Universal, Warner Bros. To Merge Domestic Disc Business

After a year of two gigantic mergers, Hollywood is welcoming the new year with further consolidation — this time, in the home entertainment sector.

Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. on Jan. 15 announced plans to merge their physical distribution businesses.

On the domestic front, the two studios are establishing a joint venture to market and distribute Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and 4K Ultra HD discs in the United States and Canada.

The new unit, which still must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, is expected to officially launch early in 2021. It will combine the existing domestic disc businesses of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and be headed by current UPHE President Eddie Cunningham.

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Internationally, territories will be broken up through licensing arrangements. Warner Bros. will assume distribution duties of UPHE discs in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg). UPHE will distribute Warner products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Japan.

The digital distribution business at each studio will not be affected.

The proposed union covers new releases and library titles as well as television content, and will be operational for up to 10 years.

The domestic joint venture will include leadership from both UPHE and Warner Bros., and covers trade marketing, sales and distribution.

Consumer marketing remains with each studio.

The announcement was made by Peter Levinsohn, president and Chief Distribution Officer of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Ron Sanders, president of Worldwide Theatrical Distribution & Home Entertainment and EVP of International Business Operations at Warner Bros.

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“As the home entertainment landscape evolves, we are continuously working to deliver the best entertainment range and value to our fans,” said Sanders.  “The physical business is still an important and active category for the industry.  This proposed joint venture with Universal gives us the best opportunity to foster innovation in this business, optimize the physical offering and extend the lifespan of the format for our fans and consumers.”

“With market conditions and consumer viewing behaviors continuing to evolve, we wanted a partner who shares in our commitment to deliver the best consumer proposition going forward,” Levinsohn said. “This proposed JV presents a significant opportunity to continue to work with our retail partners to ensure the format’s strength and sustainability for years to come.”

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On the appointment of Cunningham, Levinsohn said, “For more than two decades Eddie has been an expert in understanding the evolution of the physical home entertainment landscape.  He’s been a dynamic leader in shepherding business innovation and operational effectiveness.”

This is not the first time studios have joined forces in their home entertainment endeavors. In the early 1980s, Columbia (now Sony) Pictures created a joint venture with RCA to distribute videocassettes to the then-burgeoning rental market. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video was in operation for more than a decade; in the meantime, the industry saw several other joint ventures, including CBS/Fox Video and Thorn-EMI/HBO Video.

‘A Quiet Place’ Coming in 4K UHD Steelbook Before Sequel’s Theatrical Debut

Director John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place will come out in a Mondo X Steelbook 4K Ultra HD combo pack March 10 from Paramount Home Entertainment — just before the theatrical debut of its sequel March 20.

In the thriller, a family must navigate their lives in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) Abbott are determined to find a way to protect their children at all costs while they desperately search for a way to fight back.

The Mondo X SteelBook collaboration #038 features exclusive artwork inspired by Matt Ryan Tobin’s atmospheric poster highlighting the film’s iconic red string lights.

The 4K Ultra HD disc features a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and Dolby Vision.

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The Blu-ray in the 4K Ultra HD combo pack includes more than 30 minutes of bonus content, including the featurettes “Creating the Quiet”; “The Sound of Darkness,” about the editing; and “A Reason for Silence,” about the visual effects.

Digital Lifted Consumer Home Entertainment Spending to Record Heights in 2019

Consumer spending on home entertainment rose 8.4% to a record $25.2 billion in 2019, spurred by the at-home sector’s biggest growth engine, digital, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Subscription streaming, digital movie sales and digital movie rentals over the Internet all generated significantly more money than they did in 2018, DEG reported.

The trade association estimates consumers spent $15.9 billion on subscription streaming, which now accounts for 63% of the entire home entertainment market. That’s a 23.7% spike from 2018.

Digital movie sales, commonly known as electronic sellthrough, or EST, were up 5.1% to nearly $2.6 billion — while digital movie rentals through Internet services, such as FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Vudu and Google Play, were up 9%. This reflects “consumers’ continued engagement with VOD, increasingly through Internet services,” DEG reported.

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Consumers spent a total of $5.9 billion on buying movies and other filmed content, either on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, 4K Ultra HD or digital, DEG reported. That’s down 9.4% from 2018. Disc sales declined 18.2% to $3.29 billion.

Rental spending dropped 12.3% in 2019 to $3.4 billion, DEG reported. On the digital side, a la carte streaming generated $1.96 billion, down 6.2% from the prior year — chiefly due to consumers’ shift away from traditional pay-TV services. Disc rentals, meanwhile, slipped 19.5% to $1.44 billion, the biggest chunk of which came from kiosks, which finished the year with estimated sales of $884.6 million. Redbox leads the kiosk market, with more than 40,000 red vending machines, generally situated at large grocers and mass merchants such as Walmart.

Also on the rental side, Netflix’s legacy disc-by-mail rental business brought in an estimated $301.2 million, while the country’s waning number of video rental stores — once the home entertainment sector’s dominant revenue producer — collected just $250 million, a 21.1% decline from 2018.

On the transactional side, the top-performing movies included Disney’s Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, Warner Bros.’ Aquaman and A Star is Born, and 20th Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody. TV standouts included seasons one and two of “Yellowstone,” from Paramount; the “Game of Thrones” franchise, from HBO/Warner; Sony Pictures’ season four of “Outlander,” based on author Diana Gabaldon’s historical time travel book series of the same name; season nine of zombie series “The Walking Dead,” from Lionsgate; and season 12 of “The Big Bang Theory,” from Warner Bros.

According to DEG numbers, combined spending on disc sales and rentals was $4.73 billion, compared with $4.54 billion spent on electronic sellthrough and VOD, giving disc a 51% share of the transactional home entertainment market, down from 56% in 2018 and 62% in 2017.

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At the same time that the DEG released its annual year-end numbers, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment shared some of its “Attitudes and Usage” study findings.

The key point: Home entertainment has evolved into a true multi-platform business. Universal found that consumers are using around three platforms on average, the most common bundle being disc purchase, disc rental and subscription streaming.

Streaming, Consolidation Dominate Top 10 Home Entertainment Stories of 2019

Streaming and consolidation dominated the home entertainment headlines in 2019, with the Walt Disney Co. leading the way. Netflix got some subscription streaming competition, and free streaming through advertising, or AVOD, emerged as a new star. It was also a year that saw the home entertainment industry lose a venerable studio player that had helped birth the business more than 40 years prior — 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Meanwhile, physical disc sales and rentals continued a structural decline, while electronic sellthrough, the digital sale of content, was a solid performer in the transactional business.

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Here are the top 10 home entertainment stories of 2019, as chosen by Media Play News staff:

  1. Disney Acquires Fox: Disney closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The deal included myriad Fox properties, including Fox’s interest in Hulu and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which helped birth the home video industry in 1979. The merger also saw the departure of several executives, including Mike Dunn and James Finn at Fox and Janice Marinelli, president of global content sales & distribution for Disney’s direct-to-consumer & international unit.
  2. Disney + Bows: Calling it the company’s most-important consumer product ever, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the launch of Disney+, a standalone SVOD service aimed at taking on segment pioneer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The service launched Nov. 12 at $6.99 a month offering a trove of catalog movies, including its venerable animated classics and Marvel hits, and catalog TV shows, in addition to original “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” an instant fan hit from director Jon Favreau. Disney also unveiled the bundle offer of ESPN+, Hulu (now controlled by Disney) and Disney+ at $12.99 a month.
  3. AVOD in the Spotlight: Advertising-supported video-on-demand, or AVOD, emerged from the SVOD shadows, gaining traction among subscription-weary consumers looking for free content. Mega-media companies Comcast, Viacom (through the acquisition of Pluto TV) and Amazon (through IMDb) acknowledged the growing market. Reports surfaced that Comcast is eyeing acquiring AVOD player Xumo TV to go along with 2020’s Peacock streaming service debut.
  4. Apple TV+ Launches: Apple Nov. 1 launched a standalone branded subscription streaming service at $4.99 a month, Apple TV+, in more than 100 countries and regions through the Apple TV app. Original content included Golden Globe-nominated “The Morning Show,” “See,” “For All Mankind” and “Dickinson.”
  5. Electronic Sellthrough Continues to Grow: Outside of subscription streaming video, the only home entertainment category to post an increase in consumer spending during much of 2019 was electronic sellthrough, the digital purchase of movies and other content. The segment generated an estimated $1.9 billion in consumer spending through the third quarter of 2019, up 6.7% from the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
  6. Redbox Gets Into Content, Out of Disney Movie Code Sales: Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new label to acquire and produce content exclusive for Redbox’s 50 million kiosk consumers. The company tapped Broad Green Pictures and Lionsgate veteran Marc Danon to head content acquisition. The kiosk vendor also settled 2-year-old litigation with Disney, agreeing not to sell the studio’s digital movie codes.
  7. Filmmakers Tweak UHD: The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.
  8. Netflix Takes a U.S. Sub Hit: Disaster struck Wall Street favorite Netflix after the streaming behemoth posted a 126,000 domestic subscriber loss in Q2 after projecting growth of 300,000 subs. It was Netflix’s first domestic sub loss since 2011 when co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings announced the short-lived separation of the company’s DVD rental business from its subscription streaming business. Regardless, stock plummet nearly 20% (or $26 billion) in value after the disappointing numbers.
  9. Changes Afoot at Vudu: Vudu — rumored to be up for sale by owner Walmart, which executives told The Information considers it a non-core business — quietly downsized support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app via select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.
  10. Netflix Hails Discs: Taking its eye off its dominant streaming business for a moment, Netflix acknowledged a milestone: Delivery of 5 billion discs since the launch of its legacy disc-by-mail rental service more than two decades ago. The disc rental: Paramount’s Rocketman.

Paramount Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

Paramount Home Entertainment in January 2020 will release Terminator: Dark Fate for home viewing.

The sixth film in the “Terminator” franchise will be available through digital retailers on Jan. 14. Two weeks later, on Jan. 28, the film will become available on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD, and digital releases come with over an hour of bonus content, including deleted and extended scenes, in-depth featurettes taking fans through the process of reimagining the world after Judgment Day, a look at the climactic final showdown, and a visual effects breakdown.

In addition, the digital release will include access to two more featurettes and previsualization sequences showing how the action was planned out prior to filming.  Select digital platforms also will offer film commentary by director Tim Miller and editor Julian Clarke, as well as an introduction and commentary on the deleted scenes

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The 4K Ultra HD disc and 4K Ultra HD digital releases feature Dolby Vision.  The film also boasts a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home to place audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.  In addition, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray combo packs include access to a digital copy of the film.

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Terminator: Dark Fate takes place decades after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day. A lethal new Terminator is sent to eliminate the future leader of the resistance. In a fight to save mankind, battle-hardened Sarah teams up with an unexpected ally (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and an enhanced super soldier to stop the deadliest Terminator yet.

Capping Off Rambo’s Journey

Sylvester Stallone’s classic film characters have spanned decades, and over the years the actor-screenwriter has learned to stay true to their essence.

That’s what he did with the action hero in Rambo: Last Blood, the supposedly final chapter in the “Rambo” series, available digital and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD from Lionsgate.

“There’s always that temptation that bigger is better,” Stallone said in the special features. As with the evolution of Rocky Balboa, another of his iconic characters, it’s more effective “to downsize and get back to what made it good in the first place,” he said.

The fifth film in the “Rambo” franchise finds Stallone’s tortured warrior John Rambo in a brief moment of relative peace before he must unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. Stallone called it a “kind of Shakespearean finale” steeped in drama and emotional upheaval.

“The culmination you know is going to be seismic; it’s going to be volcanic,” he said.

One of the major sets in the film is a series of tunnels that Rambo constructs underneath his bucolic farm, where he lives with his niece and her grandmother.

“He’s a horse trainer now, and he’s fairly successful, and he’s come to terms and is at peace with himself except for these momentary lapses [of PTSD],” said Stallone.

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“More than the man cave, I think it’s this tunnel that is the path to and from his psyche, his memories,” said director Adrian Grünberg in the special features. “You see all his past paraphernalia, his knifes, his weapons, his photos, his music, all that past that he says in the movie he wants to keep a lid on, so I think literally the earth is a lid that separates this world down below.”

That lid on the famous Rambo drive for vengeance blows when his niece is kidnapped in Mexico.

“This is everyone’s worst nightmare … children being abducted,” Stallone said in the extras. “What can be worse?”

This trial draws a harrowing and deeper picture of Rambo.

“We’ve told the entire odyssey of a man’s arc,” Stallone said in the extras. “By the end of this film, he’s sacrificed everything.”

Will it truly be the last time audiences see this uniquely flawed action hero?

“It is an open ending,” Stallone said.

Rambo: Last Blood Best Buy-exclusive Steelbook

 

 

AN EXPLOSIVE CATALOG IN 4K

All four other installments in the saga of Rambo also are available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray:

 

 

First Blood (1982)

Stallone originates the role of war hero John Rambo. An ex-Green Beret haunted by memories of Vietnam, he was once the perfect killing machine. Now he’s searching for peace, but finds instead an overzealous, small-town sheriff who’s spoiling for a fight. All hell breaks loose when an unjustly imprisoned Rambo escapes and becomes the target of a massive manhunt. He must use all his cunning, combat skills and weapons training to stay alive and outwit his pursuers. The film co-stars Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna.

 

 

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Stallone is back as John Rambo in a sequel to First Blood, with a screenplay by Stallone and James Cameron (Titanic). Rambo’s survival skills are tested on a top-secret mission that takes him back to the jungles of Vietnam in search of American POWs. When Rambo is double-crossed, he must defeat savage enemies equipped with deadly firepower, armed with just a bow, arrows and knife.

 

 

Rambo III (1988)

Stallone’s Rambo has finally begun to find inner peace inside a monastery — until his friend and mentor Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) shows up to ask for his help on a top-secret mission in Afghanistan. A war-weary Rambo declines, but when Trautman is captured, Rambo erupts into a one-man firestorm to rescue his former commanding officer and decimate the enemy.

 

 

Rambo (2008)

After spending several years in northern Thailand operating a longboat on the Salween River, Stallone’s Rambo reluctantly agrees to carry a group of Christian missionaries into war-torn Burma. When the aid workers are captured by ruthless Nationalist Army soldiers, Rambo leads a group of battle-scarred, combat-hardened mercenaries on a mission to rescue the prisoners.

 

 

 

 

Extras on Last Blood include the “Drawing Last Blood: Multipart Production Diary” featurette, the “From First Note to Last Blood: Music for the Massacres” featurette and the theatrical trailer.

‘The Hurt Locker’ Coming to 4K Ultra HD Digital Feb. 4 From Lionsgate

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Academy Award-winning war film The Hurt Locker will arrive on digital 4K Ultra HD and on demand Feb. 4 from Lionsgate.

The film won six Oscars, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

It has been remixed in Dolby Atmos by Academy Award-winner Paul N.J. Ottosson (part of the team responsible for The Hurt Locker’s Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing wins) for the home entertainment release.

The Hurt Locker stars Academy Award-nominee Jeremy Renner (2009, Best Actor, The Hurt Locker; 2010, Best Supporting Actor, The Town), Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty and Evangeline Lilly, with Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce.

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The film follows Staff Sergeant William James, head of an elite squad of soldiers tasked with disarming bombs in the heat of combat. To do this nerve-shredding job, it’s not enough to be the best: you have to thrive in a zone where the margin of error is zero and think as diabolically as a bomb-maker.

30th Anniversary ‘Hunt for Red October’ Steelbook Set for February Release

Paramount Home Entertainment has set a Feb. 25 home release date for The Hunt For Red October: 30th Anniversary Limited Collectors Edition.

The 4k Ultra HD/Blu-ray Disc combo comes packaged in a limited-edition Steelbook. The combo pack includes access to a digital copy of the film, as well as commentary by director John McTiernan. Also included is a behind-the-scenes featurette, “Beneath the Surface.”

The 1990 techno-thriller, an adaption of Tom Clancy’s 1984 debut novel, stars Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. The Hunt for Red October earned more than $122 million at the domestic box office to become the year’s No. 6 movie — behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at No. 5 and Pretty Woman at No. 4. Home Alone was the year’s No. 1 earner.

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The film follows a Soviet submarine captain, Marko Ramius (Connery), who goes rogue with his country’s cutting-edge ballistic missile submarine known as Red October. The Soviets tell Americans he is planning to launch missiles on the United States, but CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) thinks otherwise and tries to prove to the U.S. forces that the Red October isn’t a threat.

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The Hunt for Red October received mostly positive reviews from critics. At the 63rd Academy Awards, the film was honored with an Oscar for Best Sound Editing, along with nominations for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.

 

Sony Pictures Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’

Sony Pictures has set home release dates for Zombieland: Double Tap, the zombie comedy sequel that hit the big screen earlier this year — 10 years after the original Zombieland.

The film, which grossed an estimated $72.2 million in North American movie theaters, will be released on digital Dec. 24 and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Jan. 21, 2020.

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Bonus materials for the home edition include audio commentary by director Ruben Fleischer, a blooper reel, nine alternate and extended scenes, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes about the making of the film.

Returning cast members include Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin  and Emma Stone. They are joined by newcomers Rosario Dawson (TV’s “The Defenders”), Zoey Deutch (TV’s “The Politician”), Luke Wilson (Old School), Avan Jogia (Shaft), and Thomas Middleditch (TV’s “Silicon Valley”).

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Set one decade after the events of the first film, Zombieland: Double Tap finds Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Little Rock (Breslin), and Wichita (Stone) working together to kill zombies from their new home in the now-vacant White House.

A full list of bonus materials:

  • Extended bloopers and outtakes
  • Alternate and extended scenes
      • “The Beast is Gone”: Tragedy falls upon Tallahassee.
      • “Van Rides”: A vehicle says a lot about a person.
      • “Would Have Never Met”: Wichita and Columbus discuss what their lives would have been like if not for the zombie apocalypse.
      • “In Bed”: Tallahassee gets randy
      • “Breakfast at Babylon”: Cruelty-free breakfast and conversation.
      • “Car Ride”: Road trips were made for family bonding.
      • “Melting Gun”: Tallahassee says goodbye to another friend.
      • “There’s a Party Tonight”: Hanging out with a bunch of hippies.
      • “Alternate Proposal”: Love is the perfect mix of cool and uncool.
  • “The Doppelgangers”: From stunts to special effects, this in-depth piece breaks down doppelgangers Flagstaff and Albuquerque through interviews, demonstrations, and multiple cameras.
  • “The Rides of Zombieland”: From the Beast to Big Fat Death (and a hated Pontiac Trans Sport in between) this short focuses on the cars the zombie killers use to get around.
  • “Rules of Making a Zombie Film”: A documentary on the rules of making a zombie film.
  • “Making Babylon”: Explore the climactic third act location in the film. known in Zombieland as Babylon.  Part fortress, part freshman dormitory, Babylon is the safe-place for a generation of misguided peace-loving retro-hippies.
  • “New Blood”: Profiles on new cast members Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, and Avan Jogia.
  • “Single Take Doppelganger Fight”: Director Fleischer shares the camera monitor during the Doppelganger fight sequence.
  • Commentary with Fleischer.
  • “Zombieland Ad Council”

‘Shutter Island’ Heads to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Feb. 11 for 10th Anniversary

Martin Scorsese’s atmospheric thriller Shutter Island will arrive for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Feb. 11 from Paramount Home Entertainment for its 10th anniversary.

The 4K Ultra HD release will be available in a limited collector’s edition steelbook.

Based on the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he navigates what appears to be a routine investigation that quickly turns sinister. The film also stars Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Syndow and Michelle Williams.

Special features include the previously released featurettes “Behind the Shutters” and “Into the Lighthouse” on the Blu-ray.

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