HBO’s ‘The Undoing’ Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD March 23

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the six-episode limited series The Undoing on Blu-ray Disc and DVD March 23, 2021. It is available now through digital retailers.

The Undoing stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as a married couple whose lives are upended by a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Undoing was written and produced by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier. The cast also includes Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Noma Dumezweni, Sofie Gråbøl, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Donald Sutherland.

Extras include the featurettes “Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant Introduce The Undoing,” “Creating The Undoing” and “The Undoing Revelations.”

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AT&T CEO Defends Warner Bros./HBO Max Movie Release Strategy, Says User Engagement Up 36% in Past 30 Days

AT&T CEO John Stankey Dec. 8 defended WarnerMedia’s landmark decision to release all 2021 Warner Bros. movies in theaters concurrently with subscription streaming video service HBO Max in the home. Speaking at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Investor confab, Stankey said the move was done in response to the “psyche of the population” during the ongoing pandemic that has decimated the theatrical business through mandated closures, limited seating at operating screens and wary moviegoers.

“We’re all participants in a market that serves customers,” Stankey said. “The longer-term impacts are going to be dictated by what consumers wish to do.”

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Contending the streaming video horse has “left the barn,” Stankey said response among existing HBO subscribers to Max continues to resonate. He said adoption is now 12.6 million subs, up from 8.6 million at the end of the most-recent fiscal period. Since launching HBO Max on May 27, AT&T has made the $15 monthly SVOD service free to its 42 million combined HBO pay-TV (and HBO Now) subs in the United States. Adoption of HBO Max has been slow, with fewer than 3 million HBO pay-TV subs signing up through June — a reality driven by confusing access rules and unavailability on the Roku platform.

By comparison, rival streaming service Disney+ generated almost 74 million subs globally in its first year.

Stankey said offering Warner’s theatrical slate in the home adds an incentive to subscribe to HBO Max while affording diehard moviegoers equal access.

“Customers have a tremendous amount of choice as to how they choose to engage with content,” Stankey said. “If we just simply sit here and say, ‘This is about whether or not people go to movie theaters,’ I think we’re missing the broader point. Today, even before WarnerMedia made this decision, customers could go watch great, two-hour content on a variety of competitive services. Customers are going to drive what happens in a market, ultimately.”

The executive said the distribution strategy could change should the new coronavirus vaccine pan out and consumers return to theaters.

“We’re not putting one [distribution channel] over the other,” Stankey said. “This to me seems like a very friendly and innovative approach.”

WarnerMedia Boss Jason Kilar Sends Out Staff Memo Announcing Job Cuts

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar Nov. 10 sent out a staff email outlining the company’s ongoing restructuring, which the former Hulu CEO said included addressing “which jobs are being eliminated and which roles have changed.”

The memo did not identify specific positions or personnel. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT at which Kilar said he will answer staff questions.

Since acquiring Time Warner and creating WarnerMedia, AT&T has grappled with paying down billions in debt and streamlining costs magnified during a pandemic.

Kilar, who was hired by corporate parent AT&T on April 1 to spearhead the former Time Warner company, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, has previously disclosed that upwards of 20% of WarnerMedia’s staff positions would be let go. In August, Kilar cut about 500 positions, including that of longtime home entertainment boss Ron Sanders, as part of restructuring the company’s entertainment studios, elevating HBO Max companywide, and consolidating commercial activities.

“This is a very painful email to write,” Kilar wrote. “And for a number of you reading this, I realize it will be even more painful to receive. For this, I am sorry.”

“Today, we have arrived at a number of difficult decisions that are resulting in a smaller WarnerMedia team,” Kilar wrote. “This is a function of removing layers and the impact of consolidating previously separate organizations. Starting today in North America, we will be sharing which jobs are being eliminated and which roles have changed. We are continuing to review proposed changes in other countries across our non-U.S. businesses, the timing of which will vary according to local regulatory requirements. Nothing about this is easy. But please know, these reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the team members impacted, nor their work. It is simply a function of the changes I believe we must make in order to best serve customers. For those impacted, we will be offering severance and healthcare packages, in addition to professional services and team member assistance programs.”

Kilar said he anticipates that organizationally, things will “settle down materially” in the weeks and months to come, while adding that WarnerMedia’s future is not static.

“Our future is about inventing ever better ways to move the world through story, which entails embracing change,” he wrote. “I have every confidence in this world class team to do just that.”

To our colleagues who are leaving, I wish there were words to lessen today’s pain. Your contributions are a permanent part of this great company and today’s news does not change that. I am extremely thankful for all that you have done for this team and this mission. I hope that at some point you will look back on all of it with immense pride.

HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 16

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Feb. 16 (order date Jan. 12).

Based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, the supernatural drama series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father, Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters described in an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.

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The “Lovecraft Country” Blu-ray and DVD will include all 10 hourlong episodes, plus several featurettes, including “Crafting Lovecraft Country,” “Exploring Lovecraft Country” and “Lovecraft Country The Craft,” plus all-new extras “Compendium of Horrors” and “Orithyia Blue and the Imagination of Diana Freeman.”

The show is available now through digital retailers.

HBO Max Bowing ‘The Mystery of D.B. Cooper’ Doc Nov. 25

HBO and subscription streaming video platform HBO Max Nov. 25 are set to launch documentary The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, about the infamous unidentified man who in 1971 successfully hijacked and parachuted from a 727 Boeing passenger plane over Washington State with $200,000 in cash — and disappeared without a trace. The hijacker had identified himself to airplane personnel as D.B. Cooper.

Drawing from a combination of dramitizations and archival footage, as well as interviews with those most connected to the infamous case and its likeliest culprits, the documentary also explores how the heist inspired copycat hijackings and elevated Cooper to cult status and folklore.

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Directed by Emmy-nominated director John Dower (Thrilla in Manila, My Scientology Movie), the doc explores the stories of four individuals fervently believed by their family and friends to be the mystery man who hijacked the plane flying out of Portland, Ore., traded the passengers’ lives for cash and four parachutes, bailed out at 10,000 feet and was never heard from again. Almost 50 years later, the case continues to confound the FBI and inspire wild speculation as it remains the only unsolved airplane hijacking in U.S. history.

D.B. Cooper is part of a collection of five crime-focused docs that premiere on Wednesdays beginning Nov. 18. Each title goes beyond the sensational headlines to explore the human toll on all sides of a crime and delves deep into the internal and external worlds of perpetrators, victims, and survivors.

The anthology includes Academy Award winner Alex Gibney’s profile of a pioneering forensic psychiatrist who has studied some of the most notorious serial killers in Crazy, Not Insane (Nov. 18); a shocking examination into Las Vegas fertility specialist, Dr. Quincy Fortier in Baby God (Dec. 2); the tale of an attempted murder by a religious snake handler in Alabama Snake (Dec. 9); and the search for justice in the aftermath of a bishop and human rights activist’s murder in Guatemala in The Art of Political Murder (Dec. 16).

HBO Max Touts 8.6 Million Q3 Activations; 38 Million U.S. Subs Total

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s high-profile subscription streaming video platform, Oct. 22 reported 8.6 million subscriber activations in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The SVOD service had 4.1 million activations after its first month of service following the May 27 launch. Activations are classified as HBO pay-TV subscribers and non-subs who sign up separately for Max with a “valid payment” method.

Max and HBO totaled 38 million combined subs when factoring in existing HBO subs able to access Max (for free) via third-party pay-TV operators. They had 36.2 million combined subs on July 23, exceeding a year-end goal of 36 million. Domestic HBO and Max subscribers do not include customers that are part of a free trial.

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Worldwide HBO/Max subs consist of domestic and international HBO subscribers and domestic Max subs and excludes Cinemax subs. AT&T management says Max consumer engagement is 60% higher than for SVOD predecessor HBO Now.

“We continue to grow and scale HBO Max, with total domestic HBO and Max subscribers … well ahead of our expectations for the full year,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement. AT&T has spent $2 billion on the launch of Max.

While Stankey put a positive spin on subscriber growth, the activation figure underscores Max’s ongoing struggles to capture consumers — without distribution agreements with Roku and Amazon. To compare, Max’s new sub additions were only about twice that of Netflix’s sluggish Q3 additions, which ended the quarter with 195 million paid subs.

WarnerMedia Planning to Cut Workforce Upwards of 20%

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is continuing to clean house since being hired earlier this year by AT&T CEO John Stankey to run the former Time Warner entity. Kilar, who formerly headed Hulu, reportedly is seeking additional entertainment cuts approaching 20% of the company’s workforce since eliminating 500 positions in August. Those layoffs included Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. worldwide theatrical distribution and president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Cuts in the coming weeks are expected at Warner Bros., HBO, TBS and TNT.

“Like the rest of the entertainment industry, we have not been immune to the significant impact of the pandemic,” a WarnerMedia spokesman told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the restructuring. “We are in the midst of that process and it will involve increased investments in priority areas and, unfortunately, reductions in others.”

WarnerMedia reportedly had 26,000 employees when it was Time Warner. With the entertainment sector in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and studio and TV production in slow motion, WarnerMedia is putting much of its resources into HBO Max, the recently-launched SVOD and pending AVOD platform.

Max had about 4.1 million people activate the app in the first month since launching on May 27. When combined with a negotiations impasse with Roku regarding placement of the Max app on the streaming media manufacturer’s platform, the SVOD and pending AVOD platform significantly lags behind rivals Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

In addition, Warner Bros. continues to push back theatrical releases to 2021, including most recently sci-fi reboot Dune, from December to next year. Robert Pattinson starrer The Batman has been bumped from 2021 to 2022. Patty Jenkins sequel Wonder Woman 1984 has been bumped three times to the current Dec. 25 release.

“There’s nothing that’s sacred anywhere in the business,” Stankey told The Journal earlier this year. “WarnerMedia is no exception to that.”

Warner Announces October 2020 HBO Sellthrough Releases

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced its slate of digital sellthrough releases of HBO titles for October 2020.

Due Oct. 5 is the sports documentary Women of Troy, about the USC women’s basketball team of the 1980s. Directed by Alison Ellwood and produced by Gary Cohen of Triple Threat TV, the film explores how the Cheryl Miller-led Trojans changed women’s basketball forever with their up-tempo style and superior athleticism en route to winning consecutive national championships, and ultimately influencing the establishment of the WNBA.

Arriving Oct. 10 is Room 104: Season 4. Set in a single room of a typical American chain motel, this anthology series tells different stories of the assorted characters who pass through it. From creators and executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass, episodes range from comedy to drama to horror.

Coastal Elites arrives Oct. 12. Produced entirely under quarantine, this special presentation from Paul Rudnick and Jay Roach stars Bette Midler, Kaitlyn Dever, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson and Issa Rae playing characters from New York to Los Angeles coping with politics and the pandemic. The comedic satire tells contemporary stories of breaking down and breaking through that are funny, searing and poignant.

Due Oct. 19 is Lovecraft Country. Based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, the drama series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father, Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters described in an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.

Arriving Oct. 20 is The Third Day. Told over the first three episodes, “Summer” stars Jude Law as Sam, a man who is drawn to a mysterious Island off the British coast where he encounters a group of islanders set on preserving their traditions at any cost. “Winter” unfolds over the latter three episodes and stars Naomie Harris as Helen, a strong-willed outsider who comes to the island seeking answers, but whose arrival precipitates a fractious battle to decide its fate.

Coming Oct. 30 is Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, a five-part documentary series offering an unprecedented look at the abduction and murder of at least 30 African-American children and young adults in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981. With the official re-opening of the case by Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms 40 years later, the series tells the inside story of this tragedy, shedding new light on the killings through interviews with those closest to the children and the investigation, as well as exclusive archival material.

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HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ Due on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 1

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the HBO miniseries Chernobyl on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 1. A limited-edition Steelbook edition will be available the same day exclusively at Best Buy.

The five-part series that dramatizes the explosion at the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 that spewed a cloud of radioactive gas over Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Jared Harris portrays Valery Legasov, a leading Soviet nuclear physicist who was one of the first to grasp the scope of the unparalleled disaster that occurred. Stellan Skarsgård plays Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shcherbina, who is assigned by the Kremlin to lead the government commission on Chernobyl in the hours immediately following the accident. Emily Watson portrays Ulana Khomyuk, a composite character representing Soviet scientists investigating the disaster.

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Best Buy’s ‘Chernobyl’ Steelbook

Chernobyl won two Golden Globe Awards and 10 Primetime Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series in 2019.

The 4K Ultra HD combo pack will include the five episodes on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray disc, and will include a digital copy of the miniseries. The Best Buy Steelbook packaging features artwork inspired by the Edvard Munch painting The Scream.

Extras, which are not available in 4K, include “Inside the Episode” featurettes, plus “Meet the Key Players,” “Behind the Curtain: Director Johan Renck,” “Script to Screen: The Divers” and “Pivotal Moment: The Trial.”

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HBO’s ‘Perry Mason’ on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 1

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the first season of HBO’s “Perry Mason” remake on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 1 (order date Oct. 27). The show is available now on HBO Max and for digital sellthrough.

The series stars Matthew Rhys as the title character from the series of books by Erle Stanley Gardner.

The show takes place in Los Angeles in 1932 and chronicles Mason’s involvement as a private investigator on a case involving a murdered child, detailing how he became a lawyer. The series is essentially a prequel to the books, in which Mason is a legendary attorney. The first of 82 Mason books, The Case of the Velvet Claws, was released in 1933.

The cast also includes Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk, Shea Whigham, Tatiana Maslany, John Lithgow, Stephen Root, Gayle Rankin, Nate Corddry, Veronica Falcón, Jefferson Mays, Lili Taylor, Andrew Howard, Eric Lange and Robert Patrick.

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Executive Producers are Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, Amanda Burrell, Ron Fitzgerald, Joe Horacek, Rolin Jones and Tim Van Patten (who also directs).

Perry Mason: The Complete First Season includes all eight episodes, plus the featurettes “The Characters of Perry Mason” and “Under the Fedora,” and Robert Downey Jr. conversations with Matthew Rhys and Susan Downey.

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