Soderbergh Thriller ‘Unsane’ Due on Digital May 29, Disc June 19 from Universal

The Claire Foy thriller Unsane comes out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) on May 29, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand June 19 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Unsane stars Foy (“The Crown,” Breathe) as a woman still scarred from the trauma of being terrorized by a stalker who is receiving treatments at the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Shortly after she unwittingly commits herself to confinement at the mental institution, she catches sight of a facility staffer who, she is convinced, is actually her stalker. Is he real or just a product of her delusion?

The film, which earned $7.7 million in theaters, also stars Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins and Amy Irving.

The 4K Ultra HD combo pack includes the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and digital copy. The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the same bonus features as the Blu-ray version, all in 4K resolution.

From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Unsane (PRNewsfoto/Universal Pictures Home Enterta)

Archstone’s ‘Debt Collector’ Due June 5 on DVD and Digital from Sony

Two small-time enforcers find themselves in big-time trouble in the action-comedy The Debt Collector, available on DVD and digital June 5 from Archstone Distribution via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Scott Adkins (Accident Man, Doctor Strange, The Expendables 2), teams up with Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1 & 2, In the Eyes of a Killer) for this of a classically-trained martial artist (Adkins) who goes to work as a debt collector for the mob — a job that seems easy enough until one “client” pulls him into a dangerous and deadly situation.

Talent Talk: Romance With Hollywood Star Changes Young Man’s Life in ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’

To Hollywood, she was an aging star from the 1950s known for playing femme fatales.

Though she was decades his senior, to a young Peter Turner in Liverpool in the late 1970s, she was a fascinating woman and lover who changed his life.

Based on a true story by Turner, that romance between a young actor and Oscar-winning film star Gloria Grahame is the basis for the romantic drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, available now on digital and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“I was 28. She was in her early 50s,” recalled Turner. “That was quite a big age gap at the time. It was quite unconventional.”

The film stars Annette Bening as Graham and Jamie Bell as Turner. Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave also star. It received three BAFTA Film Award nominations, including Best Leading Actress (Bening), Best Leading Actor (Bell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Matt Greenhalgh), in addition to its four British Independent Film Award nominations, including Best Actor (Bell) and Best Supporting Actress (Walters). The San Francisco Film Critics Circle and London Critics Circle Film Awards each nominated Bening’s performance, with her winning Best Actress at the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.

Bening’s portrayal also gets high marks from Turner, who said, “She made the role her own.”

“There’s no impersonation involved,” he said. “Annette was very clear that she wanted to inhabit the essence of the woman, the truth of Gloria, the soul of Gloria. She didn’t want to put on a phony walk or flip-of-the-hair kind of thing or have a kind of big makeup job. She just wanted to have a kind of truthful portrayal.

“She said to me, ‘Peter, I might not be exactly the Gloria that you knew, but I will be, I promise you, the Gloria that I now know through you.’”

Of the real Grahame, Turner recalls knowing and loving a very singular individual.

“She was just very unique,” he said. “I’d never met anyone like her before or since really. She had this sort of natural kind of aura. She was funny. She was very, very clever and just a wonderful actress, and there was also a sweet vulnerability about her that was very endearing. She had a great sense of humor, and we just connected.”

Though she was typecast often as a femme fatale, the real person wasn’t like that, he said.

“She was quite quiet really,” he said. “She wasn’t boisterous.”

While known in her prime as very glamorous Hollywood royalty — in 1953 she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Bad and the Beautiful — Turner noted she found it hard to do her makeup and hair.

“She never really nailed it, how to dress or how to do her makeup, because of course at the studios it was all done for her,” he said. “She liked to be very natural.”

Turner noted the age difference never bothered him during their romance, and wonders at the double standard that makes the love affair so unusual.

“If I had been in my early 50s and she was 20 no one would have batted an eye,” he said.

All that matters, he said, is human connection.

“Love doesn’t kind of know age really,” he said. “I think that the most important thing in any relationship of any kind of endurance is the love and the connection in the relationship, and I was very lucky to have shared that time of my life with such a wonderful, enlightened, beautiful, sensual, clever woman, and I shall always be grateful for everything that she gave me.”

The DVD release of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool includes the music video for “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” by Elvis Costello; film commentary with director Paul McGuigan, producer Barbara Broccoli and Turner; and four featurettes: “Elvis Costello Performance & Conversation,” “Making of the Music Video: ‘You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way,’” “In Conversation with Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Paul McGuigan & Peter Turner,” and “Annette Bening on Gloria Grahame.”

Film Enthusiast’s Release Report Chronicles Two Decades of Disc, Home Entertainment Industry

It is a statistic perhaps only Ralph Tribbey might notice.

The theatrical-to-disc window of top films would break the 100-day mark for the first time in more than two decades this June.

“On June 12, the 52-week moving average of films grossing $25 million or more at the box office will pierce the 100-day mark for the first time in the 22-year history of the DVD format,” Tribbey wrote in a Special Report edition of the DVD & Blu-ray Release Report that he has been producing for more than two decades.

“That’s the first time that we’ve cracked it,” Tribbey said. “I think that by year-end we could be pushing 95 days.”

It’s a statistic that it particularly important to theatrical distributors that have been under siege from digital services such as Netflix, which has been releasing its films online at the same time they hit theaters. The faster films hit aftermarket distribution, the shorter the time theaters have to capitalize on content income.

“I think digital is driving the marketplace,” Tribbey said, noting there has been a “breakup of traditional distribution patterns.”

Beginning in 2016 the studios collectively began to move things through the pipeline much faster, Tribbey noted.

“They’re squeezing the theatrical to a point where theatrical will be squeezed to the point where it doesn’t make any sense anymore,” he opined.

Tribbey is in a unique position to observe these changes. A native of Los Angeles, after studying economics, he took a job offer as a business analyst for Dun and Bradstreet in San Diego, but soon realized his passion was theatrical exhibition and changed careers. During the early 1970s he worked for Loews Theatres, General Cinema, National Cinema and Great Western Theatres. By 1975 he was running a six-theater chain in partnership with future film producer Steve Lane (The Howling, Lawnmower Man) in San Diego and Orange Counties, which included the arthouse venues, The Strand in Ocean Beach and The Balboa in Newport Beach. During that time, he brought The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings to San Diego and Orange counties. The chain also operated two first run theaters in Escondido, which Tribbey said proved to be too successful for the larger chains to ignore, as they began building larger theaters and squeezed his independent chain out.

During the period, he opened the second video rental store — after Barry Rosenblat’s Video Library — in the city of San Diego (in a small outlet adjacent to The Strand). This small video retail outlet introduced him to local distributor Herb Fischer and a life-long personal and business relationship followed.

The transition from theatrical exhibition to home entertainment included VP of operations for Jim Lahm’s Orange County-based Video Crossroads, the publishing of close to 100,000 poster-sized newsletters for independent video rental outlets each month, a year and a half as managing editor of American Video Monthly Magazine, the designer and publisher of Coast Video Distribution’s monthly mailer, and marketing for Key Video, a subsidiary of 20th Century-Fox, with Herb Fischer as the president.

As entrepreneur with many hats, he jumped at the chance to take over marketing for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s MGM/UA Home Video label in 1987.  He worked alongside former Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president David Bishop at MGM (1987-1990); he was VP of marketing while Bishop was VP of sales. He left MGM when Kirk Kerkorian sold the company to Giancarlo Parretti.

Following his stint at MGM, he served as SVP of marketing for replicator MediaCopy for three years, followed by marketing consulting positions simultaneously with Cabin Fever Entertainment and Orion Pictures. It was during this period that the DVD format was being developed and Tribbey said it then occurred to him that there might be a business in tracking and reporting on DVD releases and patterns.

Tribbey thought, “Why not track DVD from day one and see how it develops?”

He made up his mind to follow the data when Cabin Fever and Orion were both sold within a 48-hour period. Thus, in 1997 he launched the DVD Release Report (later called the DVD & Blu-ray Release Report to accommodate a new disc format). For 22 years, Tribbey has tracked box office take, disc release dates, retail prices and other data for the home entertainment business.

In the process, he’s noted various changes.

“There was the huge rush from 2000 to 2006 where the format took off,” he said. “Everybody was on board. Everybody was converting their libraries to DVD.”

Then he found that Blu-ray Disc peeked as digital delivery exploded.

Now, manufactured-on-demand discs are beginning to dominate.

“I think this year, we will have more MOD SKUs released than manufactured SKUs,” he said, adding MOD dominates “deep catalog, special interest, foreign-language and obscure titles.”

In his spare time, Tribbey is working on books, including one on the chronological theatrical release history of horror, sci-fi and fantasy films of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

“It’s fun,” he said.

But he’s still a big proponent of disc.

“For things that you want to keep, I think hard copy is the way to go,” he said.

‘I Can Only Imagine,’ ‘I Am Elizabeth Smart’ Due This Summer From Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the surprise spiritual film hit I Can Only Imagine on digital June 5, and Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand June 12.

The film has earned more than $81 million at the domestic box office.

Starring Dennis Quaid and J. Michael Finley, the film is based on the true story behind Christian band MercyMe’s song “I Can Only Imagine.” Running from a troubled home life and a broken relationship, Bart Millard (Finley) finds escape in music.

Special features include seven deleted scenes, the “MercyMe: The Early Days” featurette, the “Imagine Forgiveness with Bart Millard” featurette, the “Casting I Can Only Imagine” featurette, the “The Power of the Song” featurette, the “Creating Imagine” featurette, the “The Music of Imagine” featurette, Dennis Quaid in the “On My Way to Heaven” featurette, and  audio commentary.

Due July 10 on DVD ($14.98) from Lionsgate is the Lifetime movie I Am Elizabeth Smart, based on one of the most famous abductions in history, authorized and narrated by Smart herself. The film follows the June 2002 abduction of 14-year-old Elizabeth Ann Smart (Alana Boden) from her home in Salt Lake City by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell (Skeet Ulrich).

‘Death Wish’ Debuts May 22 on Digital, June 5 on Disc

Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis, will come out digitally on 4K Ultra HD and HD May 22 and Blu-ray, DVD and video-on-demand 4K Ultra HD and HD services June 5 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM.

The film earned $33.9 million in U.S. theaters.

In director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller, Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Kersey hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice.

Updated from the original novel by Brian Garfield, the film also stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise.

Special features include  commentary with Eli Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum; deleted scenes with optional commentary with Roth and Birnbaum; “Mancow Morning Show” extended scenes; “Sway in the Morning” extended scene; “Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish”; and Grindhouse trailer.

Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Coming May 29 on Digital, June 5 on Disc

A Wrinkle in Time, starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling and directed by Ava DuVernay, will come out May 29 on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD and Movies Anywhere and June 5 on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD and On-Demand from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

The film has earned $93.7 million in theaters.

Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal-winning young adult novel, the story follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid) who — with the help of Mrs. Which (Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Kaling) — journeys across dimensions with classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) and younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) in search of her father (Chris Pine), a world-renowned physicist who mysteriously disappeared four years ago.

Bonus material includes an extended featurette providing inside access to the cast and crew; audio commentary from DuVernay and team; deleted scenes; bloopers; and two music videos, “I Believe,” performed by DJ Khaled and Demi Lovato, and “Warrior,” performed by Chloe x Halle.

Toys ‘R’ Us, Once a Big Seller of Discs and Games, Winds Down Operations

Toys ‘R’ Us is winding down operations, even as a last-minute attempt to save the struggling toy chain – once a significant player in the DVD/Blu-ray Disc and video game sellthrough market – is gaining a fair amount of press attention.

The Wall Street Journal on April 13 reported that billionaire toy maker Isaac Larian, founder of Bratz dolls maker MGA Entertainment Inc., said he had submitted a bid of $890 million for U.S. and Canadian Toys ‘R’ Us stores.
The offer came after a public crowdfunding campaign to salvage parts of the distressed chain “failed to gain much traction,” the Journal said, noting that Larian has also “dismissed suggestions that the bid was a publicity stunt.”

Meanwhile, Toys ‘R’ Us has employed “sign twirlers” to stand at high-traffic intersections near some of its stores, promoting the liquidation at prices up to 30% off.

At an Oceanside, California, Toys ‘R’ Us – one of the older stores, with side-by-side entrance and exit doors and a metal divider separating those coming in from those coming out – the toy shelves were surprisingly full Monday night.

But the movie and video game department – set off in a corner, store-within-a-store style – the cupboards were nearly bare.

The video game section, in particular, was virtually depleted, with catalog games for the big three consoles priced at 15% off the list price.

Discs are even more deeply discounted, at 20% off. But the selection was a shadow of what it used to be, and the rack was about half empty.

Still awaiting purchase: a plethora of budget cartoons and family movies as well as a smattering of marquee titles, including Walt Disney combo packs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the live-action Beauty and the Beast, each stickered at $29.99: Universal Pictures’ The Fate of the Furious (pre-discount sticker price $19.99); and Warner’s Justice League (also $19.99, even before the discount $5 less than what Amazon is charging).

Larian launched a $1 billion crowdfunding plan last month to save at least a portion of the retail chain. So far the effort has raised $59,000, on top of the $200 million he said he already raised toward the goal from himself and traditional investors. He had set a deadline of May 28 to raise the funds for the bid.

Toys ‘R’ Us was founded by Charles Lazarus in 1957, nine years after he launched a children’s furniture store, to which he gradually added more and more toys. Toys ‘R’ Us subsequently expanded into a chain and ultimately operated around 800 stores in the United States and roughly the same number abroad.

The chain was so successful that it birthed sister chains Babies ‘R’ Us and Kids ‘R’ Us. In 2001, Toys ‘R’ Us opened a 110,000-square-foot flagship store in New York’s Times Square at a cost of $35 million.

But with the rise of discount chains like Walmart and Target Stores, with their sizeable toy departments, toy specialists found it increasingly hard to compete. The rise of the Internet and the surge in e-commerce made things even more difficult. K·B Toys and FAO Schwarz were among the casualties (although Toys ‘R’ Us picked up both chains’ remains), while Toys ‘R’ Us limped along, closing stores and negotiating with toy makers for better deals.

A $7.5 billion leveraged buyout in 2005 by Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust loaded Toys ‘R’ Us with debt, weakening the chain’s position even further.

After years of trying to find a buyer, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on Sept. 18, 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

On March 14, 2018, Toys ‘R’ Us announced that all of its stores in the United Kingdom would close. The next day, it was announced that the U.S. operations of Toys ‘R’ are us were going out of business as well and all 735 of its remaining U.S. locations would be shuttered.

Netflix Turns 21, Co-Founder Reed Hastings Talks Facebook

Netflix quietly turned 21 years old on April 14, and co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings was on a stage in Vancouver, BC, discussing lessons learned from the recent data breach scandal at Facebook.

During a Q&A on the last day of the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, Hastings, who has been on Facebook’s board of directors since 2011, attempted to downplay recent revelations that the personal data of 87 million Facebook users had been compromised by a third party for profit.

Comparing Facebook and similar interrupting technologies to the rising popularity of the television in the United States in the 1960s, Hastings said Facebook remains sometimes misunderstood, on a steep learning curve, prone to making occasional mistakes.

“[TV] was [once] called a vast wasteland. [It] was going to rock the minds of everybody. And it turns out everybody’s minds were fine. There were some adjustments,” said Hastings, as reported by Recode.

Mistake or not, the fact millions of Facebook users’ data was used by a foreign company to impact the 2016 presidential election, found apologetic founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington, D.C., fielding questions from lawmakers – many of whom appeared unaware how the social media platform worked.

“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” asked Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

“Senator, we run ads,” responded Zuckerberg after a pause.

Hatch later tweeted that he knew how Facebook’s business model worked and that the real issue remained transparency in the Internet age.

Netflix’s Hastings, who is up for re-election to Facebook’s board, appeared to have Hatch’s sentiment in mind. He said Facebook deserved to be criticized and that senior management was taking the issue of protecting user data seriously.

“So, I think of it as all new technologies have pros and cons. And in social [media] we’re just figuring that out,” Hastings said.

Separately, the CEO said Netflix’s early success revolved around willfully launching a business model with built-in obsolescence and using that sand clock to enhance its revolutionary online by-mail disc rental platform into a streaming video pioneer.

“We were born on DVD and we knew that would be temporary,” Hastings said. “No one thought we’d be mailing discs for the next 100 years.”

Netflix April 16 reports first quarter (ended March 31) fiscal results after the markets close.



Indie Company Rises With New Vision

“Roseanne” is once again a success on TV — and capitalizing on that reboot is a company flying quietly under the radar with digital rights to the classic Roseanne Barr series and others from television production stalwart Carsey-Werner.

That company is FilmRise, which, along with CEO Danny Fisher and his partners, has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy on a vision of digital content distribution.

“My brother and I went personally bankrupt in 2012,” recalls Danny Fisher. “We lost it all, and I had a vision for a company that was digitally minded, and we created that company in the basement and kitchen of my house, my Brooklyn brownstone.”

Starting with a handful of titles, one of which Jack Fisher (now president of FilmRise) had produced, the two brothers, together with third founder, current chairman Alan Klingenstein, built a business. They raised an initial $200,000 from a couple of investors to prove an essentially digital distribution concept, and FilmRise took off.

“In the last two years, we’ve raised $112 million, we have a 15,000-square-foot office, we have 65 people on staff, and the company’s been in the black for several years,” Fisher said. “We’re doing very well.”

Danny Fisher said the company has three key businesses: acquisition and distribution, which includes such successes as the theatrical feature My Friend Dahmer and the Carsey-Werner deal; AVOD, advertising-supported video-on-demand streaming services under the FilmRise banner; and original television production, a new venture.

On the acquisition and distribution side, “in the digital space, we are one of top aggregators for Amazon Prime and we’ve been very close to Amazon from the days of working out of my basement,” Fisher said. “Of course, we work with Netflix, Hulu, many other platforms as well and including pay-TV.”

But they also acquire features, such as My Friend Dahmer.

“We don’t sort of have a brand in the sense that we are an art house, or genre house,” Fisher said.  “We take on everything. I don’t mean we take on everything like everything that comes our way. We are extremely selective. What I mean is we work with a lot of different genres, everything from art house to foreign language to mainstream commercial films.”

How does the company decide what to acquire?

“There is a proprietary method that we have that my investors are not even privy to so I have to leave that part, but I will just say that’s a model that I developed in my basement,” Fisher said. “Essentially, we’ve been able to figure out how to acquire titles the people want to see. We figured that part out. How we get there is a little more involved. We look for quality content that we believe to have viewers. Whether they are DVD buyers or whether they are watching in a theater or watching online — we acquire titles that people want to see.”

As for the second aspect of the business, advertising-based VOD, FilmRise has expanded rapidly in an arena that many have ignored as SVOD has taken the spotlight.

“We launched a while ago but it’s really only in the last few months we’ve gotten to real critical mass where it’s become a real key part of our business. We have our own streaming network and our streaming network is ad-supported,” Fisher said. “Currently, we have 22 channels on Roku. We’re now just launched on Xbox and Windows and we are about to launch on Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV as well as mobile applications worldwide.”

While Crackle might be one of the best-known AVOD platforms, FilmRise is quietly rising in the space.

“I think we are approaching the size of Crackle probably,” Fisher said. “We are kind of under the radar. If you look at the Roku ranks, FilmRise [with all of its channels] is right behind Crackle.”

FilmRise has many different genre-based, ad-supported VOD channels, such as FilmRise Documentary, FilmRise Thriller, FilmRise Gay & Lesbian and FilmRise Horror.

Fisher sees an opportunity in ad-supported VOD.

“What about those people who can’t afford or don’t want to pay any money? It’s a different kind of audience,” he said. “They’re willing to watch a commercial in order to have it for free and to have no obligations, to have to get a cable box or to have to pay Netflix or anybody a fee. It’s a different type of audience. When you think worldwide, it’s a really, really big audience, I mean it’s a billion plus audience. It’s a less glamorous audience, because right now you’re not going to be able to produce ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Stranger Things’ and all that for an ad-supported channel.”

But “right now” isn’t what FilmRise is all about. They are indeed getting into original TV production, the third aspect of their business, planning for the future.

“We brought onboard to be head of production Vlad Wolynetz [formerly with AMC], and he oversaw production of shows like ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ and most recently produced ‘Waco’ for Paramount,” Fisher said. “He’s head of production and what we’re looking to do there is enter into co-productions and co-financing deals with other entities, and we’re in discussions right now with major studios and major networks on some very substantial deals.”

None of these plans seem unusual for a company planning to follow the axioms of the day in entertainment — the right acquisitions (including distribution on disc, which is still “a solid business,” Fisher said), digital AVOD and original productions.

“We’re trying to be hopefully just a little bit smarter than everybody else,” Fisher said. “We don’t have to be a lot smarter. We just have to be like 1% smarter than everybody else to be successful.”