Cinedigm Secures Digital Rights to Female Sports Festival: The Aurora Games

In the era of the #MeToo movement and female empowerment, Cinedigm announced it has acquired exclusive worldwide digital (including live-streaming) distribution rights to The Aurora Games – an ambitious all-female sports and entertainment festival slated for Aug. 20 to 25, 2019.

The event– scheduled to occur every two years celebrating women’s accomplishments against a backdrop of world-class competition and entertainment – is the brainchild of long-time sports executive Jerry Solomon, probably best-known for his business association and marriage to former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Soloman-produced sports events include tennis’ BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden, World Tennis Day and World Tennis Day events in Hong Kong and London, figure skating’s Tribute to the Golden Age of American Skating, Halloween on Ice and One Enchanted Evening, beach volleyball’s Queen of the Beach Invitational, among others.

High-profile advisors include Donna de Varona, Chris Evert, Nadia Comaneci, Kerrigan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, among others.

“The Aurora Gamesis coming to audiences at the perfect time,” Yolanda Macias, EVP, content acquisitions, digital sales and studio relations at Cinedigm, said in a statement. “A combination of female empowerment, elite athletes, inspiring personal stories and great entertainment will make this appointment viewing.”

The six-day event, whose inaugural site and related details have yet to be disclosed, represents another opportunity for over-the-top video distribution in live sports programming. Recent high-profile events that secured live-streaming distribution included soccer’s World Cup in Russia (on YouTube TV), the Tour de France bike race (NBC Sports Gold) and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships (Amazon Prime Video in the U.K).

With digital platforms that include The Dove Channel, Docurama and CONtv, The Aurora Games would represent the first foray (with related challenges) into live-streaming for Cinedigm and its Chinese corporate parent.

Indeed, both YouTube and Amazon experienced early technical glitches streaming World Cup soccer and tennis, respectively, to subscribers accustomed to flawless pay-TV broadcasts.

With The Aurora Games a work in progress, Cinedigm’s venture into live-streaming represents a high-profile learning opportunity.

“With streaming rapidly becoming one of the key ways that sports related content is consumed, Cinedigm is once again providing innovative digitally driven distribution services for high quality content partners,” said Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group.


I, Tonya


Street 3/13/18;
Box Office $29.51 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
RatedR’ for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity.
Stars Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Walter Hauser.

The darkly funny I, Tonya isn’t so much a docu-drama about a moment of historical infamy as it is an examination of how unfortunate circumstances could build upon each other to fuel a situation that spirals out of control.

The subject, of course, is Tonya Harding, and her trainwreck of an upbringing in Oregon that, despite all odds, didn’t deter her in the slightest from becoming a world-class figure skater. And how the elements that inspired her to fight for success also coalesced into the notorious assault on her figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan and eventually pushed Harding out of the sport (and into boxing, of all things).

The film, aided by a great soundtrack of classic pop rock hits, is structured as a series of interviews with the particulars reflecting on the events in flashback from their own points of view, even breaking the fourth wall to explain details of what may or may not be true. The characters also have no trouble throwing each other under the bus, which could muddle the picture of what actually happened were it not for an additional “interview” with a fictionalized journalist played by Bobby Cannavale to provide focus and context.

Margot Robbie is terrific as Harding, taking on the airs of a fierce competitor who can’t seem to catch a break from the institutional bias of a sport that considers her little more than white trash. Harding doesn’t do much to shake the reputation, either, with her crude antics on and off the ice, particularly when it comes to her abusive relationship with Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan, rocking the famous ’stache).

The highlight is Allison Janney as Harding’s mother, a tough-as-nails wannabe show-biz mom who is willing to let her daughter hate her to push her toward success.

The depiction of the Kerrigan attack is less a blow-by-blow re-creation than it is a comedy of errors about a group of idiots planning a crime and doing nearly everything wrong to cover their tracks. I suppose it’s the film’s way of suggesting that if these are the people Harding must rely upon to achieve her goals, then whatever sympathy we might feel for her through Robbie’s portrayal aren’t necessarily unwarranted.

These attitudes would all be mitigated of course by any definitive answers as to Harding’s role in planning the assault, which the film is unable to provide. By the end, as footage of the real Harding’s figure skating plays during the credits, the film has become something of a whacky tribute to her.

The Blu-ray offers 17-minutes of deleted scenes, and in one, Robbie’s Tonya even suggests that Kerrigan planned the whole thing to make Harding look bad (which the film’s Kerrigan character swiftly denies, naturally). The bulk of the deleted scenes are a couple of lengthy takes re-creating a bizarre Diane Sawyer interview with Gillooly’s buddy Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), who may have orchestrated the entire attack.

The Blu-ray also includes five promotional behind-the-scenes featurettes running about 16 minutes, and a good audio commentary from director Craig Gillespie.