Amazon Inks U.K. Streaming Deal With Lionsgate

Amazon has struck a new deal with Lionsgate to be the U.K.’s first-window streaming home to the studio’s recently released and upcoming theatrical feature films.

The multiyear deal, which begins Jan. 1, will enable Prime members in the United Kingdom, or those subscribing to the monthly standalone Prime Video service offer, to access such Lionsgate hits titles as Angel Has Fallen, Rambo: Last Blood and Lionsgate U.K.’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. The agreement also encompasses upcoming Lionsgate films such as the Knives Out, the action epic Midway and Bombshell.

“We’re excited to be bringing Lionsgate’s slate of compelling movies to Prime Video,” Martin Backlund, head of content U.K. for Prime Video, said in a statement. “Our customers will be delighted that Lionsgate’s Hollywood and British blockbuster movies are coming to Prime Video.”

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“We’re delighted to expand our longstanding relationship with Amazon to bring our films to their Prime Video service in the U.K.,” Lionsgate president of worldwide television and digital distribution Jim Packer said in a statement. “It is a great new collaboration with an important content partner in the worldwide arena, underscoring the breadth and depth of the Lionsgate slate.”

‘The Cotton Club’ Gets an Encore

Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish 1930s mob musical is getting another moment in the spotlight 35 years later with The Cotton Club Encore.

Coppola’s new cut of the troubled 1984 production arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Dec. 10, featuring exclusive new bonus material, from Lionsgate. The cut adds 24 minutes and deletes 13 from the original, allowing the original theme of two characters caught up in music and the mob — one white and one black — to be more fully realized. The new version also reinstates stories about the African-American performers who lit up the real-life Jazz Age nightclub during desperate times.

Actress Lonette McKee’s rendition of Ethel Waters’ “Stormy Weather” was added to the new cut.

The film stars Richard Gere, long before he won a Golden Globe in another movie musical set in the 1930s, Chicago, and the late Gregory Hines (1992 Tony Award, Best Actor in a Musical, Jelly’s Last Jam), whose extended performance with his brother Maurice Hines is one of the highlights of the new cut. Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Laurence Fishburne, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Grey and Tom Waits also star. McKee’s rendition of Ethel Waters’ “Stormy Weather” and Coppola’s originally envisioned ending also are part of the additions.

In the film, Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club becomes a hotbed of passion and violence as the lives and loves of entertainers and gangsters collide. While the 1984 version centered on Gere’s character, Coppola meant for it to be a story of his and Hines’ character navigating life in and around the Cotton Club with their families. During post-production, the film was condemned as too long, and, according to some stakeholders, as having “too many black people” and “too much tap dancing.” Coppola was pressured to minimize Hines’ character and lose many musical numbers.

Along with his team at American Zoetrope, Coppola set out to create an updated version that would more closely resemble the original intentions of the film.

“I and my company American Zoetrope set about the daunting task to find the more than 30 minutes of lost negative, in some cases restoring it from old print material, and to restore, remix and allow this film to re-emerge in a new and worthy edition,” said Coppola. “This is The Cotton Club Encore, the film the world should have seen despite the countless court cases, murder trial proceedings and warring producers.”

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Coppola spent half a million dollars to restore the film.

“I’d always been discouraged about The Cotton Club, and it didn’t seem to blossom in the way I might have hoped,” Coppola told Vanity Fair.

He faced conflicts with a former Paramount chief and Hollywood legend, the late Robert Evans, as well as growing costs, infighting and even a murder. One of the film’s financiers was kidnapped and killed.

“There was a murder; there were lawsuits. And after all this stuff the movie itself was an anti-climax,” Coppola told Vanity Fair. “But I wanted to say, in a way, that we survived all that, and this is the way the movie should have been seen.”

Special features include:

  • Introduction to The Cotton Club Encore by Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Cotton Club Encore Q&A

‘John Wick’ Helps Up Lionsgate Q2 Home Entertainment Revenue

Lionsgate Nov. 7 reported second-quarter (ended Sept. 30) home entertainment revenue of $178.5 million, which was up 19.3% from revenue of $149.6 million during the previous-year period.

Packaged-media sales of DVD/Blu-ray Disc and 4K Blu-ray movies topped $65.2 million, compared with $64.5 million last year. Digital revenue topped $113.3 million, up 33.1% from revenue of $85.1 million last year.

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Packaged-media sales of television content declined 87.5% to $200,000, from $1.6 million last year. Digital sales topped $31.7 million, up 17.4% from $27 million during the previous-year period.

Principal revenue drivers included John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the action franchise installment starring Keanu Reeves.

“This quarter, we saw the home entertainment release achieve sales beyond our expectations and further boost the value of the first two films in the [John Wick] franchise,” CEO John Feltheimer said on the fiscal call.

He said Lionsgate is developing additional chapters in the Wick universe, including  John Wick: Chapter 4 currently in production and is set to release May 21, 2021.

Starz Adds Record 1.2 Million OTT Subs

Lionsgate-owned Starz saw its domestic OTT service add a record 1.2 million subscribers in the second quarter (ended Sept. 30), to end the period with 5.6 million subs, its best sequential growth quarter ever. The service is targeting 6 million subs by the end of the fiscal year.

Starz ended the quarter with 27 million total global pay-tv subscribers, up 1.8 million from the prior year quarter, and 24.7 million total domestic subs — down about 400,000 subs from the prior-year quarter.

The pay-TV tally is under threat from ongoing carriage issues with Comcast Cable, which accounts for about a third of Starz’ subs. Comcast has threatened to replace Starz with Epix unless it can negotiate more favorable terms.

Regardless, CEO Jon Feltheimer said Starz Play (available outside the U.S. only) remains on target to reach 4 million international subscribers in fiscal 2020 — due in part to now being operational in five countries.

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“Even as our industry is undergoing the most disruptive secular change in its history, all of our core businesses have staked out strong, sustainable and unique positions within the ecosystem and are performing very well,” Feltheimer said in a statement.

The media networks segment revenue was relatively flat from the prior year quarter at $374 million, while segment profit declined 14.8% to $104.6 million driven by investment in the expansion of subscription streaming serviced Starz Play International. The service added about 200,000 subs in the quarter.

Motion picture segment revenue increased 7.1% to $405.8 million and segment profit increased nearly 300% to $51 million from the prior-year quarter reflecting the strong theatrical performances of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood, as well as the continued outsized ancillary performance of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

Television production segment revenue of $274 million was up 80.1% from the prior-year quarter, while segment profit increased 34% to $12.6 million due to an increase in revenue from television episodes delivered.

AMC Theatres to Sell AMC Networks Movies on Its Online Platform

AMC Theatres is digging deeper into home entertainment.

The world’s largest theatrical chain on Nov. 7 disclosed it plans to start selling AMC Networks movies on its digital platform, AMC Theatres On Demand.

Hailed as the first-ever cross platform marketing partnership between theatrical and home entertainment distributors, AMC said the movies (including RLJ Entertainment titles) can be purchased or rented through AMCTheatres.com, the AMC Theatres mobile app, Roku and SmartTVs with more services and devices to be added in the near future.

AMC Theatres and AMC Networks are not related companies.

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“AMC Theatres On Demand is yet another benefit for AMC Stubs members, designed as a low-cost, ancillary service to add convenience and value for the guest, increase loyalty, augment our rich consumer database and generate additional earnings,” the company stated.

Earlier this year, AMC launched its branded transactional VOD platform featuring digital sale and rental access to 2,000 studio titles, including Lionsgate and Paramount feature films.

Separately, AMC said its A-List subscription ticket service has become profitable.

The service — launched as competition to now-shuttered MoviePass — has attracted more than 900,000 subscribers — exceeding initial internal expectations of 500,000 subscribers in the first year of operation. During the first quarter of 2019, AMC implemented a 10% membership price increase in 10 states and a 20% price increase in five states. Based on an average monthly frequency of 2.40 theatrical visits for A-List subs in the Q3, their associated full-price, bring-along guest attendance, food and beverage spend and the price increases in Q1, AMC believes the A-List program was profitable in the third quarter and nine-months ended Sept. 30.

“Our being in the midst of nothing less than a digital transformation in which we are increasingly and continuously engaging with our guests before, during and after their visits to our theaters … is enabling us to be vividly focused on generating additional free cash flow, deleveraging our balance sheet and driving shareholder value,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Judy’ Home in December

Lionsgate will release the Judy Garland biopic Judy through digital retailers Dec. 10, and on Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Dec. 24.

The film stars Oscar winner Renée Zellweger as Garland, 30 years after rising to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, arriving in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town. While preparing for the shows, Garland battles with management, reminisces with friends and adoring fans, and embarks on a whirlwind romance with soon-to-be fifth husband Mickey Deans — all while struggling to overcome anxiety and physical decline.

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Shedding light on Garland’s final years, the film features perfomances of some of her best-known songs, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “For Once In My Life” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”

The cast also includes Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon.

The film earned $22.9 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include the theatrical trailer, an image gallery and the featurette “From the Heart: The Making of Judy.

Disney+ Running Starz Banner Ad in Exchange for Streaming Rights to its Own Movies

Disney CEO Bob Iger says he has no regrets licensing pay-TV rights to original movies for big dollars to Netflix and Starz.

Then came Disney+ and the rush to over-the-top video distribution.

Disney’s massive push to bridge the SVOD divide with Netflix (and Amazon Prime Video) through a branded SVOD service stocked with original movies and TV shows ran into legal challenges since many Disney movies were earmarked for competing distribution channels through pre-existing license agreements.

Thus, getting the company’s singular corporate initiative in 2019 to launch on time reportedly required some creative legal maneuvers behind the scenes.

Disney+ and ESPN+ will run banner ads for the Lionsgate owned Starz pay-TV and standalone SVOD service in exchange for exclusive streaming rights to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, among other titles.

Harrison Ford in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

The $6.99 Disney+ service had been touted as ad-free. And indeed, there will be no Starz advertising within Disney+ and ESPN+ platforms.

First reported by The Verge and confirmed by Disney, the banner ad will limited to the log-in page and is part of a revised license agreement enabling Disney+ to have access to original movies previously slated for Starz.

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“I think as you can see from what we’re making available, and from seeing some of the titles that we’re making available at launch, there’s been a lot of effort that went into bringing it all back together so that we could make it available on the service,” Michael Paull, head of Disney streaming services, told The Verge in August.

“It’s clear that, from a library perspective, while there’s certainly a lot of volume, the recent studio slate will not fully be available at any one time because of the existing deals and it would take time for those rights, ultimately, to revert back to us,” Iger said last summer.

Agnus Chu, head of content at Disney+, contends license agreements can sometimes be split up “100 different ways.”

“Where it’s been licensed to, who it’s licensed to, and for how long, that gets very complicated,” he said.

Animated ‘The Big Trip’ Arrives on DVD and Digital Jan. 14 From Lionsgate

The animated film The Big Trip will arrive on DVD, digital and on demand Jan. 14 from Lionsgate.

From the writers of Madagascar, Vasiliy Rovenskiy and Billy Frolick, The Big Trip features the voices of Pauly Shore and Drake Bell.

In the film, a goofy stork mistakenly delivers a baby panda to the wrong door. Thus, a gang of misfit animals embarks on a quest to return the panda cub to its family.

The DVD and digital version include the “Giving the Characters a Voice: At the Recording Studio with Drake Bell and Pauly Shore” featurette.

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‘The Gallows II’ Set for Christmas Eve DVD, Blu-ray Disc Release

Lionsgate has set a Dec. 24 release date for The Gallows Act II, which will be available on DVD and as a Blu-ray Disc combo pack that includes a DVD and a digital copy.

The horror sequel is currently available digitally and On Demand.

A followup to 2015’s The Gallows, the film was directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, and stars Ema Horvath, Chris Milligan, and Brittany Falardeau.

The Gallows Act II, which debuted Oct. 25 in theaters, focuses on a teenage vlogger and aspiring actress named Ana Rue (Horvath), who transfers to a prestigious new school. She logs onto a sinister website and comes across a cursed stage play.  After performing a passage for her tiny online fan base, Ana instantly achieves the popularity she desired – as well as a twisted challenge capable of conjuring an evil spirit.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available at a suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively, and will include an audio commentary with the filmmakers, a never-before-seen making-of featurette, and deleted scenes.

 

‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Shooting to Home Video in December

Lionsgate will release Rambo: Last Blood through digital retailers Dec. 3, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 17.

The fifth film in the “Rambo” franchise finds Sylvester Stallone back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo, who must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. The cast includes Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adrianna Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Joaquin Cosio and Oscar Jaenada.

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The film earned $44.5 million at the domestic box office.

Extras include the featurettes “Drawing Last Blood: Multipart Production Diary” and “From First Note to Last Blood: Music for the Massacres,” plus the theatrical trailer.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray will include Dolby Vision and Dobly Atmos.