Netflix is going big on feature films in 2021. The SVOD behemoth is set to launch 71 movies this year, making good on its promise last October to launch at least one original movie per week to its 193 million global subscribers (through Sept. 30).
In a sizzle reel released Jan. 12, Netflix showcased snippets from original movies and acquisitions featuring stars such as Gal Gadot, Idris Elba, Regina King, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Melissa McCarthy, Halle Berry, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Momoa, Dwayne Johnson, Amy Adams, Chris Hemsworth and Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others.
Notable titles include heist actioner Red Notice with Gadot, Johnson, and Reynolds; The Harder They Fall, a Western drama with Elba, Jonathan Majors and King; The Woman in the Window with Adams; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Tick, Tick … Boom!; and the comedy Don’t Look Up with Leonardo DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep, Ariana Grande, Timothee Chalamet and Kid Cudi.
Netflix action movies include Army of the Dead, Awake, Kate Outside the Wireand Sweet Girl. Horror titles include Fear Street Trilogy, No One Gets Out Alive, There’s Someone Inside Your House and Things Heard and Seen.
Netflix thrillers include Blood Red Sky, Beckett, Escape From Spiderhead, Intrusion, Munich, O2, Night Teeth, The Swarm, The Woman in the Window and the science-fiction release Stowaway.
Netflix romances include A Castle For Christmas, Fuimos Canciones, Kissing Booth 3, Love Hard, The Last Letter from Your Lover, The Princess Switch 3, To All the Boys: Always and Forever and an untitled Alicia Keys romcom.
Dramas are Beauty, Blonde, Bombay Rose, Bruised, Concrete Cowboy, Fever Dream, Malcolm & Marie (Feb. 5), Monster, Penguin Bloom (Jan. 27), Pieces of Woman (Jan. 7), The Dig (Jan. 29), The Guilty, The Hand of God, The Power of the Dog, The Starling and The White Tiger (Jan. 22).
Comedies are France’s 8 Rue de l’Humanité, Afterlife of the Party, Bad Trip, Double Dad, I Care a Lot (Feb. 19), Moxie (March 3), The Last, Mercenary and Thunder Force.
Family titles include A Boy Called Christmas, A Winter’s Tale from Shaun the Sheep, Back to the Outback, Finding ‘Ohana (Jan. 29), Loud House, Nightbooks, Robin Robin, Skater Girl, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, Wish Dragon, Yes Day with Jennifer Garner (March 12) and the faith-based musical A Week Away.
COVID-19 has indeed hit theaters hard, according to data from Interpret.
The number of movies seen theatrically by Americans plunged by two-thirds from the second quarter of 2019 to the same quarter of 2020, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure.
Year-over-year, comparing Q2 2019 with Q2 2020, the study found a 66% plummet in the number of movies seen theatrically per quarter by Americans ages 13 to 65. On average, Americans were seeing six movies in theaters per year before the pandemic, dropping to just two in 2020, according to the data.
“For many years, there has been this push and pull between studios and theater owners regarding the length of the theatrical release window,” Interpret VP Brett Sappington said in a statement, citing the move by Warner to put all new theatrical releases on its streaming service HBO Max concurrent with their bow in theaters. “Theater owners need adequate time with Hollywood’s newest releases to fill theaters. Studios want to experiment with distribution to be relevant to the newest generations of viewers. COVID has forced an evolution that will affect movie distribution well into the future.”
With the Walt Disney Co. set to hold a virtual Investor Day today (Dec. 10) after the market close, Wall Street has already popped Champagne bottles in anticipation of positive news on the company’s streaming video initiatives and vaccine-related impact on parks and amusement business.
Disney shares closed Dec. 9 at a record high following multiple analyst reports projecting CEO Bob Chapek will deliver exciting news this afternoon regarding the company’s first PVOD release Mulan, another season of “The Mandalorian,” and possible transition of new “Star Wars” content from the big screen to streaming.
On the Disney’s last fiscal call (Nov. 12) Chapek said the Disney+ streaming service had topped 73 million subscribers — well ahead of company projections.
“Chuck the [dividend], torch [earns per share], spend aggressively, All Systems Go on streaming,” Steven Cahall, analyst with Wells Fargo, wrote in a note. “In other words, we think investors will soon be willing to pay a high multiple for a global streaming growth story. So, if one is excited about the sub growth story then the stock price should take care of itself, in our view.”
In the movie business, Disney’s Soul is set to go head-to-head with Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 as the big Christmas Day digital debuts. Disney moved Soul from a November theatrical release to stream exclusively on Disney+, while Wonder Woman 1984 will be available on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously.
“It seems now would be the perfect time for continued experimentation — a free pass to determine the right future distribution strategy for Disney’s ‘theatrical’ content,” Rich Greenfield with Lightshed Partners wrote in a note last month.
Greenfield argues that if streaming is Disney’s top priority, why is major TV content such as “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing With the Stars” not premiering on Disney+ or Hulu, with delayed airings on linear TV?
“Why should any compelling TV or film content that can be shifted to streaming first, not be shifted to streaming first?,” Greenfield wrote.
Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne expects Disney+ to end Fiscal Year 2025 with 145 million paid subscribers with revenue of nearly $11 billion in FY25. The analyst believes that combined with Hulu, ESPN+ and Star, Disney could see 250 million total streaming subs by 2025 generating more than $33 billion in revenue.
“Fiscal 2020 [direct-to-consumer segment] losses came in at $3.3 billion, below the original implied guidance for $3.5 billion to $4 billion by our estimates, with much stronger customer growth partially offset by Disney leaning in on marketing,” Swinburne wrote. “For fiscal 2021, we increase our estimate of DTC losses to $4 billion to $4.5 billion and forecast profitability on DTC in 2024.”
Disney shares remain up in midmorning trading at $154.55 per share.
New data from the European Audiovisual Observatory finds that 90% of U.S. theatrical movie releases since 1996 have migrated to video-on-demand distribution in at least one foreign country. Runner-up, the U.K., has 79% of its theatrical releases in worldwide VOD release.
At the same time, 56% of European films released in theaters between 1996 and 2020 were available on VOD in May. Compared to U.S. films, that’s a smaller share. But as there are many more European films than American movies in release theatrically, in absolute values, the number of European films migrating from the theater to VOD is 2.6 times higher than the number of U.S. films.
The report underscores the value VOD has in expanding the consumer reach to all movies — especially lower-budget indie titles — compared with traditional theatrical exhibition. In regard to European movies, VOD brings the most additional distribution to films with 50,000 tickets sold or less.
“[The data supports the] cooperation rather than competition [between] cinema and VOD, while VOD opens up new markets to less successful films,” Gilles Fontaine, head of the Observatory’s department for market information, said in a statement.
Notably, the report found that a movie’s availability on VOD was driven by transactional VOD (59%) more than by subscription VOD (41%). SVOD’s share of VOD presence is higher for films with higher box office revenue. On a country basis, exclusivity between TVOD and SVOD seems to be the rule, with exceptions: Movies with higher admissions or originating from the U.S. were more often available both on TVOD and SVOD.
For National Boss’s Day, Fandango’s transactional streaming service Vudu has programmed a playlist of the most memorably maddening bosses, with a sale on the top movies, led by the 1999 dark comedy Office Space.
“Gary Cole’s soul-crushing, passive-aggressive Lumbergh is everyone’s favorite nightmarish boss,” Fandango editor Erik Davis said in a statement. “And his annoying omnipresence in Mike Judge’s iconic Office Space still haunts us to this day. From Meryl Streep’s hard-charging magazine editor Miranda Priestly to Steve Carell’s clueless branch manager Michael Scott, there is no shortage of awful bosses in movies and TV shows, and fans can head to Vudu toenjoy watching their memorable antics and get much-needed laughs, scare and thrills.”
Redbox Entertainment has partnered with Thunder Road Films to co-launch Asbury Park Pictures — an indie production house tasked with producing original movies.
The films come with budgets from $10 million to $12 million each — and are largely filmed in Eastern Europe, South East Asia and Canada.
The movies will be distributed in the United States via Redbox’s more than 40,000 DVD/Blu-ray Disc rental kiosks and, digitally, through Redbox On Demand, the company’s transactional VOD platform. International distribution will be handled by third-party distributors.
Thunder Road Films is known for co-producing the “John Wick” franchise with Lionsgate. Initial Asbury Park movies include actioner/thrillers War Comes Home,Blacksite and Numb.
Asbury Park management includes Marc Danon, head of original content at Redbox Entertainment, who will spearhead the partnership with Thunder Road boss Basil Iwanyk; Mike Gabrawy, ex-head of production at Arclight Films; and Erica Lee, president of Thunder Road.
The move into original content marks a switch of sorts for Redbox, which in 2014 shuttered Redbox Instant, a disc/subscription streaming service, due to not wanting to get into original content spending battles with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
Redbox in 2019 formed Redbox Entertainment with a mandate by its private equity owners to branch out into original content. The company than hired ex-Lionsgate executive Danon to head the venture.
Regal will begin opening its U.S. theatrical locations Aug. 21 “in response to the recent changes in the upcoming theatrical release schedule,” according to parent company Cineworld.
The theater chain had previously announced it would open July 10.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, opening in the United States Sept. 3, will headline new films coming to the theaters such as Unhinged,Greenland and Broken Hearts Gallery, along with the film slate scheduled to release throughout the remainder of 2020, including Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, No Time to Die, Soul and The King’s Man, according to the company.
“Welcoming theatergoers back to our cinemas will be a celebration for not only our team and our industry, but most importantly for the fans who have been anxiously awaiting the year’s upcoming releases,” Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, said in a statement. “With the health and safety of our staff, customers and communities as our top priority, we are happy to invite audiences to return to the timeless theatrical experience that we have all dearly missed.”
Regal theaters will enforce previously announced health and safety measures that adhere to the latest CDC and public health guidelines, including sanitization procedures, new social distancing protocols, and mandatory mask policies for Regal employees and guests, according to a press release.
When Paramount Home Entertainment on March 9 announced the launch of its “Paramount Presents” line to showcase films from the studio’s extensive library, marketing chief Vincent Marcais had no idea how prophetic the move would prove to be.
Just two days later, on March 11, the World Health Organization declared a global COVID-19 pandemic, and over the ensuing days governments the world over issued stay-at-home mandates and ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.
Movie theaters were among the businesses that suddenly went dark, which meant box office revenues quickly dropped to near zero. On top of that, productions were halted, which meant that not only were there no new movies in theaters, there were no more new movies, period, at least for the foreseeable future.
Home entertainment, thanks to 90-day windows, got a three-month reprieve — as well as an extra crop of high-profile films released digitally to home audiences, at a premium price, due to the closure of theaters. But by mid-June, studio home entertainment divisions were running out of fresh new theatrical product, which had been their lifeblood since the home video business began more than 40 years ago.
So how are the home entertainment divisions of the major studios keeping the lights on?
At Paramount, says Marcais, EVP of marketing, the studio has been filling the void primarily with catalog product from its rich library of film and TV content, buoyed by the launch of the Paramount Presents line.
“The library is at the core of what we do here at Paramount,” Marcais says, noting that since the end of March weekly catalog sales have been double what they used to be.
“Catalog has always been important, but now it’s more important to us than ever,” adds Alanna Powers, SVP of brand marketing, catalog, at Paramount Home Entertainment. “We’re very well positioned to meet demand as new releases continue to dry up.”
With no fresh new theatricals in the pipeline, she says, “we have a very robust release strategy for our library. We continue to explore things like anniversary efforts, or leaning into historical dates or holidays, and we’re also looking at 4K Ultra HD, digging in and looking at opportunities.”
On the digital side, Paramount works in tandem with digital retailers such as FandangoNow, Apple and Vudu to create curated promotions that are marketed primarily through Instagram and other social media channels, such as a collection of family films or series of dancing and singing movies that included Grease and Dreamgirls.
On the physical media side, the emphasis is on finding classic films from the vaults that have never before been released on Blu-ray Disc, such as Roman Holiday, and on the “Paramount Presents” Line — both of which target collectors.
The “Paramount Presents” line of Blu-ray Discs kicked off with the April 21 release of Fatal Attraction; 1958’s acclaimed Elvis Presley drama KingCreole; and director Alfred Hitchcock’s romantic thriller To Catch a Thief, which celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. Subsequent waves have been released monthly. All films in the “Paramount Presents” line are remastered and sent to Blu-ray in collectible packaging that includes a foldout image of the original movie poster and interior artwork featuring key movie moments.
“This new label is really a labor of love,” Marcais says. “We’re like a publishing company, in that we take a very diverse group of movies from our library and we publish, or republish, them with the mindset of a really small shop where the focus is on quality.”
Like films in the vaunted Criterion Collection, Marcais says, “Paramount Presents” titles get the VIP treatment. “We go back to the filmmakers and find the best master and really work on the quality of the image,” he says. “We improve everything and then make these films available to the most important people for us — the core Blu-ray Disc fans.”
Paramount may have enjoyed the luck of the draw with the launch of its “Paramount Presents” line — as well as the already-scheduled May release of a special 35th anniversary edition of Top Gun — but other studios are reporting similar upticks in catalog sales, both on disc and digitally.
“From the outset of this unprecedented period, we’ve been seeing a broad lift across catalog,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has one of the biggest catalogs of any studio, buoyed by MGM, HBO and Turner product. EVP of sales Mike Takac says that during the first six weeks of the pandemic, when shelter-in-place orders were in place and businesses were closed, sales of theatrical catalog titles doubled.
“The COVID-19 bump was massive,” Takac says. “So now it becomes a matter of trying to predict how much of it will fall off as restrictions ease, and no one knows. But the second quarter was historic — we hadn’t seen such robust catalog sales in years.”
For Lionsgate, home entertainment’s moment in the sun is an ongoing thing. Home entertainment packaged media/digital movies at the studio represented 42.2% of the Motion Picture segment’s $1.67 billion revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31 — twice the percentage of theatrical, according to the company’s 10K fiscal filing, which was released May 27. The tally is up 14.1% from revenue of $1.46 billion in fiscal 2019.
“Home entertainment has always been, and will continue to be, a huge priority for the company,” says Adam Frank, Lionsgate’s SVP of worldwide digital sales and distribution.
He says Lionsgate is in a strong competitive position because of the strength of its theatrical titles and the diversity of its slate, including a longstanding tradition of multi-platform releases. Between box office blockbusters such as the “John Wick,” “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” franchises and original hits such as Knives Out and La La Land, he says, Lionsgate has always filled in the gaps with a diverse portfolio of movies, some of which are released simultaneously across theaters and other platforms. With movie theaters closed, he says, films such as Arkansas and Survive the Night, aimed at home audiences, are posting “amazing results — they’re really outperforming our expectations and ranking in the upper echelon of multi-platform release performance, industry-wide.”
“We were well prepared,” he adds, “and we still have a number of those films that we have not yet released.”
Lionsgate also has a vast 17,000-title film and television catalog that studio marketers routinely mine in partnership with digital retailers, Frank says.
“We have always had an unrivaled dedication to our catalog,” he says. “We are coming off a record $600 million year in library revenue for our company, and we are now seeing weekly run rates up nearly 100% in recent months compared to before shelter-at-home orders.”
Editor’s Note: This is part one in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’
Shorter theatrical windows could lead to lower home video revenues, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) warns.
The trade group in an April 15 news release cited data from an Ernst & Young study it commissioned that examines the effect of the length of the theatrical window on revenues in the home, in theaters, and overall.
The study found that a 1% longer window between a film’s theatrical opening and its availability for home viewing could boost home video sales by $56,000.
The study comes as studios have been accelerating the home release of films to counter movie theater closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The most pronounced example was Trolls World Tour, which was released digitally at a premium “rental” price of $19.99 the same day it was supposed to open in theaters.
NATO warned that such early release patterns should be temporary, until the pandemic subsides and theaters reopen, lest studios leave money on the table.
“With movie theaters shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, studios have accelerated home release for some titles that were already in theatrical release when the industry shut down,” NATO said in the press release. “Without theaters available, the release window was temporarily irrelevant for those movies. These unique circumstances, however, do not signal a change to the theatrical release model.”
NATO noted that three films unreleased at the time of the shutdown were released digitally, directly to home audiences. “Yet the vast majority of theatrical releases scheduled from March through June have been rescheduled for theatrical release — 37 of them, with six more delayed with no set release date — rather than rushed to the home,” NATO said. “Studios clearly believe it is in their financial interest to have exclusive theatrical releases.”
NATO said the findings of the new Ernst & Young study “are significant, as shrinking revenues in the home have put pressure on distributors to find a way to boost the fortunes of a home segment in secular decline. Shrinking the length of the theatrical release window has been the mechanism most often cited as a means to that end. This study finds that shorter release windows not only damage theatrical revenues — as expected — they damage home revenues as well.”
NATO said the study also finds that “without controlling for the influence of other variables, the length of theatrical run is more highly correlated to home sales than to box office sales.”
Total home video transactional revenue slipped 30% between 2012 and 2017, the period of the study, NATO said, citing DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group numbers. “The study finds the average percentage of transactional home revenue to total combined home and theatrical revenue per movie has declined even more — 32% — from 40% to 27% over the same period,” NATO said.
In the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea were among the first to feel the effects of social distancing and quarantining.
The regions are now the first to see a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Nielsen, which released new data showing that, similarly to the United States, in-home media consumption increased about 60% during the crisis, and from an advertising perspective, brands and agencies will need to both adjust which products are being marketed, as well as the tone in which they’re delivering their messages to consumers.
During the first three weeks of the pandemic, Taiwan’s TV audience grew by 1 million viewers, for a total viewing population of approximately 21 million. News channels and programs were the primary beneficiaries of the increased penetration, followed by children’s programming.
In Hong Kong, as more consumers stayed home, Nielsen found that TV ratings for all day and all time periods increased by 43% in February compared with the same time period in 2019, while primetime ratings during the same period increased by 44%.
“The impact of COVID-19 is absolutely substantial,” said David Yeung, VP of marketing communications, consumer group, at HKT Limited, said in a statement. “Almost all industries have been badly hit, with lots of closure for retail outlets, restaurants, etc. The key to survival is to adapt to the changing business environment very quickly and to ensure threats are turned into opportunities by tapping into technology and data.”
While China’s traditional communist-driven social safety nets have been challenged by a rising middle class and increased dependence on commerce with the West, As Zod Fang, head of GroupM Knowledge, GroupM China, said the government is increasing new policies to stimulate the economy and consumer consumption as the region emerges from the pandemic.
“This will lead to greater demand,” Fang said. “Therefore, brands need to get prepared. Work with agencies to have an overall plan including sourcing, logistics, marketing and sales to fully seize the opportunity.”
China did try to jumpstart the domestic theatrical market on March 24 in Shanghai — a move it quickly reversed, shuttering 600 theaters with no explanation given.
The China Film Group, the state-backed distributor that controls all movie release dates in the country, had reportedly planned to re-release box office hits Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth, in addition Disney/Marvel The Avengers franchise movies.