Industry Researcher Has Never Seen So Many Disc Releases — the Majority Bootlegs

Ralph Tribbey, founder and publisher of The DVD and Blu-ray Release Report, has been tracking the number of annual releases on disc since the inception of the DVD format — and he’s never seen as many disc releases as he’s seeing this year.

Ralph Tribbey

The majority of them aren’t coming from the studios or other legitimate sources — they’re being released by bootleggers. The pirates, or “helpers” as Tribbey wryly calls them, are filling a void in the marketplace as the studios have turned away from physical media to concentrate on streaming.

“The studios have checked out,” he says, adding that content owners don’t think it’s worth the effort and money to combat the disc pirates. “I think they’ve made a financial decision.”

Studios aren’t mining their catalog, he notes, so others are. There were 90 theatrical catalog titles released by bootleggers in one recent week alone, he says.

“Other than doing DVD on new theatrical, they don’t bother with it,” he says. “The studios own all these libraries, but they don’t enforce the copyright. They don’t release it and keep the consumer satisfied.”

Bootleg discs have always been around, but the numbers really began to explode in 2021, with 2023 on track to reach a record 28,983 new DVD releases, according to Tribbey’s estimates, more than double the 12,451 released in 2020. Blu-ray releases are showing similar results with the number through June 30 already at 3,917 — more than the number of Blu-ray releases in all of 2020 (3,333). Tribbey estimates there will be a total of 7,500 new Blu-ray releases for all of 2023.

An estimated 66.4% of the releases this year through June 30 have been bootlegs, according to Tribbey. That percentage is 61% for Blu-ray Discs through June 30.

Indeed, as the pandemic accelerated the move to streaming, it also boosted piracy.

“Now it’s literally on steroids,” he says. “They are mass producing this stuff.”

Studios offering their catalog and newest content on streaming services has been a boon for pirates, who can turn around a program on disc at lightning speed. He noted that the animated movie Nimona, which he estimates had a budget of $40 million to $50 million, began streaming on Netflix June 30 “and before the sun went down it was available on Blu-ray” via bootleggers.

“That’s how fast,” Tribbey stresses. “The studios with the streaming are just serving it up and [the pirates] are pulling it down.”

He points out that the 2022 Best Picture Oscar winner CODA, streaming on Apple TV+, has never been available on disc via a legitimate source in the United States.

He says he can hardly blame the consumers who purchase these pirated discs.

“The packaging is slick,” he says. “It’s available immediately, and the consumer doesn’t know if it’s legit or not. Consumers can’t tell the difference. They do not know. They might suspect that it’s pirated, but they do not know.”

Gone are the days of selling pirated discs on the street corner. Numerous websites are now havens for bootleg sellers.

“They have discovered that Etsy is a giant flea market of piracy,” he notes.

The studios are missing out on profits by not plugging the bootleg hole and releasing titles that consumers want on disc, he says. With the recently released streaming action sequel Extraction 2, Tribbey estimates Netflix left more than $70 million dollars of potential profit on the table.

“Nobody seems to care,” Tribbey says.

Apple TV+ Takes Steps to Lift Profile, Including Big Spend on Original Movies

Struggling SVOD service Apple TV+ is reportedly set to spend $1 billion annually on original movies — with conventional theatrical windows — in an attempt to up its game and become more competitive among such higher-profile rivals as Paramount+ and Peacock.

Apple TV+, which reportedly has fewer than 40 million paid subscribers, has struggled out of the SVOD gate, relying on a small content slate of original programming, and avoiding licensing third-party shows and movies, to woo paid subscribers (consumers of Apple devices get a free 12-month subscription). The result has been largely indifference among Wall Street analysts, some of whom scoff at the platform’s lack of content.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter contends that despite a major marketing effort around the Apple TV+ launch, which included signing up Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steven Spielberg for original content, the finished product thus far has been underwhelming.

“It only had a handful of shows at launch,” Pachter wrote in a 2020 note to investors.

But that was then. Now, Apple is hoping to elevate its original feature film aspirations on the backs of studios and exhibitors looking to jumpstart the moviegoing experience among consumers.

The company is looking to partner with studios and for upcoming Apple TV+ releases such as director Matthew Vaughn’s espionage thriller Argylle, and director Ridley Scott’s historical drama Napoleon, starring Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

Apple TV+, unlike most other subscription streaming video services, has embraced the theatrical window since its inception in 2019. That loyalty was rewarded in 2022 when the streamer’s original movie CODA won best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor at the 2022 Academy Awards.

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Apple in 2021 paid a record $25 million for CODA at the Sundance Film Festival, yet generated less than $2 million at the box office. The 2021 crime drama Cherry, starring Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Tom Holland, fell victim to shuttered screens during the pandemic.

Apple reportedly eyes the theatrical window as a means of marketing Apple TV+ to consumers similar to the way the Emmy Award winning “Ted Lasso” and “The Morning Show” have done for for the platform’s episodic programming.

As a result, Apple would like to expand its movie distribution (and spending) beyond a few hundred screens to the conventional 3,000+ screen North American debut. Rival Netflix, which in 2021 acquired the Egyptian Theatre in part to appease industry award rules regarding theatrical releases, this year extended an erstwhile non-theatrical release policy to include a 600-screen debut for Glass Onion.

If the company is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a [director Martin] Scorsese movie, it wants to turn that into a cultural event,” according to Bloomberg.

“Film creators strongly believe in theatrical exhibition as a measure of success,” echoes Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter.

JustWatch: Best Picture Winner ‘CODA’ Most-Streamed Movie for Week Ended April 3

Apple TV+ original movie CODA continues to resonate with viewers after winning Best Picture at the recent 94th Academy Awards. The movie about the hearing child of deaf parents ranked as the most-streamed movie for the week ended April 3, according to new data from JustWatch, which tracks more than 20 million users’ monthly streaming decisions across 54 countries.

The movie topped box office hit Death on the Nile, which began streaming on HBO Max, and Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Among TV shows, the premiere of new Marvel series “Moon Knight” on Disney+ was enough to unseat Peacock’s perennial chart topper “Yellowstone,” pushing it to No. 2, followed by video game adaptation “Halo” on Paramount+.

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Reelgood: Oscar Winner ‘CODA’ Most-Streamed Movie Through March 30

The Apple TV+ original movie CODA is this week’s most-watched title after taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture on March 27, according to new data from Reelgood, which tracks first-party data from 5 million users in real-time. The movie was the first ever Best Picture win for a streaming title.

The film, about the hearing daughter of deaf parents, finished ahead of video game adaptation series “Halo” — the previous week’s chart topper from Paramount+. Netflix’s The Adam Project and Hulu’s Deep Water also made the top five. Season two of “Bridgerton” on Netflix came in at  No. 5, with 20th Century Studios’ Death on the Nile on HBO Max and Hulu landing at No. 7.

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Top 10 Shows and Movies of the Week

1. CODA (Apple TV+)
2. “Halo” (Paramount+)
3. The Adam Project (Netflix)
4. Deep Water (Hulu)
5. “Bridgerton” (Netflix)
6. Windfall (Netflix)
7. Death on the Nile (HBO Max and Hulu)
8. “Severance” (Apple TV+)
9. “Upload” (Amazon Prime Video)
10. King Richard (HBO Max)

Analyst: ‘CODA’ Oscar Win Could Boost Apple TV+ Subscriptions, Content Spending

Apple’s surprise Best Picture win for CODA at March 27’s 94th Academy Awards was more than a breakout moment for company’s Apple TV+ subscription streaming service. It could help jumpstart subscriber interest in the service, according to Dan Ives, analyst with Wedbush Securities, who characterized the win a “drop the mic moment” he contends would help drive SVOD subs and attract more Hollywood creatives to the platform.

While Apple has never officially disclosed SVOD subscriber data, Ives believes the platform, which launched a week before Disney+, has about 25 million paid subscribers, in addition to 50 million global users who access the platform via promotions that include a free 12-month subscription to anyone buying an Apple product.

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“We view this Oscar win as a game changer for Apple on its content efforts and legitimizes the Apple TV+ as a major streaming platform with much more success ahead and the Street now starting to take more notice,” Ives wrote in a March 28 note.

The analyst believes Apple is spending about $7 billion annually on content, a tally that is half the size of Netflix’s annual content budget. That figure could increase following the success of CODA, which takes its title from the acronym for “Child of Deaf Adults.” The movie features Emilia Jones as the title CODA.

Co-star Troy Kotsur won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, a first for a deaf male actor.

‘CODA’ Makes Oscar History as First Streaming Film to Win Best Picture

The lines between theatrical and home entertainment were blurred even further at the 94th Academy Awards when CODA became the first movie from a streaming service to win Best Picture.

The coming-of-age drama was released on Apple TV+ as well as theaters last August.  Written and directed by Sian Heder, the film is a remake of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. It stars Emilia Jones as a CODA (child of deaf adults), the only member of a deaf family who can hear, and follows her struggles to strike a balance between her own life and her family’s fishing business.

Troy Kotsur, one of several deaf cast members, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while the film’s third win went to Heder for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Streaming already accounts for nearly 80% of all consumer spending on home entertainment, and CODA‘s win reflects the growing importance of non-theatrical distribution in a world still battling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The night’s other big winner was Dune, which was intended for theaters but due to the pandemic wound up premiering on both the big screen and HBO Max in October 2021. The Denis Villeneuve-helmed sci-fi remake won six Oscars, more than any other film, but mostly in technical categories: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, an Best Original Score for Hans Zimmer. A sequel is already in the works, tentatively slated for release in October 2023.

Among the major awards, Jane Campion won Best Director for The Power of the Dog, a Netflix film many observers felt was the frontrunner for Best Picture after leading all films with 12 nominations. It won just the single trophy.

Best Actor in a Leading Role went to Will Smith for King Richard, while Best Actress in a Leading Role went to Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, from Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures.

King Richard, about the father of tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams, was released simultaneously to theaters and HBO Max in November 2021. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, about the flamboyant wife of televangelist and convicted fraudster Jim Bakker, also won Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film was released theatrically in September and on Blu-ray Disc two months later. It became available for streaming on HBO Max in February 2022.

Ariana DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story, Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1957 Broadway musical about two rival New York City street gangs. The film was released theatrically in December 2021 and became available to stream on Disney+ and HBO Max on March 2. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on March 15. DeBose won for playing Anita, the same role for which Rita Moreno won the same award for playing in the 1961 movie adaptation.

Smith won the top acting award shortly after he jumped up on stage and smacked presenter Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopedia, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to fall out. During his presentation of the Best Documentary Feature award, Rock compared Pinkett Smith — who has shaved her head — to Demi Moore in 1997’s G.I. Jane, saying he can’t wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2. Pinkett Smith gave him a sour look, while Smith at first smiled, but seconds later bounded up on stage.

After the altercation, Smith returned to his seat but shouted, twice, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

Rock ultimately handed the Documentary Feature statuette to Summer of Soul, a documentary directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The Searchlight Pictures release is available on DVD and to stream on Hulu. Best Documentary Short honors went to the 22-minute film The Queen of Basketball, about Lucy Harris, the first and only woman officially drafted into the NBA.

Among other major awards, Disney’s Encanto won Best Animated Feature. Best Original Screenplay honors went to Belfast, the British coming-of-age drama written and directed by Kenneth Branagh and released by Focus Features.

“No Time to Die,” from the James Bond movie of the same name, was hailed as Best Original Song. This marks the third win in a row for a Bond title song, following 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre (“Writing’s on the Wall”). The Bond movie franchise, which received a 60th anniversary tribute from the Academy (since the debut of Dr. No in 1962), is known for its iconic musical themes, but scored no song Oscars for its first 50 years.

The year’s Best International Feature was pegged by Academy voters to be Drive My Car, a  Japanese road film that also made Oscar history this year by being the first Japanese film to be nominated for Best Picture.

Best Costume Design honors went to Disney’s Cruella, while The Windshield Wiper was named Best Animated Short and The Long Goodbye won Best Live Action Short honors.

Apple to Re-Release Oscar-Nominated ‘CODA’ in Theaters for Free

Apple reportedly is set to re-release Oscar nominated movie CODA in select theaters Feb. 25-27 for free with screen captions.

CODA became the first motion picture starring a predominantly deaf cast in leading roles to receive a Best Picture nomination, and Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to receive a nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for his performance.

Writer/director Siân Heder earned her first-ever Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Every so often, a film comes along that strikes a deep emotional chord for audiences who celebrate its win for humanity,” Matt Dentler, head of features at Apple, said in a media statement. “CODA does just that. Siân and the amazing cast and crew gave the world a gift with this film, and we are inspired to pass this gift on.”

The movie joins Apple’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen, on this year’s list of the 10 movies nominated for an Oscar, including Best Picture, Best Actor Denzel Washington, Best Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel, and Best Production Design Stefan Dechant.

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“We applaud the visionaries in front of and behind the camera who brought CODA and The Tragedy of Macbeth to life, powerful films that connect story with humanity and will resonate with audiences for generations to come,” Zack Van Amburg, head of worldwide video at Apple, said last month.

The 94th Annual Academy Awards take place March 27 in Los Angeles.

Apple Spends Big at Sundance Film Festival

Fresh off a record fiscal quarter that saw Apple generate $111 billion in revenue and $28.7 billion in profit, the consumer tech giant went to the annual Sundance Film Festival with its wallet out.

The company reportedly outbid Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, paying a record $25 million for exclusive distribution rights to CODA (Children of Deaf Adults), a coming-of-age movie about a high-school senior (Emilia Jones) who must choose between a music career and working the family business with her deaf parents and sibling.

The previous rights fee record was set by Hulu in 2020 after the Disney-owned streaming service shelled out $22.5 million for Andy Samberg rom-com Palm Springs. In addition to being one of the top streamed movies in 2020, Palm Springs generated $675,000 at the mostly-shuttered box office.

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CODA director Siân Heder is no stranger to streaming video as executive producer of Apple’s “Little America” and writer for Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” In 2015, Heder directed indie romantic-comedy movie Tallulah, which streams on Netflix.