Paramount Cuts VR Movie Deal With Bigscreen

Paramount Pictures and Bigscreen Inc. Dec. 16 announced a multiyear agreement to distribute classic 2D and 3D films in 10 countries worldwide through the San Francisco startup’s social VR movie-watching platform.

“Bigscreen’s virtual reality platform offers a new way for fans to experience films in their homes,” said Bob Buchi, president of worldwide entertainment for Paramount Pictures. “We’re excited to be a part of this experiment using cutting-edge technology to give fans a new entertainment option.”

Bigscreen’s virtual world, entered through headsets, allows users to customize personal avatars, hang out in a virtual lobby, and voice chat with other movie fans. Movies are streamed on screens inside virtual cinemas, providing a social movie watching experience.

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Four new movies will premiere in Bigscreen every week. Movies run for one week with a new lineup of movies available the following week. Films are broadcast live on a pay-per-view basis with scheduled showtimes every 30 minutes. December’s lineup includes blockbuster hits like Interstellar and Star Trek. For the full list of upcoming screenings and showtimes, visit bigscreenvr.com/cinema/comingsoon.

“We are excited to enable fans around the world to hangout, chat, and watch films together in our virtual movie theater,” said Darshan Shankar, CEO and founder of Bigscreen.

Bigscreen’s virtual screenings will be available in 10 countries: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Japan.

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In addition to 2D screenings, Bigscreen will also broadcast select movies in 3D. Bigscreen’s rendering technology uses VR to create a 3D picture in each eye, producing a level of depth and detail that is not possible with traditional 3D glasses.

Bigscreen can be downloaded for free from bigscreenvr.com and runs on the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive, Valve Index, all SteamVR headsets, and all Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

Tickets can be purchased through Bigscreen’s website at bigscreenvr.com/cinema

IMDb: ‘Birds of Prey’, ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Most Anticipated Movie, TV Show in 2020

Online movie/TV database IMDb.com has announced the Top 10 movies and TV shows of 2019, as well as the most anticipated movies and TV shows of 2020.

Rather than base its rankings on statistical samplings or critic reviews, Amazon-owned IMDb determines its list by the actual page views of the more than 200 million monthly visitors to the website. The data is derived from the subscription-based IMDbPro movie and TV rankings, which are updated weekly throughout the year.

IMDb Top 10 Movies of 2019
Joker (Warner Bros.)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)
Avengers: Endgame (Disney/Marvel)
Captain Marvel (Disney/Marvel)
It: Chapter Two (Warner Bros.)
The Lion King (Disney)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony Pictures)
Alita: Battle Angel (Disney/Fox)
Aladdin (Disney)
Us (Universal Pictures)

IMDb Top 10 TV Shows of 2019
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Chernobyl” (HBO)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix)
“The Boys” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Black Mirror” (Netflix)
“The Walking Dead” (AMC Network)
“Peaky Blinders” (Netflix)
“Sex Education” (Netflix)
“You” (Netflix)

IMDb Most Anticipated Movies of 2020
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Warner Bros.)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount Pictures)
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
No Time to Die (MGM)
Black Widow (Disney/Marvel)
Mulan (Disney)
Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.)
Dune (Warner Bros.)
The King’s Man (Disney/Fox)
Fast & Furious 9 (Universal Pictures)

IMDb Most Anticipated New TV Shows of 2020
“Star Trek: Picard” (CBS All Access)
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (Disney+)
“The New Pope” (HBO)
“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” (AMC Network)
“Snowpiercer” (TNT)
“The Stand” (CBS All Access)
“The Outsider” (HBO)
“Stargirl” (DC Universe, The CW)
“Hunters” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Katy Keene” (The CW)

For comparison purposes, the IMDb 2018 year-end Top 10 lists are available here: www.imdb.com/best-of/2018.

Paramount’s Dan Cohen Adds Duties With Viacom/CBS Re-Merger

ViacomCBS announced a series of senior executive changes to go into effect following regulatory approval of the $30 billion re-merger between the two media  companies.

Dan Cohen, president of worldwide home entertainment and television distribution, Paramount Pictures, has been named president, global content licensing at ViacomCBS when the merger is finalized.

Cohen was promoted to worldwide home entertainment and television distribution president in February, assuming the role previously held by Mary Daily, who had overseen international theatrical marketing and home entertainment for Paramount since 2017, but was promoted to co-president of worldwide theatrical marketing and distribution.

Previously, Cohen served as Paramount’s president of worldwide television licensing.

Before joining the studio in 2017, he spent more than 20 years at Disney-ABC, where served as EVP of pay television and digital for Disney-ABC worldwide home entertainment and television distribution. There, he licensed films and series, including across digital platforms, on behalf of Walt Disney Studios, ABC Studios and Disney Channel.

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Cohen reports to Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS global distribution group, and chief content licensing officer of CBS, who will also serve as chairman, global distribution and chief content licensing officer at ViacomCBS.

Nuñez will oversee all content licensing, including worldwide distribution and domestic syndication, for ViacomCBS-owned programming to third-party platforms.

“These appointments mark an important step in the integration of CBS and Viacom,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom and soon-to-be CEO of the combined companies. “The seasoned executives we announced today will capitalize on ViacomCBS’s must-watch programming, iconic library and franchises, as well as its global production capacity to drive important new distribution, content licensing and advertising opportunities all over the world.”

 

Epix Launching ‘ScreenPix’ Channel Featuring Classic Movies and TV Series

Epix, the pay-TV network owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Oct. 16 announced an expanded carriage agreement with Comcast Cable that will enable the pay-TV operator to deliver Epix’s portfolio of movies and original series to Xfinity subscribers. 

On Dec. 12, Epix will launch ScreenPix, a suite of library channels offering a curated collection of classic movies, uncut and commercial free.  The suite includes ScreenPix; ScreenPix: Action; ScreenPix: Westerns; and ScreenPix: Voices, a channel dedicated to diverse voices.  

“We have a shared commitment to providing viewers an unmatched experience and are excited for Xfinity TV customers to experience Epix’s lineup of new original series and great movies,” Michael Wright, president of Epix, said in a statement.

Beginning with the first quarter 2020, Xfinity subs will have access to Epix original docuseries “Slow Burn” and “Laurel Canyon”; as well as limited series “Belgravia,” from Julian Fellowes and the creative team behind “Downton Abbey.”

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Othe programming includes recently premiered “Godfather of Harlem,” starring and executive produced by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker; season three of “Get Shorty”; “NFL: The Grind,” from NFL Films and hosted by Rich Eisen; as well as recent dramas “Pennyworth” and “Perpetual Grace” and “LTD.”

Epix movies include titles from MGM, Paramount and Lionsgate, including RocketmanTerminator: Dark FateJohn Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum and the upcoming James Bond release No Time to Die.

“Epix has been a great partner, and we are very pleased to deliver its critically acclaimed originals and vast content library to more Xfinity TV customers,” Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, said. 

AMC Theatres Launches Movie VOD Service

AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron has long hinted getting into home entertainment.

Now, the world’s largest theatrical exhibitor has announced that beginning Oct. 15 the company’s 20 million AMC Stubs members in the United States can rent or buy approximately 2,000 digital movies from the top Hollywood studios at AMCTheatres.com, AMC Theatres On Demand, as well as on the AMC Theatres mobile, connected devices and SmartTV applications.

AMC Stubs members who use their first transaction to buy or rent a movie distributed by Lionsgate or Paramount Pictures can choose an additional three movies from a selection of that studio’s films.

Adam Aron

“The addition of AMC Theatres On Demand, which extends our movie offerings for AMC Stubs members into their homes, makes perfect sense for AMC Theatres, for our studio partners and for our millions of movie-loving guests,” Aron said in a statement.

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AMC says it has agreements with every major Hollywood studio to make selections of their movies available for digital rental and purchase, including both new release and popular catalog movies.

New releases will become available on AMC Theatres On Demand the same time they are available digitally nationwide, following the traditional theatrical window set by each studio for each movie.

“We can reach movie lovers directly and make it easy for them to access films digitally,” Aron said.

As part of a first-ever cross-platform marketing partnership between AMC Theatres and AMC Networks, AMC Stubs members will also be able to find movies from AMC Networks’ IFC Films and RLJE Films catalogues on the AMC Theatres On Demand platform beginning in late 2019.

Through the partnership, AMC Theatres will also promote AMC Networks’ targeted streaming services Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC directly to moviegoers, including more than 20 million AMC Stubs households.

“This is a great opportunity for us to both make our film titles available to movie customers and also increase awareness of our growing streaming services, which are all focused on specific genres and content categories fans are passionate about,” said Ed Carroll, chief operating officer of AMC Networks.

Movies can be purchased or rented through AMCTheatres.com, the AMC Theatres mobile app, Roku and SmartTVs with more services and devices to be added in the near future.

AMC Stubs membership will be required for all digital transactions.

 

Viacom Expands Pluto TV Access to Android Devices in Europe

Viacom has expanded access to its ad-supported streaming video service, Pluto TV, on Android devices in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Pluto TV will be available via its app on Google Play and connected televisions.

Acquired earlier this year for $340 million, Pluto TV represents Viacom’s most-ambitious attempt to expand brand awareness and exposure in the over-the-top video ecosystem worldwide.

Viacom brands include Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

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With Netflix and Amazon Prime Video dominating the SVOD market, Viacom contends free ad-supported streaming video represents a competitive alternative.

Pluto TV users in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have access to more than 30 thematically-curated channels, including Pluto TV Movies, KultKrimi and recently-launched Comedy Central Pluto TV and Comedy Central — Made in Germany.

Pluto TV in the U.K. features more than 60 channels, including Pluto TV Movies, Pluto TV Indies, Pluto TV Inside and Pluto TV Crime.

Pluto TV launched earlier this month on Apple TV and iOS, and is now available on all major mobile devices and TVs.

Olivier Jollet, managing director Europe, Pluto TV, said that as today’s media consumption diversifies, premium video content isn’t limited to the TV.

“With the launch on Android tablets and mobile devices, Pluto TV is available right in our users’ pocket … on the couch, on their daily commute or at their holiday destination.”

WarnerMedia Gets Director J.J. Abrams for Reported $500 Million

Director J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot have decided to hang their shingle under the WarnerMedia banner.

After months of entertaining bids from all the big SVOD players, including Netflix, Apple TV and Comcast, among others, the 53-year-old “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” director opted to stay with Warner Bros. in an exclusive production deal reportedly worth upwards of $500 million.

Abrams and co-CEO Katie McGrath, along with AT&T COO and CEO WarnerMedia John Stankey, Sept. 12 announced a “strategic relationship” to create original projects for television, theatrical motion pictures, games and digital platforms.

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The wide-ranging agreement commences immediately and initially runs through 2024; per company practice, financial terms were not disclosed.

“We are extremely excited about the potential to deliver remarkable and memorable stories and characters across multiple platforms to audiences around the world,” Stankey said in a statement. J.J., Katie and all of Bad Robot bring extraordinary vision, exquisite filmmaking, and exemplary industry leadership to this endeavor and our company.”

Stankey credited Warner Bros. Television Group president/COO Peter Roth’s longstanding relationship with Abrams and Katie for helping cement the deal.

​This new agreement builds on a highly successful, 13-year relationship between Abrams and Warner Bros. that began in 2006 when Bad Robot entered into an exclusive overall deal for television with Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG). Bad Robot and WBTVG subsequently renewed the television component in 2012 and 2015.

As part of the collaboration, Bad Robot will continue to develop and produce new television projects — including dramas and comedies, longform/event series, digital content and more — for all platforms, including premium/pay and basic cable networks, on-demand/streaming services, and the broadcast networks.

These include WarnerMedia-affiliated networks and platforms such as HBO, HBO Max and more, as well as external outlets.

Bad Robot’s series will continue to be produced in association with Warner Bros. Television, Warner Horizon Scripted Television or WBTVG’s digital studio Blue Ribbon Content, with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution distributing the shows around the globe.

Under terms of the new agreement, Abrams and Bad Robot will also develop original theatrical films for the divisions of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, including Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema.

Bad Robot will honor existing obligations to Paramount Pictures and Abrams is directing and producing the release of The Rise of Skywalker, the final installment of the Star Wars Skywalker saga.

In 2018, Bad Robot formed a video game development division Bad Robot Games, in association with Tencent and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and the companies will continue to work together on the creation of new large and indie consumer games for mobile, PC and console.

During its creative collaboration with WBTVG, Bad Robot has produced a number of acclaimed hit series, including “Fringe” (co-created by Abrams) for Fox and “Person of Interest” for CBS, both of which reached the 100-episode milestone, “Westworld” for HBO, plus “Castle Rock” and the event series “11.22.63” for Hulu, among others.

Current series produced by Bad Robot include the upcoming “Demimonde” (to be created by Abrams) and “Lovecraft Country” for HBO, plus “Lisey’s Story,” “Little Voice” and “My Glory Was I Had Such Friends” for Apple TV+.

Prior to its association with WBTVG, Bad Robot produced the long-running hit series “Alias” (created by Abrams) and “Lost” (co-created by Abrams) for ABC. Abrams previously co-created the hit series “Felicity” for The WB Network.

‘Rocketman’ Returns to Dodger Stadium

Paramount Home Entertainment on Aug. 25 hosted a Rocketman-themed night at Dodger Stadium to commemorate Elton John’s historic concert there in 1975 — and to promote the film’s Aug. 27 release on Blu-ray disc and DVD. Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s long-time lyricist, and Jamie Bell, who portrays Taupin the film, were there to celebrate.  Rocketman has been available for digital purchase since Aug. 6. The film grossed nearly $100 million at the domestic box office, making it the second successful rock ‘n’ roll movie (after Bohemian Rhapsody) over the past nine months to appear in theaters and then become available for home viewing.

Paramount Ups Q3 Home Entertainment Revenue 35%

Paramount Home Entertainment Aug. 8 reported third-quarter (June 30) revenue of $161 million on sales of packaged media and digital content, which marked a 35% increase from revenue of $119 million in the previous-year period.

The tally — driven by the retail release of Bumblebee — was 6% more than theatrical revenue of $152 million.

While theatrical revenue reflected the strong box office performance of Rocketman ($185 million) and Pet Sematary ($54.7 million), it was significantly offset by performance of A Quiet Place in the prior-year quarter

Through nine months of the fiscal year, home entertainment revenue is up 6% at $493 million compared to $465 million in the last fiscal year.

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Home entertainment continues to lead Paramount’s theatrical box office year-to-date ($473 million) by more than 4%.

With parent Viacom recently acquiring ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV, Paramount has significantly increased licensing content to the service, in addition to third-party distributors.

License revenue increased nearly 29% to $521 million from $404 million last year driven by monetization of the library and growth in TV production. Through the fiscal year, license revenue has topped $1.05 billion.

Regardless, total studio operating income increased $41 million to $85 million — the 10th consecutive quarterly uptick.

“Paramount’s momentum continues, keeping us on track to deliver full year profitability,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

 

Pluto TV Ups Viacom Programming Slate

Viacom-owned ad-supported online TV streaming service Pluto TV Aug. 6 unveiled a new slate of genre and “pop-up” channels rolling out throughout the month with content licensed from Viacom’s IP library.

Viacom, which owns and operates Paramount Pictures, acquired Los Angeles-based Pluto TV earlier this year for $340 million.

This marks the latest installment of Viacom channels for Pluto TV this year, featuring original programming from BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike and TV Land separate from the pay-TV ecosystem.

The new channels include a lineup of 150+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of on-demand movies from studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

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Genre channels feature differentiated programming from Viacom’s brands that include music videos, comedy, drama, and reality. Pop-Up channels are themed around high-profile, live entertainment events showcasing programming from past years and previews of what’s to come.

Streaming channels include “MTV VMA,” “CMT Cheerleaders,” “Comedy Central Roast,” “TV Land Sitcoms,” “TV Land Drama,” “MTV Wild ‘N Out,” “MTV Ridiculousness,” “MTV The Challenge,” “MTV Cribs” and “Are You the One?”

“With this new slate of Viacom channels, Pluto TV continues to deliver on the promise of extending iconic Viacom brands and content to a growing streaming audience,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “We saw an incredible response to the Viacom channels we launched earlier this year and are excited to be able to expand the offering with even more programming and events including the revival of music videos on streaming television with the launch of the first three of many MTV-branded music video channels.”