‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy Travels to 4K Ultra HD Oct. 20 for 35th Anniversary

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy, containing all three movies in the series, Oct. 20 on 4K Ultra HD to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of the first film.

All three “Back to the Future” films will also be available on 4K Ultra HD digitally for the first time ever. The trilogy will also be available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The release comes in time for “Back to the Future Day” Oct. 21.

In 1985, Director Robert Zemeckis, executive Producer Steven Spielberg and producer/screenwriter Bob Gale began the three-part journey with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a time traveling DeLorean to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space-time continuum.

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The collection, featuring discbook packing, comes with a bonus disc with more than an hour of new content, such as rare audition footage from actors Ben Stiller, Kyra Sedgwick, Jon Cryer, Billy Zane, Peter DeLuise and C. Thomas Howell; a tour of the film’s props and memorabilia hosted by Gale; a sneak peek at the new musical show; and a special episode of the YouTube series “Could You Survive The Movies?”

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Exclusives include the 4K trilogy with levitating hoverboard replica at Amazon, the Blu-ray trilogy with levitating hoverboard replica at Target, and steelbook editions at Best Buy.

 

Study: Average U.S. SVOD Household Has Access to Almost 100,000 Hours of Content

The average U.S. SVOD household has access to almost 100,000 hours of content, delivered via 3.8 different services, according to research from Ampere Analysis.

It would take 11 years to watch it all back-to-back, and nearly 70 years if the average viewer watched an average of four hours per day, according to Ampere. The main factors driving this increase in content availability are consumer uptake of Amazon Prime’s booming portfolio and the addition of new services such as Disney+ to the household mix, according to the study.

SVOD engagement is even more prominent in households with young kids. Those households have access to nearly five different SVOD services, more than any other demographic. This is up significantly from 3.5 in the same period last year, largely due to the launch of Disney+, and the high uptake of the family-friendly service in the group, according to Ampere. The content available to this demographic group via the VOD services in their household now stands at an average of 102,000 hours.

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Even adults who live alone have an average of 3.1 services, with the average one-person SVOD household having 85,500 hours — almost 10 years — of content at their fingertips.

Almost one third of U.S. SVOD households subscribed to Disney+ in Q1 2020. The service comes with a 4,200-hour catalog and thus adds an average of 1,400 hours of content to the typical SVOD household’s portfolio, Ampere noted.

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Amazon has more than doubled its content catalog in the United States since Q3 2017 according to Ampere Analytics data. The 60% of SVOD households who have both Netflix and Amazon accounts can access more than 100,000 hours of TV shows and movies.

“Consumers already have a vast amount of content at their disposal, and a U.S. household who subscribes to both Netflix and Amazon currently has access to more than 100,000 hours of content from those two services alone,” Ampere senior analyst Toby Holleran said in a statement. “As the market fragments further with additional direct-to-consumer services and households hit a spending ceiling, consumers will become more selective about their SVOD choices. The more expensive services, alongside those without a clear brand and proposition, will find the going gets tougher.”

‘Gone With the Wind’ Discs Top Amazon’s Best-Seller List, Fetch Big Prices

In the wake of HBO Max pulling the film from its streaming service, Gone With the Wind has become the hottest title of the home video aftermarket.

By midday Friday, June 12, Gone With the Wind discs occupied the top four spots of Amazon’s list of best-sellers in the movies and TV category, as well as the No. 12 spot.

All of the copies are not offered directly from Amazon, but from third-party sellers using Amazon’s Marketplace service. Indeed, used and new DVD and Blu-ray copies of the film have been popping up on eBay in the $60 to $70 range, particularly a special Walmart re-release of the 70th anniversary edition in a new slipcover (which had an in-store price of $5 for the DVD and $7.50 for the Blu-ray). Used VHS copies of the film can be had for around five to 10 bucks.

The 1939 film made headlines this week when it was removed from HBO Max amid global anti-racism protests, after 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley criticized the film for romanticizing the pro-slave Confederacy and suggested temporarily removing it. HBO Max announced the film would return at some point accompanied by disclaimers and programming to put the film in its proper historical context.

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On Amazon, the No. 1 and No. 4 seller both appear to be the same 70th anniversary DVD released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 2009. One copy is listed from $133.99, the other from $82.95. The same edition is listed at $7.99 on Best Buy’s website but is sold out.

The version at No. 2 appears to be a U.K./Irish import of a 2014 75th anniversary Blu-ray starting at $35.99, while No. 3 is the U.S.-released four-disc 75th anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo pack starting at $34.99, the most-recent anniversary edition released by Warner.

No. 12 is the 2009 Blu-ray, with several listings asking for around just over $100 with shipping included.

The film is also listed as sold out at the Barnes & Noble and Walmart websites. A search for the film at Target.com doesn’t bring up any results.

June 11, Mill Creek Entertainment’s movieSpree digital movie platform sent out a promotional email touting the availability on the service of the 1994 miniseries Scarlett, an adaptation of the novel that serves as a sequel to Gone With the Wind. Mill Creek’s movieSpree is selling the digital edition of the miniseries for $6.99. Scarlett was first released on DVD by Artisan in 2001, while Mill Creek has been selling it on DVD since 2017.

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Interestingly, the controversy over Gone With the Wind may have boosted other similarly themed programming. The No. 16 Amazon seller on Friday was Warner’s 2011 DVD boxed set of North and South, a collection of miniseries from 1985, 1986 and 1994 about friends who find themselves on the opposite sides of the U.S. Civil War.

Amazon’s No. 30 seller was a DVD bundle of the first three seasons of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” also from Warner. The 1978-85 series has been labeled as racially problematic in recent years because the iconic 1969 Dodge Charger featured on the show is called the General Lee and sports a Confederate battle flag on its roof. TV Land dropped reruns of the series from its schedule in 2015 owing to the show’s use of the flag. (The 2005 film version of Dukes of Hazzard spoofed the potential awkwardness of displaying the banner in a racially diverse state such as Georgia, where the show is set.)

Several DVD collections of Nickelodeon’s animated series “Paw Patrol” also appear on the Amazon best-seller list. The show, which depicts a group of rescue dogs as representing different emergency services, has reportedly been targeted by “Defund the Police” activists for being too pro-police. The most-recent DVD compilation was released June 2.

Amazon Movies & TV rankings from June 12, 2020

Apple Secures Rights to Next Martin Scorsese Movie

Apple reportedly has taken another major step in Hollywood, securing distribution rights to Martin Scorsese’s next major movie, Killers of the Flower Moon. The former Paramount Pictures title stars Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, among others.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reported Flower Moon — about Native American killings in Oklahoma — will be branded an Apple Original Film, with Paramount distributing the $200 million production theatrically and Apple streaming it on its SVOD platform Apple TV+.

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The acquisition follows Apple acquiring the rights to Tom Hanks’ World War II naval drama Greyhound from Sony Pictures.

Scorsese’s last movie, The Irishman, was acquired by Netflix, which marketed the movie staring De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino heavily for industry awards. Despite myriad nominations, Irishman didn’t win a single major award — which some observers contend had much to do with Netflix’s concurrent streaming/theatrical distribution strategy. Major exhibitors have refused to screen Netflix movies in protest.

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Netflix, Apple, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, among others, won’t have to worry about the Academy Awards requirement that a movie be screened theatrically in Los Angeles County for a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily.

With Hollywood and movie theaters in shutdown since March due to the coronavirus, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors last month ruled that for the 93rd Academy Awards taking place Feb. 21, 2021, movies that had a previously planned theatrical release but are initially made available on a commercial streaming or VOD service may qualify in the Best Picture award.

Expect Flower Moon, Greyhound and other streaming feature films to be in the mix for Oscar consideration as the year progresses.

Amazon Prime Video remains the first and only SVOD platform to win an Oscar for an original movie, Manchester by the Sea, taking home best original screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed) and best actor (Casey Affleck) honors in 2017. Amazon also picked best foreign-language film distributing Iran’s The Salesman.

Comscore: Streaming Services’ Share of Streaming Hours Surged During Pandemic

Engagement with streaming services surged in the beginning of May 2020 as Americans adjusted to stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Comscore.

Among the “big five” streaming services — which still account for upwards of 80% of total hours streamed at home — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ saw growth in share of streaming hours in the week of May 11 versus the week of Feb. 3, according to Comscore.

Netflix’s and Amazon’s streaming hour share each grew 1.5% while Disney+’s grew 0.5%. YouTube’s was steady, down just 0.1%. Hulu’s was the only share to fall, down 2.9%.

While Disney+ held a smaller share of streaming hours among the “big five,” it is nearly two times larger than the next video-oriented OTT app offering in terms of streaming hours, according to Comscore.

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Other key points included:

  • Average in-home data consumption was up 33% during the first 10 days of May 2020 compared to the first ten days of May 2019 (May 1-10, 2020 versus May 1-10, 2019). This follows 28% and 36% year-over-year increases in March and April 2020, respectively. Smart TVs (+60 percent), mobile phones (+47 percent), streaming boxes/sticks (+39 percent), and smart speakers (+35 percent) are driving the year-over-year growth trends.
  • In-home data usage remained strong through the week of April 20, 2020 but began to decline in recent weeks, possibly due to some states easing their social distancing protocols.

Amazon Launches First Major Proprietary Video Game

Amazon’s move into the video game game market begins today (May 20) with the debut of Crucible, a free online shooter game in which users in teams or solo hunt down creatures and animals on a foreign planet. A second game, New World, is set for release in August and reportedly priced at $40.

The debut comes as the video game industry is experiencing a rejuvenation due to large segments of the gaming community being homebound due to the coronavirus. Gamers in the first quarter (ended March 31) spent a record $10.86 billion on hardware, software and accessories, according to The NPD Group.

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“There’s tremendous room for invention in games,” Mike Frazzini, VP of Amazon Games, said in a statement. “We’re just getting started.”

Indeed, Amazon first entered the gaming segment in 2012 with digital titles targeted for its Fire TV streaming devices and Prime members. That was followed in 2014 with the acquisition of Twitch — an online gaming platform and the launch of Twitch Prime. Along the way Amazon has hired gaming talent to jump start business with limited success.

“Amazon Game Studios is still finding its way,” Susan Eustis, president of Wintergreen Research, told Bloomberg.

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Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, doubts Amazon would release titles on disc, opting instead for its digital platforms. He said gamers don’t care where the game comes from.

“If the game is good, it will get traction; if not, it won’t,” he said in an email.

The analyst said Amazon’s deep pockets are no guarantee of success with video games. He cited Netflix spending $160 million on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which was nominated for myriad industry awards and still came up empty at the Oscars and Golden Globes.

Crucible is launching into a competitive marketplace, and it will perform based upon quality,” Pachter said. “People don’t care about the publisher, they care about the game play.”

AMC Theatres Stock Skyrockets on Amazon Buy Scuttlebutt

Shares of AMC Entertainment, parent of fiscally challenged AMC Theatres, are up nearly 30% in pre-market trading May 11 following news Amazon has been kicking the tires about a possible acquisition.

Amazon’s acquisition interest, first reported by The Daily Mail citing sources, would give the e-commerce behemoth greater control of the global box office. Amazon, unlike Netflix, remains a believer in the theatrical window — a stance some observers contend helped its 2016 movie, Manchester by the Sea, win Oscars for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan).

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AMC, the world’s largest movie exhibitor, is owned by China’s Wanda Group and is reportedly facing bankruptcy since the chain (with 11,000 screens) was shuttered in March due to the coronavirus. With zero revenue and about $4.7 billion in debt, many analysts believe the chain won’t survive in the post-COVID-19 economy amid social distancing.

Amazon, which reported profit of $2.5 billion in its most-recent fiscal period, has shown interest in non-tech, old-school businesses such as acquiring Whole Foods and the Washington Post.

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In 2018, Amazon (and Netflix) reportedly had interest in Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theatres chain, which ultimately was sold to Cohen Media Group.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced new coronavirus guidelines, which include easing lockdown restrictions by July on hospitality businesses such as Odeon Cinemas — which is owned by AMC.

AMC CEO Adam Aron, who remains furloughed along with 600 other executives, has publicly expressed a wish that the chain could be operational by July.

In Georgia, despite Gov. Brian Kemp allowing exhibitors to re-open April 27, most major chains remain shuttered due to new studio movie releases being pushed back and a lack of theater staffing.

Regardless, Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends the acquisition rumor is just that.

“The price is [would be] $10 billion, not a few hundred million,” Pachter said in an email. “I don’t see Amazon buying the biggest theater chain in the world when they can accomplish the same thing buying a much smaller chain. It just doesn’t make sense.”

FANG Plays Compassion Card in a Time of Crisis

As media companies large and small attempt to find their economic footing in the face of the coronavirus, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — companies CNBC’s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer coined with the FANG acronym in 2013 in reference to their high-growth Internet stocks — are downplaying their relative fiscal fortunes in the midst of the pandemic.

Combined revenue for FANG skyrocketed to $441 billion at the end of 2019, from $51 billion a decade ago. None of the corporations have applied for government assistance.

Amazon saw sales increase 26% to a staggering $75.5 billion in the recent first quarter, from $59.7 billion in the previous-year period. The coronavirus has apparently affected company founder/CEO Jeff Bezos personally.

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Bezos and senior management spent the majority of the company fiscal release and webcast devoted to COVID-19, detailing what Amazon was doing for its 800,000 workers worldwide during the crisis.

The move was partially proactive after workers in select warehouses threatened to go on strike if safeguards protecting them from the virus weren’t put in place. Amazon needs healthy workers at a time when order fulfillment is stretched to capacity.

Amazon last month confirmed that a worker in Tracy, Calif., had died from the virus. An employee in the company’s Seattle headquarters tested positive, as reportedly did 48 workers in a New Jersey warehouse.

Eyeing a possible pandemic within its own company, Bezos re-assumed day-to-day operations of Amazon, ordering $600 million spending on virus-related expenses in the quarter. That amount is ballooning to $4 billion in the current quarter, which includes testing every Amazon employee.

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“The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” Bezos said in a statement.

“We’ve put some of our best people on [testing],” added CFO Brian Olsavsky. “[Tests] are not readily available on the scale that we need for our employees.”

Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said the increased expenses include a $2 raise for hourly workers and the hiring of 175,000 workers — many displaced from other companies — costing about $1 billion. The company is also paying double-time for overtime, or about $1.5 billion (assuming around 12% of hours are overtime). Amazon is spending $700 million on virus testing, with another $800 million spent keeping facilities clean and virus free.

Pachter believes Bezos’ concern involves around the stress having to potentially expose hundreds of thousands employees to a health risk.

“[The pandemic is] obviously great for revenue, but Bezos is trying to be compassionate about the human toll,” Pachter said in an email.

With a quarantined audience throughout much of the world, Netflix added a record 16 million subscribers worldwide in the first three months of the year — about 7 million more than revised Wall Street estimates and 9 million more than what Netflix had expected.

At a time when media companies are scrambling to find liquidity, furloughing/laying off employees, Netflix has seen its stock reach record highs — briefly surpassing the slumping Walt Disney Co.

“It’s an incredible tragedy for the world,” Hastings said about COVID-19. “Everyone is wrestling with the implications, both on health, on hunger, poverty. And we, too, are really unsure of what the future brings.”

Netflix was one of the first media companies to establish a $150 million fund to support idled workers and production crew associated with its original programming.

Facebook, which saw Q1 profit and revenue increase 18% and 102%, respectively, from the previous-year period, said it committed $300 million to help its “broader community,” which includes $100 million grant program to help small businesses and another $100 million to support the news industry.

“Helping people stay connected while we’re all apart; assisting the public health response and working on the economic recovery, especially for small businesses,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Google-parent Alphabet Inc., saw quarterly income increase about $300 million, while revenue soared 13% to $41.1 billion from 2019. The company has expanded free video streaming and educational content through YouTube. Google and Apple also announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

“Given the depth of the challenges so many are facing, it’s a huge privilege to be able to help at this time,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement. “People are relying on Google’s services more than ever and we’ve marshalled our resources and product development in this urgent moment.”

Amazon Spending $4 Billion on Q2 Virus-Related Costs

Amazon April 29 disclosed it is spending upwards of $4 billion on costs related to the coronavirus in the current second quarter (ending June 30), including $300 million to test all of its employees for COVID-19. The e-commerce behemoth spent $600 million on related virus costs in the first quarter, ended March 30.

With national and local government slowly opening their economies, Amazon factors large in many companies, including employing tens of thousand of workers in warehouses, supply channels and offices. To reduce liability and concerns among workers, Amazon said it would test every employee going forward. The company ended 2019 with nearly 800,000 workers.

“We’ve put some of our best people on [testing],” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the April 29 fiscal call. “[Tests] are not readily available on the scale that we need for our employees.”

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With testing for the virus becoming a political issue for President Trump, Amazon has gone in-house to develop and procure proprietary tests for its employees coming back to offices and warehouses around the country and oversees.

“We are working to do that ourselves,” Olsavsky said. “Our main concern is getting testing in the hands of our employees.”

The CFO said overnight demand for essential items, including healthcare supplies and personal protective equipment, stretched Amazon’s internal capabilities unlike anything it had to do preparing for special sales events, including Prime Day.

“I think we’ve learned it’s easier to get ready for a holiday or for Prime Day than it is to get ready for something like this. When everything hits at once,” Olsavsky said, alluding to high demand for essential items and the need to restock them automatically.

“That’s not something we want to keep learning,” he said.

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He said that should Amazon develop “excess capacity” in its virus tests, the possibility of marketing and/or distributing outside the company exists. The executive contends the bulk of projected temporary COVID-19 expenses revolve around “very expensive people” costs, wages, productivity and relief funds.

“We can’t really tell how long that will last,” Olsavsky said. “We will probably learn a lot more in the next few weeks and months.”

Jeff Bezos: ‘Hardest Time We’ve Ever Faced’

Not even Amazon is immune from the impact of the coronavirus.

Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos devoted much of the e-commerce behemoth’s first-quarter (ended March 31) press release to highlight efforts the company has taken on the warfront against COVID-19 — including safeguarding its warehouse employees, hiring 175,000 more of them, increasing hourly wages by $2, working on virus detection test production, deploying AWS to school districts for at-home learning, and reserving special shopping times for seniors at Whole Foods, among other initiatives.

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“The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” Bezos said in a statement.

Indeed, while net sales increased 26% to $75.5 billion in the quarter, from $59.7 billion in previous-year period, profit declined 31% to $2.5 billion, from $3.6 billion.

The culprit: a shutdown of all non-essential shipments, including many third-party sellers (more than 50% of Amazon sales), and increased delivery-related costs. In addition, there was a $387 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates, which impacted net sales by 1%.

Amazon said it spent $600 million on COVID-19-related costs, which is expected to increase to $4 billion in the current second quarter.

On the entertainment front, Prime Video launched Prime Video Cinema in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany — a premium VOD movie rental service that enabled members to stream in-theater movies at home, including titles such as Birds of Prey, Emma, The Invisible Man, Onward and Trolls World Tour.

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Prime Video premiered several new Amazon Original series, including the reality competition, “Making the Cut,” hosted and executive produced by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn; “The Forgotten Army” in India; “Love Island” in France; “Celebrity Hunted” in Italy; and the docuseries “The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team” in Australia.

As previously reported, Prime Video and the NFL announced a multiyear agreement to live-stream 11 Thursday Night Football games as well as one additional regular season game.

Online store sales increased 24% to $36.6 billion, from $29.4 billion a year ago. Store sales include packaged media such as DVD, Blu-ray Disc and music CDs. Subscription serviced revenue, which includes Prime memberships, audiobooks, transactional VOD, digital music, e-books and other non-AWS subscription services, increased 28% to $5.5 billion, from $4.3 billion a year ago.