Comedy ‘Red Rocket’ Headed to Disc March 15 From Lionsgate

Premiering in Cannes and nominated for three Gotham Awards, the dark comedy Red Rocket arrives March 15 on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

Written and directed by Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine), it’s the story of Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), who is back home in small-town Texas after burning bridges and flaming out all over Los Angeles. A hustler, operator and charismatic con man, Mikey quickly learns that no one wants him back. When he meets a teenager working at the local donut shop, he sees his ticket back to the big time. 

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Special features include audio commentary with Baker, cinematographer Drew Daniels and Rex; audio commentary with film critic Kat Ellinger; and “Making Red Rocket.”

‘Hunger Games’ Saga Available in Exclusive Best Buy Steelbook 4K Combo Pack March 22

“The Hunger Games” saga arrives March 22 in a 4K Ultra HD plus Blu-ray and digital combo pack SteelBook from Lionsgate, exclusively at Best Buy.

The collection features artwork from Flore Maquin, Ise Ananphada, Alice X. Zhang, Tula Lotay, Paige Reynolds, Aracely Muñoz, Gemma O’Brien, Lauren Hom, Meni Chatzipanagiotou and Gia Graham.

The collection includes all four films: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. Based on the book series, the series follows the journey of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she navigates the fight-t0-the-death Hunger Games and the authoritarian leaders of Panem.

 

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Comedy ‘Pinocchio: A True Story’ Due on Digital, DVD and On Demand March 22

Pinocchio: A True Story, a humorous take on the classic tale, will be released on digital, DVD and on demand March 22 from Lionsgate.

The comedy, featuring the voices of Pauly Shore and Jon Heder, follows the wooden hero, who is a skilled acrobat who performs stunts with his beloved horse, the wisecracking Tybalt. He runs off to join a circus, where he falls for the ringmaster’s daughter Bella. But when Pinocchio learns the circus is a cover-up for robberies, he must stop the crime spree in order to save Bella — and, hopefully, become human.

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Merchandising: Best Buy’s ‘Punisher’ 4K Steelbook Becomes Available

So few new Blu-ray and DVD titles of note were released Jan. 25 that many retailers didn’t bother to make room for any of them in new-release displays.

There was one exclusive released during the week, with Best Buy offering a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook combo pack of Lionsgate’s The Punisher for $19.99.

The 2004 film based on the Marvel Comics vigilante character stars Thomas Jane as Frank Castle, who becomes The Punisher to seek revenge on the mafia boss (John Travolta) who murdered his family. The cast also includes Will Patton and Roy Scheider.

The film was originally released on 4K in September 2018. The new Steelbook edition features new artwork by Orlanda Arocena, and includes the film on a 4K and regular Blu-ray discs, and comes with a code redeemable for a digital copy.

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Walmart stores have been setting up Valentine’s Day displays in DVD sections. Dubbed “Movies for Your Valentine,” the section offers catalog DVDs with special promotional slipcovers featuring the box art in a heart design.

A 2022 Valentine’s Day DVD display at a Walmart in Tustin, Calif.

1989 Vestron Comedy ‘Dream a Little Dream’ Due on Blu-ray and Digital March 15

The 1989 cult comedy Dream a Little Dream is joining the Vestron Video Collectors’ series on Blu-ray and digital March 15 from Lionsgate.

The film stars the two Coreys, Corey Feldman (Stand by Me, The Goonies, The Lost Boys) and Corey Haim (The Lost Boys, License to Drive, Lucas), as well as Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Carrie, TV’s “Twin Peaks”), Jason Robards (All The President’s Men, Parenthood, Magnolia), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, Alien), and Meredith Salenger (The Journey of Natty Gann, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Lake Placid).

In the body-swap comedy, Bobby has everything a young guy should: a good buddy, a girlfriend and parents who love him. When the older couple down the street try a transcendental experiment to extend their lives, they become trapped in the teens’ bodies. 

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Dream a Little Dream bonus features include interviews with Corey Feldman and executive producer Lawrence Kasanoff, audio commentary with film historian Jarret Gahan, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and a stills gallery.

1999’s ‘Candyman: Day of the Dead’ Available on Blu-ray

The 1999 horror thriller Candyman: Day of the Dead, the third installment in the original “Candyman” series, is available on  Blu-ray (plus digital) from Lionsgate in the “Vestron Video Collector’s Series.”

Based on the characters created by horror writer Clive Barker, this film stars Donna D’Errico (“Baywatch,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “9-1-1”), Robert O’Reilly (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), and Tony Todd (Candyman, The Crow, “The Flash”). 
 
In the film, the Candyman is back. As the Day of the Dead celebration approaches the barrio of East Los Angeles, the tortured ghost is intent upon bringing his family together in a bloody reunion beyond the grave. Challenged to confront the horrifying legend of her ancestor, Caroline (Donna D’Errico, “Baywatch”) must come face to face with the monster who has destroyed her past — and now wants to steal her future. 

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Special features include audio commentary with director-cowriter Turi Meyer and producer-cowriter Al Septien; isolated score selections featuring an audio interview with composer Adam Gorgoni; interviews with actor Tony Todd, special prosthetic effects designer Gary J. Tunnicliffe, director of photography Michael Wojciechowski and production designer Marc Greville-Masson; English and German trailers; a home video promo; a home video trailer; and a still gallery.

The series was recently rebooted with a sequel to the original cowritten by Jordan Peele.

‘American Underdog’ Available on Digital Feb. 4, Disc Feb. 22 From Lionsgate

The sports biopic American Underdog arrives on digital Feb. 4 and on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD and on demand Feb. 22 from Lionsgate.

Based on the true story of two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, the film comes from the Erwin Brothers (I Still Believe, I Can Only Imagine) and screenwriters Jon Erwin (I Still Believe, I Can Only Imagine), David Aaron Cohen (Friday Night Lights) and Jon Gunn (I Still Believe).

It stars Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Thor: The Dark World, Tangled), Academy Award winner Anna Paquin (Best Supporting Actress, The Piano, 1993; “X-Men” franchise; The Irishman), Ser’Darius Blain (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Jumanji: The Next Level, “Charmed”), and Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Far From Heaven, In Good Company).

Based on the book All Things Possible by Warner and Michael Silver, American Underdog tells the true story of a football player who went from a stockboy at a grocery store to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and Hall of Fame quarterback. The film centers on Warner’s unique story and years of challenges and setbacks that could have derailed his aspirations to become an NFL player. With the support of his wife Brenda (Anna Paquin) and the encouragement of his family, coaches, and teammates, Warner perseveres.

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Special features include audio commentary with directors Andrew and Jon Erwin and producer Kevin Downes; the “Inspired” featurette; the “Making the Cut” featurette; the “A Coach’s Faith” featurette (on 4K and Blu-ray only); a “New to the Scene: Hayden Zaller” featurette; a “Meet the Champion” featurette; a “Behind the Game” featurette; an “American Underdog: Behind the Story” featurette; deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Andrew Erwin; and the theatrical trailer (on 4K and Blu-ray only).

 

Lionsgate’s Grindstone Acquires Non-NFT North American Distribution Rights to ‘Zero Contact’

Liongate’s Grindstone Entertainment Group has acquired non-NFT (non-fungible token) North American distribution rights to Enderby Entertainment’s Zero Contact, a thriller released as the first NFT (non-fungible token) feature film for Vuele.

Grindstone will release the film in May after the NFT window.

Zero Contact follows five characters located all over the world, connected only by their devotion to the late founder and tech titan Finley Hart played by Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins (The Father). The characters are forced to work together to shut down Hart’s most secret invention, a machine that is either the solution to mankind’s problems or the end of life on earth. The cast includes Aleks Paunovic (“Hawkeye”) Chris Brochu (Soul Surfer, Recon) and Rukiya Bernard  (“Yellowjackets”) and Adrian Holmes (“Bel-Air”). 

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Enderby Entertainment went into production in December on back-to-back sequels for the franchise, filming in Antarctica as the first Hollywood film ever to shoot on the continent. The production will continue to shoot in 13 countries around the world, including Bolivia, Peru, Sweden, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and France. 

“We’re continuing to explore a new distribution model that includes an NFT window for feature films, and even more meaningful to partner once again with Lionsgate and Grindstone to release Zero Contact in this unique way,” said Enderby CEO and director Rick Dugdale in a statement. “After our launch on Vuele, we are continuing to break barriers with this franchise as we are the first production to film in Antarctica.”

Zero Contact is a mysterious, twisty thriller that will keep audiences guessing until the very end,” said Barry Brooker, president and CEO of Grindstone Entertainment Group, in a statement. “Featuring a powerhouse performance by Anthony Hopkins, we are confident that Zero Contact will keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats.”

Looking Ahead: Lessons From the Pandemic to Guide 2022 Home Entertainment Strategies

The uncertainty over the COVID-19 surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant has made any and all predictions for the coming year suspect. Life could go back to normal fairly quickly or we will continue to battle surges and adjust our lives accordingly. Most observers don’t see us going back to the draconian shutdowns and lockdowns of the early days of the virus, but studio executives and exhibitors are understandably nervous about the current and any future surges since theatrical attendance could suffer — which ultimately affects everyone down the food chain.

The home entertainment business weathered the initial COVID crisis quite well, with streaming growing stronger and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) winning a premium first-run window. That said, there are several “givens” as 2022 gets underway.

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Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and the other high-profile streamers will continue to battle for dominance, with Netflix doing everything in its power to reduce churn and not lose market share. The second tier of SVOD players, including Paramount+ and Peacock, will make as much noise as possible to win a seat at the table — as evidenced by Peacock’s recent announcement that it will be streaming the winter Olympics in their entirety.

On the transactional side, a lot depends on the fate of movie theaters as this pandemic lumbers on. The early pandemic led to an overall shortening of windows and new-release strategies that ultimately benefited both home entertainment divisions and digital retailers such as Vudu by Fandango, Redbox On Demand, Microsoft and Google Play.

Jim Wuthrich

But while TVOD, and physical media, benefit from shorter windows, it is also impacted by studios accelerating, or re-ordering, SVOD windows. A film available as part of an all-you-can-watch subscription streaming service simply isn’t going to sell or rent nearly as well as it would if there was no “free” competition. And that plays into the bigger picture that the more consumers tune in to SVOD services, the less likely they are to purchase or rent something a la carte.

Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution for WarnerMedia, says he’s “optimistic that we’ll continue to adapt to the changing nature of COVID and learn to live with it.”

“Although there are many challenges, we’ve learned how to be productive with a distributed workforce, productions are largely back and there’s more consumer choice than ever before — both in amount of content and ways to view,” he says. “It’s a great time to be a fan of linear storytelling. We will continue to improve and expand HBO Max to more markets, while providing a la carte options for fans and collectors. SVOD services will continue to dominate viewing time, with transactional supporting a vital role in discovery, sampling and fandom. Physical media (4K/Blu-ray/DVD) continues to be a meaningful market, with approximately $2 billion in U.S. consumer sales, and largely immune to evolving distribution patterns.”

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On the WarnerMedia side, Wuthrich says, “We have a great movie slate, with four DC films coming to theaters and another installment of ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ We also have a number of series releasing, including the new ‘House of the Dragon,’ a ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel. History has shown these franchises to be powerhouses in driving catalog sales so we are looking forward to a great year.”

Michael Bonner

“Similarly to 2021, we expect a very healthy home entertainment market in 2022, with strong consumer engagement across multiple business models,” says Michael Bonner, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Release patterns will likely continue to fluctuate and vary across studios on a title-by-title basis.   

“With the theatrical marketplace continuing to strengthen, the growth of PVOD and the expansion of various SVOD services, the distribution landscape is stronger than ever. As we look ahead, studios have more options and outlets to create value and reach consumers which strengthens our ability to continue investing in great content.”

Bonner maintains that Universal, with its slate of anticipated new releases including Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Downton Abbey: A New Era, “is perfectly positioned to draw audiences back into theaters and fuel further transactional growth across the varying windows and platforms.”

Paramount Home Entertainment president Bob Buchi says that “as the global hub for transactional home entertainment across ViacomCBS, our division is exceedingly fortunate and singularly focused on delivering an extraordinary 2022 line-up of the company’s theatrical and television content, as well as third-party acquisitions through our extensive partnerships.”

Bob Buchi

“Our theatrical slate includes new entries in wildly popular franchises, including ‘Scream,’ ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ and ‘Jackass,’ which are not only highly anticipated, but also provide excellent opportunities to stoke fan interest in the earlier films and television shows available through home entertainment,” he says.

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On the catalog front, Buchi adds, the division’s most ambitious initiatives are the year-long 50th anniversary salute to The Godfather, “for which we anticipate massive consumer excitement for the film’s return to theaters, new 4K home entertainment releases, and licensed merchandise,” and the first-time-on-4K director’s edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “with fantastic new VFX, which will be released first on Paramount+ and then on home entertainment platforms.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, which oversees the Vudu digital retailer, also has high hopes for the new year.

“We expect the TVOD sector to deliver even more value to consumers, as fans sort through a fragmented streaming world, looking for a one-stop-shop entertainment service for movies and TV,” he says. “Because subscription services, by their nature, cater to specific audiences and content offerings, we continue to see consumers utilizing the flexibility, depth and breadth of Vudu’s new release and catalog offering of over 200,000 titles to complement their monthly entertainment needs.”

Cameron Douglas

Douglas says Vudu “is working hard to expand our catalog every day. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity, as we continue to secure new and previously unavailable titles. There’s a variety of titles where digital rights were originally unsecured, but with the demand increasing, there’s more pressure than ever to make these films available for fans to stream at home. We pride ourselves on providing the best quality of experience and we are always working to create a bigger, better home entertainment experience for our customers. We want to be that place where fans can find every beloved movie and show they desire.”

At the top of Vudu’s agenda for the coming year, Douglas says, are plans “to innovate new services for our customers and add new platforms and devices to meet the fan demand in an ever-changing marketplace. We also plan to offer deeper integration with our sister sites, Rotten Tomatoes, for entertainment discovery, recommendation and curated content, and Fandango for crossover promotional opportunities to help enhance the theatrical experience. With our entertainment lifecycle marketing strategy, we look forward to helping new and returning partners more effectively and efficiently reach high-value entertainment audiences at scale.”

The big challenge for home entertainment executives in the coming year is to apply lessons they learned during the pandemic and react quickly to market conditions.

Paramount’s Bob Buchi says that “with two years of experimentation and the expedited evolution of our business, we know we need to remain agile in our windowing and co-promotional strategies as we continue to support the return to theaters and the rapid growth of our streaming service, Paramount+.”

Adam Frank

Adam Frank, SVP of global digital sales and distribution at Lionsgate, says what happens at the box office will trickle down into all aspects of home entertainment.

“Our expectation, given the quality and quantity of the theatrical release slate, is that box office sees significant increase and momentum in 2022 vs. 2021,” Frank said. “The old adage of content is king still rings true, and with more product in the marketplace, consumers will ultimately have more choices and more opportunities in the home entertainment space.”

Jed Grossman, EVP and GM of worldwide sales and distribution at Lionsgate, adds, “We expect all business segments — transactional digital, packaged media, SVOD and AVOD/FAST — to grow year-over-year driven by five key factors:

    • A more robust theatrical release schedule, inclusive of major tentpoles and franchises like ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Black Panther’ that were delayed during the pandemic. Lionsgate has a strong slate that includes Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, starring Nicolas Cage; Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret; and White Bird, among others; 
    • A more viable theatrical marketplace, with theater-going comfort increasing as vaccine/booster shot rates increase and tentpoles drive attendance;
    • The continued unprecedented demand for new release and library product from SVOD and AVOD/FAST platforms. Lionsgate has achieved record library revenue over the past year;
    • The ability to capitalize on home entertainment consumer behavior, consumer content thirst and technology enhancements — across all offer types — as accelerated by the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021; and 
    • Continued collaboration with our theatrical exhibition partners to release films with dynamic windows to meet demand across all platforms.”
Jed Grossman

For independent film distributors, don’t expect much variance in 2022 from established policies of continuing to take aim at the collector and niche markets, particularly on the physical media side.

“For disc sales, MVD and our label partners are focusing on collectible content in deluxe packaging,” says Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment Group. “We anticipate a similar trajectory for disc sales, which have steadily grown over the last several years. The pandemic certainly gave them a boost, but the resilience and resurgence of disc sales may have more to do with the frustrating customer experience our industry has created in the OTT space. Finding what you want is now very challenging. How many streaming services do you need to subscribe to only to not find the film you want to watch, when you want to watch it? You can more easily find what you want transactionally, but it is still a search. Why not just pay a bit more and own the deluxe-edition disc?”

On the digital front, Seaman says “AVOD/FAST will continue to grow dramatically as consumers clearly embrace and enjoy that model. TVOD is tricky; considering Amazon’s tight curation of non-fiction, we expect some other platforms to step up and become more dominant in that space. There is a real opportunity for platforms focusing on non-fiction to deliver to fans what they want when they want it.”

At MVD, Seaman notes, “we’ve just added Zach Fischel to our leadership team; Zach is a veteran in the entertainment industry and is leading our label management team and marketing department. We’ve additionally moved longtime MVD staffer Chris Callahan to lead our digital sales and operations team. Chris has been with MVD since 1999 and has served in sales management, label management and international licensing. Both of these leaders are committed to improving their areas of responsibility; they have great ideas particularly in digital marketing, an area of overlapped responsibility. We are really excited about 2022!”

So is Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, a streaming industry trade group.

“2022 will be a year that portends the future of our industries — a future that, enabled by OTT distribution, is more egalitarian, more global and more diverse,” Fisher says. “While Hollywood continues to make great movies and TV shows, smaller distributors and independent producers from all over the world are making a lot of great content, too — enabling the consumer to be less reliant and dependent on content from the big studios and on domestic-produced content. And, while the big ‘Pluses’ and ‘Maxes’ continue to grow, consumers are finding plenty of additional content on indie and niche channels, both FAST and on demand.”

Complete Series of ‘American Gods’ Due March 1 From Lionsgate

American Gods — Seasons 1–3: The Complete Series is being released on DVD March 1 from Lionsgate.

Set in a hidden world where magic is real and gods exist on earth, “American Gods” chronicles the brewing war between Old Gods and New Gods, as the traditional gods of mythology are steadily losing believers to a burgeoning pantheon of modern gods focused on technology and money. The story across three seasons centers around ex-convict Shadow Moon, bodyguard for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, an Old God trying to rebuild the power and influence the Old Gods once had. As events unfold and Shadow struggles with his identity and place in the world, the series examines humanity’s conflicted relationship with faith and the unknown.

The series is based on the best-selling novel by Neil Gaiman and created by Bryan Fuller (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Hannibal,” “Dead Like Me”) and Michael Green (“Heroes,” Logan, Blade Runner 2049). Stars include Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Orlando Jones, Pablo Schreiber and Crispin Glover.  

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Special features include “The Road to ‘American Gods'”; “Title Gods”; “God Squad Video Commentary”; “American Gods” origins; “Old Gods”; “New Gods”; “What Is ‘American Gods’?”; “Book vs. Show”; “Explore the Crocodile Bar in 360 Degrees” with commentary by cast and crew, including with Bryan Fuller, Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle and Pablo Schreiber; audio commentaries with cast and crew; “The House on the Rock: Setting the Stage”; “The Second Coming,”Neil Gaiman on season two; “Gods and Ends: Random Musings from the Cast”; “Meet the New Gods of Season Three”; “Road to Epiphany: The Season Three Journey”; and “Five Questions for the Cast.”