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.
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.
Next year (2021) is shaping up to be a busy one for Hollywood. Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures have joined Disney and Warner Bros. in further delaying high-profile 2020 theatrical releases until 2021 due to ongoing surges in coronavirus infections in some parts of the country.
To date, the United States leads the world with more than 4 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Paramount announced that another Tom Cruise starrer, Top Gun: Maverick, sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, has been delayed until July 2, 2021 from its previously delayed Dec. 23, 2020 debut. The studio previously pushed back Mission: Impossible 7 to Nov. 19, 2021 from its original July 21, 2021 date. Mission: Impossible 8 had been scheduled for Aug. 5, 2022. It now has a tentative Nov. 4, 2022, release appointment.
Sci-fi franchise A Quiet Place saw sequel Part II delayed again to next April from the upcoming Labor Day weekend. The John Krasinski/Emily Blunt starrer had been originally slated for March 8 — just as the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction globally.
Paramount, which earlier this month inked catalog movie license deals with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service for 2021, 2022 and 2023, also pushed back screen debuts for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Jackass, Under the Boardwalk and The Tiger’s Apprentice.
Sony Pictures is delaying its latest “Spider-Man” sequel to Dec. 17, 2021, from Nov. 5, 2021. The third installment starring Tom Holland as the webbed crusader had originally been slated for July 16, 2021. Separately, Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 is now scheduled for Oct. 7, 2022, from April 2022.
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.’
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray; Not rated. Stars Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Bob Carnthwaite, Lewis Martin.
Producer George Pal’s 1953 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is such a seminal film in the history of science-fiction that it’s practically a requirement for any self-respecting fan of the genre to include in their collection.
Surprisingly, however, the film hadn’t been released on Blu-ray until this gorgeous new edition from the Criterion Collection, sourced from a 2018 restoration of the film prepared by Paramount for digital release. The project included a massive clean-up of the original film elements plus the creation of a new 5.1 audio track by legendary sound engineer Ben Burtt.
The film itself took quite a long time to make it to the big screen — nearly 30 years — as the project kept passing from one noted director to the next. By the time it ended up with George Pal, one of the most notable British producers of the day, and director Byron Haskin, the story had been tweaked from an invasion of Victorian England as in Wells’ original text to a contemporary (for the time) setting and an initial landing near Los Angeles (Orson Welles’ 1938 radio version had similarly updated the story for the times, with the landing taking place in New Jersey). The 1950s setting aligned the film with the paranoia of nuclear war and the burgeoning Cold War.
As a result, the film became a major hit for Paramount and one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, achieving a scope for the day that dared other movies to top it.
Surprisingly, the film’s run time is only 85 minutes, a brisk pace that encompasses a recap of both world wars, a quick tour of the planets of the solar system and why the Martians would choose Earth, the crash landing of the Martian craft and call to the top human scientists to study it, deployment of the military in response to the alien ships emerging and attacking everything they see, a sojourn into a local farmhouse that the aliens explore, a feckless nuclear strike against the aliens, a full-scale attack on the world’s cities by the alien ships, and the aliens suddenly dying due to their lack of immunity to Earth bacteria, the key plot twist taken straight from Wells’ book (and apologies for the spoilers to anyone so far behind on the times they didn’t already know that).
The film’s Oscar-winning visual effects are so iconic in their depiction of the attacks that the template was preserved almost precisely for later remakes such as 1996’s Independence Day, which upped the scope of the landmarks it was able to take out, but continued the tradition of updating the setting to modern times, as did Steven Spielberg’s 2005 version.
One key advantage of the restoration was the return of the original three-strip Technicolor process to render the final image. Over the years, Paramount began replicating the film using inferior but more cost-effective Eastman color prints, resulting in color degradation and making it much easier to see the piano wires holding up the floating alien ships (plainly visible in the 2005 DVD edition of the film). The new restoration restores the proper color balance that obscures the wires, if not hide them completely. Using computer effects to erase the wires altogether was ruled out by the restoration team, according to the bonus materials, because they wanted to stay true to depicting the filmmaking techniques of the time.
The effects, which might seem quaint now, were revolutionary for the time, using a mix of miniature sets and early bluescreen mattes. The model work allows for some impressive shots of alien fleets floating through the streets of Los Angeles. The bluescreen work is a bit less effective, leaving the ships looking somewhat transparent and standing out against the backdrops. Many of these process shots have at least been cleaned up by the HD transfer.
Almost as big an improvement is the 5.1 audio mix, which just provides a booming sound showcasing all of the film’s iconic sound effects. It’s a much fuller audio experience than the original monaural track, which also is included.
In terms of extras, the Criterion edition offers a healthy mix of new and old, but doesn’t quite offer everything that was previously released.
Among the new extras are a 21-minute featurette about the restoration process, as well as a 30-minute featurette about the history of the film’s visual and audio effects, which even includes a demonstration of re-creating the sound effects to complete a visual effects outtake from the original film.
Another section of the extras includes the original audio broadcast of the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio drama, plus a fascinating 24-minute 1940 audio interview between Welles and H.G. Wells, in which they plus Citizen Kane and discuss the potential for America to enter World War II.
Another bit of archival audio contains excerpts of a George Pal Q&A at the American Film Institute in 1970.
Carried over from the old DVD includes a commentary with filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and writer Bill Warren. There’s also the 2005 documentary “The Sky is Falling,” a 30-minute retrospective about the making of the film.
Not included from the 2005 DVD are a commentary with stars Gene Berry and Ann Robinson, and a featurette about H.G. Wells’ influence on science-fiction. So collectors might want to hold onto their old DVDs if they still want those extras.
Continued interest in Universal Pictures’ acclaimed The Invisible Man remake sent the thriller to the top of the weekly “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended June 20, ending a four-week run at No. 1 by Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
The Invisible Man debuted at No. 2 three weeks earlier after its May 26 release on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD and DVD. The film became available through digital retailers on May 12, after appearing as a premium video-on-demand (PVOD) rental at $19.99 on March 16, after movie theaters were shuttered.
Sonic finished the week at No. 2.
Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: The Next Level, available for home viewing since March, jumped up three spots to No. 3 on the weekly chart, which tracks transactional video activity compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
The home entertainment pipeline is now feeling the impact of COVID-19 production halts and movie theater closures, three months after the country was effectively shuttered. Traditional 90-day windows gave home entertainment a grace period, but studio marketers are now turning to catalog, TV product and other programming to fill the void.
To that end, the linear premiere of the third season of “Yellowstone” stoked consumer interest in the two previous seasons, both available on disc and digitally from Paramount Home Entertainment. Yellowstone: Season 1, initially released on disc in December 2018, shot up the “Watched at Home” chart to No. 4 from No. 17 the prior week, while Yellowstone: Season 2, released on DVD in November 2019, debuted at No. 10.
According to Deadline, the Season 3 debut of “Yellowstone” on June 21 across four networks — three Paramount Network telecasts and three simulcasts on CMT, TV Land and Pop — attracted 6.6 million total viewers, making it the top cable premiere so far this year.
Featuring a cast headed by Kevin Costner, “Yellowstone” is centered on the conflicts between a cattle ranch, an Indian reservation and land developers, all of whom share common borders.
Rounding out the top five on the “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended June 20 was Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, down from No. 4 the prior week.
The Invisible Man (Universal)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Parmount)
Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
Yellowstone: Season 1 (Paramount)
Birds of Prey (Warner)
The Hunt (Universal)
Bad Boys for Life (Sony)
Bloodshot (Sony, 2020)
Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount)
The Call of the Wild (Disney, 2020)
The Gentlemen (STX/Universal, 2019)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)
Spies in Disguise (Fox)
Fantasy Island (Sony)
Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner)
Ford v Ferrari (Fox)
I Still Believe (Lionsgate)
Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended June 20
Paramount Home Entertainment is offering free rentals of Selma via digital platforms through the end of the month.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film chronicles the story of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to secure equal voting rights in an event that forever altered history.
“55 years after the historic marches from Selma, as we witness the expression of decades of collective pain, we should reflect on Dr. King’s words: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,'” read a Paramount statement. “We hope this small gesture will encourage people throughout the country to examine our nation’s history and reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society. The key message of Selma is the importance of equality, dignity and justice for all people. Clearly, that message is as vital today as it was in 1965.”
Also this week, Warner Bros. made the feature film Just Mercy available for free to stream on digital platforms through the month of June in reaction to the outcry over the death of George Floyd. That film is about black attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan), founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Ala. It co-stars Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson.
Not rated. Stars Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones,Walter Matthau, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger.
Well known to even cursory fans as Elvis Presley’s fourth and final film before Uncle Sam got him — and also, in the opinion of many, his best film — 1958’s King Creole was, like three of his four pre-army screen outings, shot in black-and-white. But there was nothing stingy about the production, and the New Orleans locales that producer Hal Wallis sprung for add immeasurably to the ambience right from the opening, synching beautifully with the studio-shot material that makes up the bulk of the drama. A lot of writers claim that KC is in VistaVision as you’d expect a Paramount realease of that time to be, but neither posters nor the on-screen credits say this, nor does it look like VistaVision to my eyes. It does, though, boast a first-rate cinematographer, Russell Harlan (Red River and To Kill a Mockingbird are two of many shot by him).
One of several seemingly endless projects intended for James Dean and taken over by other actors upon his death, Elvis’s character was changed to a busboy-turned-nightclub-singer caught between competing owners and two very different women. Of the latter, Carolyn Jones — heavily into that “kookie” phase that defined her entire career — is a bag of neuroses as mistress to the drunken nasty one of the two club rivals (Walter Matthau in one of the best of his early movie roles). The other woman is a dreamboat “nice girl” played by Dolores Hart, still my absolute favorite of that era’s newcomers, lover of porcelain beauty that I am. Working the counter at a local five-and-dime, she seems surprisingly OK with wanting to date Elvis, even though she’s the one employee who picks up on the fact that his singing-troubadour stroll through the store for the customer’s enjoyment is in reality an planned distraction so that his so-called colleagues ran rifle the joint.
Ahhhhhh, Sister Dolores, who is what Hart became after leaving Hollywood to become a nun in the early ’60s, but that’s for another time. Other than to note that this was the second time she’d performed heart-melting labors in an Elvis pic, following the previous year’s Loving You (which, by the way, is in VistaVision and badly needs a restoration.)
Elvis has, as they used to say, “fallen in with a bad lot” — partly in response to his proclivity for being forbidden from graduating from high school (this time, he pops a guy on school grounds before the very last day of classes). And partly in response to the lifelong wimp-dom of his pharmacist father (Dean Jagger), which was exacerbated by the death of the Elvis character’s mother, which led to the loss of the old man’s pharmacy and his worsening life reality of taking the worst kind of guff from everyone. (Including his new boss, something that Elvis covertly witnesses. This is after dad preaches unyielding adherence to the idea of graduation from school in lieu of the much bigger bucks his son can make headlining as a singer. Elvis sees how far that got him.
Of course, he’s hardly a headliner right off the bat and has to take patronizing guff himself of the kind busboys sometimes endure — until, in standard showbiz movie fashion, Matthau tries to humiliate him by asking him to sing for the customers, whereupon he’s a smash. At this point, what has been a straight drama becomes a drama with lots of music — too much for my taste, given that the score has its share of clunkers. Oddly, the tune that RCA Victor elected to release as an RCA Victor single — “Hard Headed Woman” (b/w “Don’t Leave Me Now”) is totally thrown away, though it went to No. 1, as did the soundtrack LP. Of course, this isn’t to say that winners don’t abound as well, including the title tune, also “Trouble” (which he reprised to kick off his 1968 comeback TV special), and “As Long As I Have You,” one his best ballads ever, which contributes to one of the most emotionally satisfying movie wrap-ups I know.
Man, no wonder this is Elvis’ longest picture because his sister is falling for Matthau’s owner rival (Paul Stewart) despite a 20-year age difference (I love it that no one in those days, morals police or otherwise, gave a damn). To say nothing of mistress Jones going off the rails increasingly by minute, Matthau now trying to pimp her out, a needless production number by Liliane Montevecci, whose big-screen appeal I never got, and Elvis’s punk buddies (led by a very young-looking Vic Morrow) back in the alley with weaponized broken bottles trying to reengage him in crime. Maybe this is an argument for staying in school, but the money is suddenly good.
Directing this is veteran onetime superstar Michael Curtiz, whose career kind of fell apart after the collapse of the studio system, but he did manage White Christmas, this semi-ringer and my very soft spot for swan song The Comancheros, but by that time Curtiz was dying, and star John Wayne reportedly took over as director. Elvis responded with enthusiasm to having a name filmmaker, and both the star’s smirkily amused reactions to Jones’s machinations and reciprocated affection are credible. As natural as Elvis’s raw talent was, I doubt if frequent director and career-long albatross Norman Taurog could have gotten nearly as much out of him.
For the launch of “Paramount Presents,” its sparse so-called Blu-ray “line,” Paramount has employed my old bud Leonard Maltin to give about a seven-minute overview — a pro job, obviously, but hardly an example of hoopla. He opines himself that this is Elvis’ best movie, but by a sliver-and-a-half, I think I’ll go with the second movie he made back from the army (Don Siegel’s Flaming Star), which was a commercial flop but tighter.
King Creole was Elvis’s only predominantly serious drama to catch on and sent him off to the army with great screen promise that Colonel Parker ultimately wouldn’t let him fulfill upon his return.
Paramount is presenting a series of virtual screenings that will be streamed online at CYA.LIVE, allowing viewers to watch and interact via text and video with other fans, as well as special guest hosts, for $1.99 per screening.
The first event will be a 25th anniversary screening of the Chris Farley comedy Tommy Boy hosted by the film’s director, Peter Segal (Get Smart, 50 First Dates, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult). The event will take place April 18 at 5 p.m. PST.
At the same time April 25, Paramount will screen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan along with the hosts of the “Inglorious Treksperts” podcast, Mark A. Altman and Daren Dochterman. Altman is a television and motion picture writer/producer/director, as well as the author of the book The 50 Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Oral History of Star Trek. Dochterman has worked in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years and has more than 80 film and television credits. He is known for his work as visual effects supervisor on the director’s edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The third event will feature a screening of director Blake Edwards’ classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s May 2 at 5 p.m. PST, just two days prior to Audrey Hepburn’s birthday on May 4. The screening will be hosted by Andrea Kalas, the head of the Paramount Pictures Archives.
FandangoNow, movie ticketing site Fandango’s transactional VOD service, is offering an 8-minute clip and family activity sheets for the debut of Paramount Home Entertainment’s Sonic the Hedgehog on the service.
Sonic the Hedgehog hit digital early March 31 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are exclusively debuting the first eight minutes of the movie right here. See where Sonic comes from, and how he wound up on Earth to begin with,” reads the FandangoNow blog.
Paramount Home Entertainment and Media Play News are offering 10 readers free digital codes to the more than $300 million global box office blockbuster Sonic the Hedgehog, which is being released digitally today, March 31.
The codes will be given to the first 10 people who 1) like us on Instagram, and 2) go to the Sonic the Hedgehog post on our Instagram account and in the comments answer the question, “How many tails does Sonic’s best friend have?”
The family film based on the video game character follows the incredibly speedy Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz), aka The Blue Blur, who embraces his new home on Earth. That is, until he accidentally knocks out the power grid and sparks the attention of evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). It’s super-villain vs. super-sonic in an all-out race across the globe to stop Robotnik from using his unique power for world domination. Sonic teams up with The Donut Lord, aka Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), to save the plane.