‘Frontline’ Docs ‘Left Behind America’ and ‘Our Man in Tehran’ on Disc, Digital from PBS in November

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.

Thriller ‘Leave Yourself Alone’ Due on Digital and VOD Oct. 9 From Virgil

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.

Watch the trailer for Leave Yourself Alone here.

Panel: Digital Movie Sales Need Added Value, More Promotion

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.

(L-R): Fandango’s Chad Ludwig, Vubiquity’s Craig Heiting and Lionsgate’s Adam Frank.

“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.”

Thomas K. Arnold

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.

Animated ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ to Haunt Fans on Digital Sept. 25, Disc Oct. 9 From Sony

The animated Hotel Transylvania 3 will make its debut on Digital HD Sept. 25, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Oct. 9 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The family comedy has grossed more than $425 million in theaters worldwide.

In the third installment in the series, Mavis surprises Dracula with a family voyage on a luxury, haunted monster cruise ship. The unexpected happens when Drac falls for the ship’s human captain Ericka.

The voice cast includes Adam Sandler (Grown-Ups), Andy Samberg (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers), Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), David Spade (TV’s “Rules of Engagement”), Steve Buscemi (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Keegan Michael Key (TV’s “Key and Peele”), Molly Shannon (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Fran Drescher (TV’s “The Nanny”), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms), Jim Gaffigan (Super Troopers 2) and Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein).

Bonus materials include three sing alongs, “Dennis Had a Giant Dog,” sung by Dennis & Winnie, “Monsters Like to Party Down,” sung by Johnny, and “Oh These Wolf Pups,” sung by Wanda Werewolf; the featurette “Plan Your Own Spook-tacular Sleepover,” with details on snacks to crafts to games; a “Vampire Make Over: Mavis and Drac Tutorial,” about how to turn yourself into Hotel Transylvania 3 characters; “Behind the Screams – The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3,” showing how the characters are brought to life in the recording booth; “Johnny’s Home Movies (Franchise Recap)”; “I See Love Monster Dance Party Dance Along”; “Drac’s Zing-tastic Read Along”; and two mini movies, “Puppy and “Goodnight Mr. Foot.”

‘The Miniaturist’ From Masterpiece Coming Out on Digital Sept. 10, Disc Sept. 18 From PBS

Masterpiece: The Miniaturist will be released on digital Sept. 10 and DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 18 from PBS Distribution.

Set in Golden Age Amsterdam in 1686, this adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch), Romola Garai (Churchill’s Secret, The Hour) and Alex Hassell (Suburbicon, Anonymous). The story follows Nella (Taylor-Joy), a naive 18-year-old from a bankrupt aristocratic family in the provinces who is wooed by Johannes Brandt (Hassell), a handsome and prosperous merchant looking for a wife. Once wed, Nella lives in Johannes’ mansion, mostly without him, kept in the care of his grim and overbearing sister, Marin (Garai), and the household’s two controlling servants. As a wedding gift, Johannes gives Nella an exquisitely crafted cutaway model of the very house she is living in. He instructs her to furnish it to her liking and gives her the address to the miniaturist who creates the tiny objects. She and the miniaturist only communicate by letter and upon her first order, she receives more objects than she requests. Without direction from Nella, the miniaturist keeps sending new creations including dolls replicating Johannes, Marin and the servants, with details that hint at closely held secrets.

British Home Entertainment Eyes Bullish Half-Year Sales

The British Association for Screen Entertainment said more than 38 million copies of movies and TV shows sold in the first six months of 2018, including 21% and 5% increases, respectively, in digital and disc sales of the Top 10 releases.

New releases represented 44% of sales in the world’s No. 2 home entertainment market, up 3% from the previous-year period.

Through the first-half of the year, digital retail represented 22.4% of revenue, up 6.9% from the previous-year period. Average consumer spending on digital transactions increased to £31.50 ($41.19).

Blu-ray Disc sales represented 12.9% of revenue – up 0.7% — with 4K UHD now representing 12% of the Blu-ray market. DVD generated 64.7% of sales, down from 72.3% last year.

“Whether you consider the performance of the top [sellers], the rise in digital transactions or the increased consumer spend on high-definition Blu-ray and 4K UHD titles, there is much to suggest that being able to access a film in your home … remains important to many,” Liz Bales, CEO at BASE, said in a statement.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s The Greatest Showman ended the period as the top-selling title, with 1.4 million units sold. The movie is also Britain’s all-time fastest-selling digital release, with more than 500,000 units sold since May.

Robert Price, managing director at Fox Home Entertainment in the U.K., said there was much to be positive about the home entertainment sector thus far in 2018, especially in the context of a challenging trading environment and unsteady consumer confidence.

“As an industry we must ensure our relevance to audiences sustains,” Price said. “We need to capitalize on successes where we see them and be bold and collaborative in approaching challenges and meeting the needs of a customer base still clearly very much in love with ownership and collection.”

Other top-selling digital releases included Justice League (Warner Home Entertainment) with more than 170,000 digital copies sold; Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Fifty Shades Freed (120,000 units), and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Blade Runner 2049 from (112,000 digital copies).

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Star Wars VII – The Last Jedi sold more than 1.03 million copies across all formats, and StudioCanal’s marmalade-eating bear found a home with more than 835,000 families with Paddington 2 (released by Warner in the United States)

Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sold more than 600,000 units since its release in April. Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther sold 513,000 units.

 

PBS ‘American Masters’ Documentary on Baseball’s Ted Williams to Bow July 24 on DVD and Digital

PBS Distribution will release American Masters — Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” on DVD and Digital HD July 24.

The program premieres July 23 on PBS.

Co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, the program explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself. The release honors Williams’ centennial and marks the first baseball subject in the series’ 32-year history.

Narrated by Jon Hamm, the documentary features never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg.

Williams is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players — including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat, and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto — share how Williams influenced them in the program.

‘Nova: Wonders’ Due on DVD and Digital July 31 From PBS

The “Nova: Wonders” series will be available on DVD and Digital HD July 31 from PBS Distribution.

The program, hosted by three young scientists, explores the frontiers of science, following researchers who are tackling the biggest unanswered questions about life and the cosmos. Each episode poses a big scientific question and takes viewers along on a journey to explore how far we’ve come in our quest for answers, and how we’ve managed to get here. Among the topics pondered are the secret language of animals, what’s hidden in the human body, the artificial intelligence technologies that could rival and surpass the abilities of the human mind, the controversial power to engineer life in a lab, and the mysteries of the universe.

The DVD retails at $34.99.

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ 4K Collector’s Set Due July 17

The long-delayed limited-edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray collector’s edition of director James Cameron’s sci-fi action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day will be released July 17 from Lionsgate.

The set includes the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (with Blu-ray and digital copy) of the film with a replica of a Terminator EndoArm. Just 6,000 of the boxed sets ($174.99 each) will be released in the United States, featuring a life-sized replica of the T-800 arm mounted on a stand with a numbered sticker with James Cameron’s signature.

A standalone version of the 4K combo pack was released in December.

Blu-ray and Digital HD special features include the 55-minute documentary “T2: Reprogramming the Terminator,” featuring commentary from the cast and crew (including Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong); two feature commentaries, including 23 members of the cast and crew; “The Making of T2” 30-minute featurette; seamless branching to view three different versions of the movie; two deleted scenes with audio commentary; and trailers.

 

‘Inheritance’ Due on Digital June 15

The psychological thriller Inheritance will be released on Digital HD June 15 from Portola Pictures.

The film will be available to rent or own on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Directed by Tyler Savage from his own script, the film puts a chilling twist on the universal feeling of being trapped by your family history.  The film premiered at Dances with Films.

Savage makes his feature film debut alongside executive producer Nicholas Gonda (Tree of Life), cinematographer Drew Daniels (Krisha, It Comes At Night) and producers J.P. Castel (Krisha), Dash Hawkins (Party Crashers) and Chase Joliet (It Comes at Night), who also leads the cast.  Joliet is joined onscreen by Sara Montez (“Pitch”), Tim Abell (Sniper: Special Ops), Kate Norby (The Devil’s Rejects), Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water, “True Blood”), Krisha Fairchild (Krisha) and Drew Powell (“Gotham”).

Pop band Mini Mansions provides the score.