The feature documentary The Animal People will come out on digital HD Dec. 10 from Virgil Films.
From executive producer Joaquin Phoenix and directors Cassandra Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly, the documentary — more than 10 years in the making — follows the journey of six young activists who find themselves indicted as terrorists by the United States government. The reason for indictment is the activists’ leadership of a controversial open protest campaign aiming to close down the largest animal testing laboratory in the world. The activists used the then fledgling internet to dramatically magnify their impact and systematically knocked down pillars of financial support for the lab. But when protests began to mushroom into dead-of-night vandalism and worse by unknown underground elements, the FBI stepped in. The bureau began a campaign of surveillance, creating a model that would later be used against Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. According to the program, the United States Congress, under corporate pressure, rewrote laws in specific preparation for prosecution, potentially weakening free speech rights for all Americans.
Featuring expansive interviews with the six activists spanning more than a decade, rare archival footage, including never-before-seen surveillance footage, wiretaps and government documents, The Animal People is a portrait of what happens when activism rattles the institutions of power.
The Virgil Films documentary Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?, about one of the most famous saxophone players in the world, is coming on Digital HD Aug. 13 and on DVD through MVD Entertainment Group Aug. 27 following a limited theatrical run in July.
A TV/ SVOD release is planned for first quarter 2020.
After Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s marathon “Rising Tour” came to an end in 2003, Clemons felt like he needed a break. Though the world knew him as The Big Man and a lifetime member of the E Street Band, there was also a deeply spiritual side to Clemons, so he packed up his saxophone and journeyed to China, where he could be more or less a nameless traveler in a foreign land. Following him was director, friend and photographer Nick Mead, who documented the musician’s transcendent awakening overseas. Once Clemons returned to the States, Mead decided to keep the cameras rolling, which is when tragedy struck. While in Florida, Clemons suffered a stroke and passed away.
With the help of producer Joe Amodei, the film became more than just a document of the musician’s spiritual journey, it became a biography of his life and a love letter and farewell from those who knew him best.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work with Nick Mead on this project. Clarence was a true Big Man! His spirituality rose to the top of every interview we conducted.” said producer Amodei in a statement.
Featuring interviews with President Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, Jake Clemons, and former band mates, friends and close family members, Who Do I Think I Am? documents Clemons’s life as a musician and member of the E Street band while also presenting another side of the man not many knew offstage.
Brave Girls, a documentary about Indian women trying to break free from cultural traditions, is coming to DVD, Digital HD and VOD June 4 from Virgil Films.
Directed by Ellie Walton and Yashaswi Desai, the film portrays three young Indian women in a conservative Muslim town seeking to change their futures through education and self-determination. For Karishma, Apsana and Samira, going back to school to complete their secondary education represented a seismic shift in worldview and a reappraisal of what their lives could become.
But as final exams approached, their families began preparations for their weddings. Immediately, they were forced to choose between their evolving dreams and their obligations to their community. Apsana broke her arranged engagement the day before her wedding to continue her education; Karishma made an unthinkable choice by running away and marrying a forbidden love; Samira accepted her fate and married as was expected of her, leaving her family behind. These stories combined show the complexity that emerges on the path to self-determination within a conservative, Muslim town in Gujarat, India.
The documentary This Is North Preston will come out on digital HD April 23 from Virgil Films.
It documents a black community in Canada, which started as a safe haven for escaped slaves, but has more recently been painted as one of the biggest hubs of pimping and human trafficking in the nation. This Is North Preston explores how the town of 4,000 has dealt with generations of pimp culture, violence, economic struggle and constant systemic racism through the eyes of the pimps, trafficking victims, politicians, police and community members looking to change the narrative.
The film also explores the decades of systemic racism that the town has experienced and continues to experience. While many think racism isn’t a major issue in Canada, it’s still ingrained in everyday life on the east coast from regular citizens to government officials.
As You Like It, a contemporary Western retelling of Shakespeare’s classic story with an all-male cast, will come out on Digital HD and VOD March 19 and DVD April 9 from Random Media.
The film, from writer-director Carlyle Stewart and shot entirely in Death Valley using the bard’s original language, is a romantic adventure in which the courtship of characters Rosalind and Orlando play out against a backdrop of rivalry, banishment and exile.
The all-male cast — as was the Shakespearean stage tradition and emphasizing themes and ideas in the original work that have been lost in modern adaptations — includes Grant Jordan, Zach Villa, Joseph Haro, Stephen Ellis, Tom Bower and Graham Greene.
The documentary A Classy Broad: Marcia’s Adventures in Hollywood, about trailblazing executive Marcia Nasatir, the first female VP of production at United Artists, comes to digital March 5 from Virgil Films.
The film will also have weeklong theatrical engagement at L.A.’s Laemmle Music Hall — in conjunction with International Women’s Day — starting March 8.
A Classy Broad, as told mainly in Nasatir’s voice, is directed by Anne Goursaud, known for her editing work on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Nasatir’s legendary career as an executive began in 1970s when she was recruited by Mike Medavoy at UA as story editor, a position she negotiated into a VP title, paving the way for women to achieve this executive status quo within a male-dominated movie industry. While there, Nasatir championed Rocky, Carrie, Apocalypse Now and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She later joined Johnny Carson’s production company and fought to produce The Big Chill, which garnered three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close) and Best Screenplay. With Marcia Nasatir Productions, she independently produced the Vietnam drama Hamburger Hill and Ironweed, starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
At 92 years old, Marcia is an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee.
The Rebound, a documentary about a wheelchair basketball team’s quest for its first-ever championship, will come out on Digital HD Nov. 20 from Virgil Films.
The film follows the struggling wheelchair basketball team Miami Heat Wheels following a defeat at the National Wheelchair Basketball Association championships as they push physically, mentally and emotionally through each season without the recognition or the resources of mainstream sports. The team’s dwindling checkbook threatens to cut short its attempt to take the national title. Debut filmmakers Shaina Allen and Mike Esposito step deep inside the lives of three players as they endure and respond to adversity and fight their way to a second chance.
PBS Distribution will release two “Frontline” documentaries in November, Left Behind America and Our Man in Tehran on DVD and digital.
Frontline: Left Behind America is available on Digital HD and DVD ($24.99) Nov. 20. In the decade since the Great Recession, many American cities and towns have bounced back. But for some small and mid-size cities that were once hubs for innovation and manufacturing, economic recovery has remained elusive. This documentary asks why and is an in-depth look at one such city, Dayton, Ohio, as its citizens continue to fight for economic revitalization 10 years after the financial crisis. Although Dayton’s job market has recently seen a resurgence, the jobs coming back to the city aren’t the high-wage jobs that used to be there — and the poverty rate in Dayton has reached 34.5 percent, or nearly three times the poverty rate nationwide. In addition to the economic downturn, the city has also been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
Frontline: Our Man in Tehran comes out Nov. 6 on DVD ($24.99) and is available now for download. As tensions rose between the United States and Iran over the summer, with threats of war and sanctions, this “Frontline” documentary is a portrait of life inside the Islamic Republic. New York Times reporter Thomas Erdbrink’s account of traveling around the country, meeting people, and learning stories about their lives, hopes and fears is revealed in the program. It journeys into the private world of Iran, documenting the people and the country in a way never before seen.
The cinema verite thriller Leave Yourself Alone comes to Digital HD and VOD Oct. 9 from Virgil Films & Entertainment.
The feature debut by Nicole Eckenroad is the story of a young tormented Hollywood actress followed by a pair of documentary filmmakers as she loses control of herself in method acting. In May 2006, a 19-year-old Hollywood actress moves to Philadelphia to escape her bad reputation and restart her acting career. The documentary filmmakers follow her to an undefined end as she experiments with Meisner technique, taking on the characteristics and behaviors of the characters she plays more often than her own. After losing countless roles to A-list talent, Nicole commits recklessly to a leading role in a story too close to her own and spirals into the abyss of her darkest secret, depicting the lasting effect of a sexual assault.
In 2015, Eckenroad was selected by Kathy Schulman, Stephanie Meyer, and Lionsgate to direct one of their seven original Twilight shorts, The Groundskeeper. She was honored at the Crystal and Lucy Awards as a Voice of the Future, and the film was presented at the ArcLight Hollywood followed by a Q&A with Stephanie Meyer. She is currently in development on her second feature, Shade.
Digital sales are growing, but not enough to grow the overall ownership pie, and more needs to be done to boost the market, panelists noted Sept. 26 at the Digital Media Pipeline ’18 summit in Los Angeles.
“We need to do a better job of growing ownership,” said Adam Frank, SVP, worldwide digital sales and distribution, Lionsgate, during the “Issues in Digital Retailing” panel at the summit presented by the Entertainment Merchants Association.
Digital sales now represent 41% of the overall sellthrough market, and at the end of 2017, it was about 31%, which is good news, he noted. Still, the overall sellthrough pie needs to expand, rather than shrink.
Adding value to the digital buy is one way to entice customers, panelists said.
“We have a value proposition problem on the EST side,” said Chad Ludwig, head of brand marketing at Fandango.
As far as bonus content, like the additional scenes during the end credits of movies, “Why not hold that back for EST only?” he suggested.
Bundling of content, such as the dynamic bundling on Walmart’s Vudu, is another potential value add, Frank said.
Bonus features should be more integrated into the movie where you can click on something and get bonus features while watching, said Craig Heiting, EVP of sales at Vubiquity.
“I think that bonus content is very good,” he said. “It’s how you find it.… You need to make it available for the digital age.”
Bonus content should be “dynamically added into the feature,” Frank agreed.
More targeted marketing is another tactic that could boost digital buying.
Fandango targets buys at the most enthusiastic consumers, Ludwig said.
Timing is also important.
“Ask people after they saw the movie if they’d like to buy it,” suggested Heiting, rather than asking them to make that commitment before watching it digitally.
Frank said the industry needs to let consumers know that they are buying something they can’t get on a streaming service by telling them, “Hey, this title is not available for SVOD [subscription video-on-demand].”
He also said studios need to try to get transactional purchase offerings on non-transactional platforms, such as DirecTV Now and Sling.
“You need to fish where the fish are,” he said, mentioning the younger audience in particular is moving to digital platforms.
Some platforms do a good job at integrating transactional buys, Frank said.
“Amazon is a great example,” he said. “We’ve seen an incredible amount of transactions coming from that platform.”
Hulu would be a logical platform to integrate transactional buys, considering its studio ownership, he noted.
Digital ownership also has a name problem, panelists said. Electronic sellthrough (EST, “It sounds like you’re going to get an x-ray or something,” Heiting said.), transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) and Digital HD are among the many awkward terms that have been used to describe buying a digital copy, noted moderator Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Media Play News.
“Digital locker is really what it is,” Heiting said. “It’s not marketed well.”
The digital locker Movies Anywhere is a good description of digital ownership, noted panelists, but it too needs to up marketing.
Its first big mission was to “alleviate any friction” in purchasing movies and storing them in the cloud, but education is the next big mission for the service, Fandango’s Ludwig said. FandangoNow joined the retailer lineup for the service in March.