Longtime 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Chief Mike Dunn Exits, Ventures Into Startup World

Mike Dunn, for years the top home entertainment executive at 20th Century Fox, is among a handful of high-ranking studio executives to exit March 21 in the wake of Walt Disney Co.’s acquisition of the celebrated film studio, which was completed March 20.

Insiders told Media Play News that Dunn’s departure was not unexpected and the executive already is eyeing several startup opportunities in the technology field — after a two-week vacation.

Other senior 20th Century Fox executives who lost their jobs at the company, as reported by Variety, include Fox Film head Stacey Snider, domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson, communications EVP Heather Phillips, chief data strategist Julie Rieger, worldwide theatrical marketing president Pam Levine, and chief content officer Tony Sella.

One insider told Media Play News that Disney appears to be sticking by reports that ultimately 4,000 people will lose their jobs. “This morning, it felt like 5,000,” the insider said, noting that the day brought a steady succession of HR meetings as Fox staffers learned their fate — although many already knew, but had been asked to remain silent until today.

Since December 2016, Dunn has been president of product strategy and consumer business development for the studio, with oversight of emerging media platforms, distribution models, partnerships with consumer electronics and technology companies, and overseas opportunities.

He remained the de facto worldwide head of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, a position he first landed in 2005 — making him the longest-serving head of a major studio home entertainment division.

Dunn was named worldwide president of the division after three years as president, domestic home entertainment, a position he assumed after the December 2002 departure of Pat Wyatt, who resigned to start up an independent film production and financing company specializing in Japanese-style animated programming for home audiences.

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Dunn joined Fox in 1987 as manager of marketing and subsequently rose to director and then VP. In 1995, he promoted to SVP of international marketing; three years later, he was named SVP and GM for Fox home video operations in Europe.

He was promoted to EVP, domestic marketing and sales in 2000, three years after the launch of DVD but before the disc’s explosive growth. In that capacity Dunn was dealing primarily with video rental dealers, both big national chains like Blockbusters and a dwindling number of independents and regional chains serviced by a network of third-party distributors.

Veteran distributor Steve Scavelli, president of Flash Electronics, remembers Dunn from the annual National Association of Video Distributors (NAVD) conferences at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Palm Springs every spring.

“Mike is a tremendously talented and consummate professional who has always been a pleasure to work with and grow our mutual businesses,” Scavelli said. “He is a visionary who always treated his team with class and respect. We at Flash wish him all the best in his future endeavors. One of the good guys!”

Scavelli’s sentiments are shared by Dunn’s peers.

Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, said of Dunn, “I haven’t known Mike personally for as long as some, and more by his great reputation, before my move from London to Los Angeles some five years ago. I will always be grateful to Mike for how welcoming he was to me, both personally and professionally, as my family settled into life in a new country.

“He was a fierce competitor, a good partner where we worked together on distribution in some smaller territories, a strong leader and colleague on the DEG Board and someone who could light up any room with his ‘smarts’ and great sense of humor.

“I wish Mike well and can’t wait to hear about his next ‘chapter,’ which I’m sure will be as interesting as his previous ones.”

Ron Sanders,  president of worldwide distribution of the Warner Picture Group and president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, said, “Over the more than 10 years we’ve been colleagues in the industry, Mike and I have transitioned from wary competitors to good friends.  His casual, humble demeanor belies a sharp intellect with keen ideas on how to approach challenges. He has made Fox into a powerhouse with strong talent and enviable performance.”

Dunn also served as chairman of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group for two years, from 2016 to 2018. Amy Jo Smith, the DEG’s CEO, said of Dunn, “Mike is the rare executive who exhibits a vision for our business, a keen understanding of what consumers want, and fair leadership in equal parts. It’s been a privilege to have him share his expertise with DEG and I look forward to seeing what he does next.”

During Dunn’s tenure as head of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the industry shifted from a rental to a purchase model thanks to the rapid rise of DVD. Dunn also oversaw the studio’s home entertainment business during the bruising format war between the proposed high-definition successors to DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. Blu-ray eventually won the battle.

But his legacy, observers say, is his early belief in digital distribution and embracing technology, which led to partnerships with tech giants such as Amazon and Google and the establishment of Fox Innovation Labs, a high-tech think tank launched in 2014 — under the auspices of Dunn; Danny Kaye, 20th Century Fox’s research and tech strategy EVP; and chief technology officer Hanno Basse — as a way to meld the often disparate worlds of technology and entertainment, of Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

The Fox Innovation Labs will not continue under Disney ownership, insiders told Media Play News. As part of the reorganization, Fox Innovation Lab executive Danny Kaye also is exiting.

As far back as 2007, Dunn was thinking digital. In October of that year, 20th Century Fox became the first studio to include a digital copy of a movie on a physical disc. As the Hollywood Reporter noted at the time, “the special-edition DVD of Live Free or Die Hard will come with an electronic copy of the complete movie that can be played on a computer and select portable video players.” Dunn commented at the time, “This may be the killer app, where you have physical media that allows you to have a big-screen experience and at the same time move the file around to other devices and have a great experience there as well.”

Tom Campbell, company spokesman and chief technologist at Video and Audio Center, a high-end consumer electronics chain in Southern California, said about Dunn, “He gets it – he understands the content to our category.” Just as former Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb is hailed as the father of DVD, Campbell said, “I call Mike Dunn the father of Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.”

When Video and Audio Center launched 4K Ultra HD with the Samsung player and 20th Century Fox’s The Martian, Campbell said, “it was Mike Dunn who was at our store. He truly is one of a kind, and I’m excited to see what he moves into next.”

Dunn at a gathering of studio executives celebrating the launch of Blu-ray Disc in January 2007. Dunn (left) is shown with David Bishop of Sony Pictures, Steve Beeks of Lionsgate and Bob Chapek of Walt Disney.
Dunn (second from right) at the December 2014 Video Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills, with (from left) Warner’s Jim Wuthrich and Jeff Brown and Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold.
Mike Dunn and Danny Kaye (center) at the January 2017 CES, during a special Fox presentation on VR at the Oriental.

Four Brits Sentenced to Multiyear Jail Terms for Illegally Streaming Hollywood Movies

Four British men have been sentenced a combined 4.5 years jail time for operating a website that afforded users illegal access to Hollywood movies, including Lionsgate U.K.’s The Expendables 3, before they were available in theatres.

Prosecutors say the group – which included Steven Pegram (40), Mark Rollin (37), Paul Taylor (54), and Alan Stephenson (42) — defrauded Lionsgate, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and other studios of more than $11 million in combined box office revenue, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Specifically, the group hacked Lionsgate’s U.K. server in 2014 through a third-party cloud-based content management service, accessing The Expendables 3 DVD screener and other content and then posting the title on their file-sharing website, TheFoundry.name.

Lionsgate estimates it lost about $2 million on the scheme. Other hacked titles included Warner Bros.’ Godzilla and 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past — the two movies suffering more than $5 million in lost revenue.

“These defendants set up and ran a site which allowed users to download films for free via BitTorrent, including the Expendables 3 before its release in the cinema,”Leigh Webber, with the specialist fraud division of the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement.“All of them had a clear knowledge of what the site was used for and were well aware they were breaching the copyright of the production companies.”

The Expendables 3, the last installment in Sylvester Stallone’s ensemble action franchise, resulted in numerous litigation settlements between Lionsgate and pirate sites, including Hulkfile, Played.to, LimeTorrents, Dotsemper and Swankshare.

Disney’s Iger Cites ‘Historic Day’ Closing Fox Acquisition

Following the official completion of the Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and related businesses at 12:02 a.m. ET March 20, Disney CEO Bob Iger sent out an internal memo to combined staff calling the deal “a historic day for our company.”

The histrionics of the merger are just beginning in what could reportedly result in the elimination of more than 4,000 positions.

“I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us; that closing the deal was the finish line, rather than just the next milestone,” wrote Iger. “What lies ahead is the challenging work of uniting our businesses to create a dynamic, global entertainment company with the content, the platforms, and the reach to deliver industry-defying experiences that will engage consumers around the world for generations to come.”

Aside from the previously reported high-profile departure of 20th Century Fox Film chairman/CEO Stacey Snider, studio vice chairman Emma Watts, Elizabeth Gabler, head of Fox 2000, and Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, co-heads at Fox Searchlight, are transitioning to Disney.

Other senior executives making the move include Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird, co-presidents, Fox Animation, and Vanessa Morrison, president, Fox Family. All report to Alan Horn, chairman Walt Disney Studios, and Watts.

In his memo, Iger called for patience during the integration process, which he said would impact some businesses more than others.

“We may not have answers to all of your questions at this moment, but we understand how vital information is and we’re committed to moving as quickly as possible to provide clarity regarding how your role may be impacted,” he wrote.

The deal includes 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Family and Fox Animation; Fox’s television creative units, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21; FX Networks; National Geographic Partners; Fox Networks Group International; Star India; and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.

As part of the deal, Disney has agreed to sell 21st Century Fox’s Regional Sports Networks.

Liberty Media: 2019 ‘True’ Launch of Formula 1 Streaming Video Service

With the start of the 2019 Formula 1 auto racing season March 17 in Melbourne, Australia, corporate parent Liberty Media says the series’ over-the-top video subscription service is ready for its close-up.

Speaking on the Feb. 28 fiscal call, Chase Carey, CEO of the Formula One Group, said the F1 TV service survived its beta test in 2018, which included a delayed start to mid-April and assorted technical glitches.

“2019 will, in many ways, be a true commercial launch of the product,” Carey said. “F1 TV is a long-term strategic priority. We will continue to evolve the platform, enhance the content and build on distribution opportunities in the coming years.”

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Carey, who previously served as president of 2oth Century Fox, said the $8 to $12 monthly SVOD service now has distribution in Germany and Holland. It will also be carried by Comcast’s Sky satellite TV service in the United Kingdom.

Notably, Vietnam will host its first F1 race in 2020. Separately, Formula 1’s licensed docu-series, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” begins streaming on Netflix March 8.

 

 

Brazil Approves Disney/20th Century Fox Merger

Brazil regulators have approved The Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film and related businesses — paving the way for consummation of the Hollywood mega-merger first announced in December 2017.

The slow-moving antitrust hurdle represented one of the last challenges to Disney’s merger with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox entertainment division.

Brazilian authorities sought and achieved Disney’s divesture of Fox Sports channel in the South American country. Disney also owns ESPN Brazil channel. Fox Sports owns rights to key soccer competitions in the region.

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A similar situation exists in the U.S. where the Justice Department ruled Disney has to sell off its stake in 22 regional Fox Sports channels since it owns ESPN.

European Union officials ordered Disney sell its European — not U.S. — stake in A&E Networks.

“Currently, there is only one big-screen rival capable of competing with these channels,” Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense said in a statement as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The agency said separating Fox Sports from Disney “aims to eliminate competitive concerns in the pay-TV sports channel market.”

‘Grinch,’ ‘Widow,’ ‘Girl in the Spider’s Web’ Debut in Top Three Spots on Redbox Disc, Digital Charts

Three new releases took the three top positions on both Redbox charts the week ended Feb. 10, led by Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the latest take on the classic children’s Christmas story from Universal Pictures.

The Grinch debuted at No. 1 on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming.

Bowing at No. 2, also on both charts, was 20th Century Fox’s Widows, a heist film with an ensemble cast headed by Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez.

And debuting in third place on both Redbox charts was Sony Pictures’ The Girl in the Spider’s Web, an action thriller that is both a reboot and a sequel to the critically hailed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The computer-animated Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch earned just over $270 million in U.S. theaters and is aimed at a younger crowd than its darker, live-action predecessor, 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which earned slightly less in North American theaters ($260 million).

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Widows, about a band of women who turn to crime so they can pay back a crime boss after their husbands are killed in a botched $5 million heist, scored a domestic gross of $42.4 million.

And The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a theatrical underperformer with Claire Foy in the lead role as the avenger of battered women, took in just $14.8 million at the box office.

High demand for these three new releases pushed Lionsgate’s Hunter Killer to No. 4, also on both charts. The action film, about a squad of Navy SEALs who save the kidnapped Russian president from a military coup, had debuted at No. 1 the prior week.

Rounding out the top five on the Redbox disc-rental chart was Universal Pictures’ First Man, a biopic about Neil Armstrong’s celebrated 1969 moon landing. The film finished at No. 6 on the Redbox digital chart. The week before, First Man had been No. 2 on both charts, after a No. 1 debut the previous week.

On the Redbox On Demand, the No. 5 spot went to 20th Century Fox’s The Sisters Brothers, a Western comedy from 20th Century Fox with John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters, two assassins in the California Gold Rush.

The film – which earned just over $3 million in a limited theatrical release – also was the fourth new disc release to debut in the top 10 on the Redbox kiosk chart, coming in at No. 10.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Widows, The Girl in the Spider Web and The Sisters Brothers were all released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 5 and for digital sale Jan. 22.

 

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending February 10

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (new)
  2. Widows (new)
  3. The Girl in the Spider Web (new)
  4. Hunter Killer
  5. First Man
  6. Night School
  7. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  8. Halloween (2018)
  9. Venom
  10. The Sisters Brothers (new)

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending February 10

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
  2. Widows
  3. The Girl in the Spider Web
  4. Hunter Killer
  5. The Sisters Brothers
  6. First Man
  7. The Hate U Give
  8. Crazy Rich Asians
  9. Venom
  10. Halloween (2018)

 

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Lionsgate’s ‘Hell Fest’ Only New Release to Crack Redbox Top 10

Lionsgate’s newly released Hell Fest is the only new release to make the Redbox charts for the week ended Jan. 13.

The slasher film,  about a group of teens who are stalked by a serial killer at a Halloween carnival, debuted at No. 9 on the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and No. 10 on the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and transactional streaming.

Universal Pictures’ Night School once again scored a double win, remaining at No. 1 for the third consecutive week on the Redbox kiosk chart and the second week on the digital chart.

Venom, a superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, remained at No. 2 on the kiosk chart but slipped to No. 4 on the digital chart.

Universal Pictures’ The House With a Clock in Its Walls, a family fantasy about a young boy who is sent to live with his uncle in a spooky old house, remained at No. 3 on the kiosk chart but slipped to No. 9 from No. 5 on the digital chart.

White Boy Rick, from Sony Pictures, moved up to No. 4 on the Redbox disc-rental chart after debuting at No. 7 the prior week.

Bowing at No. 5 was 20th Century Fox’s Bad Times at the El Royale, which became available to Redbox one week after its street date.

On the Redbox digital chart, Paramount’s Book Club, released back in August, reappeared in the top 10 at No. 2.

Bad Times at the El Royale was No. 3, with White Boy Rick rounding out the top five.

 

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending January 13

  1. Night School
  2. Venom
  3. The House With a Clock in Its Walls
  4. White Boy Rick
  5. Bad Times at the El Royale
  6. The Equalizer 2
  7. The Predator
  8. Peppermint
  9. Hell Fest (new)
  10. Smallfoot

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending January 13

  1. Night School
  2. Book Club
  3. Bad Times at the El Royale
  4. Venom
  5. White Boy Rick
  6. A Simple Favor
  7. Peppermint
  8. The Equalizer 2
  9. The House With a Clock in Its Walls
  10. Hell Fest

 

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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Gets Home Release Dates

The much-ballyhooed biopic on the rock band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, is coming home.

The film – a celebration of Queen, their music, and lead singer Freddie Mercury (portrayed by Rami Malek) – was a surprise box office hit for 20th Century Fox, with a domestic gross of $189.2 million and global theatrical earnings of $702.6 million.

The film will be released on digital Jan. 22, followed by a Feb. 12 release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Nominated for two Golden Globe Awards (Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama) and two SAG Awards (Outstanding Performance by a Cast Motion Picture and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role), Bohemian Rhapsody follows Queen’s meteoric rise and unique sound – as well as Mercury’s battle with AIDS. The film also chronicles the band’s highly acclaimed 1985 performance at the Live Aid benefit concert in England in 1985.

The home release versions of Bohemian Rhapsody include the complete Live-Aid movie performance, featuring two never-before-seen songs (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Will Rock You”) that according to Fox are “packed into a 22-minute collective experience recreating the original event.”

In addition, on Blu-ray Disc and digital, fans will get a look behind the making of the film including interviews with Queen, the cast and creative team.

2018: Getting Along in a Multi-Platform World

Back in 1989, a State Department official named Francis Fukuyama wrote a controversial essay on the “end of history,” opining that the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc communism, the reform movement in China, and the reunification of Germany signaled a triumph for Western democracy and a very real promise of freedom and liberty for all.

Fukuyama’s vision of a global utopia didn’t last long, but for a brief moment in time cultural and political differences seemed to be set aside in favor of everyone working together to make the world a better place.

Similarly, in 2018 the various factions in home entertainment seemed to set aside their differences and recognize that we’re living in a multi-platform world — and that a peaceful coexistence between disc and digital, subscription and transactional, was, indeed, possible.

“2018 saw the continued integration of technology and content at an even more accelerated pace, and, with that, the opportunity to engage fans with more focused and meaningful experiences that extend the life of our film and television properties,” said Keith Feldman, president of worldwide home entertainment for 20th Century Fox.

Indeed, studios cut back on selling content to Netflix — most notably Disney, which pulled all its movies off the service by the end of the year — in favor of issuing it on their own platforms. They rallied behind Movies Anywhere, a digital movie storage “locker” launched in October 2017, and saw digital movie sales soar, with an 18% gain reported in the third quarter of 2018, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group numbers.

Netflix, meanwhile, vowed to spend $8 billion in 2018 on producing its own shows, with the goal of making its content library 50% original.

Studios that once sued Redbox for renting DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, claiming the kiosk vendor was cannibalizing disc sales, struck distribution deals in which prior holdbacks were either sharply cut back or eliminated. They also rallied behind Redbox On Demand, a digital movie store launched in December 2017.

On the retail front, big-box chains like Best Buy and Walmart put discs back into the spotlight, buoyed by the emergence of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

And digital retailers like FandangoNow and Google Play revved up their promotional muscle and pumped up the message that they had fresh movies for sale or rent. FandangoNow even put up a notice on its home page, touting the fact that it offers “New releases not on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime subscriptions.”

It was all part of a bigger picture, in a year dominated by major media mergers — AT&T buying Time Warner, Disney buying 20th Century Fox — suggesting it was high time to come together and restructure existing business models to reflect changing consumer habits.

Content, as always, was king, but the feuding fiefdoms of the past were at last coming to peace with each other — and with themselves.

Subscription streaming continued to dominate the home entertainment business in 2018. Indeed, in the first nine months of this year, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, consumer spending on Netflix and other subscription streaming services rose more than 30% to $9.4 billion, nearly $2 billion more than consumers spent on all other forms of home entertainment combined– disc purchases ($2.79 billion) and rentals ($1.37 billion); digital purchases, or electronic sellthrough (EST, $1.8 billion),  and digital rentals, or transactional video-on-demand (TVOD, $1.57 billion).

But where Hollywood once saw a threat, in 2018 the studios saw an opportunity. As consumers, thanks to streaming, became increasingly accustomed to viewing movies and other content electronically, studios focused on moving them toward on-demand digital purchases or rentals — driving home the message that new releases aren’t typically available through subscriptions.

“Our comprehensive and strategic efforts to drive digital ownership and bolster engagement such as leveraging the early window, offering exclusive extras and emphasizing the best viewing experience possible are proving to be very effective as consumers continue to move toward and embrace the digital experience,” said Chris Oldre, EVP of pay TV, digital and international distribution at Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International.

“Movies Anywhere has had a tremendous impact on transforming digital consumption and is a testament to the strength of the studios and digital retailers that have joined forces on an unprecedented scale. This year Disney once again experienced remarkable growth as our digital sales exceeded expectations in conjunction with the studio’s unrivaled box office success. Disney has the top three bestselling digital titles to date with Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. We’re also incredibly proud of our celebration of Marvel’s 10-year anniversary this year.  We promoted the Marvel Cinematic Universe home entertainment catalog with a special sales promotion across digital, which undoubtedly helped propel Avengers: Infinity War to the No. 1 live-action spot on the all-time digital sales chart in a record-setting period.”

Ron Schwartz, president of Lionsgate Worldwide Home Entertainment, said that as consumer habits evolve, digital movie sales and rentals – electronic sellthrough (EST) and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) — remain a priority. “We saw a significant increase in industry spending in this area in 2018, up 20%, and we will continue to collaborate with our retail partners on fresh ideas to keep consumer interest alive,” he said. “We see a large and growing market with multi-platform and specialty releases and will continue to build our leadership in this area.”

At the same time, Schwartz notes, “Disc sales remain robust … 4K UHD BD is rapidly gaining in popularity, as spend is on track to double this year versus last. We are committed to serving our audiences across the full spectrum of the digital   and physical business and we will continue to be a first mover in adapting these businesses as they continue to evolve.”

For Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home media distribution at Paramount Pictures, 2018 was the year of 4K.

“More than 42 million homes now have a 4K Ultra HD television and roughly 400 titles are available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc and over 600 on Digital 4K,” Buchi said. “The numbers keep growing and for good reason: 4K brings home entertainment to life like never before, delivering content that better represents filmmakers’ original vision.  We’ve seen this play out with the week one 4K sales of Mission: Impossible — Fallout, which delivered our highest number of UHD discs sold, as well as the highest percentage of our physical sales ever.”

Disney’s Oldre agrees. “4K Ultra HD is a robust line of business for us and we’re experiencing healthy growth,” he said. “We continue to receive solid support from our physical retail partners and are confident it’s a market that our customers will continue to embrace given the format’s premier resolution.”

Catalog sales were another bright spot in 2018, Buchi said. “We’ve seen our digital catalog sales growing in markets around the world, including a 35% increase domestically through October, which indicates that more and more consumers have become comfortable with the format and are returning to the concept of building collections.  In addition, physical catalog sales have exceeded our expectations, as we continue to make concerted efforts to celebrate anniversaries of classic titles and strategically promote films from our library.”

Retailers certainly did their part in pushing the transactional business. At Best Buy and Walmart, the emergence of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray led to bigger disc sections and, in the case of Best Buy, placement back in the center of the store.

Redbox in 2018 relaunched its brand, which included some major ad campaigns and sponsorships, including the Redbox Bowl college football game on New Year’s Eve at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The company also revamped its loyalty program; negotiated more favorable distribution deals with studios; and expanded the availability of previously rented movies and video games at kiosks.

The Redbox On Demand digital service, meanwhile, celebrated its first birthday in December with a new app on Vizio SmartCast TVs. The company also expanded its selection to 12,000 titles, from 7,000 at launch. CEO Galen Smith in December told Media Play News that Redbox On Demand has “surpassed major milestones to become a real player in the competitive digital home entertainment space. We’re seeing hundreds of thousands of customers, including bringing back folks we haven’t seen in a while.”

FandangoNow, a business unit of movie-ticket seller Fandango, struck deals with most major studios that allow it to package movie rentals into “binge bundles” that let consumers watch multiple movies at a lower price. The new offering launched on the Labor Day weekend with more than 100 bundles.

FandangoNow also cross-promotes digital movie sales and rentals with ticket sales. In December, just before the holidays, consumers who spent $20 on FandangoNow received $8 toward a movie ticket.

In the end, studio executives agree, it all comes down to keeping consumers engaged — which requires constant work.

“From a functional solution like Movies Anywhere that allows consumers to build and enjoy a streamlined digital library, to premium viewing with 4K HDR, to story extensions through virtual reality and other emerging formats, keeping consumers invested and engaged requires constant experimentation and innovation,” says Fox’s Keith Feldman. “Our ongoing challenge is to exceed consumer expectations today and simultaneously deliver next-generation offerings that will continue that engagement in the future.”

Fox Releases ‘Predator’ Holiday Special

As part of its promotional efforts for the newly released Blu-ray of The Predator, 20th Century Fox has released The Predator Holiday Special.

The two-minute video features stop-motion animation depicting an alien hunter from the “Predator” franchise waging war against Santa’s reindeer, and even features a literal “Alien” Easter egg.

The special aired Dec. 19 during an episode of “BoJack Horseman” on Comedy Central.