Russian Thriller ‘The Pilot’ Due on Digital and Disc March 1 From Well Go

The Russian action thriller The Pilot will be released on digital, Blu-ray and DVD March 1 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on the true story of a World War II pilot whose fighter plane was shot down over the German-occupied Novgorod Region, the film follows the tale of Russian Aleksey Maresyev, who faces a relentless test of physical and mental endurance, battling hunger, extreme cold, and wild animals, all while evading Nazi soldiers — as he attempts to return home. 

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Directed by Renat Davletyarov (The Dawns Here Are Quiet), the film stars Pyotr Fyodorov (Sputnik, The Icebreaker, The Duelist), Anna Peskova (Good Boy), Pavel Osadchy, Maksim Emelyanov (The Blackout, The Search) and Nikoloz Paikridze.

Bonus features include an English dub.

 

Q&A: DEG Chief Amy Jo Smith Reflects on the Trade Group’s Quarter Century

As president and CEO of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, Amy Jo Smith heads the leading trade group for the home entertainment industry, representing the interests of the world’s largest media and entertainment companies, consumer electronics manufacturers, platform providers and technology companies.

A former White House communications advisor, Smith since 1997 has led the industry-funded group’s efforts to enhance and promote home entertainment during its evolution from videocassettes to DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and today’s digital age.

Under Smith’s leadership, the DEG is credited with helping to make DVD the fastest-growing consumer electronics product in industry history. In 2019, the DEG launched the D2C Alliance Council as a working community within the DEG to represent the global direct-to-consumer media industry and support its members to help create a robust marketplace to lead the new era of content consumption.

Media Play News asked Smith about the achievements, continuing work and aims of the DEG.

MPN: On the eve of the association’s 25th anniversary, tell us about DEG’s mission and how it has evolved with the industry.

Smith: The DEG’s first mission was to support the product launch of the DVD format. At the time, we were focused on attracting industry support and consumer adoption of the format. Many credit the DEG’s efforts with being a catalyst for DVD’s success as the fastest-growing product in consumer electronics history.   

As consumer interest for physical and digital entertainment has evolved, so has the DEG. We are here to serve the industry in helping to improve the consumer experience with the various ways they consume entertainment content in 2022 and beyond.   

MPN: What do you consider the group’s three major accomplishments? 

Smith: The DEG aims to create a unique, collaborative environment to enable leading content, delivery, device and technology companies to work together to grow the category. Our goal is to help leading media and entertainment companies make informed decisions to grow their businesses. Here are just a few of these:

  • The DEG spearheaded the industry’s efforts for a unified approach in designing and displaying new packaged media and consumer messaging, as witnessed by 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Digital Copy and Digital Download.
  • The DEG has led numerous consumer research projects to help demystify the benefits associated with new digital experiences. Some examples include the industry’s first research on the prospects for home 3D, digital collecting and, most recently, the study commissioned by the DEG’s D2C Alliance Targeted Services committee from SmithGeiger to inform on streaming user behavior related to targeted SVOD and AVOD services.
  • More than two decades ago, the DEG was established to support the launch of DVD. This helped to unify a number of fragmented marketing efforts into a single, powerful voice and was largely responsible for the format becoming arguably the most successful entertainment platform in history.

 

But the DEG’s proudest accomplishment is its ability to adjust to the changing dynamics of the industry to support member companies in their efforts to grow the industry and improve content delivery to fans. 
 
MPN: How has the pandemic changed the way DEG relates to and serves its members?   

Smith: With members unable to travel and commute to business meetings, we’ve been able to assemble executives more quickly. This has allowed us to move projects and activities faster. The DEG was quick to launch its virtual Expos, curated video sessions highlighting relevant topics. The Expos were received so favorably, attended by nearly 200 executives representing 50 companies on average in 2021, encouraging staff to produce these events about every six weeks. Our Expo on localization even resulted in the formation of our Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA) localization committee, which is now focusing on the need for a standard definition of quality across the localization industry.  

The DEG has always been a high-touch organization, providing customized customer care to meet varying needs. We brought this to the forefront of what we do during the pandemic. Members have told us how much this meant to them, to be able to count on us to bring pressing issues into committees, surging trends to Expos and to make introductions to enable networking in a WFH environment.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Marcy Magiera, Andi Elliott and Jean Levicki on our team, who have been key to our success here. Everyone has worked tirelessly while navigating their own pandemic challenges.  

MPN: There are now two major “Alliances” within the DEG — the Direct-to-Consumer Alliance (D2CA) and the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA). How are these different from one another? How do they serve the members differently than the core DEG? 

Smith: The D2C Alliance was established nearly three years ago to put a focus on companies with a direct-to-consumer offering. We wanted to shift the conversation away from the “streaming wars” and emphasize the burgeoning business opportunities available and exciting ways for consumers to get their TV, filmed, news, sports and specialty content. 

About a year ago, we analyzed our membership. Originally a content owner-based organization, we had a surge of member companies with products and services that help bring the content to market. We brought their voices to the forefront with the creation of the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance. In ACDA, members explore new ways to improve delivery of content. We are incredibly excited about the enthusiastic and worthwhile discussions and projects taking place in the Alliance. Through its Supply Chain Efficiency and Security committee, for example, the Alliance seeks to address obstructions within workflows due to the narrowing of windows, additional post work required for the home entertainment window, security challenges, and the threat landscape brought on by pirates.   

These Alliances allow the DEG to put a spotlight on pressing issues that members are focused on. We’re pleased with the support and participation we’ve received from members who are joining committees and giving input on agenda items we can tackle as an industry.

MPN: There was no annual DEG reception at CES in Las Vegas this year. When can the industry look forward to that event again? 

 Smith: There is going to be a DEG annual reception! Our annual reception will take place May 3 in Los Angeles at Skirball Cultural Center as part of our inaugural EnTech Fest. Members have been asking us for years to move the annual reception to Los Angeles so that it’s more accessible to L.A.-based folks.
  
Our EnTech Fest is a B2B event on May 3 and 4 built around what’s new and what’s next in content distribution and display technology. This forum will allow companies with products and services that enable distribution of content to showcase their latest offerings. EnTech will be different from other events in that we are focusing specifically on products for entertainment distribution.   

EnTech Fest will also have a special section dedicated to start-ups. Start Up Alley, as we’re calling it, will allow embryonic companies the chance to get in front of leading entertainment and technology companies.   

We’re excited that companies including Blu Digital Group, Dolby, DTS, Google TV, Intel, Looper Insights, NBCUniversal, NPD Group, Paramount, Synamedia and WarnerMedia are already supporting EnTech and, in some cases, Start Up Alley specifically. 

And, yes, EnTech will also be special because our annual reception will be held at that time!

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MPN: And now tell us the Amy Jo story — how did you get involved in the DEG, and why? 

Smith: Prior to DVD’s format launch, I was introduced to Warren Lieberfarb, the “father of DVD.” Warren tapped me to lead the consortium to support the global launch of the disc format for two to three years. As Warren described it, if we’re successful, there won’t be a need for the DEG any longer. And, if we’re not successful, there won’t be a need for the DEG, either.    

The way in which we’ve been able to constantly adjust our agenda to best meet the needs of the industry is what I’m most proud of. There are many DEG board leaders who have been instrumental in this. Our hats off to Bob Chapek, Ron Sanders, Mike Dunn, Mike Fasulo and Eddie Cunningham, to name a few. And our current board directors who have been instrumental in steering the DEG during the pandemic, including Jim Wuthrich, Dan Cohen, Matt Strauss, Andrea Downing, Rick Hack and Bob Buchi.  

The DEG is only as good as the people who participate in it to make it so. The organization is strong because of all the smart, forward-thinking executives who lean into the DEG. We are happy to know they rely on the DEG to be their organization to support the many emerging ways to deliver content.  I’m proud to be part of the DEG family. Our thanks to the many collaborative partnerships we have in the industry, including MPN.

Doc ‘Julia’ Heading to Digital Feb. 1, DVD Feb. 15 From Sony

The documentary Julia, about cookbook author and television star Julia Child, will be released through digital retailers Feb. 1, and on DVD Feb. 15 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives and cutting-edge food cinematography, the documentary traces Child’s 12-year struggle to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, and her rapid ascent to become the country’s most unlikely television star. It’s the empowering story of a woman who found her purpose — and her fame — at 50, and took America along on the whole delicious journey.

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The film was an official selection at the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, AFI Fest, among other film festivals. It was nominated at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards for Best Historical or Biographical Documentary and Best Score.

Doc ‘Summer of Soul’ Available Digitally and on DVD Feb. 8

The documentary Summer of Soul will be released through digital retailers and on DVD Feb. 8 from Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

Summer of Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. The documentary also won the AFI Special Award, six awards at the Critics Choice Awards, and Best Documentary awards with NBR and LAFCA. The film is also nominated for the PGA and Spirit Awards.

It is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective; Searchlight Pictures released it theatrically.

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Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a documentary that is part music film, part historical record created around an event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just 100 miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was largely forgotten until now. The feature includes concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.

Bonus features include audio commentary with Thompson, a making-of featurette, and “Harlem: Then & Now,” in which viewers revisit Mount Morris Park, location of the Harlem Cultural Festival.

Suspense Thriller ‘The Ledge’ Due Digitally Feb. 18 From Saban and Paramount

Saban Films and Paramount Pictures will release the high-climbing suspense thriller The Ledge in theaters, on demand and for digital purchase Feb. 18.

Directed by Howard J. Ford (The Dead, Adventure Boyz), the film stars Brittany Ashworth (Hostile, Accident Man), Ben Lamb (Now You See Me 2), Louis Boyer (Outside the Wire), Nathan Welsh (Trust Me), Anaïs Parello (Parlement) and David Wayman (13 Seconds in Kent State).

In the film, a climber trapped on the face of a mountain fights off four killers standing on an overhanging ledge 20 feet above her.

After Kelly (Ashworth) captures the murder of her best friend on camera, she becomes the next target of a tight-knit group of friends who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence and anyone in their way. Desperate for her safety, she begins a treacherous climb up a mountain cliff and her survival instincts are put to the test when she becomes trapped with the killers.

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South Korean Thriller ‘Seobock: Project Clone’ Due Digitally and on Disc Feb. 15 From Well Go

The South Korean thriller Seobok: Project Clone will be released through digital retailers and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 15 from Well Go USA Entertainment. 

In the film, a former intelligence agent is assigned to transport the first ever human clone to a new safe location. Because the robotic clone holds the secret to immortality, evil organizations are bent on kidnapping him to extract the dark secret. As the enemy closes in, the pair is forced to make an impossible choice.

Directed by Lee Yong Zoo (Possessed), the film stars Gong Yoo (Train to Busan, “Squid Game”), Park Bo Gum (Love in the Moonlight, Hello Monster), and Jo Woo Jin (Steel Rain, The Book of Fish), plus popular television series stars Jang Young Nam (“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay,” “My Country: The New Age,” “Find Me in Your Memory”) and Park Byung Eun (“Arthdal Chronicles,” “Mystery Queen,” “Your Honor”).

The release includes an English dub.

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Horror Releases ‘Last of the Grads,’ ‘The Zombie Collection’ and Comedy ‘The Contrast’ Hitting Home Jan. 18 From Mill Creek

The horror releases Last of the Grads and “The Zombie Collection” as well as the comedy The Contrast are being released into the home entertainment market by Mill Creek Entertainment Jan. 18. 

In Last of the Grads, available on DVD, the nation is captivated by a series of letters to the media claiming responsibility for dozens of unsolved murders spanning across the United States over the last 25 years. Meanwhile, in the quiet town of Shelby, Fla., school’s out, but softhearted high school senior Emma Bradley (Jessica Lang) isn’t quite ready to move on. Her childhood bestie Donna McCormick (Sara Eklund) persuades her to go to the annual senior bash for one last hurrah before their lives change forever.

Due on digital is the comedy The Contrast. In the film, on the day before her wedding to a self-absorbed hipster, a young woman meets an Army Colonel and struggles to decide between duty and love.

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“The Zombie Collection,” a collection of four films, is due on DVD. In Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, a group of young snowboarders are stuck in a remote mountain ski resort, where an all-night après-ski party turns into a hellish nightmare of zombie mayhem. In Granny of the Dead, regular guy Ed (Marcus Carroll) awakes one morning to find his grandmother has become one of the living dead. In Attack of the Killer Donuts, a chemical accident turns ordinary donuts into bloodthirsty killers. And in Harold’s Going Stiff, Harold is suffering from a frightening new disease that is turning him into a zombie. After an experimental new treatment fails, Harold’s condition deteriorates, and he ends up on the run from a group of violent vigilantes who are out for blood.

Horror Tale ‘Fallen’ Heading to Digital, On Demand and DVD Feb. 22

The supernatural horror tale Fallen will be released for digital purchase, on demand and on DVD Feb. 22 from Lionsgate.

The film follows Father Abraham, who was ready to save the world from an evil menace using exorcism — until tragedy struck. Years later, he lives on a remote farm with his daughter, haunted by the faces of those he saved and those he could not. After finding a pale humanoid creature lurking in the woods one night, he shoots and cremates the monster. But all too soon he discovers that the beast was not alone, and that his troubles have only just begun.

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‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ to Be Unleashed on Digital Dec. 14, Disc Feb. 1

The family film Clifford the Big Red Dog will be available to purchase on digital Dec. 14 and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 1 from Paramount Home Entertainment. 

In the film based on the book series, when Emily discovers her little red puppy named Clifford has grown to 10-foot-tall overnight, she turns to her eccentric Uncle Casey for help. But when a mad scientist tries to capture the larger-than-life pup, it takes the entire neighborhood to hide Clifford as they race across the city.

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Bonus features on digital and Blu-ray include:

  • “Part of the Pack,” a behind-the-scenes look at the movie with interviews from cast and crew;
  • “Acting Is for the Dogs,” in which viewers meet the puppeteers who brought the giant red pup to life;
  • “The Magic of Bridwell,” in which viewers see where Clifford’s big adventure began from creator Norman Bridwell’s early drawings for the Scholastic book series to Clifford’s worldwide fame;
  • “Tips & Tricks for Taking Care of a 10-Foot Dog”; and
  • deleted scenes.

‘Venom’ Sequel Again Leads Weekly Vudu Chart

Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage again led the chart of the 10 most-popular titles on Fandango’s transactional digital service Vudu the week ended Dec. 5.

The Marvel Comics-based superhero film, which arrived Nov. 23 for digital purchase, stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Woody Harrelson. In the sequel, Eddie Brock (Hardy) interviews serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson), who becomes the host of the symbiote Carnage.

Coming in at No. 2 was the Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures feature Dune: Part One, which arrived for premium digital ownership and rental Dec. 3 after its theatrical and HBO Max debut. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (ArrivalBlade Runner 2049), the film, starring Timothée Chalamet, is based on the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert.

Taking the bronze on the chart was Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, based on the true story about France’s last sanctioned duel. The film, from Disney-owned 20th Century Studios, stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck and became available for digital ownership Nov. 30.

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Holiday films continued to populate the chart. The 2000 live-action film How the Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey, came in at No. 4; Illumination’s 2018 animated The Grinch, with the title character voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, landed at No. 7; and Elf, starring Will Ferrell, landed at No. 9. 

Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Dec. 5, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
  2. Dune
  3. The Last Duel
  4. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  6. No Time to Die
  7. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
  8. Free Guy
  9. Elf
  10. Yellowstone: Season 4