’30 Rock’ Complete Series Set Coming From Mill Creek April 21 on DVD and Blu-ray

Mill Creek Entertainment will release the complete series of “30 Rock” April 21 on DVD and Blu-ray.

The collection will include all 138 episodes from the show’s seven-season run. The 20-disc Blu-ray set will be the high-definition disc debut of the series in North America.

From executive producer Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”) and created by and starring Emmy and Golden Globe winner Tina Fey, paired up with fellow Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” spotlights the relationship of quirky TV writer Liz Lemon and conservative company executive Jack Donaghy who are bound together by chaos, charisma and employment contracts. Together Jack and Liz preside over the everyday mayhem at a late-night variety show with loose cannon stars Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and hapless NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer).

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Throughout its run, “30 Rock” welcomed an array of prominent guest stars including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Salma Hayek, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Julianne Moore, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Carrie Fisher and Matt Damon, as well as Tim Conway and Elaine Stritch who garnered Outstanding Guest Emmy Awards in 2008 and 2007, respectively. The series won a total of 16 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (Baldwin), Outstanding Lead Actress (Fey), Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Casting.

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This special edition release also contains numerous bonus features that have been ported over from previous DVD releases including commentary tracks, deleted scenes and gag reels.

A Casualty of Streaming Wars, ‘Friends’ Sees Spike in Disc, Digital Sales

“Friends” is giving the transactional side of the home entertainment business a very happy new year.

The landmark sitcom that helped birth the TV DVD category nearly two decades ago is once again a top DVD and Blu-ray Disc seller — and this time the sales boost is also being felt in digital sales, commonly known in the industry as “electronic sellthrough.”

The catalyst: the disappearance of “Friends” from its longtime exclusive on-demand home, the Netflix subscription streaming service. With streaming wars accelerating, AT&T, which owns the Warner Bros. studio that produced “Friends,” made plans for the show to come off Netflix once the license expired Dec. 31, 2019, and reappear on its own streaming service, HBO Max, which is launching in May 2020.

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In the meantime, “Friends” is only available for on-demand viewing on disc and for digital purchase or rental — and that’s led to a significant spike in sales.

Jeff Brown, EVP and GM of Television and Animation for Warner Bros.’ home entertainment division, said sales began to rise shortly after the announcement in July 2019 that “Friends” would be leaving Netflix at the end of the year.

Through the end of 2019, he said, sales of the season and complete series sets more than tripled. And since the official departure of “Friends” from Netflix on Jan. 1, Brown said, sales have spiked even higher, on both physical and digital formats.

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“Not bad for a 20-year-old TV show,” Brown said. “The discs really started selling well in the summer, when we announced the show was coming off Netflix and we launched a 25th anniversary promotion — but the digital really took off after the first of the year, once the show was off Netflix.”

The top seller is the complete series set, which Warner re-released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in September. The package contains 10 seasons’ worth of shows, or a total of 236 episodes. On Amazon, the complete series set retails for $69.99 on DVD (40 discs), and $109.16 on Blu-ray Disc (21 discs).

Bundles of all 10 seasons also are available digitally through other retailers, like Apple iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu. They, too, are leading sales.

Individual season sets are also available for purchase on disc and through digital retailers, including Amazon Prime. DVD season sets sell for $13.19 on Amazon, with digital season sets going for $19.95. Consumers who want digital versions also can buy individual episodes at $1.99.

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During the five months in which “Friends” is absent from the streaming world, Brown said, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will mount a “robust” promotional campaign he hopes will drive sales even higher.

 

Chinese Action Epic ‘Warriors of the Nation’ Coming to Digital and Disc Feb. 18 From Well Go

The Chinese martial arts action epic Warriors of the Nation will debut on digital and Blu-ray combo pack Feb. 18 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the film, after the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese army tries to once again gain control in China by hiring a secret organization, the White Lotus Society, to kidnap the military minister. Wong Fei-Hung and his disciples must stop this attack to prevent another war from starting.

The film is directed by Marco Mak (chief editor on Once Upon a Time in China) and stars Wenzhuo Zhao (Once Upon a Time in ChinaTrue Legend), newcomer Lubing Li, Miya Muqi (The Monkey King 2) and Kenya Sawada (Street Fighter).

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Universal, Warner Bros. To Merge Domestic Disc Business

After a year of two gigantic mergers, Hollywood is welcoming the new year with further consolidation — this time, in the home entertainment sector.

Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. on Jan. 15 announced plans to merge their physical distribution businesses.

On the domestic front, the two studios are establishing a joint venture to market and distribute Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and 4K Ultra HD discs in the United States and Canada.

The new unit, which still must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, is expected to officially launch early in 2021. It will combine the existing domestic disc businesses of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and be headed by current UPHE President Eddie Cunningham.

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Internationally, territories will be broken up through licensing arrangements. Warner Bros. will assume distribution duties of UPHE discs in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg). UPHE will distribute Warner products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Japan.

The digital distribution business at each studio will not be affected.

The proposed union covers new releases and library titles as well as television content, and will be operational for up to 10 years.

The domestic joint venture will include leadership from both UPHE and Warner Bros., and covers trade marketing, sales and distribution.

Consumer marketing remains with each studio.

The announcement was made by Peter Levinsohn, president and Chief Distribution Officer of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Ron Sanders, president of Worldwide Theatrical Distribution & Home Entertainment and EVP of International Business Operations at Warner Bros.

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“As the home entertainment landscape evolves, we are continuously working to deliver the best entertainment range and value to our fans,” said Sanders.  “The physical business is still an important and active category for the industry.  This proposed joint venture with Universal gives us the best opportunity to foster innovation in this business, optimize the physical offering and extend the lifespan of the format for our fans and consumers.”

“With market conditions and consumer viewing behaviors continuing to evolve, we wanted a partner who shares in our commitment to deliver the best consumer proposition going forward,” Levinsohn said. “This proposed JV presents a significant opportunity to continue to work with our retail partners to ensure the format’s strength and sustainability for years to come.”

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On the appointment of Cunningham, Levinsohn said, “For more than two decades Eddie has been an expert in understanding the evolution of the physical home entertainment landscape.  He’s been a dynamic leader in shepherding business innovation and operational effectiveness.”

This is not the first time studios have joined forces in their home entertainment endeavors. In the early 1980s, Columbia (now Sony) Pictures created a joint venture with RCA to distribute videocassettes to the then-burgeoning rental market. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video was in operation for more than a decade; in the meantime, the industry saw several other joint ventures, including CBS/Fox Video and Thorn-EMI/HBO Video.

Digital Lifted Consumer Home Entertainment Spending to Record Heights in 2019

Consumer spending on home entertainment rose 8.4% to a record $25.2 billion in 2019, spurred by the at-home sector’s biggest growth engine, digital, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Subscription streaming, digital movie sales and digital movie rentals over the Internet all generated significantly more money than they did in 2018, DEG reported.

The trade association estimates consumers spent $15.9 billion on subscription streaming, which now accounts for 63% of the entire home entertainment market. That’s a 23.7% spike from 2018.

Digital movie sales, commonly known as electronic sellthrough, or EST, were up 5.1% to nearly $2.6 billion — while digital movie rentals through Internet services, such as FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Vudu and Google Play, were up 9%. This reflects “consumers’ continued engagement with VOD, increasingly through Internet services,” DEG reported.

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Consumers spent a total of $5.9 billion on buying movies and other filmed content, either on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, 4K Ultra HD or digital, DEG reported. That’s down 9.4% from 2018. Disc sales declined 18.2% to $3.29 billion.

Rental spending dropped 12.3% in 2019 to $3.4 billion, DEG reported. On the digital side, a la carte streaming generated $1.96 billion, down 6.2% from the prior year — chiefly due to consumers’ shift away from traditional pay-TV services. Disc rentals, meanwhile, slipped 19.5% to $1.44 billion, the biggest chunk of which came from kiosks, which finished the year with estimated sales of $884.6 million. Redbox leads the kiosk market, with more than 40,000 red vending machines, generally situated at large grocers and mass merchants such as Walmart.

Also on the rental side, Netflix’s legacy disc-by-mail rental business brought in an estimated $301.2 million, while the country’s waning number of video rental stores — once the home entertainment sector’s dominant revenue producer — collected just $250 million, a 21.1% decline from 2018.

On the transactional side, the top-performing movies included Disney’s Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, Warner Bros.’ Aquaman and A Star is Born, and 20th Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody. TV standouts included seasons one and two of “Yellowstone,” from Paramount; the “Game of Thrones” franchise, from HBO/Warner; Sony Pictures’ season four of “Outlander,” based on author Diana Gabaldon’s historical time travel book series of the same name; season nine of zombie series “The Walking Dead,” from Lionsgate; and season 12 of “The Big Bang Theory,” from Warner Bros.

According to DEG numbers, combined spending on disc sales and rentals was $4.73 billion, compared with $4.54 billion spent on electronic sellthrough and VOD, giving disc a 51% share of the transactional home entertainment market, down from 56% in 2018 and 62% in 2017.

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At the same time that the DEG released its annual year-end numbers, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment shared some of its “Attitudes and Usage” study findings.

The key point: Home entertainment has evolved into a true multi-platform business. Universal found that consumers are using around three platforms on average, the most common bundle being disc purchase, disc rental and subscription streaming.

‘In the Age of AI,’ ‘Fire in Paradise’ and ‘Nature’s Biggest Beasts’ Among PBS Docs on DVD and Digital in January

In the Age of AI, Frontline: Fire in Paradise, Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts, American Masters — Rothko: Pictures Must be Miraculous and Nova: Why Bridges Collapse are among the documentaries on DVD and digital from PBS Distribution this January.

A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who’s to blame and why was it so catastrophic? Fire in Paradise explores this question with accounts from survivors and first responders, telling the inside story of the most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change.

In the Age of AI, due Jan. 14, takes a journey into how this new technology will transform our world — and some of the ways it already has. It’s been called “The New Space Race.” This time it’s China taking on the United States, and the race is to seize control of a technology with the potential to change everything — the way we work; how we play; how our democracy functions; how the world could be realigned. “Frontline” explores some of the ways in which our world is being re-shaped and reimagined by the technology of artificial intelligence, whose development has been compared to the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity as an epochal event in human history. The film traces the battle between the U.S. and China to harness its power, examining fears about what AI advances mean for the future of work and revealing how AI algorithms are ushering in an age of both great problem-solving potential and of new and troubling threats to privacy and democracy.

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Okavango: River of Dreams, explores the Okavango River in Southern Africa, an unlikely oasis and lush paradise in the middle of a hostile desert that supports and feeds an incredible abundance of wildlife. Unlike most rivers that flow toward the shores of a nearby ocean, it instead runs inland through Botswana, creating a huge river delta before finally disappearing into the Kalahari Desert. An all-star cast of charismatic African wildlife lives and dies in the timeless drama of survival revealed in the program.

Nature’s Biggest Beasts, due Jan. 14, covers the ingenious strategies that nature’s biggest beasts employ to conquer their environments, from the Komodo dragon with a deadly bite to the tallest giraffe to the bird-eating Armored ground cricket. Being massive can have its advantages, but it brings equally immense challenges to survive. Big bodies need more fuel, more space and can attract unwanted attention.

Bears, due Jan. 28, covers animals from the mighty grizzly bear to the endearing spectacled bear (the real-life “Paddington Bear”), from the bamboo-eating panda to the bizarre-looking sloth bear. Among the biggest land mammals on the planet, bears need a lot of resources to survive and must use all of their skills, brawn and brains to get what they need — whether they’re foraging for honeycombs or tasty plants, standing up to their rivals or raising cubs.

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Available now is Why Bridges Collapse, which experts compare what happened to the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, with other deadly bridge collapses, including Minnesota’s I-35W bridge over the Mississippi and the ill-fated Silver Bridge over the Ohio River. Thousands of bridges across the United States and Europe that are listed as structurally deficient. How can new technologies and engineering improvements make bridges across the world safer and more durable than ever before?

Look Who’s Driving, coming Jan. 14, explores autonomous vehicles, which are now being tested on public roads around the world. Dozens of startups have sprung up alongside established auto and tech giants — which are also testing the waters — to form what many hope will be a transformative new industry. But as innovators rush to cash in on what they see as the next high-tech pot of gold, some experts warn there are still daunting challenges to overcome — like how to train computers to make life-and-death decisions as well as humans can. “Nova” peers under the hood of the autonomous vehicle industry to investigate how driverless cars work, how they may change the way we live, and whether we will ever be able to entrust them with our lives.

Rise of the Mammals, due Jan. 21, explores how the course of life on Earth changed radically on a single day 66 million years ago. Blasting our planet, an asteroid caused the extinction of three of every four kinds of living things. The impact ended the Age of Dinosaurs and launched our age, the Age of Mammals. But our understanding of the asteroid’s aftermath has been spotty. Who survived? How quickly did mammals and their habitats spring back? How did our planet recover from this global cataclysm? Now a remarkable find — a trove of exceptionally preserved fossils from the critical first million years after the catastrophe — shines a revelatory light on what followed Earth’s darkest hour. With exclusive access, viewers see the discovery from the first moments of the initial find in 2016. Providing a rare record that combines plants, animals, and precise dates, the discovery paints a vivid portrait of the emergence of a brand-new world.

Dead Sea Scroll Detectives, coming Jan. 21, explores one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time — the Dead Sea Scrolls — was made by a Bedouin shepherd boy in 1947. Since the 2,000-year-old scrolls were first taken from a cave, they’ve intrigued scholars, religious leaders and profiteers alike. These fragile parchment relics include the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. While some scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time — burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces — and remain an enigma. Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes.

Rothko: Pictures Must be Miraculous is a portrait of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko, whose luminous canvasses now set records at international auctions. Rothko’s signature style helped define Abstract Expressionism, the movement that shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York. Interviews with Rothko’s children, Kate and Christopher, as well as leading curators, art historians and conservators present a comprehensive look at the artist’s life and career, complemented by scenes with Alfred Molina in the role of Rothko. Molina performs segments from Rothko’s writings, and the documentary features clips from the six-time Tony-winning play Red.

Comedy ‘Ernesto’s Manifesto’ Due on Disc and Digital From Random Media Jan. 14

The comedy Ernesto’s Manifesto will come out on DVD, Blu-ray, on demand and digital from Random Media Jan. 14.

The film stars Cuban-born American Fernando Hidalgo (“The Fernando Hidalgo Show”), Amy Davidson (“8 Simple Rules”), Adam Huss (“Power”), Lisandra Tena (“The Good Place”), Randy J. Goodwin (“The Rookie”) and newcomer Tabitha Caulfield.

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Written and directed by David M. Matthews, it follows Ernesto, a sweet, simple and gentle man, who is doing the best he can to get by in Los Angeles. A series of bad breaks, however, cause him to lose his job, his girlfriend, and his home. Then, just when all seems hopeless, he finds employment, which leads to housing, an important friendship, and unexpectedly, a new and improved career trajectory.

Matthews and actor-executive producer Hidalgo met through a U.S.-based online advertising outlet, Craigslist, and the production was completely funded by Hidalgo’s Bitcoin profits.

The film was released theatrically Dec. 13.

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Actioner ‘El Coyote’ Due on DVD and Digital Feb. 25 From Random Media

The action-comedy El Coyote will come out on DVD and digital Feb. 25 from Random Media.

The film made $1.3 million at the box office and was screened in 400 theaters across 50 cities in October.

Starring Michael Saquella (Dream Round), Robert Costanzo (Die Hard 2), John Capodice (Speed) and Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down), the film follows a father, Stone Spencer (Saquella), who is living in Arizona in the witness protection program for helping the United States government. Stone is a self-made man — and hit man — for the mafia and an undercover killer for the CIA, who has to negotiate a deal with the Mexican cartel because they have captured his son Jax, a federal ice agent. After doing what the cartel requests of him, they renege, and all hell breaks loose. With too many cartel members to handle, he makes a call to New York and a dozen or so Italian mobsters fly from New York to Arizona to take care of business with the cartel.

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El Coyote is a classic showdown between two high profile gangs, the Italian mafia and Mexican cartel,” stated Michael Saquella. “When was the last time you saw, or heard, about the mafia taking on the cartel?”

Historic David Susskind Martin Luther King Jr. Interview Available on DVD From MVD

The historic David Susskind Archive: Interview With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is available on DVD from MVD Entertainment Group.

Susskind’s long and intimate interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. originally aired on June 9, 1963. Restored by the Paley Center, this broadcast has not been seen in full since its original airing. Among the subjects discussed were the current state of the American Civil Rights Movement and the then recent events in Birmingham, Ala.

On that Sunday night in June, WPIX-TV (NY) cleared this extraordinary interview between Susskind (host of “Open End”) and King. “Open End” had recently been removed from the schedule of WNEW-TV because of the station’s management reluctance to air discussions regarding race relations in America. WPIX picked up the ball, and the rest, as they say, became history.

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Susskind and King discussed the gamut of racial issues of the day, particularly King’s disappointment at the speed at which the Kennedy Administration was moving regarding Civil Rights legislation. The interview so rattled the White House that President Kennedy responded by going on national television to defend his Administration’s positions and to outline his push for what would later be the Civil and Voter’s rights Acts.

The interview was recorded two months before the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

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Biopic ‘Harriet’ Coming to Digital Jan. 14, Disc Jan. 28 From Universal

Harriet, a biopic of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, will journey to digital Jan. 14, and Blu-ray Disc, DVD and on demand Jan. 28 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film, which has earned $42 million at the domestic box office, has been nominated for two 2020 Golden Globe awards, including Best Actress in a Drama for Cynthia Erivo and Best Original Song for “Stand Up,” which was co-written by film star Erivo and Joshuah Campbell. Additionally, the film was nominated for a SAG Award and a Critics Choice Award, earning a total of three Best Actress nominations.

Based on the inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Haunted by memories of those she left behind, Harriet (Erivo) ventures back into dangerous territory on a mission to lead others to freedom. With allies like abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and the entrepreneurial Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monáe), Harriet risks capture and death to guide hundreds to safety as one of the most prominent conductors of the Underground Railroad.

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The film also stars Joe Alwyn, Vodie Curtis Hall and Vanessa Bell Calloway.

Bonus features include deleted scenes, a deeper look into Harriet Tubman’s story, and feature commentary with director and co-writer Kasi Lemmons.