Brad Pitt’s ‘Ad Astra’ Gets Home Release Dates

Twentieth Century Fox, now a division of the Walt Disney Co., has set home release dates for Ad Astra, the science-fiction movie starring Brad Pitt that grossed just under $50 million at the domestic box office.

The film will be released digitally on Dec. 3, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Dec. 17.

Pitt portrays astronaut Roy McBride, who springs into action when a mysterious life-threatening event strikes earth. He embarks on a dangerous mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Extras on the Blu-ray Disc include two deleted scenes, with an optional audio commentary from director, producer and writer James Gray, and several featurettes, including a making-of documentary and a look at the crew of the Cepheus.

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An audio commentary from Gray is available on the Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD version only.

The digital version comes with a look at the special effects.

‘Downton Abbey’ Feature Film Gets Home Release Dates

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has announced home release dates for Downton Abbey, the hit movie based on the celebrated PBS TV series.

The film, which earned $94.5 million in North American movie theaters, will be available digitally Nov. 26, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and on demand on Dec. 17, the studio said.

Aimed at holiday gift-givers, the home versions come with a broad variety of bonus features, including exclusive conversations with the cast, deleted scenes and a recap of the Emmy Award-winning TV series, from Carnival Films.

The Downton Abbey film will also be available in a Deluxe Limited Edition, featuring the Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital code, presented in exclusive packaging along with a collectible photo book and recipe cards.

The feature film stars original cast members from the TV series as well as a host of newcomers.  The film chronicles the Crawley family one year after the conclusion of the series, as they prepare for the most important moment of their lives: an impending visit from the Royal Family.

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  • Blu-ray, DVD and digital extras include:
  • Deleted scenes
  • Cast conversations – exclusive roundtable interviews with the cast.
  • “The Royal Visit” – A look at how the royal visit proved to be an ambitious event both on and behind the camera.
  • “True to the Twenties” – A look at how Downton Abby was loyal to the grandeur of the 1920s.
  • “Welcome to Downton Abbey” – A behind-the-scenes look at the grandeur of Highclere Castle and how it serves as a cornerstone in the Downton Abbey franchise.
  • “The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes” – A feature on writer Julian Fellowes.
  • Feature commentary with director Michael Engler

A recap of the TV series will be included on the Blu-ray Disc and iTunes digital versions only.

Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Gets Home Release Dates for Digital, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, the summer theatrical blockbuster Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, will be released to home audiences digitally Nov. 26 and on disc two weeks later, on Dec. 10.

Disc versions will be available in the DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD formats from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in Hollywood in 1969, reimagines the Manson murders that shocked the city that year. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as actor Rick Dalton and his longtime friend and stuntman Cliff Booth, with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate.

In the film, Dalton and Booth make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The cast also includes Julia Butters, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern and Al Pacino — and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

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The film earned $140.4 million in U.S. theaters, and was the highest opening weekend of Tarantino’s career at $41 milion. It has been Certified Fresh by RottenTomatoes.com.

The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digital releases come with more than 20 additional minutes of footage that delves deeper into world of Rick Dalton’s Hollywood. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital include an additional behind-the-scenes look at the film’s production design, cinematography, costume design, cars and more.

Also due Dec. 10 is a limited 4K Ultra HD collector’s edition with a 7-inch vinyl record with two of the soundtrack’s 1960s hits,  a poster for the fictitious Rick Dalton film Operazione Dyn-o-mite!, and an exclusive mini-edition of a Mad Magazine parody of the Rick Dalton TV series “Bounty Law,” called “Lousy Law.” The collector’s edition may be ordered beginning Oct. 28 from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com.

The Blu-ray Disc release comes with several retailer-exclusive extras, including “Rick Dalton” movie poster cards from Walmart, a vintage-style film magazine with over 26 never-before-seen production photos at Target, and a Steelbook available at Best Buy. All exclusive offerings also may be ordered beginning Oct. 28.

Redbox Launches Content Acquisition and Production Arm

Redbox is revving up its efforts to provide original content to customers of its disc rental kiosks and Redbox on Demand transactional video-on-demand service.

The company on Oct. 25 announced the formation of Redbox Entertainment, a new label to acquire and produce content for Redbox’s 50 million U.S. customers.

“The Redbox brand is built on delivering the best selection of movies from the biggest blockbuster releases to films in genres and with actors that appeal to our loyal customers,” said Redbox CEO Galen Smith. “The formation of Redbox Entertainment leverages our deep insights to bring projects that we know appeal to our audience to deliver additional value and entertainment.”

Marc Danon has been tapped as senior advisor to head content acquisition for Redbox Entertainment. He reports directly to Smith.

Marc Danon

Danon previously was president of acquisitions and co-productions at Broad Green Pictures; prior to joining Broad Green in July 2015, he spent eight years at Lionsgate, most recently as SVP of acquisitions and business development. There, he worked on the acquisition of such films as Kevin Hart: Let Me ExplainJohn WickDear White PeopleA Most Wanted ManEverything Must Go and The Skeleton Twins.

Danon also built and managed third-party brands and partnerships with ABC, Codeblack, Comcast, ITV, Marvel, NBC, and Saban.

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Earlier in his career, Danon held various acquisitions positions at Netflix, Catch 23 Entertainment and Artisan Entertainment.

“Marc is a terrific fit to lead the growth of Redbox Entertainment,” Smith said. “He’s a talented creative with an impressive track record as a champion of films that catch fire with audiences; and a skilled executive adept at maximizing distribution opportunities and cultivating strategic partnerships.”

Redbox Entertainment is funding, developing and producing projects across genres, with a focus on action, comedy, and suspense/thrillers, the company said.

Projects are being sourced now — directly and through a number of distribution partners and channels. New projects will be announced soon.

Content acquired by Redbox Entertainment will be available physically at Redbox kiosks and digitally via Redbox On Demand, as well as in downstream windows post-Redbox release.

Redbox reaches 50 million consumers across the United States at more than 41,000 kiosks and an expanding On Demand offering. The company’s loyalty program, Redbox Perks, has 34 million members.

‘Breaking Bad’ Movie a Streaming Sensation

El Camino, the feature film sequel to the TV series “Breaking Bad,” was seen by nearly 6.5 million viewers its opening weekend, according to Nielsen, the ratings company.

According to Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings, the film reached nearly 8.2 million unique viewers in the United States during its first three days of availability on Netflix.

El Camino has Aaron Paul reprising his role as Jesse Pinkman, who in the series finale had been enslaved by a drug lord and ordered to cook meth, only to be set free by his former partner, Walter White (Bryan Cranston. He’s last seen driving off in an El Camino that belonged to a drug lord.

Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings does not include mobile or PC streaming.

Netflix Nabs Rights to Comic Book Series ‘Bone’

Netflix on Oct. 16 announced that it has secured the rights to Jeff Smith’s  New York Times bestselling international comic book series, Bone, with plans to develop an animated children’s series that follows the Bone cousins on an adventure through a desert and into a mysterious valley filled with various creatures.

Bone has been published in over 30 countries since 1991, with over 8 million copies sold in North America alone.

“I’ve waited a long time for this,” Smith said in a statement. “Netflix is the perfect home for Bone. Fans of the books know that the story develops chapter by chapter and book by book. An animated series is exactly the way to do this! The team at Netflix understands Bone and is committed to doing something special — this is good news for kids and cartoon lovers all over the world.”

Fox Preps Massive 20-Season Boxed DVD Set of ‘The Simpsons’

A limited-edition DVD collection of the first 20 seasons of “The Simpsons” is being prepped for Dec. 3 release, consisting of 441 episodes on 79 discs — for a total of 9,914 minutes of viewing time, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced Oct. 7.

Only 1,000 copies of the massive boxed set will be produced, the Walt Disney Co.-owned studio says — and distribution will be limited to Best Buy and Amazon.com, with each getting 500 copies.

The boxed set as of Oct. 7 was not yet available on Amazon, but it appeared on Best Buy’s website at $549.99 — with financing available of $45.84/month.

“The Simpsons” is the longest-running primetime scripted show in television history, currently in its 31st season. The show has been renewed through at least season 32.

“The Simpsons” was created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Co. The animated series is a satirical depiction of blue-collar life as experienced by the dysfunctional Simpson family, who live in the fictional town of Springfield, here patriarch Homer Simpson works in a nuclear power plant.

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The show began life as a series of sketches on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in April 1987. Three years later it began its long run as a half-hour primetime TV series on Fox.

The show has won 34 Emmy Awards, 34 Annie Awards, 12 Writers Guild of America Awards and seven People’s Choice Awards. “The Simpsons” was the first animated series to win a Peabody Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2012 for the theatrical short “The Longest Daycare.”

‘Farscape’ Complete Series to Hit Blu-ray Disc on Nov. 19

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Nov. 19 will release on Blu-ray Disc the complete “Farscape” TV series, in time for the science-fiction series’ 20th anniversary.

The Blu-ray Disc set includes all 88 episodes, more than 15 hours of archival special features, and the series finale miniseries “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.”

“Farscape” was produced originally for the Nine Network and on the Sci-Fi Channel in March 1999. It was produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. The Henson Company provided the alien make-up and prosthetics.

The series was supposed to last for five seasons, but was canceled after four, ending on a cliffhanger. Rights to the series were later acquired by co-producer Brian Henson, who directed a three-hour miniseries finale, “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.”

Earlier this year, in March, all four seasons of “Farscape” as well as “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars” were made available on Amazon Prime Video in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Nordics, and several other countries.

She Walks the ‘Cline’: Former Sony Pictures Publicity VP Forges New Career as Vocalist

Staci Griesbach is walking the line between country and jazz.

Over the past two months, the publicist-turned-vocalist has headlined shows at top jazz clubs in Los Angeles and Nashville, released an album of Patsy Cline classics, performed at the Country Music Hall of Fame and saw Rolling Stone magazine call her first single “gorgeous.”

A year ago at this time, Griesbach returned from a birthday trip to Greece only to find herself downsized out of a job, after nearly 15 years as a publicity executive at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

And instead of immediately trying to land another job, Griesbach decided to put her corporate career on hold for a while and pursue a long-held dream of becoming a professional singer.

A long shot? Not for Griesbach, the Wisconsin farm girl who made her way to Hollywood and rose to VP of Publicity for the home entertainment division of one of the five major studios.

On Aug. 23, Griesbach released her first album, My Patsy Cline Songbook. Financed partially by a Kickstarter campaign and nearly a year in the making, the album finds Griesbach reimagining a hit parade of songs made famous by the pioneering female country singer in in a style similar to jazz standards from the Great American Songbook.

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Rolling Stone included one of her tracks on its “10 Best Country and Americana Songs to Hear Now,” right above a new tune from veteran country chart-topper Miranda Lambert. The publication hailed her “gorgeous jazz interpretation of Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’.”

She appeared in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Musician’s Spotlight” celebration of Cline’s birthday, performing with legendary composer, arranger and session pianist Bill Pursell, who played with Cline on her recording sessions in Nashville, as well as Roger Spencer, of the acclaimed Nashville Jazz Workshop.

And her album has gotten the thumb’s up from none other than Cline’s daughter, Julie Fudge, who in the CD’s liner notes says, “It is amazing to hear Staci interpreting Mom’s music for the jazz fan, as well as the traditional Patsy fan.  These arrangements are new and fresh and so engaging.  I truly think Mom would have listened to this collection.”

“My hope with this debut album is to potentially introduce audiences of country music to jazz, and vice versa, showcasing that there is arguably more than one Great American Songbook to explore with a cross-pollination of jazz and country music,” Griesbach said.

Griesbach’s My Patsy Cline Songbook includes fresh interpretations of Patsy Cline classics such “Walkin’ After Midnight,” arranged by Jeremy Siskind and featuring Bob Sheppard on saxophone; “Leavin’ On Your Mind,arranged by Tamir Hendelman; and “I Fall to Pieces,” featuring Portuguese lyrics and a bossa nova groove to Cline’s first No. 1 hit from 1961.

(Album cover photo by Kim Thiel)

Produced by Griesbach herself, the songs on her debut album were written by some of Nashville’s most celebrated songwriters, including Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, Bill Monroe, and Willie Nelson.  Tierney Sutton, an eight-time Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, produced Griesbach’s vocals during the recording process.

Out this week: a music video of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” directed by Delaney Moghanian and Trevor Marcotte, who also handled cinematography and editing.

“These songs are timeless and prove that a good melody and a good lyric can cross genres, generations, and connect no matter the style of interpretation,” said Griesbach.  “I wanted to find ‘standards’ that were already in my bones, where I could interpret them authentically, and for that, I turned to the music I had been listening to throughout my childhood.”

That childhood was spent on a working farm in rural Northeast Wisconsin.  “My childhood days were spent feeding and caring for the cattle, baling hay, or picking stones in the fields before planting,” Griesbach recalled.

“The Patsy Cline songs were something I grew up to,” she said. “My parents had the ‘Patsy’s Greatest Hits’ cassette tape, and along Ernest Tubb, George Jones and others, these were the tapes we’d listen to while we were driving around doing chores or on a long road trip.”

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Griesbach was a member of the Wisconsin Singers, a touring troupe that performs Broadway and pop standards and entertains more than 50,000 fans each year.

“After graduating college, I had a major decision to make,” Griesbach said. “Would I choose a job at a major, reputable PR firm or accept an offer to perform on a cruise ship and travel around the world?”

With practical matters like paying off my college loans hanging over her, Griesbach said, she made the practical decision and jumped into PR. She interned with the Wisconsin Milk Board and Fleishman-Hillard in Kansas City. The big agency moved her to Sacramento, and two years later she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the entertainment scene. In 2005, Griesbach was hired at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where over a 14-year run she rose from Manager to Vice President, managing global campaigns and promoting the studio’s film and television content around the world.

Music, however, remained more than just a hobby. In 2013, Griesbach started studying jazz vocals and jazz piano with Michele Weir, currently an adjunct professor in global jazz studies at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. In January 2015, she secured a regular residency at a Hollywood hotel, performing with her trio on Friday evenings.

In 2017, she recalls, “I sang and produced 100 songs for a centennial tribute to Ella Fitzgerald — complete with a sell-out show at an L.A. club benefiting the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation.”

She subsequently booked time at Talley Sherwood’s TriTone Recording in Glendale, and in January 2018 recorded the first six tracks.

After her position at Sony was eliminated, Griesbach said, she decided to make music her full-time pursuit. Through Weir, she said, she was introduced to Tamir Hendelman, “and we went to work on arranging another six songs from November to January, 2019.

She credits arrangers Weir, Hendelman, Jeremy Siskind, Josh Nelson and Brazil’s Celia Vaz with helping bring her vision to life.

“It’s such an interesting time in music right now,” she said. “We’re seeing genres blending and the lines that used to be so structured are now blurring quite a bit in terms of how we define musical genres.”

The recording was finished in the spring, with several other prominent session players coming on board, including Nashville’s Stuart Duncan on fiddle. The album was mastered at The Bakery Mastering – located, ironically, on the Sony Pictures lot.

“For nearly 20 years, I let myself believe that I couldn’t go after my dreams,” Griesbach said. “I took the ‘safe’ route, sitting at a corporate desk. But eventually I realized our job in life is to be vulnerable.  And for me, what that means is letting my heart shine and do what makes me sing – literally!”

Griesbach is by no means ruling out a return to the corporate world, given the realities of the music business, but first, she’s giving it all she’s got.

“I’m going after this with everything, but I’m realistic about the challenges and practicalities of being a brand-new artist who is just starting out and building a fan base,” Griesbach said.  “Maybe there’s a place where my passion for singing and performing meets the skills I’ve honed over the past 20 years of corporate life.  Maybe it’s not all one or the other.  Maybe I can find a way to do what I love and get paid doing it.  That’s what I’m really trying to figure out.”

Disney Sets Home Release Dates, Extras for ‘The Lion King’ Remake

The live-action-style, computer-animated remake of The Lion King is coming home in October.

The film, the year’s No. 2 movie with a $534 million domestic box office haul, will be released on Digital 4K Ultra HD on Oct. 11 and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray Disc on Oct. 22, the Walt Disney Co. announced Sept. 16.

The home release comes with over an hour of bonus features that showcase the technology behind the savanna and provide a closer look at the film’s music.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the summer blockbuster’s home release is highlighted by “The Journey to The Lion King,” a three-part documentary that explores the film’s creation. It features visits to the Playa Vista production facility where talent, including Donald Glover (voice of Simba) interpret the original animated classic’s iconic music; discussions with Favreau and team about the technology they used create photorealistic animals and environments; and filmmaker and cast reflections on the story.

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Extras also include “More to Be Scene,” featuring layer-by-layer progressions of some of the film’s key moments; a lyric video for “Never Too Late” by Elton John and music video for “Spirit” by Beyoncé; sing-alongs to the film’s other songs; and a feature on the “Protect the Pride” campaign, which focuses on protecting and revitalizing the lion population.

Consumers who order The Lion King digitally in advance will gain access to “Perfecting the Pride,” a feature highlighting the filmmakers’ research trip to Africa.

The digital version also includes an extra that conveys the importance of the dung beetle, both in the film and in real life, on the African savanna.

In The Lion King, Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock ultimately leads to Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon.

Disney says The Lion King “will be packaged and released in several different formats, ensuring each member of your family can view the film on a variety of different devices with no worries. Viewers can watch the film in Digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD, and bring home a physical copy of the film which will be released as an Ultimate Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Code), a Multi-Screen Edition (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Code) and a single DVD.”

The original The Lion King is traditionally animated and was released in 1994. It sold 32 million VHS videocassettes and, years later, another 12 million DVDs and nearly 4 million Blu-ray Discs.