from Open Road Films, remained No. 1 on the weekly “Watched at Home” chart for the third consecutive week.

But the film received a strong challenge during the week ended Nov. 7 from two new releases.

The availability of the complete “Game of Thrones” series on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Bros. sent the hefty five-pound boxed set, previously issued on DVD and regular Blu-ray Disc,  soaring back up the chart to No. 2.

Debuting at No. 3 was Lionsgate’s Antebellum, a time-shifting horror drama with Janelle Monáe as a successful modern-day writer trapped during America’s slavery era. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, as well as through digital retailers, on Nov. 3.

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The political documentary Trump Card (No. 4, down from the No. 3 the previous week) and season one of the TV series “Yellowstone” (No. 5, up from No. 12) rounded out the top five on the weekly “Watched at Home” chart, which tracks transactional video activity (both digital and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc) compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Trump Card, from conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, examines the policy positions held by Democrats in public office. It became available through digital retailers back in early October, but picked up more viewers as the Nov. 3 presidential election approached.

“Yellowstone” is a contemporary Western drama starring Kevin Costner that is centered on the conflicts between a cattle ranch, an Indian reservation and land developers, all of whom share common borders.

Other new releases debuting on the “Watched at Home” chart include the original Borat (No. 14), drafting off the sequel’s digital bow on Amazon; the holiday favorite Home Alone (No. 11); and V for Vendetta (No. 12). Demand for the latter was spurred by its Nov. 3 release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray by Warner Bros.

  1. After We Collided (Open Road)
  2. Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection (Warner)
  3. Antebellum (Lionsgate)
  4. Trump Card (D’Souza Media)
  5. Yellowstone: Season 1 (Paramount)
  6. Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner)
  7. Yellowstone: Season 3 (Paramount)
  8. Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount)
  9. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Funimation)
  10. Ava (Vertical)
  11. Home Alone (20th Century)
  12. V for Vendetta (Warner)
  13. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (MGM)
  14. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (20th Century)
  15. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Warner)
  16. Trolls World Tour (Universal)
  17. Alone (Magnolia)
  18. Beetlejuice (Warner)
  19. The Phenomenon (1091)
  20. Spell (Paramount)

 

Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended Nov. 7.

 

DEG: Home Entertainment Spending Surges 18% in Q3 of 2020

Fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, consumers spent nearly 18% more on home entertainment in the third quarter of this year than in the comparable period of 2019, according to numbers released Nov. 11 by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

DEG numbers do not include money spent on premium video-on-demand (PVOD), which would have taken the home entertainment spending total significantly higher. With theaters shuttered due to the pandemic, studios chose to release several high-profile films digitally, at a premium price.

Even without PVOD, spending rose to an estimated $7.3 billion from $6.2 billion in the third quarter of 2019, DEG says, maintaining that “when new [theatrical] releases slowed as a result of production halts and theater closures … consumers seamlessly shifted their viewing to a broad variety of content, including catalog movies and TV shows.”

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As expected, consumer spending on subscription streaming surged during the three-month period that ended Sept. 30, rising nearly 39% to an estimated $5.5 billion, or 75% of total consumer spending.

With no fresh theatrical product, spending on home entertainment purchases slipped 24.4% during the third quarter, to an estimated $1.1 billion. Packaged media was hit particularly hard due to widespread store closures due to regional bans on “non-essential” retail, with consumer spending on DVD and Blu-ray Discs down 34.3% in the quarter, to an estimated $483.3 million. Spending on digital content, or “electronic sellthrough” (EST), was off just 13.9%, to an estimated $600.8 million.

Consumer spending on transactional video-on-demand, or electronic rental, ticked up slightly to an estimated $459 million from $447.6 million in the third quarter of 2019.

DVD and Blu-ray Disc rental spending was off 34.4% as stay-at-home orders limited foot traffic to video stores and Redbox kiosks.

In the first nine months of the year, overall U.S. consumer spending across digital and physical home entertainment formats came in at an estimated $22.2 billion, a 23% spike from the $18 billion consumers spent in the same period a year earlier.

Electronic sellthrough spending was up 15.8% to an estimated $2.2 billion, while electronic rental was up nearly 24% to an estimated $1.8 billion.

Spending on subscription streaming for the first nine months of 2020 is pegged by DEG at $15.6 billion, a 38.7% gain from the first nine months of 2019.

DEG says that among the top titles purchased and rented in the third quarter of 2020 were all three seasons of the TV series “Yellowstone,” from Paramount; the DreamWorks movie Trolls World Tour, distributed by Universal; RLJ Entertainment’s The Tax Collector; MGM/Orion’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, distributed by Warner Bros.; The King of Staten Island (Universal); Force of Nature (Lionsgate); Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount); Schitt’s Creek: Season 6 (CBS), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Warner Bros.) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.).

Big Week for DVD, Blu-ray Disc Topped with ‘Bill & Ted’ Sequel, ‘Mulan’ and Trio of ‘Complete Season’ TV Series Sets

It’s a big week for DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, with Warner Bros. releasing the comedy sequel Bill & Ted Face the Music on both disc formats and three complete series sets of popular TV series “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Office” and “Downton Abbey” arriving on disc as well.

Meanwhile, new digital offerings available Nov. 10 include Sony Pictures’ The Broken Hearts Gallery, Lionsgate’s Words on Bathroom Walls and Paramount’s Jungleland.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is the third film in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, following 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The film, from MGM and Orion Pictures, was slated for a wide theatrical release over the summer. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was released via PVOD and in a handful of theaters that opened after quarantine restrictions were lifted, earning $3.3 million at the domestic box office.

The film was released  via standard digital sellthrough Oct. 20 in advance of its Nov. 10 release on disc and standard VOD.

“Schitt’s Creek” concluded its six-season run in April. All 80 episodes are now available in a DVD-only collection from Lionsgate. The irreverent character-driven comedy centers on the reversal-of-fortune story of the once-rich Rose family. Suddenly finding themselves broke, the Roses are forced to rebuild their empire in Schitt’s Creek, a small town they had purchased earlier as a joke. The Canadian show received 19 Emmy nominations during its run, with 15 for its sixth season, setting a record for most nominations for a comedy series in its final season.

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“The Office,” which makes its Blu-ray Disc debut on Nov. 10, is an American sitcom that depicts the everyday work lives of employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. in Scranton, Penn. The show lasted nine seasons, airing on NBC from March  2005 to May 2013, and features an ensemble cast centered for the first seven seasons around wacky boss Steve Carell. Other notable cast members include Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling and Creed Bratton, best known as a member of the classic pop-rock band the Grass Roots. The complete series has been available on DVD since 2014.

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“Downton Abbey” is a British historical drama television series set in the early 20th Century. The series ran for six seasons on PBS and inspired the 2019 movie Downton Abbey. The complete series is being released for the first time on DVD only by Universal on Nov. 10. Individual season sets were previously issued by PBS Distribution.

Other notable new releases available Nov. 10 include Disney’s live-action Mulan remake, Lionsgate’s Guest House and Mortal and Paramount’s Spontaneous.

The live-action Mulan, about a girl who poses as a boy to serve in her father’s place in the army in ancient China, arrives on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and DVD. Disney is also releasing a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of the original animated Mulan from 1998. The two films also will be available together in a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack that also includes digital editions. The live-action Mulan made headlines over the Labor Day weekend when it bypassed theatrical distribution for in-home premium VOD. Disney announced the disc version just four days before its street date.

Guest House is a comedy starring Pauly Shore as a party animal who lives in a guest house. When the main house is purchased by an engaged couple, he refuses to leave. The film is available on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Mortal is a thriller in which a sleepy Norwegian town erupts after an American backpacker is arrested. Witnesses claim a teen died after touching the stranger, and that he inexplicably started a fire that engulfed a farm. He warns a psychologist, Christine, that he has supernatural powers, and that anyone who gets too close to him dies. The film is being released on DVD and Blu-Disc Nov. 10, four days after its digital debut.

And Spontaneous, also available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, stars Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer as seniors at a high school where the students begin literally exploding. Realizing each moment may be their last, they begin a romance and start living for today. The film was initially released for premium video-on-demand viewing and digital sellthrough Oct. 6, four days after it began showing in select movie theaters.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

In Conversation: Sara DeWitt of PBS Kids Digital, Winner of the 2020 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation

On the eve of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group hosting its fourth annual Hedy Lamarr Awards presentation on Nov. 9, Media Play News sat down with the winner of the 2020 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology, Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital, for a discussion of her career path.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

Media Play News: What are your thoughts on winning this year’s Hedy Lamarr Award, and why is a program such as this important?

DeWitt: I am honored to receive this award; I’m truly amazed to be associated with Hedy Lamarr and the other pioneers recognized by DEG through this program. I know that I am fortunate to work with a team at PBS Kids that is passionate about improving technology and media for young children, and I am so grateful for this recognition. Women have accomplished great things in this industry for a long time, but are historically underappreciated and still underrepresented in its leadership. It’s important to highlight their accomplishments, and help support other women as they build their careers in media.

Register HERE for the Fourth Annual Hedy Larr Awards Online Event Nov. 9

What inspires you most about Hedy Lamarr?

I’m inspired by how Hedy Lamarr forged her own path in a new country, building an acting career while also pursuing her interests in science and invention. I love that she excelled both in the creative arts and in science and technology.

Tell us about your career path.

As an English major with a concentration on children’s studies, I was focused on children’s books and early literacy development. My senior year at Stanford, I took a class called Interactive Narrative and Artificial Intelligence, which was cross-listed between Computer Science and English. Not only did I learn HTML, but I also became fascinated with digital games and storytelling, and the ways they could help kids explore new concepts and skills. Over 20 years ago, I was hired by PBS to work on their relatively new website for children; I was a good fit for the job because I had both a child development background and knew some basic programming! I’ve always been focused on children’s content and, specifically, on how kids can learn through different types of media and technology. I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders — many of them women — who have encouraged me in this path, and taught me to have confidence in my own expertise as I’ve grown.

If you had to pick one career highlight, what would it be?

In 2009, I recommended to senior management that we launch a streaming video player for the preschool audience. My boss was skeptical that such a young audience would access video this way. I felt differently; my amazing team and I secured funding, designed, and launched the service, predicting we would deliver 5 million streams per month. In its first month, the PBS Kids Video player served 84 million streams. Today, the PBS KIDS Video player is available on mobile and OTT platforms as well as Smart TVs, and averages 359 million streams per month.

How important is technology and innovation to your job?

My role at PBS Kids is focused on helping children learn through media. As children’s use of media evolves and new platforms emerge, we have even more opportunities to consider how that media can help children learn, discover a new passion, or see characters like themselves reflected on screen. By being innovative with technology, we have the opportunity to better serve all kids with content that resonates with them, and helps them better understand the world around them.

How important is technology and innovation to our industry, overall?

Our industry has been innovating from the beginning. In fact, 50 years ago, PBS launched with a mission to reimagine the television medium. Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was one of the pioneers in this space, recognizing that new technology had the power to help children understand their emotions. PBS is constantly innovating both technologically and in our content, across more platforms and media types than ever.

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What’s next on your agenda?

The kids media landscape has shifted dramatically in the last eight months, as stay-at-home orders and distance learning have gone into effect. I’m very focused on how we can best meet the needs of kids and families in this new environment, especially those who may not have the latest devices or most reliable Internet access. We have the opportunity to be creative with technology as a means to help reach as many kids as possible with shows and games that can help them learn and grow.

Live-Action and Animated ‘Mulan’ Headed for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Release Nov. 10

The Walt Disney Co. is going all out for the Nov. 10 disc debut of the live-action Mulan. The film will be released on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and DVD, and its arrival in stores will be accompanied by the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of the original animated Mulan from 1998.

The two films also will be available together in a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack that also includes digital editions.

Additionally, the live-action Mulan will be available as a collectible Steelbook at Best Buy and packaged with a limited-edition gallery book at Target, while the animated Mulan will also be available as a Best Buy-exclusive Steelbook.

The live-action Mulan, from filmmaker Niki Caro, made headlines over the Labor Day weekend when it bypassed theatrical distribution for in-home premium VOD, at a price of $29.99 that allowed Disney+ subscribers to unlock the movie on the service. It later became available through digital retailers such as FandangoNow and Vudu. AtlasVPN later reported that the remake had become the most in-demand streamed movie in the world in October.

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Mulan is about a fearless young woman who risks everything out of love for her family and her country to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known. When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner strength and embrace her true potential.

The live-action Mulan 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray Disc includes a wealth of bonus features, including:

  • “Updating A Classic” — A look at how filmmakers honored the original animated classic.
  • “Mulan by Another Name” — A conversation with actor Yifei Liu, tracing her journey to becoming Mulan, from audition screen test to on-screen warrior.
  • “Being Bad” — See actors Jason Scott Lee and Li Gong transform into the film’s evil duo through training and costumes.
  • “Reflections of Mulan” — Hear what inspired the film’s music and sound, and then listen as Yifei Liu records Mulan’s most iconic song.
  • “The Original Mulan” — Ming-Na Wen, who voiced Mulan in the original animated classic, reflects on that experience and her cameo in the live-action remake.
  • Deleted scenes (some with commentary by director Niki Caro).
  • Music videos, including four different versions of “Reflection” and “Loyal Brave True.”

 

The animated Mulan also comes with several extras, including:

  • Deleted scenes.
  • Various music videos.
  • “Songs of Mulan” — Producer Pam Coats, composer Matthew Wilder and lyricist David Zippel share the process of creating the music for Mulan.
  • Mulan’s International Journey” — Disney filmmakers explain the process by which Disney animated films are translated into as many as 35 different languages.
  • “Multilanguage Presentation” — Mulan was translated into many languages for audiences around the world. In this featurette viewers can hear some of these languages in the musical sequence “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” including French, Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Swedish and more.
  • Audio commentary by producer Pam Coats and directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook.

 

‘Antebellum’ Arrives on Disc; Complete ‘Game of Thrones’ Series Now Out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Lionsgate’s  Antebellum, Paramount’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The SpongeBob Musical — Live on Stage! and the third season of “The Crown,” the Netflix historical series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, top the slate of new releases available for home viewers beginning Nov. 3.

Also newly available for purchase are 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions of V for Vendetta and the complete HBO series “Game of Thrones,” both from Warner Bros., and Lionsgate’s Kick-Ass.

The time-shifting horror drama Antebellum is now available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD. It was initially released by Lionsgate on premium VOD at $20 on Sept. 18. The film stars Janelle Monáe as a successful modern-day writer trapped during America’s slavery era.

Read an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Janelle Monáe here!

SpongeBob SquarePants: The SpongeBob Musical — Live on Stage!, from Nickelodeon, is making its DVD debut on Nov. 3 at $9.99. The disc edition includes an exclusive, extended sing-along version.

The Crown: The Complete Third Season is now out as a four-disc Blu-ray and DVD set from Sony Pictures.  The series is produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. Season 3 takes place between 1964 and 1977 and introduces Camilla Parker Bowles, who would later marry Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

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V for Vendetta and Kick-Ass are the latest high-profile films to be released on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, which is getting a renewed push by the big Hollywood movie studios as they continue to grapple with a lack of fresh theatrical product.

Also newly available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on Nov. 3 is Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection. The set, listed at $254.99, includes all 73 episodes, plus more than 15 hours of bonus content, and a digital copy of the episodes.

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Extras include material previously released in the “Game of Thrones” complete season sets and the 2019 complete series on standard Blu-ray, including a two-part reunion special hosted by Conan O’Brien; the documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch chronicling the making of the final season; Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of Seven Kingdoms; and audio commentaries, deleted and extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.

A 4K “Game of Thrones” complete-series set also is available in an exclusive limited-edition version at Best Buy at $285.43, with all eight seasons featured in individual Steelbooks and housed in individually numbered metal cases.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.