Amazon Launches ‘Prime Cinema’ for Early Digital Movie Releases

Amazon early on Sunday, March 22, announced via email the launch of Prime Video | Cinema, a new online hub where the company says “you can watch the latest movies just released in theaters — without leaving home.”

Disney/Pixar’s Onward is available to buy for $19.99, while Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma are available to rent at the same price. The price is also the same for HD or SD.

All four films were made available for home viewing earlier than expected due to the closure of movie theaters in response to the escalating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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Consumers who digitally rent a film have 30 days to start watching it, and must finish watching the movie within 48 hours.

Merchandising: Best Buy Offers Steelbooks for Latest Pixar 4K Batch

With a light slate of new releases for March 3, Best Buy offered Steelbooks for several Pixar titles being released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray by Disney.

The Pixar catalog titles making their way to 4K Ultra HD include A Bug’s Life, Wall-E, Monsters, Inc., Monsters University and Up. The Steelbook combo packs were offered at $34.99 each.

Among other titles, Walmart had a double feature with the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Blu-ray paired with the new digital release of Jumanji: The Next Level on Vudu.

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Disney+ Bows YouTube Clip Showcasing 2020 Content

SVOD service Disney+ Jan. 1 launched a social media blitz offering a sneak peak into coming content in 2020.

“New year, new stories — and some familiar ones!,” the service tweeted. From Toy Story 4 and Aladdin to “Lizzie McGuire” and Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, here’s a look at the blockbusters and originals coming to #DisneyPlus in 2020.

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The service launched on Nov. 12 reportedly has more than 15 million registered users — many of whom using third-party promotions such as 12 months free service to any Verizon subscriber.

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Disney+ includes content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic.

The promotion for new programming comes as the service hopes to retain subscribers following the end of the first season of “The Mandalorian.” Several “Star Wars” fans took to Twitter the final week of the year vowing to cancel their service until the second season debuts in the fall.

‘Toy Story 4’ Takes Over Redbox Disc Rentals, ‘Stuber’ Tops On Demand

Disney’s Toy Story 4 took over the No. 1 spot on the Redbox kiosk disc rental chart the week ended Oct. 20. The Redbox disc rental chart tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red kiosks.

The animated sequel had debuted at No. 2 on the chart two weeks earlier before hitting the second spot in its second week.

Stuber, from 20th Century Fox, debuted at No. 2 on the disc rental chart and No. 1 on the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital transactions, including both electronic sellthrough and streaming rentals. The film, about a cop teaming up with a rideshare driver, earned $22.4 million at the domestic box office.

The No. 3 disc rental was Paramount’s Crawl, which was No. 2 on the On Demand chart. It earned $39 million at U.S. theaters.

The previous week’s top rental and digital title, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home, slid to No. 4 on the disc chart and No. 3 on the digital chart.

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Disney’s remake of Aladdin was No. 5 on the disc rental chart.

Warner’s Annabelle Comes Home slipped to No. 6 on the disc chart and No. 4 on the digital chart.

Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum dropped to No. 8 on the rental chart and No. 5 on the On Demand chart.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended Oct. 20:

  1. Toy Story 4 — Disney
  2. Stuber — Fox
  3. Crawl — Paramount
  4. Spider-Man: Far From Home — Sony Pictures
  5. Aladdin (2019) — Disney
  6. Annabelle Comes Home — Warner
  7. 3 From Hell — Lionsgate
  8. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum — Lionsgate
  9. Men In Black: International — Sony Pictures
  10. X-Men: Dark Phoenix — Fox

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended Oct. 20:

  1. Stuber — Fox
  2. Crawl — Paramount
  3. Spider-Man: Far From Home — Sony Pictures
  4. Annabelle Comes Home — Warner
  5. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum — Lionsgate
  6. The Secret Life of Pets 2 — Universal
  7. Men In Black: International — Sony Pictures
  8. Yesterday — Universal
  9. The Hustle — MGM
  10. X-Men: Dark Phoenix — Fox

Netflix Orders Animated Preschool Series ‘Ghee Happy’

Netflix has greenlighted a new animated preschool series, “Ghee Happy,” from Academy Award- and Annie Award-nominated director-animator-illustrator Sanjay Patel.

It’s a playful reimagining of the Hindu deities as little kids discovering their powers in a deity daycare called Ghee Happy.

Patel is best known for his work on numerous Pixar films, such as Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Cars, Toy Story 2 and The Incredibles 1 & 2. He directed the short animated film Sanjay’s Super Team, inspired by his own childhood, which was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 88th Academy Awards and for Best Animated Short Subject at the 43rd Annie Awards.

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“For the past 25 years I’ve been working in kids and family entertainment without having kids of my own. Having finally become a parent, I’m so excited and lucky to be able to create a preschool series that introduces the great pantheon of Hindu Deities, not just into a beautiful and colorful series that is truly entertaining and original to my kiddos, but to families around the world,” said Patel in a statement.

“Sanjay’s art is vibrant, magical, and — above all else — incredibly happy! He has introduced his culture to his own kids through this show and now – thanks to the power of Netflix — kids and families everywhere will get to share in these inspiring and accessible stories,” said Dominique Bazay, director of kids & family at Netflix, in a statement.

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

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The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.

 

Disney Opening Branded Stores at Target

The Walt Disney Co. and Target Corp. Aug. 25 at D23 Expo announced a retail collaboration aimed at jumpstarting the Disney brand in third-party retail locations.

Disney is launching 25 branded stores within select Target stores nationwide on Oct. 4, with 40 additional locations opening by October 2020.

The partnership also includes a Disney-focused digital experience on Target.com. Additionally, a new Target store will open at Flamingo Crossings Town Center at the western entrance of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.

To Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and former head of home entertainment, the retail collaboration combines two companies’ focus on families at the retail level.

“Disney and Target share a common vision to provide our guests and consumers with innovative and unique experiences, and high quality product,” Chapek said in a statement.

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Brian Cornell, CEO at Target, said the companies’ combined omni-channel retail platform would create “inspiring and unique” experiences for consumers.

“This collaboration reflects the strength of our platforms and assets to create value for guests and growth for both companies beyond the traditional retail model,” he said.

The branded stores will showcase specialty merchandise from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, in addition to featuring clips of movies available theatrically and in home entertainment.

Target remains one of the largest retailers of packaged media entertainment.

The launch will include a new assortment of merchandise from Disney’s Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Additional locations will be added to more Target stores over the next year to expand the Disney store retail footprint.

The Disney stores will be Target-operated, branded “shop-in-shop” with an average of 750 square feet, strategically located inside Target stores adjacent to kids clothing and toys, replicated online at Target.com/Disneystore and on the Target app.

The “shop-in-shop” will feature an enhanced Disney assortment of more than 450 items, including more than 100 products that were previously only available at Disney retail locations.

Consumers will be able to browse and shop a variety of Disney Princess, Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Junior characters, classic Disney plush, apparel, home and holiday-specific products.

They’ll also be able to access collectible merchandise, including the Disney Animators’ Collection with dolls, clothing and accessories. Items will range in price from $2 to $200, with many items under $20.

Disney store at Target promises an engaging shopping experience with music, interactive displays, photo opportunities and a seating area where families can relax and watch Disney movie clips and Park events.

Consumers will be able to take advantage of all of the benefits of shopping at Target when they purchase items from Disney store at Target, whether online or in stores.

Target consumers can purchase Disney products with 5% off using their Target REDcard and can take advantage of convenient pickup and delivery options, including same-day pickup, same-day delivery and free two-day shipping.

Disney store at Target will open in October in the following 25 Target stores:

Allen North #2516 (Allen, Texas)
Austin NW #1797 (Austin, Texas)
Bozeman #1237 (Bozeman, Mont.)
Brighton #922 (Brighton, Mich.)
Chicago Brickyard #1924 (Chicago, Ill.)
Clearwater #1820 (Clearwater, Fla.)
Denver Stapleton #2052 (Denver, Colo.)
Edmond #1398 (Edmond, Okla.)
Euless #1368 (Euless, Texas)
Houston North Central #1458 (Spring, Texas)
Jacksonville Mandarin #1300 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Keizer #2110 (Keizer, Ore.)
Lake Stevens #1331 (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
Leesburg #1874 (Leesburg, Va.)
Loveland #1178 (Loveland, Colo.)
Maple Grove North #2193 (Maple Grove, Minn.)
Mobile West #1376 (Mobile, Ala.)
Murrieta #1283 (Murrieta, Calif.)
New Lenox #2028 (New Lenox, Ill.)
Pasadena #1396 (Pasadena, Texas)
Philadelphia West #2124 (Philadelphia, Pa.)
San Jose College Park #2088 (San Jose, Calif.)
South Jordan #2123 (South Jordan, Utah)
Stroudsburg #1260 (Stroudsburg, Pa.)
Waterford Park #2068 (Clarksville, Ind.)

 

‘Toy Story 4,’ From Disney, Pixar, Gets Home Release Dates

Toy Story 4, the year’s No. 4 movie at the box office, will become available for home viewing in October, the Walt Disney Co. announced Aug. 22.

The animated film, with a domestic gross of $425 million, will arrive on digital Oct. 1, with a Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release following on Oct. 8.

The fourth film in the “Toy Story” franchise is a sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3, which took in $415 million in North American movie theaters. The franchise was launched in 1995 with Pixar’s original Toy Story, the world’s first fully computer-animated feature film. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.

Toy Story 4 features an all-star voice cast that includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves and Joan Cusack.

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The home editions of Toy Story 4 contain more than an hour of bonus features celebrating Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the franchise’s other iconic characters. Extras includes deleted scenes such as an alternate ending; a new featurette that chronicles Woody and Buzz’s friendship through the years; studio stories shared by members of the Pixar team; a nostalgic look back at the creation and first storyboard screening of Toy Story with filmmakers; and a documentary on the pioneering efforts of Pixar artists who created the sets, characters, look and feel of the original film.

In Toy Story 4, Woody (Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s new craft-project-turned-toy Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) calls himself “trash,” Woody decides to teach Forky how to embrace being a toy. But a road-trip adventure, including an unexpected reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), shows Woody how big the world can be for a toy. New additions to the cast of animated characters include carnival prizes Ducky (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Peele) bring a new level of fun to the film.

The fourth installment in the “Toy Story” series will be packaged several ways for home consumption. Toy Story 4 arrives home a week early on digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD with two exclusive extras, including a deleted scene, “Bonnie’s Playtime.”

A week later, fans will be able to buy physical copies of the film on disc, also in various incarnations: as a 4K Ultra HD combo pack (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital code), a Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital code) and a single DVD.

Also available is a digital bundle of all four films.

Disney Bringing ‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘Simpsons’ to $6.99 Disney+ Streaming Service at Launch

Disney’s Nov. 12 launch of standalone subscription streaming video service Disney+ will offer unfettered access to the media giant’s brands, including Disney Animation, Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and National Geographic.

The service, which will cost $6.99 monthly, and $69.99 annually, will be co-branded across Disney business segments, including merchandise, parks and resorts, live event entertainment, cruise ships and home entertainment.

fBy comparison, Netflix basic monthly pricing just increased from $7.99 to $8.99.

“We’re designing a product that we want to be accessible to as many consumers as possible,” CEO Bob Iger told attendees April 11 at the company’s annual investor day event in Los Angeles. “Disney is loved by so many many millions of people around the world.”

Disney projects 60 million to 90 million SVOD subscribers globally by 2024, including about 30% in the United States. Content spending will top $1.5 billion cash in the current fiscal year, reaching $2 billion by fiscal 2024. Disney said the service is projected to become profitable by 2024.

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“There truly is no bigger priority for the Walt Disney Co. moving forward,” said Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing at Disney Streaming Services.

The streaming service will offer subscribers exclusive pay-TV access to Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, which recently topped $1 billion at the global box office.

Marvel is also creating 12 original long-form episodic series for the streaming service, including “What If?” the studio’s first animated series, based on the Marvel comic book that looks at how famous comic book storylines might have played out differently. The show will focus on storylines from the Marvel movies.

The first episode of the first live-action “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian,” will be available at launch as well, in additional to other programming.

Notably, long-running animated Fox TV series “The Simpsons” will move to Disney+, including the series’ entire 30-season catalog. The series previously streamed on Hulu.

Kevin Mayer, chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International, said the service would offer different fonts and user interfaces depending on user access points, including TV and portable devices such as tablets and smart phones.

All Disney+ content will be available to download on any device for non-Internet streaming.

“No restrictions and for an unlimited basis for as long as you are a subscriber,” Mayer said. “That’s a key subscriber benefit.”

“Never before has our content been as broadly, conveniently, or permanently available as it will be on Disney+,” he added. “We are confident consumers will love the service.”

Michael Paull, CEO of Disney Streaming Services (formerly BAMTech), said the streaming service would be available across all portable media devices, including video game consoles. Current partners include Roku TV and PlayStation 4.

“We insure that our service will be prominently featured in merchandise on our [streaming media] partner platforms,” Paull said. “We are confident that by the time we launch, we will have a full array of device platform partnerships.”

Paull said current content license agreements with third parties globally will expire over the next four years, at which time Disney+ will be rolled out market-by-market over a two-year period depending consumer SVOD adoption, familiarity with payment (credit card) options and assimilation with distribution partner platforms.

Disney+ will bow in the United States in Disney’s Q1 fiscal period and in Western Europe and Asia in Q1/Q2 fiscal year 2020. Rollouts in Eastern Europe and Latin America will occur in 2021.

“We prioritize [markets worldwide] where product is available … in addition to markets where consumer have already demonstrated a willingness to pay for SVOD service and content more generally,” he said. “By considering all these factors together, we created our global Disney+ launch roadmap.”

Original Disney movies available at launch include Noelle, a fantasy adventure Christmas comedy film directed and written by Marc Lawrence. The film stars Anna Kendrick as Noelle Claus, the daughter of Santa Claus. It also stars Bill Hader, Billy Eichner, Shirley MacLaine, and Julie Hagerty.

Other content includes original series “Falcon & Winter Soldier,” based on the Marvel movie characters; a new Phineas and Ferb animated movie; and “The Imagineering Story,” which looks at the past, present and future achievements of Walt Disney’s Imagineering staff at the numerous Disney theme parks, among other content exclusives. The National Geographic section of the service will have a docuseries called “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” starring the actor.

“Disney+ subscribers will be able to customize their profiles to their favorite Disney characters,” Mayer said, adding that parental controls could limit children to access only family friendly content.

Disney’s animated movies will be available at launch, including the company’s shrewdly-marketed “vault” titles. In addition, 18 Pixar movies will be available, including all short films.

‘Incredibles 2’ Jumps Back Into Top Disc Sales Spot

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Incredibles 2 returned to the No. 1 spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc chart the week ended Dec. 1.

That marks the third time the sequel from the Pixar animation studio has topped the charts since its debut. It slipped to No. 3 in its third week, but that coincided with post-Thanksgiving period dominated by deep-discount retail sales that usually skew the charts with surges from older titles. So it’s entirely possible Incredibles 2 could have been the top title for four straight weeks if the run hadn’t been interrupted by special circumstances.

The No. 2 title on both charts was another superhero sequel, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool 2, which had topped the charts the week before.

Warner’s The Meg swam back to No. 3 on the overall chart and No. 7 on the Blu-ray chart.

No. 4 overall, in its second week, was Warner’s Crazy Rich Asians, which was No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart. The comedy debuted a week earlier at No. 36, another result of the effect Black Friday has on the charts.

Holding onto the No. 5 spot was Fox’s The Greatest Showman, which slipped to No. 9 on the Blu-ray chart.

Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War was No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart, followed by  Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom at No. 4 and Sony Pictures’ Hotel Transylvania 3 at No. 5.

Studios offered a modest new-release slate the week after Thanksgiving, and as a result no new titles debuted among the top 50 sellers for the week.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Dec. 2, Crazy Rich Asians held onto the top spot for a second week, with The Meg holding onto No. 2.

Sony Pictures’ Searching, the most notable new release of the week, debuted at No. 3.

Universal’s Mile 22 came in as the No. 4 rental, followed by Incredibles 2 at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 12-1-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 12-2-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 12-1-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 12-1-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 12-1-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 12-3-18