Animated Film ‘Missing Link’ Coming to Digital July 9, Disc July 23 From Fox

Missing Link, the newest stop-motion animated feature from Laika, arrives on digital July 9 and Blu-ray and DVD July 23 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis lead the voice cast in the adventure from the makers of Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. Jackman is Sir Lionel Frost, a brave and dashing adventurer who considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is no one else seems to agree. Galifianakis is Mr. Link. As species go, he’s as endangered as they get; he’s possibly the last of his kind, he’s lonely, and he believes that Sir Lionel is the one man alive who can help him. Along with the independent and resourceful Adelina Fortnight (Saldana), who possesses the only known map to the group’s secret destination, the unlikely trio embarks on a journey to seek out Link’s distant relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La.

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Disc extras include commentary by director Chris Butler; “Creating Mr. Link”; “Bringing the Final Battle on the Ice Bridge to Life”; animation inspiration w/optional commentary by Butler; a VFX breakdown reel; “Oh What a Mystery: Pulling the Camera Back on Missing Link’s Magic”; “Making Faces”; “Inside the Magic of Laika”; and a photo gallery.

Faith Film ‘Breakthrough’ Breaks Out on Digital July 2, Disc July 16

The faith-based film Breakthrough will come out on digital July 2 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD July 16 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In the film, when Joyce Smith’s (Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”) adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz) falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost as John lies lifeless. In the face of every bleak medical case history and dire scientific prediction, Joyce’s unwavering belief inspires her community to pray for John’s recovery.

Along with producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven), the film was adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s book (The Impossible). The film also stars Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Topher Grace (“That ‘70s Show”), Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), Sam Trammell (“This is Us”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24”).

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The film has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for all ages.

Extras on the discs include a making of featurette; “Carry My Soul,” a Phil Wickham deleted scene with optional audio commentary by Franklin and director Roxann Dawson; “Trapped in Icy Waters”; audio commentary by Franklin and Dawson; and a photo gallery.

OTT Video’s Growing Secret: Sports Gambling

Over-the-top video is developing a lucrative relationship with legalized sports gambling — thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a ban on sports gambling a year ago.

Fubo TV and FanDuel Group May 23 announced a partnership that will make FanDuel the exclusive sportsbook, online casino, horse racing and DFS (distributed file system) partner of the live TV streaming service. The companies have also signed a media buy, which makes FanDuel the exclusive advertiser on fuboTV in these categories.

The agreement is FanDuel Group’s first partnership with an online TV service and will expand fuboTV’s sports offering for consumers while integrating betting data on the fubo platform.

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In addition, horse racing networks TVG and TVG2 (and FanDuel affiliates), will also be available to fuboTV subscribers nationwide. TVG will be added to Fubo’s 90+ channels ($54.99/month after seven day free trial), and TVG2 will be available through the Sports Plus add-on package of nearly 25 channels ($8.99/month).

With these channels, fuboTV subs will have access to horse racing industry coverage, in addition to expanded programming on sports betting and fantasy news, including TVG’s sports betting focused pre-game show, “More Ways to Win.”

“We are always looking for ways to add value for consumers and enhance their premium experience with fuboTV,” Min Kim, VP of business development at Fubo, said in a statement. “Gaming and sports are natural complements.”

Indeed, Disney-owned ESPN earlier this month announced it was partnering with Caesars Entertainment to build a branded studio in Las Vegas. The studio will offer sport-betting-related content on ESPN and ESPN+, the newly-launched SVOD service.

“The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before,” said Mike Morrison, VP of business development at ESPN. “We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way.”

In February, WarnerMedia Entertainment inked a deal with Caesars Entertainment to build a branded Vegas studio for its Bleacher Report (B/R) platform.

Fox Sports on May 8 became the first major media company in the U.S. to acquire a stake in sports gambling after paying $236 million  for a 5% ownership of The Stars Group.

“Digital sports wagering represents a growing market opportunity that allows us to diversify our revenue streams, connect directly with consumers and expand the reach of the Fox Sports brand,” said Eric Shanks, CEO of Fox Sports.

Adam Kaplan, VP of content business & operations at FanDuel, said the company’s data analytics will change how people watch sports on TV.

“We can enhance the live-viewing experience by allowing cord-cutting sports fans to view the content that matters to them the most from their TV, phone, tablet or computer,” Kaplan said.

Regardless of its legality, Disney CEO Bob Iger, speaking on the recent fiscal call, was quick to deflect the family-based media giant’s tacit support for gambling.

“We’ve already done some [gambling-related] things that we would integrate it into our programming, but not to the extent that we would be facilitating gambling as an entity,” Iger said. “In other words, we’ll provide programming that will, I guess, be designed to enlighten people who are betting on sports. But that’s as far as we would go. We just don’t intend to go into the gambling business.”

Ted Sarandos: Most-Watched Netflix Shows are Originals

Much attention has been given to major media companies such as Disney, NBC Universal and WarnerMedia pulling back content licensing to Netflix for their own branded over-the-top video platforms — and what impact that would have on the SVOD juggernaut.

Not much, according to CCO Ted Sarandos, who says the streaming service has anticipated such changing market dynamics for the past seven years.

Speaking on the April 16 fiscal webcast, Sarandos said CEO Reed Hastings and others long ago concluded Netflix’s future required streaming original scripted series, unscripted series, feature films, documentaries, standup comedy and children’s programming.

“And that’s what we set out to do,” he said.

Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos

Longtime Netflix bear Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends about 80% Netflix’s content license deals with WarnerMedia (“Friends”) and NBC Universal (“The Office”) expire in 2020.

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Disney’s exclusive feature film agreement ends this year. Netflix’s recently cancelled Marvel Defenders Universe series, which included “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Punisher,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist.”

“Netflix can thrive in the face of new [OTT video] competition only if it has the content to compete,” Pachter wrote in an April 17 note, aptly named, “Netflix: 57 channels (and Nothin’ On).”

Hastings characterizes any comeback strategy aimed at filling in exiting studio content with similar programming as “very minimalist.”

“You look at [global nature series] “Our Planet,” that’s not filling in for anything else, that’s setting a bold new vision of what programming can be,” he said.

Sarandos said Netflix original interactive series “You vs. Wild” has been streamed by about 25 million households in its first 28 days of release. Pending releases include Klaus, Netflix’s first animated feature film from veteran animator Sergio Pablos, and “Green Eggs and Ham,” an Ellen DeGeneres-produced 13-episode animated series.

“It’s pushing storytelling forward, which I think we’re trying,” he said.

The longtime content executive contends most TV programming is largely interchangeable. Netflix’s focus, according to Sarandos, is original programming (such as India’s “Sacred Games,” and “Love Per Square Foot,”) targeting local audiences that can appeal globally as well.

“If you look at our Top 10 most-watched shows on Netflix, they’re all Netflix original brands,” he said, adding that only four TV series among the service’s Top 25 have at least one season available elsewhere.

“It’s hard to imagine a couple of years ago when Fox said, ‘sunset all of their second-window content on Netflix off of the service to focus on their own efforts,’ and we’ve seen how we’ve been doing since 2017, so we’re pretty happy about it,” Sarandos said.

So is Wall Street, which lifted Netflix shares nearly 3% in April 17 pre-market trading.

Atom Tickets Seeks to Work with Exhibitors Rolling Out Subscription Platform

Online ticket platform Atom Tickets announced a new service, Atom Movie Access, enabling exhibitors to develop custom theatrical ticket subscription plans for consumers.

The move represents an effort to incorporate movie theaters with the consumer-popular concept of ticket subscriptions, while not alienating exhibitors as was done by subscription pioneer MoviePass.

MoviePass has cited fraudulent use of its $9.95 monthly subscription – not a flawed business model – for the service’s fiscal challenges.

App-based Atom Movie Access affords exhibitors the ability to offer subscribers reserved seating, pre-order concessions, invite friends via social media and check-in using portable media devices.

“We’ve always believed in being a valuable partner to exhibitors, starting with the core functionality of our app, which allows for marketing promotions at specific locations and integrating exhibitor loyalty plans,” Matthew Bakal, co-founder of Atom Tickets, said in a statement.

The service, which is co-owned by Lionsgate, Disney/Fox and Fidelity Management & Research Co., also offers backend support, including payment transactions, customer service and fraud detection.

“Atom Tickets is an innovative ticketing platform that enables exhibitors to reach and engage new and incremental audiences,” Bakal said.

 

An Ode to Old Hollywood Upon Its Possible Demise

It was a curious juxtaposition March 22. I was touring the old locations — some of which still exist and are recognizable — of the early Laurel and Hardy films — films from the very beginning of the motion picture industry. For the Blu-ray, DVD and digital release of Sony’s Stan & Ollie about the comedy duo, we looked at Main Street in Culver City where so many films from the Hal Roach studio were shot. We looked at the famous Music Box Steps, where the comic duo lensed one of their most memorable sequences.

The Music Box Steps, famed for their appearance in a Laurel and Hardy film, still exist in the Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles.

At the same time, the venerable studio Fox was being subsumed and forever changed by an acquisition deal in which Disney would take over the studio’s content and Fox retain the lot — to whatever purpose it wanted. Who knows what will happen to that historic lot?

And thousands of Fox employees had either already learned, or were awaiting, their fate, as the studios combined and got rid of personnel in duplicative departments.

The next Monday, March 25, Apple announced its entry into the content production business, with no less than Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Oprah — and Big Bird — backing its entry.

Looking down the Music Box Steps.

The old studio system is, if not dead, under attack. The new studio system is likely to include tech companies keen to leverage their distribution power to deliver content. Instead of Disney, Fox, Universal, Sony, Paramount and Lionsgate, will the new order be dominated by Apple, Amazon and Netflix?

“We feel we can contribute something important through great storytelling,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

It remains to be seen. Since when have Apple and the other tech companies been storytellers? For now, they are buying great storytellers with Wall Street money.

Near the end of the Laurel and Hardy tour, we saw a small plaque that recognized the Hal Roach studio that produced the comic duo’s films. The studio lot had been torn down, but had been remembered on this one small plot of land via a plaque. It made me think about what studios would be plaques 100 years from now — and what venerable names would be reduced to engraved remembrances.

Nicole Kidman Crime Drama ‘Destroyer’ Due on Digital April 9, Disc April 23

Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman in a Golden Globe-nominated performance, will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) April 9 and Blu-ray and DVD April 23 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In the crime drama, Kidman stars as L.A.P.D. detective Erin Bell who, in the years since she engaged in an undercover drug ring assignment that ended tragically, has stumbled along a path of self-destruction. When the ring’s boss resurfaces, Bell is drawn back into action to try to stop a violent new crime wave.

Disc bonus features include commentary with director Karyn Kusama; commentary with writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi; “Breakdown of an Anti-Hero: The Making of Destroyer”; and a photo gallery.

40th Anniversary Edition of Sci-Fi Classic ‘Alien’ Coming to 4K UHD Blu-ray April 23 From Fox

The sci-fi classic Alien will come out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc with a new 4K UHD master April 23 for its 40th anniversary from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

A limited edition 4K UHD Steelbook of the Alien 40th Anniversary Edition will also be available exclusively at Best Buy.

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In the film that birthed the successful franchise, the crew of the deep space tug Nostromo awaken from stasis during a voyage home to Earth when their ship’s computer detects what is believed to be an alien distress signal coming from the desolate nearby moon, LV-426. While investigating, one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is attacked by an alien creature that latches to his face and he is rushed back to the Nostromo to receive medical treatment. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the ship’s warrant officer, advises against Kane’s return due to quarantine regulations — but her orders are ignored by Ash (Ian Holm), bringing the Nostromo under threat from a mysterious, extraterrestrial apex predator with violent and lethal survival instincts.

Special features include:

  • the 1979 Theatrical Version;
  • the 2003 Director’s Cut;
  • the 2003 audio commentary by Ridley Scott and the cast and crew;
  • the 1999 audio commentary by Ridley Scott (1979 theatrical version only);
  • the final theatrical isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 theatrical version only);
  • the composer’s original isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 theatrical version only);
  • and deleted scenes.

 

The film was restored in 4K in 2018 by 20th Century Fox at Company 3/Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, supervised by Ridley Scott and Pam Dery, with the 4K scans done at EFilm.

Eight-Time Oscar Nominated ‘Vice’ Coming to Digital March 12, Disc April 2 From Fox

Vice, which has been nominated in eight Academy Award categories, including Best Picture, will be available on digital (including Movies Anywhere) March 12 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 2 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The dark comedy, which chronicles the life of Vice President Dick Cheney, stars Christian Bale in an Oscar-nominated role as Cheney and co-stars Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. It is directed by Adam McKay.

The film has earned $46.2 million in theaters.

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Bonus features include deleted scenes; the featurette “Gaming the System: The Making of Vice”; “The Music of Power”; and a photo gallery.

‘The Greatest Showman’ Home Entertainment Sales Spur Fox Studios Q2 Profit

Twentieth Century Fox Studios Feb. 6 reported second quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating income of $193 million, a 47% increase over the $131 million reported in the previous-year quarter.

Quarterly segment revenue decreased 4% to $2.16 billion from $2.24 billion, primarily reflecting lower home entertainment revenue at the film studio and lower syndication revenue at the television production studio.

Through half the fiscal year, revenue is down less than 6% at $3.97 billion compared to $4.2 billion in the previous-year period.

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Fox, which is in the process of closing its acquisition by The Walt Disney Co., said studio Q2 operating income reflected higher contributions from the worldwide theatrical performance of Bohemian Rhapsody (winner of two Golden Globes and nominated for five Academy Awards), lower theatrical releasing costs from a comparatively lower number of films released in the current quarter, and the worldwide home entertainment and pay-television performance of The Greatest Showman, partially offset by higher new series deficits and lower domestic syndication contributions at the television production studio.

The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman, was the No. 2 selling DVD/Blu-ray Disc title in 2018 after Disney’s Black Panther, according to The-Numbers.com. The title generated $66.4 million in revenue from sales of more than 4.3 million combined discs.

Separately, Fox upped its quarterly Hulu equity loss to $115 million, compared to an equity loss of $108 million last year. Through six months of the fiscal year, Fox’s equity loss with Hulu tops $229 million compared to $170 million during the previous-year period.