The Hits Keep Coming as Summer Box Office Hopes Fade

Last week was one to forget for exhibitors, eager to re-start their business following months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. High-profile studio titles Mulan (Disney) and Tenet (Warner Bros.) were further delayed into August following renewed fears about COVID-19 infection spikes in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, among other areas.

Then came news on June 26 that the long-delayed third installment in MGM’s Orion Pictures’ Bill & Ted sci-fi adult comedy franchise, Bill & Ted Face The Music, starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in their original roles, was being pushed back to Aug. 28 from Aug. 21 — the new date of the Mulan reschedule. Bill & Ted, about two metalhead slacker friends who travel through time, had been originally slated for Aug. 14. The original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure launched in 1989, followed by Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991 — both starring Reeves and Winter — and grossing $78 million ($149 million today) collectively in theaters.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Over the weekend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars closed again in Los Angeles and six other counties.

“This does not bode well for film and TV production, movie theaters, the restart of sports, including college athletics and theme parks,” Rich Greenfield with LightShed Partners, tweeted June 28.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends the box office won’t return to normal even as major chains such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, re-open screens next month.

“People may be eager to visit the theaters once they feel safe doing so, but we think it is unlikely crowds will return to any semblance of normal before a vaccine is widely distributed, particularly in urban and suburban markets,” Pachter wrote in a note.

Regardless, MGM has a lot riding on the movie, having just secured all remaining international territories (excluding China) for the movie from Endeavor Content. MGM had previously secured distribution in key international territories, including Germany, Greece, Latin America and the Middle East, among others. As part of the June 25 announced agreement, MGM will also distribute Face The Music throughout France, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hungary, Turkey, Benelux, Bulgaria, Singapore and Romania.

“[The movie] is the perfect dose of fun and nostalgia and universally relatable in its message to ‘be excellent to each other,'” Chris Ottinger, who heads MGM’s international distribution and acquisitions division, said in a statement.

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.

 

Lionsgate’s ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Sells More Than 3 Million Units on Disc, EST and VOD

Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, which debuted on digital Aug. 23 and on disc Sept. 10, has sold more than 3 million units on disc, EST and VOD, according to the studio.

The title is positioned to become Lionsgate’s highest-grossing home entertainment title in five years, since the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 in 2014, according to the studio.

The title is the studio’s biggest-selling EST title ever, passing John Wick: Chapter 2 in its first three days of EST release.

The release overindexed in the home entertainment market with sales comparable to a $250 million-plus domestic box office film, according to the studio. The film made $171 million in U.S. theaters.

“The popularity of the John Wick franchise continues to surge with strong growth across packaged media, electronic sellthrough and video-on-demand platforms,” said Lionsgate president of worldwide home entertainment Ron Schwartz in a statement. “The success of John Wick: Chapter 3 is a testament to the film’s incredible cast, led by Keanu Reeves, and amazing creative team, the efforts of our sales and marketing executives, and the vibrancy of the home entertainment business across all of its platforms.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In the third installment of the action franchise, super-assassin John Wick (Reeves) returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail.

John Wick: Chapter 4 will be released in theaters nationwide on May 21, 2021.

A Third Dimension of John Wick

For John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, director Chad Stahelski (John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2) confronted the “curse” of doing a sequel.

“You try to do something that’s very original, and by the very nature of doing a sequel, it can’t be as original as the original, so you have a couple of choices,” he said in a featurette for the home video release. “You can blow more… up and have bigger spaceships and bigger monsters — or you expand. That’s what we tried to do with John Wick — just get more in depth to who he is, what his world entails and show that through his personal journey.”

“It’s about John’s journey and his quest to live to remember his wife Helen,” added Keanu Reeves, who stars as master assassin John Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum is available now on digital and 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand from Lionsgate.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Featurettes explore the mythology and action of the “John Wick” universe; the planning that went into the horse chase sequence and “dog-fu” fight sequences; and the editing.

Chapter 3 features previous franchise stars Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, but it also expands with new faces, including Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.

Halle Berry in Parabellum

In the film, Wick has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild. With an army of the world’s most ruthless hit men and women on his trail, John must find a way to survive. He seeks out a figure from his past to help him on his journey, the mysterious “Director” (Huston), at an academy in a ballet theater. “It’s basically a school for young assassins,” Huston explained in the extras. The threequel also expands geographically, taking the action to a foreign outpost of the Continental hotel chain in Casablanca. There, Wick meets up with Sofia (Berry), another accomplished assassin who uses her pet dogs to take out enemies. Berry spent long hours building a relationship with her Belgian Malinois companions.

“I could command them like the trainers,” she said in the disc featurette about the canine training.

Parabellum also expands the action.

“It really was one of the hardest physical stories that I’ve had to tell because there is a lot more action in Parabellum than in the other two films,” Reeves said in the extras.

“He’s fearless,” added Berry, who also had to commit to months of physical training.

“Some people say they want to do ‘John Wick’ training — and then it starts,” Reeves noted in the extras. “Halle said, ‘Thank you, sir. Can I please have some more?’”

“If you hurt, so what?” added Berry.

On the Road With John Wick

Aug. 31 through the first half of September, Lionsgate mounted a “John Wick Road Trip,” displaying the vehicles used by the on-the-run hitman in the series, including the Ford Mustang from the first two movies and a Zero DSR motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

The motorcycle sequence was one of the most elaborate in the film.

“They designed this motorcycle sequence that involved live action in the moment and then working in a computer-generated space,” Reeves said in the extras.

The tour also featured a traveling museum of series memorabilia.

The exhibit traveled across the Midwest and East Coast to visit select Best Buy Stores, NASCAR events, and a Green Bay Packers football game. Fans had the opportunity to take a photo with the Mustang, escape an army of assassins with a “John Wick” motorcycle green screen and check out real props from the films.

Killer Packaging

Lionsgate designed some killer exclusive packaging for top retailers.

Best Buy exclusive steelbook:

Walmart packaging with black coin:

Target exclusive steelbook:

 

Lionsgate Q1 Home Entertainment Revenue Declines

Lionsgate Aug. 8 disclosed it sold $56.4 million in combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies in the first quarter, ended June 30. The tally was down 26% from revenue of $76.5 million during the previous-year period.

Sales and rental of digital titles dropped less than 4% to $83.3 million from $86.2 million.

Total motion picture home entertainment revenue dropped about 14% to $139.7 million from $162.7 million last year.

Home entertainment revenue from television content plummeted nearly 60% to $7.3 million from $18.1 million last year.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Disc revenue topped $1.4 million, down about 23% from $1.8 million. Digital revenue fell almost 64% to $5.9 million from $16.3 million.

Meanwhile, theatrical revenue skyrocketed to $121.8 million from $50.3 million, driven by the box office success of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which has generated $320 million at the global box office.

“[John Wick] reaffirmed our thesis that mid-priced action films have a valuable place in the market,” CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement.

The title’s box office success bodes well for home entertainment.

John Wick 3 is slated for retail digital release on Aug. 23, with packaged media bowing Sept. 10.

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum’ Shoots to Digital Aug. 23, Disc Sept. 10 Including 4K

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum arrives on digital Aug. 23 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand Sept. 10 from Lionsgate.

The third film in the “John Wick” franchise starring Keanu Reeves earned $169.7 million at the domestic box office.

Chapter 3 also stars Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Marc Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane. In the film, super assassin John Wick (Reeves) has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild. With an army of the world’s most ruthless hit men and women on his trail, John must find a way to survive.

The 4K UHD includes Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos sound.

The release includes featurettes that explore the mythology and action of the “John Wick” universe; the hidden world of Killer Ballerinas, Shinobi, and the Bowery King; the planning that went into the film’s horse chase sequence and “dog-fu” fight sequences; and the editing with director Chad Stahelski and editor Evan Schiff.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Special features on the DVD, Blu-ray and digital versions include:

  • “Parabellum: Legacy of the High Table” featurette;
  • “Excommunicado” featurette;
  • two theatrical trailers;
  • John Wick Hex game trailer;
  • “Behind the Scenes of John Wick Hex” featurette.

The digital and Blu-ray versions will also include:

  • “Check Your Sights” featurette;
  • “Saddle Up Wick” featurette;
  • “Bikes, Blades, Bridges, and Bits” featurette;
  • “Continental in the Desert” featurette;
  • “Dog Fu” featurette;
  • “House of Transparency” featurette;
  • “Shot by Shot” featurette.

 

E3: ‘Palpable’ Concern Regarding Packaged-Media Gaming, Pricing

As trade shows go, Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2019 in Los Angeles featured the usual blizzard of new-release announcements and industry scuttlebutt about the future of gaming consoles on land (hardware) and in the cloud.

Sony’s gaming unit, Sony Interactive Entertainment, skipped the event entirely, leaving much of the floor to rival Microsoft.

And it took full advantage.

“John Wick” franchise front-man Keanu Reeves created the most non-industry buzz early when he made a surprise visit to Microsoft’s pre-show presentation for the April 16, 2020 launch of Cyberpunk 2077 (also available on PlayStation 4 and PC), which features the actor as a rebellious punk rocker in a dystopian California where pretty much anything goes.

Keanu Reeves in ‘Cyberpunk 2077’

During the presentation, an attendee yelled out, “You’re breathtaking!,” to which the actor returned the compliment, adding that everyone in attendance was “breathtaking.”

The comment soon went viral, tracking more than 2.1 million views on Twitter and elsewhere.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

But to industry old-schoolers, a future of online gaming and subscription streaming supplanting $60 discs is breathtaking for the wrong reasons.

While Microsoft disclosed that Xbox One replacement — dubbed Project Scarlett — is still slated for launch for the 2020 winter holidays and would include an optical disc drive, the company remains laser-focused on streaming.

In October, it promises to preview the xCloud platform, which it claims affords Xbox One users the ability to stream games.

With advances in technology and changing consumer habits, global tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon are eyeing gaming.

This has rattled some investors, who heretofore marveled at gaming’s ability to stave off digital distribution in favor of high-margin packaged media played in venerable hardware consoles.

Yet, The NPD Group said that by the end of Q3 2018, 86% of gaming content was sold digitally across console, portable, PC, and mobile.

“There is a palpable level of concern that the traditional $60 upfront price for video games [on disc] is looking a bit long-in-the-tooth given changes in how people now choose to consume music and television, with all-you-can-consume subscriptions becoming the dominant forces in those markets,” Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in  June 14 note.

The analyst agrees that secular change within gaming is happening and will expose the industry to increasingly wider audiences demanding diversity (i.e. lower costs) in distribution.

Pachter said that while subscriptions to music and TV/movie streaming services “make some sense” given the long-tail of the content and the large quantity of consumption, he contends that a shift from an a-la-carte business model to subscription is unlikely to become popular except with hardcore gamers.

“We think concerns about pricing are overdone,” he wrote. “The average gamer plays three to four games per year on console or PC and another five to six games on mobile, compared to typical consumption of over 1,000 TV shows, at least that many songs, and dozens of films each year.

“We are skeptical that a Netflix-like service will emerge with thousands of choices at a low monthly price and think investor concerns about the erosion of the current business model are unfounded.”

Lionsgate’s ‘Cold Pursuit’ Hot on Redbox Charts

Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit traveled to the top spot on both the Redbox disc rental and digital charts for the week ended May 19.

The actioner, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son, debuted in the No. 1 spot on the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, as well as the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital transactions, including both electronic sellthrough and streaming rentals. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

Another new release, Universal’s Fighting With My Family, a story about a wrestling family featuring Dwayne Johnson, debuted on both charts at No. 2. The film earned $23 million in theaters.

The only other new release in the top 10 was Universal’s horror film Happy Death Day 2U, which landed at No. 5 on the disc chart and No. 7 on the digital chart. The sequel earned $28 million at the box office.

The previous week’s top title, the Paramount comedy What Men Want, fell two spots to No. 3 on both charts, while the previous week’s No. 2, Warner’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, fell to No. 4 on the disc and No. 5 on the digital chart.

Lionsgate’s Keanu Reeves actioner John Wick made an appearance at No. 4 on the digital chart as the latest installment in the series, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, hit theaters.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended May 19:

  1. Cold Pursuit(New) — Lionsgate
  2. Fighting With My Family (New) — Universal
  3. What Men Want — Paramount
  4. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part — Warner
  5. Happy Death Day 2U (New) — Universal
  6. Glass— Universal
  7. Serenity (2019) —Universal
  8. The Mule — Warner
  9. Miss Bala (2019)— Sony
  10. A Dog’s Way Home— Sony

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended May 19:

  1. Cold Pursuit — Lionsgate
  2. Fighting With My Family — MGM
  3. What Men Want — Paramount
  4. John Wick — Lionsgate
  5. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part — Warner
  6. Glass — Universal
  7. Happy Death Day 2U — Universal
  8. The Mule — Warner
  9. Aquaman — Warner
  10. Serenity(2019) — Universal

Lionsgate Gets Boost from ‘John Wick 3’; Reported CBS Interest in Starz

NEWS ANALYSIS — Lionsgate had a good weekend as it prepares to report fourth-quarter (ended March 31) fiscal results on May 23.

Shares rose nearly 15% May 17 after a media report surfaced that CBS two months ago offered Lionsgate $5 billion for Starz, the premium pay-TV platform that includes a branded subscription streaming video service with global appeal.

Lionsgate declined the bid for being too low (it wanted $5.5 billion), despite the fact the offer trumped the studio’s market capitalization.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Lionsgate bought Starz for about $4.4 billion in 2016 – the transaction giving the studio/TV show creator viable over-the-top distribution (3 million+ subscribers), in addition to more than 25 million pay-TV subs.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Starz is also available in Canada through Bell Media, the Middle East (Starz Play Arabia) as well as via Amazon Channels in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Then on May 19 it was reported that the third installment of Lionsgate’s antihero John Wick franchise had unseated Disney’s superhero blockbuster Avengers: Endgame at the weekend domestic box office with $57 million in ticket sales.

With another $92.2 million in international ticket sales, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum tracked more than $149 million in revenue.

The Keanu Reeves starrer as an ex-hitman relentlessly pursued by would-be evildoers, topped the 2014 original John Wick ($14.4 million) and sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2 at $30.4 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

The latest box office tally should prove fortuitous for home entertainment.

The first two installments generated almost $43 million in revenue from nearly 3 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc unit sales.

Indeed, John Wick: Chapter 2 was the 16th best-selling disc in 2017, according to The-Numbers.com.

 

 

Comedy ‘What Men Want’ Tops FandangoNow Chart

The comedy What Men Want was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Paramount film, starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, earned $54.6 million in theaters.

Universal’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, dropped one spot to No. 2. It made $160 million at the box office. Meanwhile, the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy flew up one spot to No. 8, showing continued strong interest in the franchise for the week.

Warner’s animated sequel The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which earned $105.8 million in theaters, debuted in the third spot on the chart.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Jumping up one spot from No. 5 in the previous week to No. 4 was Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

Warner’s DC superhero flick Aquaman floated up from No. 9 to No. 5.

Boosted by the impending May 17 theatrical debut of the third installment in the Lionsgate series, the double feature of John Wick and John Wick 2, starring Keanu Reeves as a hitman out for revenge, landed at No. 10 on the week’s chart.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12 were:

  1. What Men Want*
  2. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World*
  3. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part *
  4. Cold Pursuit*
  5. Aquaman *
  6. Glass*
  7. Isn’t It Romantic*
  8. “How to Train Your Dragon” Trilogy*
  9. The Mule*
  10. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 (Double Feature) *

*Available in 4K