Amazon to Buy MGM for $8.45 Billion

Amazon and MGM May 26 announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire MGM for a purchase price of $8.45 billion. MGM has nearly a century of filmmaking history and complements the work of Amazon Studios, which has primarily focused on producing TV show programming.

MGM’s vast catalog features more than 4,000 films, including 12 Angry Men, Basic Instinct, Creed, Legally Blonde, Moonstruck, Poltergeist, Raging Bull, Robocop, Rocky, Silence of the Lambs, Stargate, Thelma & Louise, Tomb Raider, The Magnificent SevenThe Pink Panther, The Thomas Crown Affair, the “James Bond” movies, and many others, that have won more than 180 Oscars. The venerable studio’s 17,000 TV shows have produced 100 Emmy wins, including “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Vikings,” among others.

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“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

Kevin Ulrich, chairman of MGM’s board, said the deal represents a transformation for the fabled studio.

“I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision,” Ulrich said. “The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”

Completion of this transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Amazon Said to Be in Talks to Buy MGM

On the heels of AT&T’s stunning announcement that it is unloading WarnerMedia comes word that Amazon may be looking to buy the MGM movie studio.

The Information on May 17 reported that Amazon is in talks to acquire the celebrated studio, citing “a person familiar with the situation.”

Such a deal, the Information noted, would be the e-commerce giant’s “biggest move yet to expand in entertainment.”

MGM owns a huge film library and several top movie franchises, including “James Bond” and “Rocky.” MGM holdings also include the Epic cable channel and a production studio behind such TV shows as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Fargo,” “Shark Tank” and “Survivor.”

Amazon, meanwhile, has been a perpetual also-ran in the original content game to Netflix and even Disney+, while no one really knows for sure how many people tune in to the Amazon Prime Video streaming service because the subscription price also includes free shipping for online purchases.

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Amazon won’t comment on the Information report, but in December 2020 it was widely reported that MGM was exploring a sale. The Wall Street Journal, first with the story, reported that “people familiar with the matter” said MGM is betting that its rich film and TV library would be attractive to companies looking for growth in streaming.

MGM has engaged investment banks Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC and begun a formal sale process, the people said, according to the Wall Street Journal report. The company has a market value of around $5.5 billion.

Shortly after the Information report, Variety reported that Amazon “is weeks into negotiations on a deal to acquire MGM for about $9 billion,” citing “industry sources.”

Jason Statham’s ‘Wrath of Man’ Tops Domestic Weekend Box Office

Following consecutive weekends of fantasy monsters and Japanese anime ruling the domestic box office, down-to-earth shoot-’em-up Wrath of Man reclaimed theatrical supremacy. The MGM/United Artists Releasing title, starring Jason Statham, is reportedly projected to take in $8.1 million in revenue across 2,800 screens through May 9. To date, the title, which is not concurrently available to stream, has taken in $17.6 million internationally.

In doing so, the action thriller would top recent vigilante box office openings for Universal Pictures’ Nobody ($6.8 million) and Open Road Films’ The Marksman with $3.1 million.

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Another box office newcomer, Sony Pictures comedy Here Today, starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish, took in $900,000 across 1,200 screens.

Meanwhile, recent box office leaders such as Funimation’s Demon Slayer: Mugen Train ($3 million, $435 million globally), Warner Bros. Pictures’ Godzilla vs. Kong ($1.9 million, $422 million) and Mortal Kombat ($2.3 million, $72 million), and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon ($1.8 million, $105 million), all remained resilient at movie screens, while also available on streaming and digital platforms.

The total domestic box office, which encompassed most screens operating at 50% capacity due to the pandemic, approached $20 million.

 

Free Month of Epix Now SVOD Service With Domino’s Pizza Order

Any Domino’s customer who orders pizza online now through April 11, 2021, will receive 30 days of free access to Epix Now — the subscription streaming video service owned by MGM with more than 2,000 movies and 300 hours of original series and specials.

“Pizza and movies go hand-in-hand,” Art D’Elia, EVP and chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “Whether you’re looking for a fun way to entertain your family at home or you want a date night in, Domino’s has you covered. The best part is, no credit card is needed and you won’t be charged after the month is up. All you need to provide is an email address and you’re good to go.”

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Customers who place an online order can claim their free 30-day access of by clicking through the link on their order confirmation page, Domino’s Tracker page or order confirmation email. After the 30 days of free access is up, customers must subscribe in order to continue streaming.

“We’re thrilled to offer customers … access to movies such as Creed II or Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as our growing slate of original series commercial-free,” said Michael Wright, president of Epix.

Nielsen reports that 25% of consumers added a streaming service during the second quarter of 2020, while one-fourth of consumers’ TV usage was spent streaming.

“Individuals are using streaming services now, more than ever, as many of us have been spending more time at home,” D’Elia said.

‘Bill & Ted’ Sequel Tops Redbox On Demand Chart; ‘Mulan’ No. 1 Disc Rental

MGM and Orion Pictures’ Bill & Ted Face the Music took over the top spot on the Redbox On Demand chart the week ended Nov. 15, and debuted at No. 2 on Redbox’s disc rental chart. The sequel is distributed on disc by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The third film in the “Bill & Ted” franchise finds the duo, now middle-aged, struggling to fulfill the prophecy that their music will bring about world peace in the future, causing reality to fracture. Its theatrical run was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, and while it made $3.4 million in limited theatrical release, it was primarily available over the summer through premium VOD.

Landing at No. 1 on the disc rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red kiosks, was Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan. The film, based on the ancient Chinese folklore about a young woman who impersonates a man to serve in the army, also had its theatrical run derailed by COVID-19, and instead was released in the United States as a $29.99 add-on to the Disney+ streaming service, making it available to those who paid for it months earlier than when it would become available to all members. It was released internationally in territories such as China that don’t yet have Disney+, but underperformed with just a $66.8 million international box office gross.

The previous week’s top title on both charts, Lionsgate’s Antebellum, dropped to No. 3 on the disc chart and No. 2 on the On Demand chart, which tracks digital rental transactions.

No. 4 on the disc chart and No. 5 on the digital chart was Redbox’s own Chick Fight, about a woman who joins an underground fight club when her life spirals out of control. It stars Malin Akerman, Bella Thorne and Alec Baldwin.

Also new to the list was Lionsgate’s Mortal, an action-thriller about a psychologically troubled young man who discovers that he has inexplicably inherited the supernatural powers of Thor. It was No. 3 on the On Demand chart and No. 6 on the disc chart.

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Rounding out the top five disc rentals was Redbox’s exclusive An Imperfect Murder. On the digital chart, Universal’s actioner The 2nd was No. 4.

Other newcomers making their way on to the chart include Lionsgate’s Guest House at No. 10 on the disc chart, and Lionsgate’s Unhinged at No. 10 on the digital chart.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended Nov. 15:

  1. Mulan (2020) — Disney
  2. Bill & Ted Face the Music — Warner/MGM
  3. Antebellum — Lionsgate
  4. Chick Fight — Redbox
  5. An Imperfect Murder — Redbox
  6. Mortal — Lionsgate
  7. Friendsgiving — Lionsgate
  8. The Vanished — Paramount
  9. Ava — Redbox
  10. Guest House — Lionsgate

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended Nov. 15:

  1. Bill & Ted Face the Music — MGM
  2. Antebellum — Lionsgate
  3. Mortal — Lionsgate
  4. The 2nd — Universal
  5. Chick Fight — Redbox
  6. After We Collided — Open Road
  7. Ava — Redbox
  8. The Vanished — Paramount
  9. Friendsgiving — Lionsgate
  10. Unhinged — Lionsgate

 

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Bill & Ted Face the Music

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/10/20;
Warner/MGM;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Box Office $3.4 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch.

The third “Bill & Ted” movie, coming 29 years after the second, turns the lengthy gap between sequels into an asset while bringing fans back into the familiar world of the franchise.

The film is something of homage to and an amalgam of the first two, which saw an emissary from the future, Rufus (played by the late George Carlin, who gets a tribute in the new film), travel back in time 700 years to put young slackers Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) on course to bring about universal harmony with the music of their band, Wyld Stallyns.

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In the first film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Rufus lends them a time machine in the shape of a phone booth to travel into the past to collect historical figures to pass their history report and graduate high school, assuring they can remain together. The second film, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, saw the duo the target of a future warlord who despises that society took inspiration from them. The robots he sends into the past to hunt them down succeed in killing them, but Bill and Ted are able to navigate the afterlife with the help of the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) to return to Earth, stop the robots, and win a battle of the bands on their path to superstardom.

As the third film opens, however, Bill and Ted have yet to write the song that will bring about global unity, and continue their desperate efforts to do so. Their lack of success has begun to tear the fabric of reality apart, leading to another emissary from the future, Rufus’ daughter (Kristen Schaal), to bring them a message from the Great Leader (Holland Taylor) chastising them for not fulfilling the prophecy.

Accordingly, Bill and Ted decide to visit their own future selves to try to find the song they were supposed to have written.

Meanwhile, their grown daughters Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving), who were introduced as babies at the end of Bogus Journey, come up with a plan to go back in time to gather the greatest musicians in history to form the ultimate band to help their dads.

Meanwhile, the Great Leader re-interprets the prophecy of how Bill and Ted influence future society, and after coming to the conclusion they have to die to restore reality, sends a robot back in time to do the deed.

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Even under the direction of Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), Face the Music can’t match the energy levels of the first two films. This isn’t that surprising, though, since the film is dealing with the central theme of trying to live up to your potential even if the ability to do so seems to have passed you by. It’s a fun adventure that should elicit and lot of warm nostalgia smiles.

The Blu-ray comes with a handful of extras, led by the film’s 43-minute Comic-Con@Home panel. Hosted by Kevin Smith, whose Jay and Silent Bob characters drew obvious inspiration from Bill and Ted, the panel features several of the stars and key filmmakers participating through Zoom to discuss the making of the film and the origins of the franchise. The fact that the physical San Diego Comic-Con had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and replaced by an online one may prove to be something of a boon to Blu-ray and DVD bonus features, as the Virtual panels are yielding a slew of neatly packaged videos ready to plop on a disc or YouTube.

The other extras aren’t so extensive, consisting of four short promotional featurettes ranging from 50 to 80 seconds each.

 

Warner Bringing ‘Wolf of Snow Hollow’ to Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 15

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release The Wolf of Snow Hollow on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 15. The comedic horror film from MGM’s Orion Classics is available now digitally.

Written and directed by and starring Jim Cummings, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a reimagining of the werewolf legend about a small-town sheriff who, while struggling with family problems and a lackluster department, is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring on the full moon.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

The cast also includes Riki Lindhome, Jimmy Tatro, Marshall Allman, Chloe East, Annie Hamilton and the late Robert Forster in one of his final roles.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow earned around $185,000 in limited theatrical release.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include the featurette “The Story and the Genre.” The Blu-ray will also include the featurettes “The Impetus,” “Working With Jim Cummings” and “The Design of the Werewolf.”

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Like, ‘Valley Girl’ Bows on Disc Oct. 6

Valley Girl, a musical romantic comedy adaptation of the 1983 film, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and MGM Oct. 6.

From MGM’s Orion Pictures and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, the film stars Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day, La La Land) as Julie Richman, Josh Whitehouse (The Knight Before Christmas) as Randy, Mae Whitman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as Jack, and Judy Greer (13 Going on 30, Ant-Man, 27 Dresses) as Diana.

Set to a new wave ’80s soundtrack, the film follows a pair of young lovers from different backgrounds defy their parents and friends to stay together.

The 1983 classic, directed by Martha Coolidge, starred Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman.

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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.

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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.

MGM Launches SVOD Service in South Africa

Seeking to expand its catalog of movies and TV shows internationally, MGM has launched a branded subscription streaming video-on-demand service dubbed “MGM” with South African mobile communications company Vodacom.

The service will be marketed as part of Vodacom’s Video Play Premium service, priced at R99 ($6.31), as well as a standalone options priced at R59 ($3.75) monthly; R25 ($1.60) weekly and R10 (64 cents) daily.

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Movies include The Hobbit trilogy, Legally Blonde, Get Shorty, The Pink Panther and Teen Wolf, as well as the TV series,”The Handmaid’s Tale,” among others.

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