Universal Releasing ‘Operation Finale’ Digitally Nov. 20, on Disc Dec. 4

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release MGM’s Operation Finale digitally Nov. 20, and on Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Dec. 4.

Based on a true story, the film follows an Israeli intelligence mission in 1960 to capture high-ranking Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) in Argentina and prosecute him for the deaths of millions of Jews in concentration camps during World War II.

Directed by Chris Weitz, the film also stars Oscar Isaac, Mélanie Laurent, Lior Roz, Nick Kroll, Haley Lu Richardson, Joe Alwyn, Pepe Rapazote and Greta Scacchi.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include a feature commentary with Weitz and the making-of featurette “Inside the Operation.”

Starz Adds Former Netflix, Lionsgate Executives to Digital Networks Team

Lionsgate-owned Starz Sept. 5 announced the hiring of former Netflix executive Darren Nielson as SVP of distribution and business development at its international digital networks team led by EVP Superna Kalle.

Starz also named Jeff Cooke, ex-VP of global digital at Lionsgate, its new VP of programming at international digital networks.

Nielson, based in Lionsgate’s Santa Monica corporate office, will lead the distribution and business development for Starz’ digital and linear services and channels, working with Kalle to develop expansion strategies, identify and evaluate partner opportunities, and source and negotiate distribution agreements with in-territory partners.

Prior to joining Starz, Nielson served as director of content acquisition at Netflix. He was instrumental in building Netflix’s presence across Europe and Asia managing global licensing relationships with major studios and local partners across both film and TV content.

Cooke, also based in Santa Monica, will oversee programming for the international expansion of the Starz OTT subscription service to new global markets. He will be tasked to define and implement the content strategies across all international territories and identify key programming initiatives through data insights and analytics.

Cooke will curate content that defines the Starz brand in each region and capitalize on global trends and strategies. Cooke will continue to work with London-based Brett Marottoli, head of program acquisitions, to identify and acquire additional content for the StarzPlay platform.

Prior to Lionsgate, Cooke held positions at Miramax and MGM.

“Darren and Jeff bring a wealth of global acumen and skill to this international team at a time of significant growth for our company and our brand,” Kalle said in a statement. “I look forward to exploring new opportunities around the world for our content across digital and linear platforms with them on board.”

 

Walmart Streaming Service Hires Former Epix CEO Mark Greenberg, Targeting ‘Roseanne’ Crowd?

Walmart’s secretive subscription streaming video service is reportedly targeting consumers not catered to by traditional content distributors — and at a price point below Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The Wall Street Journal — citing sources familiar with the situation — said the pending SVOD service — which Walmart has not officially greenlighted — is working with former Epix CEO Mark Greenberg.

The executive, who helped bow multilevel (online, linear) distribution platform Epix with MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures in 2008, left last September after MGM acquired majority ownership. Greenberg previously worked at HBO and Showtime.

Specifically, Greenberg is looking at programming that would appeal to consumers living in middle America – away from traditional bi-coastal markets. Sources told The Journal the service would target viewers attracted to the short-lived “Roseanne” TV reboot.

“They’re catering to that Americana base,” said the source.

Whether Walmart plans to rival original content spending by Netflix ($8 billion), Prime Video ($5 billion) or HBO ($2.7 billion) remains to be seen. Not doing so would limit the service to licensing content already available on other OTT video services.

The platform would also operate separate from Vudu.com, the digital retail and transactional VOD service Walmart acquired in 2010.

 

The Quarter-Billion-Dollar Spat

In the corporate annals of executive buyouts, few are as crazy as Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s (MGM) decision to purchase the equity stake of fired CEO Gary Barber for $260 million.

That’s on top of the $15.4 million golden parachute Barber got after unexpectedly getting the axe in March – just five months after privately-held MGM extended his employment contract through 2020.

Media reports suggest there had been friction between Barber and Kevin Ulrich, the boss at investment group Anchorage Capital — MGM’s largest investor — over the future of the studio.

Apparently, it was a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar rift.

Indeed, as part of the buyout — which involved MGM tapping into its credit facility — Barber agreed to customary “standstill provisions” that prohibit him from competing directly on MGM-related matters for a three-year period.

If Barber, who, since his ouster, had reportedly been trying to line up creditors to acquire MGM, was such a threat, why not keep him on the payroll?

Barber, together with Roger Birnbaum, helped MGM Studios emerge out of bankruptcy in 2010 through the usual cost-cutting restructuring taken by companies under Chapter 11 protection or in M&A crosshairs.

The executive in 2017 spearheaded complete ownership of premium TV network Epix from partners Lionsgate, Viacom and Paramount Pictures. Barber revitalized the “James Bond” franchise with box office hits Skyfall and Spectre. The next installment — Bond 25 — is slated for release in 2019.

Barber hired reality TV whiz Mark Burnett (“The Voice,” “Survivor,” “Shark Tank”) as president of the TV group and digital.

In home entertainment, Barber distributed MGM’s vaunted catalog and new releases to the highest bidder, with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment winning rights to SpectreSkyfall, Death WishEvery Day, RoboCop, Poltergeist, “Vikings,” “Get Shorty,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Teen Wolf,” among others. The Fox agreement expires June 30, 2020.

Notably, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will distribute Bond 25 in packaged media thereafter. The studio’s parent, Comcast recently inked a direct-access deal with Epix for its cable operations.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment distributes the “Jump Street” franchise and The Magnificent Seven, while Warner Bros. Home Entertainment distributes the “Hobbit” trilogy, CreedMaxMe Before You, Tomb Raider and Everything, Everything.

Paramount Home Media Distribution has DVD/Blu-ray rights to Sherlock Gnomes and Ben-Hur.

Regardless, home entertainment revenue in 2017 dropped 55% to $91.9 million from $206.5 million in 2016.

Hardly enough to pay off Barber.

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Overboard’ Remake to Home Video in July

Lionsgate will release the comedy Overboard through digital retailers July 17 and on Blu-ray, DVD and on demand July 31.

The film, a gender-swapped remake of the 1987 movie of the same name, stars Eugenio Derbez as a spoiled yacht owner who falls off his boat and suffers from amnesia, leading to an employee he fired, played by Anna Faris, to seek revenge by convincing him that he is her husband and make him work for her.

Extras include audio Commentary with writer-director Rob Greenberg, writer-producer Bob Fisher, and producer Benjamin Odell; and the featurettes “Chemistry Is Comedy,” “Culture Clash” and “Captains of the Ship: Bob & Rob.”

In Digital Age, Comcast is Swinging for the M&A Fence

NEWS ANALYSIS — Comcast still has that Disney itch.

The media giant reportedly is securing upwards of $60 billion in cash financing in an effort to outbid The Walt Disney Co.’s current $52 billion stock offer for 2oth Century Fox Film Corp., which includes movies, TV shows and foreign assets.

The merger & acquisition bid would only be submitted should AT&T’s $84.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner be approved by a federal judge, according to Reuterswhich cited sources familiar with the proceedings. That deal is being opposed in court by the Department of Justice on alleged antitrust issues.

Comcast previously submitted a $30 billion offer for Fox-controlled Sky Plc in the United Kingdom — a bid that trumps Fox’s separate offer for remaining interest in the satellite TV operator, whose business includes operations in Italy and Germany.

Comcast’s legacy cable business is under increasing threat (lost 96,000 video subs in Q1) from over-the-top video behemoths Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, whose global platforms continue to migrate millions of consumers from traditional pay-TV to streaming video.

One way to mitigate the damage is through maximizing economies of scale in content creation and distribution. Comcast assets include NBC Universal, which includes Universal Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation, among many others.

Fox, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch & his sons, controls the rights to franchises such as “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four,” “Deadpool” and “Avatar,” in addition to “The Simpsons” on TV.

In addition, Comcast, Fox and Disney each own 30% stakes in Hulu (Time Warner owns 10%). Should Comcast prevail acquiring Fox, it would have controlling interest in Hulu, which just topped 20 million subscribers.

Fox subsidiaries are major content suppliers to Hulu, although the platform’s breakout hit, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is produced by MGM. With Disney eyeing its own branded SVOD service in 2019, controlling interest in Hulu and Hulu Live online TV platform is a pre-requisite.

“We believe this is simply not possible without Comcast’s consent and we see no reason why Comcast would want to enable Disney to have a more successful streaming service that hampers the legacy bundle that is vital to Comcast,” BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a note last year.

Indeed, Comcast’s rivalry with Disney dates back to 2004 when it made a hostile $54 billion bid for Disney after then-CEO Michael Eisner refused to entertain merger discussions. Comcast later withdrew the offer.

 

‘Death Wish’ Debuts May 22 on Digital, June 5 on Disc

Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis, will come out digitally on 4K Ultra HD and HD May 22 and Blu-ray, DVD and video-on-demand 4K Ultra HD and HD services June 5 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM.

The film earned $33.9 million in U.S. theaters.

In director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller, Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Kersey hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice.

Updated from the original novel by Brian Garfield, the film also stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise.

Special features include  commentary with Eli Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum; deleted scenes with optional commentary with Roth and Birnbaum; “Mancow Morning Show” extended scenes; “Sway in the Morning” extended scene; “Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish”; and Grindhouse trailer.