Japan, IOC Officially Postpone Tokyo Summer Olympics to 2021

As expected, the International Olympic Committee and Japan March 25 formally announced postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics until 2021. The Games were originally slated from July 24 to Aug. 9.

“We have agreed that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a brief statement.

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The delay comes after mounting pressure from countries and athletes regarding ongoing concerns about the safety of traveling and competing during the coronavirus pandemic that has infected nearly 390,000 people and killed 17,000.

Australia and Canada had already announced they would not send delegations, a move the United States Olympic Committee was set to follow.

Comcast, which is the exclusive TV and streaming video distributor of the Games in the United States, has about $1.2 billion in advertising commitments for the two-week event. CEO Brian Roberts has said the company has insurance against cancellation of the Games.

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Tokyo Disneyland Closing Until Mid-March Due to Coronavirus

On the heels of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announcing the closure of all schools in the country until April due to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Disney said it would be closing Tokyo Disneyland through mid-March.

“We plan to reopen on March 16, but we will make an announcement after keeping close contact with relevant institutions,” park operator Oriental Land Co. Ltd. announced on its website.

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Japan has more than 800 reported COVID-19 infections.

New Disney CEO Bob Chapek most-recently headed the company’s theme park division — Disney’s largest business segment — which has already shuttered amusement parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, where the vast majority have cases have been reported. Disney has warned the closures will have impact on second-quarter fiscal results ending March 31.

Universal Studios Japan is also closing operations during the same time period.

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Netflix to Stream 21 Studio Ghibli Animation Films — Outside the U.S.

Netflix announced that on Feb. 1, 21 films from Studio Ghibli, the Academy Award-winning Japanese arthouse, will be made available on the service globally (excluding the U.S., Canada and Japan) through distribution partner Wild Bunch International.

For the first time ever, the expansive catalog of Studio Ghibli films will be subtitled in 28 languages, and dubbed in up to 20 languages.

This partnership will enable fans in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America to enjoy classics, such as Academy Award-winner Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Arrietty, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, among others, in their native languages.

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“In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences,” Toshio Suzuki at Studio Ghibli said in a statement. “We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience.”

Aram Yacoubian, director of original animation at Netflix, called the deal “a dream come true” for Netflix subscribers.

“Studio Ghibli’s animated films are legendary and have enthralled fans around the world for over 35 years,” said Yacoubian. “We’re excited to make them available in more languages across Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia – so that more people can enjoy this whimsical and wonderful world of animation.”

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The release schedule for Studio Ghibli films on Netflix:

February 1, 2020: Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Only Yesterday (1991), Porco Rosso (1992), Ocean Waves (1993), Tales from Earthsea (2006)

March 1, 2020: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Princess Mononoke (1997), My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), Spirited Away (2001), The Cat Returns (2002), Arrietty (2010), The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

April 1, 2020: Pom Poko (1994), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (2008), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), The Wind Rises (2013), When Marnie Was There (2014)

Ampere: It’s Still a YouTube/Netflix Video World

Google-owned YouTube and Netflix remain the top sources for online video and subscription VOD, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research firm found that 63% of survey respondents streamed a video on YouTube in the past month, followed by 39% doing the same on Netflix and 27% on Facebook.

The survey is based on 41,000 online respondents across 20 markets conducted in the first quarter (ended March 31).

Ampere found YouTube ranked the No. 1 source for online video consumption in every region worldwide except the United Kingdom (BBC iPlayer) and China (iQiYi).

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Indeed, more than 60% of respondents in France and Japan watched YouTube, while less than 50% of respondents in the U.K. did so.

As expected, SVOD consumption is highest in the United States – birthplace to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Notably, American tech platform – Facebook – continues to lose video views – down 5% to 23% of respondents since the third quarter of 2016. YouTube fell 4% to 66%, while Netflix increased 15% to 37% of respondents.

“YouTube’s global dominance in this space is evident in its monthly usage,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement. “The differences in viewing between the U.S. and Europe in relation to catch-up and SVOD services is interesting because it shows that SVOD providers will have to work harder in Europe to grow their [market] share as they take on traditional TV channels’ catch-up services. This could be through their catalogue, price-points or communications strategy.”


Shortened Windows Drive South Korean Digital Movie Sales to No. 2 Behind U.S.

Move over Japan. After years of lagging sales, South Korea has emerged as the No. 2 market for digital sales of movies behind the United States, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

The London-based research firm said consumer spending on transactional VOD has increased 800% during the past six years largely due to a shortening of the theatrical window.

Dubbed “Super Premium” and introduced in 2013, the campaign afforded consumers with access to theatrical titles four weeks after their box office debut — shortened from 12 to 16 weeks.

Disney and Sony Pictures were the first studios to incorporate the shorter window, followed by other studios in 2014.

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The Super Premium window has become one of the biggest revenue drivers for the Korean market and typically accounts for two-thirds of transactional revenue, a key factor in the renaissance of the South Korean home video market — and diminished piracy, according to Futuresource.

The report found inconclusive evidence whether the shorter theatrical window negatively impacted exhibitors – as is the rallying cry against narrowing the window in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Futuresource found that the South Korean box office remained steady following the “Super Premium” rollout; albeit at a slower growth rate than before the campaign began.

The report found the Super Premium VOD/EST window has jumpstarted a South Korean home video market in decline following ongoing shrinking packaged-media sales.

“We could see this initiative rolled out to further territories, leveraging South Korea as a leading example,” Futuresource said.

It cautioned that shorter theatrical windows must still be analyzed as to their impact on box office.

“Perhaps [box office revenue growth] could have been higher had this not been introduced,” Futuresource reported. “What is clear is that traditional windows are coming under increased pressure, faced with a fast-paced, digital-first landscape.”

Japanese Court Rules People Using Cell Phone to Watch TV Must Pay Subscription Fee

The Tokyo High Court has ruled that people using cellphones to watch TV must pay a subscription fee to NHK, the country’s public broadcasting network.

The court March 12 ruled that people using a cell phone to access TV broadcasts must pay a subscription even if they don’t own a TV in the home.

The ruling underscores a 2017 decision that mandated anyone having a TV in Japan had to pay a monthly fee to NHK. That monthly fee covered portable media devices as well.

But as over-the-top video flourishes and access grows across portable devices, increasing numbers of consumers are opting to go without a traditional TV and consume live video content via the One-Seg mobile TV app.

A lower court had ruled in favor of a consumer who argued he shouldn’t be required to pay a regulatory fee to watch TV on his cellphone.

Separately, NHK World — Japan is now available on the Roku streaming media platform in the United States. Subscription required.



‘Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis’ Blu-ray Steelbook Coming Oct. 30 From Mill Creek

The 2001 anime film Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis will be released as a Steelbook Blu-ray and DVD combo  pack on Oct. 30 from Mill Creek Entertainment at $34.98.

With a screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and directed by Rintaro (Galaxy Express 999, Astro Boy), Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis is based on the classic manga inspired by the 1927 German silent film of the same name about an industrial, high-tech city of the future. Duke Red, the unofficial leader of Metropolis, plans to unveil a highly advanced robot named Tima, but his violent son Rock distrusts robots and intends to find and destroy Tima. A Japanese detective and his nephew, Kenichi, travel to Metropolis to apprehend a mad scientist, but they instead find the robot girl. While trying to navigate the confusing labyrinth beneath Metropolis and avoid the people chasing her, Tima and Kenichi form a strong friendship that is tested when Duke Red separates them, endangering not only Tima’s life but also the fate of the universe.

Special features include interviews with the filmmakers, “The Making of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis,” original Japanese audio (with English subtitles) and a concept art comparison featurette.




Japanese Region A Import;
King Records;
$48 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens, James Whitmore.

As a rare Universal Pictures standout from a roughly five-year era when the studio was primarily palming off glorified TV movies as theatrical features, Madigan is precisely the kind of cult classic (a stupidly overhyped term, but this is the real deal) that may or may not ever get a domestic Blu-ray release. As we wait perhaps futilely, here’s a fairly handsome but not-cheap Japanese alternative I just discovered (without extras, but this is a satisfying presentation) for a Techniscope cop-drama once revered by so many Don Siegel cultists. Among these, for a little personal nostalgia, were the band of about eight NYU graduate Cinemas Studies colleagues that I once joined on a dream 42nd Street grindhouse trek to see Madigan double-billed with Rio Bravo as a vendor occasionally came down the aisle hawing Eskimo pies (ambience, ambience but also nirvana, nirvana).

By this time, I had seen the picture in Ohio upon its first-run release two or so years previously — not expecting much, though I was already a huge Siegel fan by virtue of having already experienced The Big Steal, Riot in Cell Block 11, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the now very tough-to-see Baby Face Nelson, The Lineup, Hell Is for Heroes and The Killers — though with (just naming preferred ones here) The Duel at Silver River, Flaming Star, then imminent Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry, Charley Varrick, The Shootist and Escape from Alcatraz yet to go. Given that many or of these genre specialties were made just above or even below the radar over three decades, I always feel like having a cosmetic surgeon supply me with 50 new eyebrows so that I can raise them every time some young turk with two movies under his belt is touted as the latest Second Coming.

In any event, Madigan — which traces the botch of a routine Brooklyn police pickup into a tragic and unexpectedly moving finale — does have an unmistakable ’60s TV-movie feel — down to its sometimes risibly over-orchestrated Don Costa score that has you half-waiting for the next Right Guard commercial. On one level, the music arguably puts a ceiling on how much one can go to the mat praising the rest — and yet the pace is blistering (Andrew Sarris’s original review gave a huge huzzah to the editing), and there’s a lot of sharp dialogue in a script co-credited to Andrew Polonsky, who was finally returned from nearly two decades of political Blacklisting. As Sarris noted as well, there’s also Russell Meaty widescreen photography that expertly matches New York locations with studio shots, which leads to a side-issue question. Leaving aside the Hitchcocks and To Kill a Mockingbird, was there any Universal release of ambition in this era — not that there were many — that Metty didn’t shoot? I mean, we’re talking nine Douglas Sirks, Touch of Evil, Spartacus, The War Lord and Thoroughly Modern Millie just off the top of my head (though I did have to look up the number of Sirks, which spanned Magnificent Obsession to Imitation of Life).

Ultimately, the overriding boost here comes courtesy of the cast, led by Richard Widmark (as street detective Dan Madigan) and prickly police commissioner Henry Fonda — who, in De Niro-Pacino Heat fashion, don’t share any scenes until a payoff late in the narrative. Set during a Fri-Sat-Sun that coincides with a major policeman’s ball, Widmark/Madigan’s exhausting angst and certainly personal humiliation get launched when he and partner Harry Guardino attempt to arrest a lowlife (Steve Ihnat) in a fleabag apartment outside their jurisdiction. The first awful thing is that they let him get away with Widmark’s police gun after being distracted by this creep’s naked bedmate. The second is that Ihnat, turns out, is no presumed routine punk but a psychopath wanted for murder and almost as malevolent as the hood Widmark played (in a much lower key) in his Kiss of Death debut. Ihnat, by the way, is the actor-turned-director who died a few years later at 37 of a heart attack — probably best known for this movie and as the guy whose internal organs get turned into lasagna by Marlon Brando’s fists during the climactic scene of Arthur Penn’s The Chase.

Cold cookie Fonda (aping what his kids say he was like in real life) hasn’t any use of for department mavericks, nor for anything that doesn’t go by the book — aside from an adulterous affair he’s conducting that complicates his moderately pious pronouncements a bit. An usual feature here is the amount of time devoted to the politicking and PR finessing that’s inevitably part of any commissioner’s job, and the story classically cuts back and forth between Fonda calming civic waters and Widmark/Guardino interacting with a slew of comically shady characters while looking for leads.

The casting here is what reviewers used to call “reliable” — with supporting roles of cops, constituents, snitches and the like going to James Whitmore, Susan Clark, Michael Dunn, Forbidden Planet’s Warren Stevens, Don Stroud (someone I later saw, to my amazement, on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”); Sheree North (used memorably again by Siegel in Charley Varrick), Raymond St. Jacques, Invaders From Mars’s Bert Freed, Harry Bellaver, Frank Marth, Lloyd Gough (another onetime Blacklistee), Dragnet regular Virginia Gregg and Ramar of the Jungle’s Ray Montgomery — who, as a kid, always looked right to me in a pith helmet. What a treasure trove.

What makes the movie something special for a genre picture is its rather raw-for-the-day portrayal of Widmark’s domestic life with a physically attractive but tightly wired spouse (Inger Stevens) who has clearly had it with her husband’s chosen career and hates being stuck without many friends in the neighborhood where they live. With Stevens’ knockout blondeness, you can almost imagine her as a precursor to January Jones’s testy spouse Betty from “Mad Men” — except that Stevens is blue-collar-ish in what is clearly a them-versus-us movie, is more sympathetic (though her complaining may even be more incessant) and loves her husband without any non-job qualifications, which isn’t initially evident until the movie takes some very interesting byways in its final quarter. They’re also very grown-up byways treated with unusual honesty for the day.

Her overriding love is convincing because you always get the sense that Madigan is at heart a really good guy by the way other people (the commissioner excepted) regard him and by the way he treats his street contacts, which includes acts of charity (though he isn’t above accepting a free meal at a restaurant or a complimentary Christmas turkey). We’d probably get a stronger sense of his virtues were the character not under such heavy professional/domestic pressure and functioning with almost no sleep — but to me, this is still Widmark’s most likable performance and my favorite of his career. Which is heartening because at this point, the actor’s box office standing had, like Fonda’s to a lesser case, started to fade a bit — though never due to anything we saw on the screen given decent material. Nobody much beyond cop-pic junkies and the cultist hard core actually saw this picture at the time, but at least one network brainstormer at NBC must have been watching. The movie later led to a “Madigan” TV series with its star returning — very short-lived, though its ratings weren’t all that bad. I wish the episodes would make their way to DVD, at least.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Ruby Gentry’ and ‘Madigan’