‘Jungle Cruise,’ ‘In the Heights’ Lead Aug. 31 Digital and Disc Releases

Aug. 31 sees Disney’s Jungle Cruise become available for digital purchase, while Warner’s In the Heights arrives on disc.

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution makes Jungle Cruise available for early digital ownership Aug. 31. Based on the classic Disneyland ride, the film stars Dwayne Johnson as Frank, the skipper of an Amazon River tour boat, who is recruited by explorer Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) who seeks an ancient tree with mythical healing abilities. It arrives on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Nov. 16.

DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby: Family Business will be available for digital purchase Aug. 31 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The sequel welcomes back the Templeton brothers — Tim (voice of James Marsden) and his Boss Baby little bro Ted (Alec Baldwin) — who have become adults and drifted away from each other. Enter new boss baby Tina (Amy Sedaris) determined to bring them together again and inspire a new family business. It arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 14.

The musical In the Heights is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digitally Aug. 31 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Broadway’s Hamilton) music and lyrics. It stars Anthony Ramos (A Star Is Born, Broadway’s Hamilton) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, BlacKkKlansman). The film also stars singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (TV’s “Vida”), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s In the Heights), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s Rent), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s Matilda the Musical), Stephanie Beatriz (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Dascha Polanco (TV’s “Orange Is the New Black”) and Jimmy Smits (the “Star Wars” films). In the film set in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies a vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

The animated family film Spirit Untamed arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 31 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation. Spirit Untamed follows free-spirited Lucky Prescott, who moves to Miradero to join her estranged father. She is decidedly unimpressed with the sleepy town until she discovers a unique tie to her late mother who was a fearless horse-riding stunt performer. She quickly forms a bond with a wild mustang named Spirit and makes two new pals who love horses as much as she does. When a heartless wrangler plans to capture Spirit and his herd, Lucky and her friends set off on an epic journey to rescue the horse who has given her an unbreakable connection to her mother’s legacy.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Aug. 31 releases the direct-to-video animated movie Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms on Blu-ray Disc, as a 4K Ultra HD combo pack and through digital retailers. A sequel to 2020’s Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge and based on the “Mortal Kombat” video game franchise, Battle of the Realms finds the team of heroes besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn — forcing Raiden and his group of warriors into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms. As the travel to Outworld in order to defend Earthrealm, Scorpion must find the ancient Kamidogu before it’s used to resurrect the One Being — which would mean certain destruction of all things in the universe.

Season six of “Fear The Walking Dead” arrives on Blu-ray (plus digital) and DVD Aug. 31 from Lionsgate. In season six, after being torn apart by the Pioneers, Morgan’s (James) group is now dispersed across their far-reaching settlements, with life behind the Pioneers’ walls testing each of the group’s members in different ways — and forcing them to define who they really are in this new world. As Morgan’s bid to free the remaining members of the group grows bolder, Virginia’s (Minifie) desperation to find her sister accelerates, as does her need to protect the settlements from the enemy forces outside — and within. With new alliances forming, relationships dissolving, loyalties switching, and everyone forced to take sides, “The End Is the Beginning” reveals its deepest meaning.

The historical sports film 12 Mighty Orphans will come out on digital, DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 31 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. An official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film stars Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw, Wayne Knight, Jake Austin Walker, with Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen. It tells the true story of the Mighty Mites, the football team of a Fort Worth, Texas, orphanage who, during the Great Depression, went from playing without shoes — or even a football — to playing for the Texas state championships. Over the course of their winning season these underdogs and their resilient spirit became an inspiration to their city, state and an entire nation in need of a rebound, even catching the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The architect of their success was Rusty Russell, a legendary high school coach who shocked his colleagues by giving up a privileged position so he could teach and coach at an orphanage. Few knew Rusty’s secret: that he himself was an orphan. Recognizing that his scrawny players couldn’t beat the other teams with brawn, Rusty developed innovative strategies that would come to define modern football.

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CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment releases Blue Bloods: The Tenth Season on DVD Aug. 31. “Blue Bloods” is a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Tom Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the New York police commissioner, who heads both the police force and the Reagan brood. He runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family, even when dealing with the politics that plagued his unapologetically bold father, Henry, during his stint as chief. The cast also includes Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Marisa Ramirez, Vanessa Ray and Len Cariou. The 11th season consists of 16 episodes and finds Frank clashing with the City Council Speaker (Whoopi Goldberg) over protests against police brutality.

NCIS: New Orleans: The Final Season will be released on DVD Aug. 31 by CBS and Paramount. Starring Scott Bakula, Rob Kerkovich and CCH Pounder, “NCIS: New Orleans” deals with the local field office that investigates criminal cases involving military personnel in The Big Easy, a city known for its music, entertainment and decadence. Leading the team is Special Agent Dwayne Pride, a.k.a. “King,” a native of New Orleans who is driven by his need to do what is right. This colorful city that harbors a dark side is a magnet for service personnel on leave, and when overindulgence is followed by trouble, Pride’s team is at its best.

Also due on DVD Aug. 31 is NCIS: New Orleans: The Complete Series, containing all seven seasons.

Breaking Glass Pictures Aug. 31 releases A Wake, an LGBTQ family drama from director Scott Boswell (The Stranger in Us). The film will be available on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu, as well as through local cable and satellite providers and on DVD.

Cohen Film Collection Aug. 31 releases Blu-ray Disc and DVDs of “Three Men to Kill,” a double feature of two classic French crime dramas starring Alain Delon, the French actor and screen sex symbol of the 1960s and ’70s. The collection will consist of  the movies The Gang (1977) and Three Men to Kill (1980), and will retail at $19.95 (DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray). 

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

Is ‘Heights’ Misstep the First Crack in Warner’s Hybrid Streaming/Theatrical Release Strategy?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Warner Pictures’ Latino-themed musical In The Heights failed to measure up to the studio’s projection it would earn $20 million at the theatrical box office its opening weekend — despite stellar reviews and being based on an award-winning Broadway musical.

The movie, which featured an ensemble cast and $55 million production budget, generated about $11.65 million. It also streamed concurrently on HBO Max as part of WarnerMedia’s decision to stream Warner’s entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously.

Thus far, the strategy seemed like a home run, with Warner titles dominating both the pandemic box office and streaming households. And by COVID-19 standards, with theaters operating at lower capacity, Heights’ opening weekend was a success. The movie will likely generate at least 1 million Max households, which is on par (1.3+ million) for most Warner titles this year.

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But the box office is supposed to be putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Recent releases such as Disney’s Cruella, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and even Warner’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It suggested moviegoers (especially those who are vaccinated) were headed back to the cineplex in greater numbers.

So what happened? Bad expectations.

Heights, like the previous underperforming Warner theatrical release Judas and the Black Messiah, was never destined for box office largess due largely to a variety of factors, including a Broadway backdrop and the lack of name cast.

“Ultimately, this is not the first musical to be hyped by the industry and fall a little short of expectations,” Shawn Robbins, chief box office analyst at Boxoffice.com, said in a media interview. “Maybe the timing wasn’t quite right, or it simply wasn’t fair to expect such big things, even pre-pandemic, from a relatively original title with mostly unknown actors.”

“We’re still in the middle of a learning process when it comes to the theatrical performance of films that have a hybrid release strategy,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, told the Los Angeles Times. “Musicals have a fairly mixed track record at the box office. Despite the high hopes and general enthusiasm for the film, this debut should not be the only metric for success.”

Independent analyst The Entertainment Oracle contends that regardless of Heights‘ final numbers, the hybrid theatrical/streaming distribution model has proved successful.

“From it we can see that beyond a shadow of a doubt the traditional [theatrical] model is still alive and well, and despite what was assumed, the two don’t cannibalize each other to a high level,” he wrote.


Warner’s ‘In The Heights’ Misses Weekend Box Office Projections; Sony’s ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ Performs as Expected

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Latino musical In The Heights was supposed to lure non-action/monster moviegoers back to theaters through June 13.

Instead, the theatrical adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit — which won four Tony awards, including best musical — sputtered, reportedly taking in about 60% ($11.4 million) of the movie’s projected $20 million theatrical gross across 3,456 screens.

Indeed, the movie was edged out by Paramount Pictures’ post-apocalyptic sequel A Quiet Place Part II for top-grossing weekend domestic release with a reported $11.65 million in revenue. The latter has grossed more than $108 million in three weeks at U.S. theaters.

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Despite enhanced studio promotion and strong critical reviews, the ensemble cast-driven Heights was perhaps undermined by its simultaneous availability for free on HBO Max. The movie will likely generate more than 1 million Max household views — which has been the average for most non-blockbuster 2021 Warner titles released concurrently in theaters.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures sequel Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway performed as expected, generating an estimated $10.4 million across 3,346 screens, and on par with studio estimates ranging from $8 million to $10 million. Sony expects the live-action sequel with CGI animals to post an extended theatrical run and come close to the original’s $351.5 million global run.

Separately, Warner’s horror threequel The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reportedly generated $10 million, to bring its domestic total to $43.6 million.


Weekend Box Office Preview: Sony Returns; Warner Hits ‘The Heights’

NEWS ANALYSIS — The emerging domestic box office in the pandemic era gets a dose of family friendly fare the weekend ending June 13  — driven by the return of Sony Pictures and, separately, Warner Bros.’ adaptation of a Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway play.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Sony Pictures has largely remained on the sidelines, repeatedly delaying its major theatrical releases until market conditions improved. With the June 10 release of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Sony is back with a major sequel to its 2018 sleeper hit that generated more than $351 million at the global box office.

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The oft-delayed sequel, featuring the voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie and Lennie James, among others, is projected by Sony to generate upwards of $11 million — less than half of the original’s $25 million opening weekend. The sequel has already generated $45.8 million globally, led by U.K. with $6.5 million in ticket sales.

Warner’s In The Heights

Meanwhile, Warner has pulled out the stops promoting In The Heights, a theatrical adaptation of Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit that won four Tony awards, including best musical. The movie is directed by Jon Chu, who hit box office gold in 2018 with Crazy Rich Asians.

Heights, like all of Warner’s 2021 theatrical slate, will have a concurrent release on HBO Max for 31 days. Warner, which is releasing the movie on 3,400 screens in the U.S., is banking on a recent Fandango survey that found a vast majority of respondents cited the film as a reason to return to theaters. The movie has a 97% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Miranda’s previously-planned theatrical release Hamilton was instead diverted by Disney to its subscription streaming platform at the beginning of the pandemic when theaters closed worldwide.

HBO Max Bowing Interactive NY City Walking Tour Ahead of ‘In the Heights’ Movie Release

New York City has been the backdrop to countless movies and series for Warner Bros. and HBO. This month, HBO Max will invite movie fans to explore memorable movie and TV show moments with a self-guided, interactive walking tour of the Big Apple.

The three-day pop up experience, “HBO Max On Location,” will take place from June 11-13 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST) and feature 20 branded installations in Manhattan.

The promotion is in part for the feature film release of In the Heights, the Warner Bros. Pictures film debuting June 10 in theaters and on Max (exclusive to the ad-free subscription tier only). The tour will also feature other Max series and movies filmed in the city.

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Participants will have special access to view a scene from In The Heights or a Max series or film affiliated with each location and have the opportunity to redeem rewards from local businesses. There are a limited number of rewards available on each day and they will be distributed by each participating partner on a first-come, first served basis while supplies last.

“We look forward to returning to New York City and honoring the incredible film In The Heights,” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO Max and HBO, said in a statement. “‘HBO Max On Location’ is a great opportunity to provide a safe and fun interactive experience for fans of iconic Max series and movies that also supports local businesses, in a city that has been severely impacted over the past year but continues to stay resilient.”

As part of the tour, Max will partner with both NYC & Company, which curated a supplemental guide to the vibrant neighborhood of Washington Heights, and Citi Bike (sponsored by Lyft), which recently opened more than 30 new stations in upper Manhattan. After interacting with the experience from select locations, visitors can grab a free bike to transport them around the city for the guided adventure. Washington Heights staples such as Malecon and Locksmith will be highlighted as part of the experience alongside New York City notables Levain Bakery, Magnolia Cupcakes and Katz’s Delicatessen.

Locales in the experience range from those featured in Max Originals “Gossip Girl,” the extension of the pop culture classic debuting July 8, “Love Life” and “The Flight Attendant,” to HBO Originals “Sex and the City,” “The Undoing” and “Succession,” to classic series “Friends” and films When Harry Met Sally, Ocean’s 8 and more.

The complete map and list of titles is available on hbomaxonlocation.com and photo stills here.

Warner Partners with Chinese-Owned TikTok for Movie Marketing

Despite criticism by some U.S. lawmakers calling Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok a national security threat, Warner Bros. has partnered with the short-form video site to promote a new movie.

In a first for the studio and TikTok, Warner is streaming the global trailer debut for new movie, In the Heights, which fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music and lyrics with Jon M. Chu’s direction about the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York.

The film is slated for worldwide release on June 24, 2020, and in the U.S. on June 26. TikTok’s partnership with the studio represents major validation for the site’s mobile videos with hundreds of millions of users.

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The trailer launched Dec. 12 on TikTok with users receiving a first-of-its-kind push notification, “Check out the new trailer for In The Heights!” driving global users across 30 countries to view the trailer.

“People around the world are going to TikTok every day to celebrate their creativity, culture and music,” Andrew Hotz, EVP of worldwide digital marketing, said in a statement. “I couldn’t think of a better platform to launch the trailer.”

Some lawmakers in Congress think otherwise. The U.S. Treasury Dept. is reportedly investigating whether TikTok censors content negative to the Chinese government.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) earlier this year sent a letter to the Treasury asking for a review of the site after he claimed it streamed scant coverage of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Other lawmakers contend TikTok — like Facebook and YouTube — is vulnerable to foreign influence akin to Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election via social media platforms.

TikTok says its content is stored in U.S.-based servers and not subject to Chinese government regulation.