‘Hostiles’ Coming on Digital April 10, Disc April 24

Critically acclaimed western Hostiles will be released on digital April 10 and on disc and on demand April 24 from Lionsgate.

The title will be available on disc in a 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray Disc and digital) and a Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and digital) as well as on DVD at $42.99, $39.99 and $29.95, respectively. All three include a three-part “making of” documentary.

Directed by Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike. Set in 1892, Hostiles tells the story of an Army captain (Bale) who, after stern resistance, reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to tribal lands. On the way, the former rivals encounter a young widow (Pike), whose family was murdered on the plains.

Hostiles has earned more than $29 million at the domestic box office.

‘Greatest Showman’ Due on Digital March 20, Disc April 10

The Greatest Showman will arrive on digital and Movies Anywhere March 20 and VOD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Disc April 10 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The musical, starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zack Efron, Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya, has earned more than $160 million at the box office.

The film picked up an Oscar nod for Best Original Song for “This is Me.” The song won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and Hugh Jackman was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance.

Extras include two hours of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as sing-along and music machine “jukebox” features.

Research Report: 4K UHD to Buttress Blu-ray

New format 4K UHD will be a key driver in extending the Blu-ray format, according to a new report from Research and Markets, “Global Blu-ray Media and Players Market, Forecast to 2023.”

“The intense bandwidth requirements of 4K content formats are unable to replicate the smooth and seamless playback of 4K UHD titles,” the report found. “Therefore, physical Blu-ray discs are still considered one of the best options for enjoying HD content that also supports HDR and Dolby surround sound. The majority of consumers, especially in the developed markets, are increasingly turning to UHD Blu-ray players to access movie and TV show content. To meet this demand, over 250 UHD titles were released in 2017 alone.”

The new format is offering an assist to a Blu-ray market facing competition from online services, according to the report.

“While physical discs remain a key revenue generator in the home entertainment business, the growing revenue from digital services and the rise of download and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services such as iTunes and Netflix have negatively impacted physical disc sales in the last four-five years,” the report found. “Therefore, an overall gradual decline in disc sales through the forecast period is expected.”

Unit shipments for the global Blu-ray players market are expected to decrease from 72.1 million in 2017 to 68 million in 2023, according to the report. Unit shipments for the global Blu-ray media market are expected to decrease from 595 million in 2017 to 516  million in 2023.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Ups 2017 Movie Revenue 6%

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Feb. 1 reported fiscal 2017 revenue of $1.56 billion from physical and digital sales of movies, which was 5.8% more than revenue of $1.48 billion in 2016. Sales of TV content on disc and digital declined 11% to $418 million from $470 million in the previous-year period.

Wonder Woman was the studio’s top-selling title, generating more than $88.4 million on sales of nearly 3.5 million combined Blu-ray Disc/DVD units, according to The-Numbers.com. The tally does not include 4K UHD Blu-ray or digital.

For the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2017, sales of movie discs and digital transactions fell almost 25% to $432 million from $571 million in the previous-year period.

The studio attributed the decline to year-over-year sales comparisons with Suicide Squad, which generated nearly $64 million on sales of 2.5 million discs in 2016. The title generated another $30 million in disc revenue in 2017.

By comparison, Annabelle: Creation generated just $3.7 million in disc sales, followed by Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy, The House, with $1.6 million.

Sales of TV content dipped less than 2% to $155 million from $157 million.

Overall, studio income increased 12% ($199 million) to $1.9 billion on revenue of $13.9 billion – up 6% ($829 million) from $13.07 billion in 2016.

At the global box office, Warner movies grossed more than $5 billion. Five movies (Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Justice League, Kong: Skull Island and It) each grossed more than $500 million and eight films ranked #1 in their opening weekends in the U.S.

For the 2017-2018 television season, Warner Bros. Television is producing 70 series, including 37 primetime series on broadcast networks — a studio record.

HDaaaargh! Competing Formats Vie for Dominance at CES

At this year’s CES, the murmurings of HDR (high dynamic range) format competition hit a higher pitch — or should I say contrast.

On the eve of the show Jan. 5, Fox, Samsung and Panasonic announced a push for HDR10+, the non-royalty HDR technology. Then, at the Jan. 8 Samsung “First Look” event, Warner showed its backing of the HDR10+ technology.

Meanwhile, Panasonic and Sony had 4K UHD blu-ray players that sported Dolby Vision’s HDR tech (not royalty free). And Philips/Technicolor (aligned with LG) touted Advanced HDR by Technicolor, which representatives said promises a

cheaper HDR solution that is especially convenient for broadcasters because they don’t have to employ multiple teams to shoot the same live event. (Shooting in HD as well as 4K with HDR requires two sets of cameras/teams with HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, the Technicolor reps noted.)

The alphabet soup of technology for better home entertainment made me want to exclaim “Aargh!” like a character in a comic strip. Consumers confronted with these various technologies might feel the same way.

We’ve hit them with 4K, Ultra HD, high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut, OLED, LCD, 8K, AI, VR …

One bright spot in the software realm is that 4K UHD blu-ray discs and players with HDR can accommodate all of these HDR schemes, according to folks I talked with at the Blu-ray Disc Association. And the UHD Alliance and the BDA are working to inform consumers about the benefits of HDR (no matter what companies are behind it).

To that I say “Aaaaahhh.”

Sony CES Booth Features Dolby Vision-Enabled UHD Blu-ray Player

LAS VEGAS — Sony Electronics at the Consumer Electronics Show announced and displayed a 4K UHD Blu-ray player that will become Dolby Vision capable via a firmware upgrade in the summer.

The UBP-X700 player is available now and offers access to 4K streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, and supports a range of video and music formats, including MP4, DSD, FLAC, according to Sony.

Sony reps used Spider-Man: Homecoming footage to demonstrate the player at the booth.

BDA: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Format Making Big Strides

LAS VEGAS — The blu-ray disc market has a new star, 4K Ultra HD.

“Hollywood really got behind the format last year,” said Sony’s Victor Matsuda, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association’s global promotions committee, during the Consumer Electronics Show.

“Everybody says the same thing, sales are a very pleasant surprise,” he said.

UHD blu-ray disc sales increased eightfold from 2016, according to the BDA. In addition, the number of titles more than doubled in 2017, with many studios releasing catalog as well as new releases on the new format, Matsuda noted. There are currently more than 250 titles in the market.

In July Disney joined Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount,
Sony, Universal and Warner in supporting 4K UHD blu-ray, announcing the release of megahit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 on 4K UHD blu-ray.

“That fact that they chose the biggest movie of the year prior to Star Wars was a testament to the format,” Matsuda said.

Announcing it with the stars of the movie at Comic-con also was a great show of support for the format, as has been support from other talent such as Galaxy director James Gunn and acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, Matsuda noted, adding Nolan’s Dunkirk is being sent out to Oscar voters on 4K UHD BD.

In other positive news, 4K Ultra HD player sales were up 133% in 2017, and the number of manufacturers and number of products doubled last year from 2016. LG, Microsoft, Oppo, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Cambridge Audio all produce 4K UHD blu-ray players, some of which were highlighted at CES. Most of these manufacturers are coming out with a full line, Matsuda noted.

“The key driver is sales of 4K TVs,” he said.

Nearly one-third of households globally are anticipated to have 4K UHD TVs by 2021, according to FutureSource data cited by the BDA. More than half of U.S. and Western European households are anticipated to have the new TVs by 2021, Matsuda noted.

Streaming services that support 4K UHD include Amazon Video, Netflix, GooglePlay, Vudu, FandangoNow and iTunes. Streaming devices that support the format include Roku 4, Amazon Fire, NVIDIA Shield, Chromecast Ultra and Apple TV. Still, Matsuda pointed out that to stream in 4K UHD with high dynamic range (HDR), Netflix recommends a consistent minimum download speed of at least 25 megabits per second. In the U.S., only 21% of users enjoy such speeds, with such developed markets as France, Germany and the United Kingdom at adoption percentages lower than that, noted Matsuda. That doesn’t even account for drains on speed such as multiple users streaming at the same time, he added.

Thus, the blu-ray disc is still the most convenient way to get top-quality 4K UHD with HDR content, he said.

“With our best of quality proposition, we can take a share of that pie,” he said.

With the expansion of HDR technologies, the BDA’s new spec (V3.2) accommodates Dolby Vision, HDR10+ (which garnered support from Fox and Warner at the show and it backed by Samsung) and Philips/Technicolor’s SL-HDR2. Supporting any of these HDR technologies is optional for both player and content. The BDA also approved a new UHD BD recording format spec for Japan.

The importance of HDR to the consumer experience and potential consumer confusion about it have prompted the BDA to step up consumer outreach. Consumer awareness of 4K is fairly high, especially in the United States at 75%, the BDA noted, citing FutureSource research. U.S. awareness of HDR (44%) lags significantly. The awareness gap exists in other markets as well.

To educate consumers about HDR, which is actually “the key consumer benefit,” Matsuda noted, the BDA has created a brochure, a website and educational videos, among other materials, that can be utilized by consumers, manufacturers and retailers.

The educational videos are available on the BDA’s website and on YouTube.

Pixelogic Offering Dolby Vision Authoring in Europe

Media services company Pixelogic Jan. 10 announced its London facility is the first in Europe to offer Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray authoring with its proprietary Dolby Vision authoring tools.

Since launching the service last year, Pixelogic has delivered more than 20 UHD Blu-ray Disc titles in Dolby Vision authored in its Los Angeles office, including BBC Worldwide’s first Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray title, Earth: One Amazing Day.

Other titles include Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Resident Evil: Vendetta.

“Dolby has been a terrific partner and together we look forward to furthering our commitment in enabling our mutual customers to deliver superior products to the marke,” Holger Hendel, SVP and managing director of EMEA for Pixelogic, said in a statement.

As the developer and licensor of the Blu-ray print authoring system, Pixelogic has enhanced its proprietary UHD Blu-ray authoring software to enable the implementation of Dolby Vision. In addition, Pixelogic has created a suite of tools that efficiently manage the HEVC video compression, metadata and QC workflows required for Dolby Vision.

“Pixelogic will help ensure that the image and sound of feature and episodic content with Dolby technologies are delivering the premium experience filmmakers intend,” said Ron Geller, VP of worldwide content relations, at Dolby.