Director Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments will arrive on 4K Ultra HD for the first time on March 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
The release commemorates the film’s 65th anniversary and is available in time for Easter.
Filmed in Egypt and the Sinai with one of the biggest sets ever constructed for a motion picture, DeMille’s last motion picture made Charlton Heston, who plays Moses, a superstar. In the classic story of Moses, once favored in the Pharaoh’s (Yul Brynner) household, Moses turns his back on a privileged life to lead his people to freedom.
As part of the restoration done in 2010, the film was scanned in 6K and those files were the basis for this Dolby Vision version, which “shows off the full beauty of the original VistaVision negative,” according to a Paramount release. The VistaVision format used special cameras to feed 35mm film into the camera horizontally in order to capture a wider image spread over two 35mm film frames, giving VistaVision twice the resolution of regular 35mm film. In addition, Paramount spent more than 150 hours doing new color work and clean-up on the scan, according to the release. The move to Dolby Vision created the opportunity to further improve the look of the film with blacks enhanced and improvements made to smooth out special effects mattes.
Three “Gamera” kaiju film sets are coming to Blu-ray Jan. 26 from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.
The Gamera: The Showa Era set includes four discs with Gamera: The Giant Monster, Gamera vs. Barugon,Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Viras, Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera vs. Jiger, Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera Super Monster. As giant monsters rampaged the Japanese cinematic landscape during the “kaiju boom” of the mid-1960s, Daiei Studios introduced a new character to the screen that would be embraced for generations: Gamera, the giant, flying, fire-breathing turtle, and friend of all children. Buried under the Arctic ice for several millennia, the colossal chelonian is unleashed upon Japan, leaving havoc in his wake. After becoming an unexpected box office sensation, Gamera returned several more times, leaping to the world’s defence against a motley assortment of evil creatures, from the death-ray-shooting flying terror Gyaos, to the knife-headed alien menace Guiron, to the underwater invader Zigra. The discs feature numerous extras, including commentaries, intros, making-of featurettes, galleries and more.
Gamera: The Heisei Era features four discs with the films Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris as well as a bonus disc with Gamera the Brave, a mix of family-friendly adventure and kaiju action that is the most recent Gamera film to date. After laying dormant for 15 years, Gamera was rebooted for the big screen in this trilogy masterminded by director Shusuke Kaneko (Necronomicon), writer Kazunori Ito (Ghost in the Shell) and SFX director Shinji Higuchi (who went on to co-direct Shin Godzilla). Trading the campy kid-friendly surrealism of the earlier films for a darker, more realistic tone and innovative special effects, the films in the “Heisei trilogy” are still regarded as three of the best — if not the very best — kaiju films ever made. The discs feature numerous extras, including commentaries, intros, making-of featurettes, galleries and more.
The psychological thriller Fatale will arrive on Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD and digital March 2 from Lionsgate.
The film is currently available on premium VOD and in select theaters.
Fatale stars Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (2004, Best Actress, Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry, Logan Lucky, TV’s ”BoJack Horseman”), Michael Ealy (Barbershop, The Intruder, TV’s “Stumptown”), Mike Colter (Black and Blue, TV’s “Luke Cage,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Defenders”), Danny Pino (TV’s “Cold Case,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Scandal”), Tyrin Turner (Menace II Society, Meet the Blacks, TV’s “Black-ish”) and Damaris Lewis (BlacKkKlansman, TV’s “Pose,” “Titans”).
In the thriller, after a wild one-night stand, successful sports agent Derrick (Ealy) watches his perfect life unwind when he discovers the mysterious woman he risked everything for is a police detective (Swank) who has entangled him in her latest investigation. Derrick desperately tries to put the pieces together, plunging him into a dangerously unpredictable game of cat and mouse that risks his family, his career and even his life.
The Vince Vaughn horror-comedy Freaky will come out on digital Jan. 26 and Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 9 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
In the film from Blumhouse (Happy Death Day, “The Purge” franchise), a teenage girl switches bodies with a relentless serial killer.
High school senior Millie (Kathryn Newton, Blockers, HBO’s “Big Little Lies”) is just trying to survive being the unpopular kid when she becomes The Butcher’s (Vaughn, Wedding Crashers, Couples Retreat) next target. Their fateful encounter gets twisted, and they wake up in each other’s bodies. Now looking like a towering psychopath, Millie learns she only has 24 hours to reverse the curse and get her body back before the switch becomes permanent and she’s trapped in the form of a middle-aged maniac forever. With some help from her friends — Nyla (Celeste O’Connor, Ghostbusters: Afterlife) and Joshua (Misha Osherovich, The Goldfinch) — and her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton, Enter the Warriors Gate), Millie races against the clock to reverse the curse while The Butcher discovers that having a female teen body is the perfect cover for a little homecoming killing spree.
The 1958 sci-fi classic Giant From the Unknown will come out on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 19 from MVD Entertainment Group and Film Detective.
A 500-year-old Spanish conquistador rises from the dead in this cult classic following Dr. Frederick Cleveland and his daughter Janet, who are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Spanish conquistador Vargas. When a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the long-lost Vargas returns to life, with a murderous rage and an axe to grind. Giant from the Unknown features make-up design from horror mainstay Jack Pierce, known for his work on Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932).
The release features a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative. Extras include audio commentary with author/historian Tom Weaver and guests; audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher; an all-new interview with actor/screenwriter Crutcher; an all-new interview with author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner; a collector’s booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Weaver; and the original trailer.
The music documentary Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes will come out on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 15 from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.
It’s the story of an iconic guitar player who has lived a life of extreme highs and lows. After losing the publishing rights to his own songs and combatting dangerous addictions, the legendary W.A.S.P. guitarist is shown starting over from scratch while living at his mother-in-law’s in Cannes, France. He is now ready to take on Europe with his new band. As the documentary follows him, he meets many fans, proving he still is the showman he was as a young and famous rockstar. This musical journey chronicles the rise, fall and rebirth of Holmes with archives, live performances and interviews.
Bonus features include behind-the-scenes extras and a slide show.
The cyber-thriller Dark Web: Cicada 3301, will come out on digital and on demand March 12, and on on Blu-ray and DVD March 16 from Lionsgate.
Inspired by “Cicada 3301,” one of the most famous online puzzles in internet history, the film stars Jack Kesy (The Outpost), Conor Leslie (“The Man in the High Castle”), and Alan Ritchson (upcoming “Jack Reacher” TV series), along with Ron Funches (Trolls) and Andreas Apergis (X-Men: Days of Future Past).
When disenfranchised hacker Connor (Kesy), his affable best friend Avi (Funches), and the cunning librarian Gwen (Leslie) discover a mysterious online treasure hunt, they must elude aggressive NSA agents, led by Agent Carver (Ritchson), as the trio race to find the clues and claim their prize.
The 1960s Mexican genre films Batwoman and The Panther Women will be available in a double feature in English on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 19 from MVD Entertainment Group and VCI Entertainment.
In Batwoman, after the body of a professional wrestler is found off Acapulco’s coastline, the victim, by all appearances, is believed to have drowned. However, the autopsy reveals a very perplexing and disturbing prognosis, when it’s discovered the victim’s pineal gland has been surgically drained of all fluid. With this prognosis eerily imitating the findings in the autopsies of murdered victims in Hong Kong and Macao, the police turn the investigation over to Mario Roble, who enlists the help of a beautiful crime fighting luchador known as Batwoman. Their thorough investigation leads them to an evil neurosurgeon who is using the fluid in his endeavors to genetically engineer a half fish, half man hybrid.
In The Panther Women, in an effort to resurrect the dead leader of their satanic cult, the Panther Women must perform blood sacrifices in order for him to arise from his cold grave. Using the wrestling ring as their sepulcher and their unsuspecting opponents as their blood sacrifice’s, these beautiful sirens of Satan perform their life-resurrecting rituals, shedding much innocent blood. However, the accomplishment of their goal is thwarted, after Captain Diaz becomes wise to their evil dealings and quest.
Director Rene Cardona was later known for his luchador (masked wrestler) adventure movies such as Santo vs. the Riders of Terror (1970) and Night of the Bloody Apes (1969).
After a year in which COVID-19 upended Hollywood, 2021 looms as one big question mark for home entertainment executives.
The pandemic accelerated the growth of streaming and made premium video-on-demand (PVOD) an economic and logistic necessity due to the closure of movie theaters. And despite the lack of fresh theatrical product, the transactional end of the home entertainment business flourished.
In 2020, films that would have been major theatrical releases — including Disney’s live-action Mulan, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour and Warner Bros. Scoob! — hit PVOD first before moving on to other windows. Studios made the most of captive home audiences by seamlessly transitioning from PVOD to TVOD, and at the same time dug into their vaults and came up with creative ways to market catalog titles.
“COVID didn’t introduce new trends to entertainment, but it did accelerate what was already happening,” observes Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
With a vaccine rollout underway, the big question is whether things will return to normal — or whether the changes have been so pronounced, so significant, that Hollywood will never return to its old ways. Whichever way the wind blows, industry executives say, the strides made by PVOD are unlikely to be reversed even once most of the country has been vaccinated and it is safe for theaters everywhere to reopen.
“COVID was clearly an accelerant to move more entertainment consumption to the home,” says Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox. “Event films will still be big theatrically, but there will be a push to accelerate consumers’ abilities to watch at home through PVOD and shorter overall windows — both digitally and on disc.”
He adds, “We don’t believe the theatrical model will return exactly as it existed prior to COVID. The evolution over the last year benefited consumers and content creators through the introduction of new products — and a number of them, like PVOD, are here to stay. PVOD has been a model the studios have wanted to add for many years, and I expect to see more PVOD releases in 2021. It’s another way to provide customers choice, which is good for them as well as for the industry.”
Dametra Johnson-Marletti, corporate VP of Microsoft Digital Stores Category Management, agrees. “I think many consumers will be excited to return to the theaters when the COVID risk is nearer to zero,” she says. “That said, I also think that PVOD is here to stay, particularly for titles that are not forecasted to be box office blockbusters, and for a certain segment of viewers.”
The mantra for home entertainment executives, then, is to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry, and on the consumer, and be prepared for more changes as well as more uncertainty.
“What we saw in 2020 was an anomaly, but it also demonstrated our ability to pivot and continue to monetize our content through the distribution strategies and platforms that are available to us and that make the most sense,” says Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home entertainment for Paramount Pictures. “All of these options — including traditional theatrical distribution — will continue to co-exist in a post-pandemic world.
“I feel strongly that we need to stop framing things as ‘normal,’ whether that’s ‘back to normal’ or ‘a new normal’,” adds Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “Our business is currently in an accelerated state of evolution, as the pandemic created the perfect environment for overdue experimentation with distribution models. Many studios are working within this unique opportunity to offer consumers new ways to consume content at earlier points in its lifecycle, and consumers have embraced the change. There is no replacement for the experience of seeing a movie in a state-of-the-art theater, but we expect content owners will continue to meet entertainment lovers wherever it is that they choose to consume new content.”
Similarly, streaming is likely to enjoy continued high growth rates. “Recent research from the NPD Group shows that the average U.S. consumer now relies on seven different streaming video services, up from five in April,” says the DEG’s Amy Jo Smith. “This is another case of the pandemic accelerating a trend that was already underway. It’s great that consumers have so many streaming options at different price points and offering different content. It’s the belief of DEG’s D2C Alliance Steering Committee that as consumers continue to customize their entertainment experience subscription and ad-supported services will continue robust growth, as will large, mainstream services and those that offer more specialized content.”
The transactional end of the business is perhaps the most fluid as 2020 gives way to 2021. Against all odds, the business didn’t collapse when the theatrical business did. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some dicey moments — nor will it be all smooth sailing ahead.
“The Microsoft Movies & TV transactional service thrives mostly on new blockbuster content,” Johnson-Marletti says. “With new production shuttered for much of the year, and top content releases pushed to 2021, our TVOD business certainly felt some headwinds. Our team had to become very creative and scrappy as they worked with our studio partners to find unique avenues for growth. We had a multi-part strategy that included shifting more focus to our catalog by bringing forward a lot of the fan favorite and classics for consumers to find more easily. We also focused on building great thematic and seasonal collections.
“Given the current state of the pandemic-related shutdown, and the related outlook through the first two quarters of calendar year 2021, I think we will likely expect much of the same, with some positive light starting to emerge in the late April to early May timeframe. The pervasiveness of vaccine adoption, the openness of the world (as it pertains to theaters), and new windows and rollouts will all be key inputs to how the back half of 2021 plays out.
“I definitely think the approach [we took in 2020] represents a viable set of tactics that will continue to serve our customers, partners and business well in the new year.”
With the continued erosion of disc sales in 2020 — at the nine-month mark, combined consumer spending on Blu-ray Discs and DVDs was down nearly 23% from the prior year, to a new low of $1.8 billion — digital retailers will likely continue to stress the collectibility of digital movie sales, as they did with catalog product during 2020.
“It may not be widely known or understood, but in many ways digital movie collections offer a level of security, portability, and confidence that discs cannot,” Johnson-Marletti says. “Your entire library can be accessed from almost any device, it travels with you seamlessly, and you never have to worry about damaged or lost discs. To the purest of collectors, the absence of tangible boxes may not fully satisfy, but, again, there are many benefits that outweigh the cardboard. Lowering the cost of entry and creating compelling promotions and offers that inspire first-time adoption could be a way to spur greater digital movie sales.”
Despite the emergence of PVOD and continued growth in streaming, some observers expect theaters to stage a dramatic comeback once most of the country has been vaccinated.
“As [Paramount studio chief] Jim Gianopulos pointed out in November, when theaters re-opened in Japan and China, audiences returned en masse, driving huge box office returns for films that were available,” Paramount’s Bob Buchi says. “Clearly, windows and consumer behaviors are shifting, but the theatrical experience will endure.”
Even so, Buchi says, “each film and situation is unique. For some films, like Top Gun: Maverick and A Quiet Place Part II, the theatrical model is optimal. On the other hand, we found tremendous success with PVOD for Love and Monsters and Spell. Some films make sense for subscription streaming services. It is not one-size-fits-all and every film needs to be evaluated individually.”
Ultimately, he adds, “we will continue to explore new distribution models and opportunities to bring our content to audiences wherever and however they want to enjoy it.”
Warner’s Wuthrich agrees. “Consumer empowerment is good for the industry and our goal is to meet the fans where they are — theaters, OTT, digital, physical,” he says. “While fans may have a preferred channel, they often participate in many, such as going to the theater, subscribing to HBOMax and picking up the Blu-ray. The multichannel experience could be one movie or across different movies, depending on interest.
“One thing is certain: If we are successful in creating compelling stories, fans will continue to show up.”
The World War II drama The Last Vermeer will come out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Feb. 23 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
In the film, while Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew, was fighting in the Resistance during the Second World War, the witty, debonair art connoisseur Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was hosting hedonistic soirees and selling Dutch art treasures to Hermann Göring and other top Nazis. Following the war, Piller becomes an investigator assigned the task of identifying and redistributing stolen art, resulting in the flamboyant van Meegeren being accused of collaboration — a crime punishable by death. Despite mounting evidence, Piller, with the aid of his assistant (Vicky Krieps), becomes increasingly convinced of Han’s innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save his life.