Amazon Prime Video’s launch of Coming 2 America was the most-watched movie from March 5-7 according to Reelgood, which scans myriad streaming services by 2 million users. Amazon heavily hyped acquiring the streaming rights to the Paramount Pictures’ sequel to Coming to America (1988) — both titles starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, among others.
Notably, Reelgood said the movie outperformed titles Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984, Disney/Pixar Animation’s Soul, and Amazon’s Golden Globes-winning Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in terms of streaming and engagement shares during their respective opening weekends. To be more specific, Coming 2 America opened to a 6% market share vs. Wonder Woman 1984’s 4% market share — the latter being the strongest opening weekend performance on any SVOD platform in the fourth quarter of 2020.
In a switch, Paramount Pictures has moved forward the release date of oft-delayed sequel A Quiet Place Part 2 to Memorial Day weekend (May 28) from its previously delayed Sept. 4 debut.
The move means that the John Krasinski-directed follow-up to his original 2018 sleeper hit, A Quiet Place, starring his wife Emily Blunt in a post-apocalyptic world where sound can get someone killed, will stream earlier than expected on new subscription streaming service Paramount+. The first movie generated $340 million in global ticket sales, including $188 million domestically.
A Quiet Place Part 2, along with Mission: Impossible 7, starring Tom Cruise, have both been tagged by Paramount with shortened theatrical windows (45 days) in order to expedite streaming access into consumer homes.
Paramount made the decision after Universal Pictures pushed back again the theatrical (and PVOD) release of F9, or Fast & Furious 9, from May 22 to June 25 due to the pandemic’s ongoing economic impact on movie theaters. F9 was originally slated to launch May 22, 2020. Universal also pushed the next installment in the “Despicable Me” franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru, to 2022.
Paramount also moved the theatrical release of sci-fi thriller Infinite, co-starring Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor, to Sept. 24.
Notable to the Feb. 24 Paramount+ media presentation was the fact the platform would stream first-run Paramount Pictures theatrical releases as early as 30 days after their box office debut. The move mirrors similar efforts at other studios, notably by Universal Pictures, to release its movies into consumer homes as early as 17 days after their theatrical bow depending on ticket sales.
Speaking March 2 on the virtual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish supported the decision to make movies available early on the Paramount+ streaming service.
He said the fact CBS All Access is assuming the Paramount+ moniker on March 4 underscores the importance of feature films and the studio brand in the streaming platform market. To drive that home, Paramount+ will have access to select tentpole titles 30 days to 45 days after their box office debut — beginning with The Quiet Place Part II. Other movies streaming early on the SVOD platform include Mission: Impossible 7 and Paw Patrol.
Paramount+ is launching priced at $9.99 monthly with no ads except on CBS TV live programming. An ad-supported $5.99 option will reduce to $4.99 in June. Expansion of the platform internationally will include Showtime OTT, but not CBS News or live sports.
“I believe that is a sustainable offering,” Bakish said, alluding to exhibitor concerns an abbreviated theatrical window would undermine the industry. “Some of these other film moves that have been made, it’s not clear that they’re sustainable.”
Bakish said industry data suggests most movies’ box office withers after 30 days, if not sooner. He said Paramount boss Jim Gianopulos held discussions with theater operators and talent before making the decision to shorten the window.
“This move puts the titles in the theaters so people that want to get a big-screen experience can do that … with moving 45 days later to an in-house streaming service works for constituents and certainly for us,” he said. “We believe it’s the right model for the future, and as we implement it, the facts will prove that out.”
In addition, the SVOD platform’s new distribution agreement with MGM-owned Epix, affords Paramount+ access to 2,500 third-party movies Bakish characterized as very high quality, beginning June 4. The SVOD service will also have access to Epix pay-one product and originals.
“It’s a killer offering for film lovers,” he said. “We believe streaming is a global opportunity. [Paramount+] is a differentiated product. It’s not a replica of anything else out there. It is a tremendous offering.”
Paramount Pictures is the latest studio to merge its theatrical and home entertainment marketing teams, a move that has led to the departure of 23 home entertainment marketing and distribution personnel, including marketing chief Vincent Marcais, longtime publicity head Brenda Ciccone, and Dina Marovich, SVP of worldwide media and interactive marketing.
Marcais was named EVP of worldwide marketing for the studio’s home entertainment division in March 2018. Ciccone was appointed SVP of worldwide publicity and communications for home entertainment and TV licensing in March 2011, six years after she joined the studio as VP of publicity for Paramount Home Entertainment. Marovich is a 15-year veteran of the studio and was promoted into her present role in 2011.
In a Feb. 26 memo obtained by Media Play News, Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, wrote that after an extensive review, “we have concluded that the best path forward for the company is for all home entertainment marketing functions, with the exceptions of brand marketing and customer marketing, to merge into the existing theatrical marketing departments. As a result of this change, a total of 26 home entertainment marketing roles, including both staff and union positions, will merge into the theatrical marketing teams. Brand and customer marketing will be streamlined and realigned within the existing home entertainment structure.”
Michele Bell has been promoted to EVP of worldwide creative services and will report into the theatrical marketing division along with Leda Chang, VP of digital marketing, and Michele Rumain, VP of media.
Three other executives who previously reported to Marcais now report directly to Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home entertainment: Alanna Powers, SVP of new release and catalog brand marketing; Scott Klein, SVP of TV partners brand marketing; and Melinda Froelich, SVP of international marketing.
In addition to the 26 merged home entertainment roles, 23 home entertainment marketing positions are being eliminated, Gianopulos wrote.
“Many of the employees impacted by this restructuring have been part of the home entertainment division for many years,” he wrote in the memo. “Throughout those years, they have shown enormous resilience and adaptability as the marketplace shifted from physical to digital formats. Particularly, as we’ve faced the unique challenges of the last 12 months, the home entertainment teams have been absolutely instrumental in the continued success of the company, demonstrating incredible dedication, commitment and agility in the face of enormous and unforeseen hurdles. We thank all of those affected by this restructuring for their indelible contributions and wish them continued success in their next chapters.”
Gianopulos wrote that the review was prompted by a changing business, with the objective of “achieving overhead savings, identifying opportunities to leverage centers of excellence, creating greater synergies between the divisions, streamlining processes in response to changing windows, and minimizing duplication of effort.”
Last August, Warner Bros. announced a similar restructuring that by the end of the year had seen the exit of such prominent and longtime executives as Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. worldwide theatrical distribution and president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing; Melissa Hufjay, VP of publicity for TV, animation and originals; Rosemary Markson, SVP of TV marketing; and Jay Reinbold, SVP of category management.
In October 2020, Sony Pictures Entertainment said it is combining marketing teams between theatrical, television and home entertainment distribution, leading to a staff reduction of about 35 personnel. Keith Le Goy, president of networks and distribution, and Josh Greenstein, president of the motion picture group, now jointly oversee studio marketing. Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, became head of global multichannel distribution marketing, one of three executives managing Sony’s new U.S. marketing group, along with Paul Noble and Danielle Misher, co-heads of global theatrical marketing. All three report to Greenstein and Le Goy.
Then, in December, at Lionsgate, longtime home entertainment executive Ron Schwartz was promoted to lead worldwide distribution for all content in the company’s motion picture group. The promotion was part of the group restructuring into four verticals under chairman Joe Drake. The verticals are strategy and innovation, marketing, distribution, and content.
“Strengthening our company for the realities of a rapidly shifting marketplace has been priority one,” Drake said in a statement. “That transformation began well before this year, but the pandemic has accelerated these changes and spurred us to adapt and enhance our flexibility.”
The pending Paramount+ subscription streaming service will offer access to some Paramount Pictures theatrical releases as early as 30 to 45 days after their box office debut. The SVOD service launches March 4 with a $9.99 ad-free plan, followed in June by a $4.99 monthly ad-supported option.
The higher-priced ad-free plan offers more exclusive content.
The shortened theatrical window, which underscores ongoing industry changes while remaining loyal to the traditional exhibition market, was announced Feb. 24 in a special investor presentation by ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.
Paramount titles on tap in 2021 include Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise; A Quiet Place II; The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (available on the streaming service at launch as well as PVOD rental March 4); Coming 2 America (sold to Amazon Prime Video); Mission: Impossible 7;The Saint; Clifford the Big Red Dog; sci-fi movies including The Tomorrow War and Infinite; and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, among others.
Third-party studio movies, including MGM Studios, will also be available on Paramount+ 90 days after their box office debut.
Films that are released from theatrical to Paramount+ also will be available, simultaneously, through traditional home entertainment channels, including disc and transactional video.
Some marquee titles, including Top Gun: Maverick and Clifford the Big Red Dog, will follow traditional release patterns, from theatrical to transactional home entertainment (disc and digital).
Original films that are being produced specifically for Paramount+ also will be released later through transactional home entertainment channels.
“As we always have, we believe in the power of theatrical releases and we have faith that after things get back to normal audiences will enthusiastically return to theaters,” Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Paramount Pictures, said on the webcast. “At the same time, consumers have increasingly embraced streaming as another way to enjoy films. Our strategy accounts for both.”
Separately, Paramount+ in early 2022 will be the exclusive home to Halo, a feature-length movie based on the venerable video game franchise. In addition, the studio and MGM-owned Epix announced an expansion of an existing distribution agreement whereby select MGM titles will be available first on the premium channel before made available to Paramount+. Titles include House of Gucci, Creed III and the delayed latest James Bond movie No Time to Die.
Amazon Prime Video on Nov. 20 disclosed that March 5, 2021, is the release date for Paramount Pictures’ erstwhile theatrical release Coming 2 America — with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, among others, reprising their original roles from the 1988 box office hit Coming to America.
Amazon acquired the rights to the sequel for a reported $125 million after Paramount Pictures decided not to release the movie on its original Dec. 18 box office debut date.
Set 30 years later, Prince Akeem (Murphy), heir to the throne of the African nation of Zamunda, discovers he has a long-lost son who lives in Queens, New York. He returns to America to find his son and groom him as the new prince. In addition to Murphy and Hall, Coming 2 America returning cast members include James Earl Jones, Shari Headley, John Amos and Louie Anderson. Newcomers include Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Fowler, Bella Murphy, Rotimi, KiKi Layne, Nomzamo Mbatha and Teyana Taylor.
“Coming to America was a cultural phenomenon that is one of the most loved and celebrated comedies of all time,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “Thanks to Eddie Murphy’s comedic genius along with the brilliant filmmakers, writers and fabulous cast, we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate this new adventure. We know audiences around the world will fall in love with this hilarious, joyful movie that will surely become a timeless favorite.”
Chalk up another loss for the theatrical market. Paramount Pictures has reportedly licensed rights to the Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America to Amazon Prime Video for $125 million. The movie, co-starring original headliners Murphy and Arsenio Hall, is slated to bow on Prime Dec. 18 — the same date as the original theatrical launch, according to Deadline, which first reported the move.
Co-stars in the sequel, in which Akeem (Murphy) learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to meet the unlikely heir to the throne of Zamunda, include Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones and Jay Pharaoh.
Amazon had been relatively quiet on content spending in 2020 compared with rivals Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and Apple — reportedly slated to spend $6 million on original content this year before the coronavirus hit.
Now the deal represents another high-profile theatrical steal for Amazon Studios under the direction of Jennifer Salke, following deals for Sasha Baron Cohen’s second Borat flick, and Dave Bautista’s My Spy.
The 1988 original Coming to America was a blockbuster for Paramount, generating $128 million at domestic screens and $288 million worldwide — just behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Rain Man.
The transaction leaves just four high-profile studio movies still on the theatrical calendar in 2020, including Open Road’s Honest Thief on Oct. 16; 20th Century’s Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds on Dec. 11; Death on the Nile with Kenneth Branagh reprising Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth detective Hercules Poirot on Dec. 18; and Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas.
Studios have repeatedly pushed back big-budget releases to 2021 as theaters grapple with pandemic closures and limited seating at screens that are open. With Warner’s espionage thriller Tenet failing to bring consumers in the U.S. back to the cineplex, the domestic box office is trending nearly 80% below 2019 levels.
ViacomCBS’s move to rebrand subscription streaming video service CBS All Access to Paramount+ in 2021 could be the spark that returns the famed Paramount Pictures studio to global prominence, CEO Bob Bakish told an investor event.
Speaking Sept. 15 during the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bakish said the Paramount name resonates globally, giving the rebooted CBS All Access service greater appeal as it is supersized for worldwide access to compete against Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
“It’s a brand with a history of innovation, it’s over a century old, and a legacy of producing great content,” Bakish said. “It’s a brand that has always brought people together to enjoy the entertainment experience. Importantly, it’s a brand that also leverages ViacomCBS’s global position with near universal brand recognition. The fact is consumers all over the world know the Paramount brand, and they love it. So it’s a natural choice for us.”
Indeed, Paramount could use the jolt. The studio is the fifth-oldest in the world, the second-oldest in the U.S. after Universal Pictures, and the only major still headquartered in Los Angeles. In addition to select “Transformers” movies, the studio’s biggest franchise (six movies) in recent years has been “Mission: Impossible” with Tom Cruise, generating a combined $3.6 billion at the global box office. The studio has also fared well with Sonic the Hedgehog, A Quiet Place and television production of “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner.
“It is really the beginning of an exciting new chapter for one of the most storied brands in Hollywood,” Bakish said.
Paramount Pictures on Sept. 8 announced that it has secured home entertainment and television licensing rights to three feature films from Romulus Entertainment.
The films will be released in select U.S. theaters by Vertical Entertainment in tandem with their release on home entertainment platforms.
“We are delighted to bring these exceptional films to audiences around the world through a combination of home entertainment platforms and television licensing,” said Dan Cohen, president of the ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group. “With top-notch casts and creative talent, these films offer gripping stories that will appeal to a wide array of viewers.”
Dreamland, starring Margot Robbie as an outlaw bank robber during the Great Depression who becomes involved with a young man who must choose between collecting the bounty on her head or following his heart. Aside from Robbie, the film stars Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel, and Garrett Hedlund. It was directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and written by Nicolaas Zwart.
Jungleland, in which Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell play brothers trying to escape their circumstances by traveling across the country for a bare-knuckle boxing match that becomes a fight for their lives. The film, directed by Max Winkler, was co-written by Winkler, Theodore B. Bressman, and David Branson Smith. Jessica Barden also stars.
Gully is about three disaffected teens who roam the streets of Los Angeles, seeking seek revenge for all the ways the world has failed them through a series of increasingly violent crimes. The film stars Amber Heard, Jonathan Majors, John Corbett, Terrence Howard, Charlie Plummer, Robin Givens. Nabil Elderkin directed the film, which was written by Marcus J. Guillory.
The deal was negotiated by Lauren Fisher for Paramount Pictures, Brad Feinstein from Romulus Entertainment and Andrew Kramer of Loeb & Loeb.
Paramount Pictures Sept. 3 announced it will release a new edit and restoration of Francis Ford Coppola’s third and final film in his epic “Godfather” trilogy, The Godfather Part III.
The rebranded Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, Paramount says, “achieves director/screenwriter Coppola and screenwriter Puzo’s original vision for the finale, which has been meticulously restored for the finest presentation of the Corleone saga’s last chapter.”
The 1990 release of the third film was maligned by critics as not living up to the standard set by the first two films in the franchise, which won the Oscar for Best Picture for the 1972 and 1974 movie years, respectively. The new version of the third film will have a limited theatrical release in December, followed by availability through digital retailers and on disc.
“Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became The Godfather Part III,” Coppola said in a statement. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”
Coppola’s three-part movie adaptation of Puzo’s novel chronicles the rise and fall of the Corleone mob family. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, The Godfather Part III was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film follows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in his 60s as he seeks to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor to his empire.
Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope worked from a 4K scan of the original negative to undertake a frame-by-frame restoration of both the new Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and the original The Godfather Part III. Zoetrope and Paramount’s restoration team began by searching for more than 50 original takes to replace lower-resolution opticals in the original negative. This process took more than six months and involved sifting through 300 cartons of negative. American Zoetrope worked diligently to repair scratches, stains, and other anomalies that could not be addressed previously due to technology constraints, while enhancements were made to the original 5.1 audio mix. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, midway through the project all work — even the search for the negative — shifted to the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles and was completed remotely.
“Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of Paramount Archives.
Additional details about the theatrical and home entertainment releases will be provided at a later date, Paramount says.
On Rotten Tomatoes, The Godfather Part III has a 69% favorable rating from critics and a 78% favorable rating from audiences. This compares to 98% for The Godfather from both segments and 98% from critics and 97% from audiences for The Godfather Part II.