Paramount Home Entertainment Ups Q2 Revenue 30%

Home entertainment again proved to be an unspoken silver lining for a major studio under siege by a non-existent box office due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Paramount Home Entertainment on Aug. 6 reported $201 million in second-quarter (ended June 30) revenue, which was up nearly 30% from revenue of $161 million during the second quarter of 2019.

Through the first half of the fiscal year, sales of physical and digital content soared 21.5% at $383 million, compared to $315 million last year.

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Paramount Home Entertainment president Bob Buchi

Home entertainment revenue was driven by the mix of titles in release, including Sonic the Hedgehog, and higher sales of catalog titles such as Top Gun.

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As expected, theatrical revenue flatlined to $3 million due to theater closures, with half-year revenue at $170 million, down 52.4% from $324 million through the first six months of 2019.

Licensing revenue decreased 20% due to lower sales from licensing of catalog titles, as well as the timing of deliveries of programs produced for third parties. Notably, pre-tax studio earnings increased 22%, reflecting lower distribution costs resulting from the absence of theatrical releases in the quarter, as well as the strong performance of Hedgehog in the home entertainment market.

Season One of ‘The Great’ Due on DVD Oct. 20 From Paramount

Season One of “The Great” arrives on DVD Oct. 20 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

It is now available for purchase on digital platforms.

Created and executive produced by Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Tony McNamara (The Favourite​), “The Great” is a satirical, comedic drama — and occasionally true story — about the rise of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. An idealistic romantic young girl, she arrives from Prussia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter (Nicholas Hoult) hoping for love and finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court on her side.

“The Great” debuted on Hulu in the U.S. in May and has been renewed for a second season.

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The four-DVD set features all 10 episodes, plus exclusive bonus content including interviews with the cast and creator Tony McNamara about the provocative and irreverent depiction of Catherine’s extraordinary story; behind-the-scenes tours of the sets with members of the cast; a look at the makeup, hair and costume designs; and a gag reel.

‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels’ on DVD Sept. 29

CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will release Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels — Season One on DVD Sept. 29.

The show stars Daniel Zovatto and Nathan Lane as detectives in Los Angeles in 1938 who explore a grim murder in an epic story that reflects the rich history of Los Angeles: from the building of the city’s first freeways and its deep traditions of Mexican-American folklore, to the dangerous espionage actions of the Third Reich and the rise of radio evangelism. Before long, Tiago and his family are grappling with powerful forces that threaten to tear them apart.

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The primary conflict involves the Mexican folklore deity, Santa Muerte, the caretaker of the dead and guide to the great beyond, and her spiritual sister, the demoness Magda (Natalie Dormer), who believes mankind is inherently evil and aims to prove her point.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

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First Season of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ on Disc Oct. 6

CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will release Star Trek: Picard — Season One on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 6.

Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on the CBS All Access original series. Set 30 years after “Next Generation,” the new show finds Picard’s retirement disturbed by a young woman (Isa Briones) who seeks his help after being attacked by Romulans as part of a conspiracy involving androids and artificial intelligence.

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‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Tops June Disc Sales; ‘Frozen II’ Remains Year’s Best

Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog was No. 1 on the domestic top 10 list of combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales for June 2020 according to the NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service.

The result is unsurprising considering the video game adaptation topped the weekly disc sales charts for six consecutive weeks following its May 19 physical media release, including every week in June. Sonic had been the No. 2 seller in May.

June’s No. 2 seller was Universal’s The Invisible Man remake, which had been No. 9 the month before after its May 26 disc release.

Disney’s Onward, another May 19 disc release, rose to No. 3 in June after debuting at No. 4 in May.

The top seller in May, Warner’s Birds of Prey, slipped to No. 4 in June.

June’s No. 5 disc seller was Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a March disc release that had been No. 8 in May.

The only newcomers on the monthly chart were a pair of classic movies celebrating anniversary re-releases.

Paramount’s Top Gun from 1986 grabbed No. 7 after the film was released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in late May in anticipation of the upcoming theatrical sequel, which had been slated for June but was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No. 8 was 1975’s Jaws, which Universal re-released in early June on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray to mark the film’s 45th anniversary.

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The year’s top 10 titles remained unchanged from the previous month, led by Disney’s Frozen II, which has been the year’s best seller since February.

The only blip on the yearly top 10 after June was that Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys for Life moved up a spot to No. 6, pushing Lionsgate’s Midway to No. 7.

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According to NPD, the June 2020 top 10 by units sold were:

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
  2. The Invisible Man (2020) (Universal)
  3. Onward (Disney)
  4. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Warner)
  5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  6. The Call of the Wild (Fox)
  7. Top Gun (Paramount)
  8. Jaws (Universal)
  9. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  10. 1917 (Universal)

 

Year-to-date Top 10 (through June 2020):

  1. Frozen II (Disney)
  2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  3. Joker (Warner)
  4. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  5. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney)
  6. Bad Boys for Life (Sony Pictures)
  7. Midway (2019) (Lionsgate)
  8. 1917 (Universal)
  9. Zombieland: Double Tap (Sony Pictures)
  10. Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount)

 

‘Birds of Prey’ Tops May Disc Sales; ‘Frozen II’ Remains Year’s Best

Paramount Restores 1953 Classic ‘Roman Holiday’ for Blu-ray Debut Sept. 15

Paramount Home Entertainment will release the classic 1953 film Roman Holiday for the first time on Blu-ray Disc Sept. 15 as part of the studio’s Paramount Presents line. The film was subjected to an extensive 4K restoration by the studio, which showed off some of the results at an online press event July 15.

In the film, Audrey Hepburn stars as a European princess who escapes her secluded lifestyle and spends an adventure in Rome with an American journalist played by Gregory Peck.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Roman Holiday. It’s an irresistible movie,” said famed critic and film historian Leonard Maltin. “And unlike some ’50s movies that seem maybe a little heavy handed or maybe a little out of fashion by today’s standards, I think this one still breathes and exudes an air of freshness that is timeless. A lot of that has to do with of course Audrey Hepburn, who is eternally contemporary.”

Maltin said director William Wyler insisted on shooting the film on location in Rome, rather than building sets in Hollywood and matching the footage to pickup shots in the European city.

“Roman Holiday was one of the very first movies done on location,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of archives at Paramount. “This was not a standard Hollywood thing.”

Both Kalas and Martin speculated that the production’s need to use European labs to process the film for dailies and editing, rather than more frequently used and reliable L.A. labs, might have contributed to problems preserving the film over the years.

The film was digitally restored using a dupe negative and a fine grain element to capture the best possible image. Every frame was reviewed, and the film received extensive clean-up to remove thousands of scratches, bits of dirt and other damage.  The original mono track was remastered and minor anomalies were corrected.

“Unfortunately, the original negative no longer even exists,” Kalas said. “This was a dupe made from the original neg which is what we primarily used, and that original negative was so damaged by that lab, just different standards … so that’s why the work we had to do was so important. Digital technology and restoration have become so nuanced and so specific that we can really make sure that we are doing the best with the material we have. So we’re really pleased with the way it came out.”

Progression of image restoration on a scene from ‘Roman Holiday’

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The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, and ended up winning Best Actress for Hepburn, in her first major film role, Best Costume Design for a black-and-white movie, and Best Story.

The film’s writing award has been the subject of some revision over the years, which is reflected in the new Blu-ray as well. The new restoration also features one slight alteration from the original theatrical version, in that blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo receives a full credit for his work on the film.

Trumbo’s story credit was restored in 1992 by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, which in 1993 presented the Oscar with Trumbo’s name on it to his widow. In 2011 the Writers Guild of America awarded Trumbo a proper co-screenplay credit as well, shared with John Dighton, who Paramount hired to touch up the screenplay, and Ian McLellan Hunter, a screenwriting friend of Trumbo who fronted the script for him with the studio to get around the blacklist (it was Hunter who was originally handed the Best Story Oscar).

The new Blu-ray will be the first physical home entertainment release of Roman Holiday to feature both Trumbo’s story and co-screenwriting credits, both on the packaging and in the film itself.

Extras on the Blu-ray include the featurettes “Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday,” “Behind the Gates: Costumes,” “Rome With a Princess,” “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years,” “Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” and “Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey.” Other extras include theatrical trailers, plus photo galleries covering the film and its production, publicity campaign and premiere. The Blu-ray will also include a digital copy of the film.

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Films in the Paramount Presents line are presented in a slipcover with a foldout image of the film’s poster, and an interior spread of key movie moments. Other films available through Paramount Presents include Fatal Attraction, King Creole, To Catch a Thief, Flashdance, Days of Thunder, Pretty In Pink, Airplane! and Ghost.

Restocking the Shelves, Part Three: Seeing Through Windows

One positive trend that has emerged during the pandemic, home entertainment studio executives say, is that consumers seem to be gaining a better understanding of the difference between transactional and subscription streaming and are realizing that not everything they might want to see is available on Netflix or the other big SVOD services.

“Because consumers are spending so much watching digital video at home, they are acutely aware of which titles are available on the various platforms,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution.

Hilary Hoffman

“It has become clear that consumers sheltering at home not only have become increasingly engaged in our catalog offerings to keep entertained, but also have progressively grown to become more savvy in navigating the spectrum of formats,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “As such, we have continued to invest and reward consumers to stay engaged in the category and have been working in lockstep with our digital and physical retail partners to ensure that we remain hyper-focused on delivering the broadest access and best possible in-home experience.”

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“Consumers have become much more receptive to different price points,” adds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong. “They realize not everything’s on Netflix, and it’s worth it to them to pay a transactional amount for something they really want to watch. They really have embraced all the ways to consume digital video.”

That includes the physical disc. “We are encouraged by the resilience,” Spivak says. “When you think of the structural impediments, stores being closed, online ordering taking longer to fulfill — consumers who love the physical disc are persevering and that business is holding up quite well.”

Studios were fortunate that two of the biggest retail sellers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Walmart and Target, were able to remain open throughout the pandemic because they also sell groceries and thus were deemed “essential” businesses. Alanna Powers, SVP of brand marketing, catalog, at Paramount Home Entertainment, says studio marketers have already met with Walmart to discuss fourth-quarter plans, with a focus on catalog.

“We went through a whole planning session with the Walmart team,” Powers says.

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part Two: Home Entertainment Marketing Shifts Into High Gear

But the biggest lift to DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, studio marketers say, comes from e-commerce sellers such as Amazon.

“We’ve seen quite a boom in e-commerce,” Powers says. “Initially we were unsure about the supply chain and how retail would react, but we kept all our new-to-Blu-ray titles on the calendar and saw a very positive response so we’ve continued to fill the slate with additional titles.”

Indeed, in addition to monthly waves of “Paramount Presents” releases, Paramount recently has come out with a 25th anniversary edition of the Alicia Silverstone comedy Clueless and 40th anniversary editions of horror classic Friday the 13th and John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy. Clueless and Friday the 13th also are available in limited edition steelbooks.

“We’re really leaning more into the collector’s market,” Powers says. “That’s where e-commerce really shines.”

Jeff Brown

It’s not just movies, either. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment enjoyed a banner spring with TV product, says Jeff Brown, EVP and GM, Television. “The second quarter was a panacea for transactional television content, physical as well as digital,” Brown says. “Our business grew over 40%, year on year. And if you exclude ‘Game of Thrones,’ which had an extraordinary performance last year with the final season broadcast and transactional release, our business nearly doubled. This really shows peoples’ appetite for television content, and while obviously stay-at-home behavior contributed to this, there were several other opportunities we were able to capitalize on.”

One was the fact that Warner now distributes TV content from HBO and Turner digitally as well as physically.

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part One: Home Entertainment Divisions Mine Catalog as Theatrical Slate Stalls

Another is a strong slate of product, released just in time for viewers to enjoy while encouraged by state and local governments to stay in their homes. “Our top drivers included ‘Rick and Morty,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ as well as the animated original movie titles Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was probably our best-performing DC animated movie since Batman: The Killing Joke and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” Brown says.

The third factor behind Warner’s strong TV quarter is a series of “Entertaining the World” promotions, Brown says, with a menu of promotional actions for digital retailers such as Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.

“We promoted shows such as ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire,’ and Hanna-Barbera and DC animated classics,” Brown says. “We were able to look at the total Warner-HBO-Turner TV and animation library and come up with compelling retail programs, and we coordinated this on a semi-monthly ‘wave’ basis to provide an abundance of promoted content to retailers in a timely manner.”

Editor’s Note: This is part three 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.’

‘Force of Nature’ Tops Overall Disc Sales; ‘Sonic’ Remains Top Blu-ray

Sonic the Hedgehog‘s six-week reign atop the disc sales chart has come to an end. For the week ended July 4, Lionsgate’s Force of Nature debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales.

Paramount’s Sonic slipped to No. 2 for the week, selling 79% as many copies as the newcomer. However, Sonic did manage to remain at No. 1 on the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart for a second consecutive week, its sixth time atop the HD rankings in the seven weeks since its disc release.

Force of Nature, a thriller with Mel Gibson about a heist during a hurricane in Puerto Rico, was No. 2 on the Blu-ray Disc chart, with 39% of its total unit sales coming from the HD format.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended July 5, Force of Nature also was No. 1. No. 2 was the thriller Becky, a Quiver Entertainment release with exclusive early disc-rental availability through Redbox.

Universal’s The Hunt, which had been the top rental the previous three weeks, slid to No. 3.

Rounding out the top five rentals were Universal’s The Invisible Man at No. 4 and Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys for Life at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 7-4-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 7-5-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 7-4-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 7-4-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 7-4-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 7-6-20

‘Sonic’ Tops Disc Sales for Sixth Week; ‘Top Gun’ Flies to No. 2

Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog spent its sixth consecutive week atop the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, the week ended June 27. The video game adaptation also returned to No. 1 on the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.

The six weeks is the longest a title has topped overall disc sales since Frozen spent eight straight weeks at No. 1 in 2014.

The week’s No. 2 disc seller was Paramount’s Top Gun. The 1986 action movie was recently re-released by the studio on 4K Ultra HD disc, though the UHD version accounted for just 7% of the title’s sales. With 26% of its total sales coming from Blu-ray Disc, Top Gun was No. 16 on the Blu-ray chart. A sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, is slated to hit theaters later this year.

No. 3 on the overall sales list and No. 2 on the Blu-ray list was Disney’s Onward.

Universal’s 1917 held steady at No. 4 overall and climbed a spot to No. 3 on the Blu-ray list.

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The No. 5 overall selling disc was Universal’s remake of The Invisible Man, which was No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart.

The No. 4 Blu-ray was Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which came in at No. 7 on the overall sales chart.

The No. 5 Blu-ray seller was Netflix’s first season of “Stranger Things,” which is available exclusively at Target. Copies of the season have been heavily discounted of late, with Target clearing them out at $3 each, which likely explains the recent spike in sales for the title.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 28, Universal’s The Hunt was the top title for the third consecutive week.

Universal’s The Invisible Man held steady at No. 2, with Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot moving up a spot to No. 3.

Rounding out the top five were Sony’s Bad Boys for Life at No. 4, and Sonic the Hedgehog at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-27-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-28-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 6-27-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 6-27-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-27-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 6-29-20

‘Sonic’ Tops Disc Sales for Fifth Week; ‘Birds of Prey’ Tops Blu-ray Chart

With the slate of major new DVD and Blu-ray releases coming to a near standstill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog is running past the competition.

The video game adaptation spent its fifth consecutive week atop the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, the week ended June 20.

Sonic‘s four-week run atop the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart came to an end, however, as it fell to No. 3 for the week. Warner’s Birds of Prey jumped back into the top spot there, up two spots from a week earlier.

Birds of Prey also moved up to No. 2 on the overall disc sales chart, selling about 96% as many copies as Sonic during the week.

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Climbing five spots to No. 3 overall was Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which was the No. 2 Blu-ray seller.

The top newcomer was Warner’s Impractical Jokers: The Movie, at No. 17 overall. Blu-ray accounted for 48% of its total sales.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 21, Universal’s The Hunt was the top title for the second consecutive week.

Universal’s The Invisible Man held steady at No. 2, with Impractical Jokers debuting at No. 3.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-20-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-21-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 6-20-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 6-20-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-20-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 6-22-20