’30 Rock’ Complete Series Set Coming From Mill Creek April 21 on DVD and Blu-ray

Mill Creek Entertainment will release the complete series of “30 Rock” April 21 on DVD and Blu-ray.

The collection will include all 138 episodes from the show’s seven-season run. The 20-disc Blu-ray set will be the high-definition disc debut of the series in North America.

From executive producer Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”) and created by and starring Emmy and Golden Globe winner Tina Fey, paired up with fellow Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” spotlights the relationship of quirky TV writer Liz Lemon and conservative company executive Jack Donaghy who are bound together by chaos, charisma and employment contracts. Together Jack and Liz preside over the everyday mayhem at a late-night variety show with loose cannon stars Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and hapless NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer).

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Throughout its run, “30 Rock” welcomed an array of prominent guest stars including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Salma Hayek, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Julianne Moore, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Carrie Fisher and Matt Damon, as well as Tim Conway and Elaine Stritch who garnered Outstanding Guest Emmy Awards in 2008 and 2007, respectively. The series won a total of 16 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (Baldwin), Outstanding Lead Actress (Fey), Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Casting.

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This special edition release also contains numerous bonus features that have been ported over from previous DVD releases including commentary tracks, deleted scenes and gag reels.

A Casualty of Streaming Wars, ‘Friends’ Sees Spike in Disc, Digital Sales

“Friends” is giving the transactional side of the home entertainment business a very happy new year.

The landmark sitcom that helped birth the TV DVD category nearly two decades ago is once again a top DVD and Blu-ray Disc seller — and this time the sales boost is also being felt in digital sales, commonly known in the industry as “electronic sellthrough.”

The catalyst: the disappearance of “Friends” from its longtime exclusive on-demand home, the Netflix subscription streaming service. With streaming wars accelerating, AT&T, which owns the Warner Bros. studio that produced “Friends,” made plans for the show to come off Netflix once the license expired Dec. 31, 2019, and reappear on its own streaming service, HBO Max, which is launching in May 2020.

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In the meantime, “Friends” is only available for on-demand viewing on disc and for digital purchase or rental — and that’s led to a significant spike in sales.

Jeff Brown, EVP and GM of Television and Animation for Warner Bros.’ home entertainment division, said sales began to rise shortly after the announcement in July 2019 that “Friends” would be leaving Netflix at the end of the year.

Through the end of 2019, he said, sales of the season and complete series sets more than tripled. And since the official departure of “Friends” from Netflix on Jan. 1, Brown said, sales have spiked even higher, on both physical and digital formats.

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“Not bad for a 20-year-old TV show,” Brown said. “The discs really started selling well in the summer, when we announced the show was coming off Netflix and we launched a 25th anniversary promotion — but the digital really took off after the first of the year, once the show was off Netflix.”

The top seller is the complete series set, which Warner re-released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in September. The package contains 10 seasons’ worth of shows, or a total of 236 episodes. On Amazon, the complete series set retails for $69.99 on DVD (40 discs), and $109.16 on Blu-ray Disc (21 discs).

Bundles of all 10 seasons also are available digitally through other retailers, like Apple iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu. They, too, are leading sales.

Individual season sets are also available for purchase on disc and through digital retailers, including Amazon Prime. DVD season sets sell for $13.19 on Amazon, with digital season sets going for $19.95. Consumers who want digital versions also can buy individual episodes at $1.99.

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During the five months in which “Friends” is absent from the streaming world, Brown said, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will mount a “robust” promotional campaign he hopes will drive sales even higher.

 

Chinese Action Epic ‘Warriors of the Nation’ Coming to Digital and Disc Feb. 18 From Well Go

The Chinese martial arts action epic Warriors of the Nation will debut on digital and Blu-ray combo pack Feb. 18 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the film, after the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese army tries to once again gain control in China by hiring a secret organization, the White Lotus Society, to kidnap the military minister. Wong Fei-Hung and his disciples must stop this attack to prevent another war from starting.

The film is directed by Marco Mak (chief editor on Once Upon a Time in China) and stars Wenzhuo Zhao (Once Upon a Time in ChinaTrue Legend), newcomer Lubing Li, Miya Muqi (The Monkey King 2) and Kenya Sawada (Street Fighter).

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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.

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.

‘The House by the Cemetery’ Due on Blu-ray Jan. 21 From MVD

The horror film The House by the Cemetery is coming to Blu-ray Jan. 21 from MVD Entertainment Group and Blue Underground.

In the 1981 Italian shocker from “The Godfather of Gore” Lucio Fulci (Zombie), a young family moves from their cramped New York City apartment to a spacious new home in New England. But this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. Now, someone — or something — is alive in the basement, and home sweet home is about to become a horrific hell on earth.

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The film stars Catriona MacColl (The Beyond), Paolo Malco (The New York Ripper), Ania Pieroni (Tenebre), Carlo De Mejo (City of the Living Dead) and Dagmar Lassander (Hatchet for the Honeymoon).

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The 4K restoration from the original uncut and uncensored camera negative includes such special features as:

  • audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films;
  • a deleted scene;
  • theatrical trailers;
  • a TV spot;
  • poster and still galleries;
  • “Meet the Boyles,” interviews with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco;
  • “Children of the Night,” interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina;
  • “Tales of Laura Gittleson, an interview with star Dagmar Lassander;
  • “My Time With Terror,” an interview with star Carlo De Mejo;
  • “A Haunted House Story,” interviews with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti;
  • “To Build a Better Death Trap,” interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects artist Maurizio Trani, special effects artist Gino De Rossi, and actor Giovanni De Nava;
  • “House Quake,” a new interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo;
  • a new Catriona MacColl Q&A;
  • “Calling Dr. Freudstein,” a new interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci;
  • the soundtrack CD by Walter Rizzati;
  • and a collectable booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold.

Comedy ‘Ernesto’s Manifesto’ Due on Disc and Digital From Random Media Jan. 14

The comedy Ernesto’s Manifesto will come out on DVD, Blu-ray, on demand and digital from Random Media Jan. 14.

The film stars Cuban-born American Fernando Hidalgo (“The Fernando Hidalgo Show”), Amy Davidson (“8 Simple Rules”), Adam Huss (“Power”), Lisandra Tena (“The Good Place”), Randy J. Goodwin (“The Rookie”) and newcomer Tabitha Caulfield.

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Written and directed by David M. Matthews, it follows Ernesto, a sweet, simple and gentle man, who is doing the best he can to get by in Los Angeles. A series of bad breaks, however, cause him to lose his job, his girlfriend, and his home. Then, just when all seems hopeless, he finds employment, which leads to housing, an important friendship, and unexpectedly, a new and improved career trajectory.

Matthews and actor-executive producer Hidalgo met through a U.S.-based online advertising outlet, Craigslist, and the production was completely funded by Hidalgo’s Bitcoin profits.

The film was released theatrically Dec. 13.

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Slasher Film ‘Edge of the Axe,’ 1940s Noir ‘Black Angel’ Due on Blu-ray From Arrow and MVD Jan. 28

The Spanish-American slasher film Edge of the Axe and the 1940s film noir Black Angel are being released on Blu-ray from Arrow and MVD Entertainment Group Jan. 28.

From Arrow Video comes Edge of the Axe, which follows a masked killer picking off people in a small California village with — that’s right — an axe. The new 2K restoration of the cult classic (from the original camera negative) includes English and Spanish versions of the film; two new audio commentaries; a newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks; “The Pain in Spain,” a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn; and for the first pressing only, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes.

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Due from Arrow Academy is the 1946 film noir Black Angel, which marked the final time behind the camera for prolific director Roy William Neill. In the film, after a man is convicted of murder, his wife and the victim’s ex-husband fight to prove his innocence. Hated by author Cornell Woolrich whose novel served as the source material, Black Angel nevertheless is a sleek and stylish film for genre fans. It stars Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Special features on the new restoration of the film include a video appreciation by film historian Neil Sinyard; new audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode; the original trailer; a photo gallery of original stills and promotional materials; a reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp.

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.

‘Frankie’ Due on Blu-ray and Digital Feb. 18 From Sony

The drama Frankie will come out on Blu-ray and digital Feb. 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Unfolding over the course of a late summer’s day in the resort town of Sintra, Portugal, Frankie follows three generations who have gathered for a vacation organized by the family matriarch (Isabelle Huppert). In this fairy tale setting, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers, stirred by their romantic impulses, discover the cracks between them, as well as unexpected depth of feeling.

The film also stars Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Jérémie Renier, Pascal Greggory, Vinette Robinson, Ariyon Bakare, Carloto Cotta, Sennia Nanua and Greg Kinnear.

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Bonus features include a Q&A moderated by Alison Bailes with Isabelle Huppert and director Ira Sachs, who discuss the origins of the film, balance of ambiguity, rehearsing and more.